Last Chance For a Win-Win on Same-Sex Marriage?

This week, two important things happened. First, the voters of North Carolina passed a State constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. And then shortly after, President Obama reversed his long-held position against same-sex marriage and said, “It ought to be legal.” In addition, the polls now show that the country is almost precisely divided in half for and against changing our laws on this issue.

All of which lead me to believe that we will soon reach or have already reached the last chance for both sides of this issue to lay down the all-or-nothing mentality they possess, and find a win-win scenario where each side gets the essentials of what they want.
Is it possible to have a win-win on same-sex marriage (SSM)? I think it’s not only possible- it’s imperative.

Because, at least at this point, neither side seems willing to try and see the issue from the perspective of the other and look for something other than a binary, up or down, yes or no kind of solution. And where will that lead us? Certainly no place good. Look for more protests of churches, more of those who speak out in favor of the biblical understanding of marriage to be labeled as “haters”… and fewer and fewer gay men and women even giving the Gospel a hearing because in their mind, the Church simply doesn’t care about them as people.

In order to avoid an exacerbation of this cultural war, some common sense compromise is going to be necessary- each side is going to have to give up something for the sake of the other.

On one side, the Church is going to have to realize that gay men and women, in wanting what everyone else has, are asking for something reasonable. Rights of inheritance and property, custody and visitation- all of the rights granted currently by the state in marriage are good things, things we can affirm, even in relationships that we wouldn’t necessarily endorse. After all, even if we hold a more conservative view on divorce, I don’t see many churches advocating for divorced couples to lose the right to have custody over their step-children should something happen to their spouse. We may not endorse the relationship, but we can certainly try to understand the desire of those in it to have the same legal rights as other couples. And more than understand it- I think we can advocate for it, and practically demonstrate that we do in fact “love everyone.”

At a bare minimum, those who claim the stance “Welcoming but not affirming” must come to grips with the very practical question of what that looks like not just on Sunday morning, but it the public/civic arena too.

On the other side, those pushing for SSM need to understand the depth of feeling involved in and around the word marriage- what is for many Christians a sacrament and for all Christians sacred. To have the State legislate an understanding of what is essentially a religious term, and to legislate it in a way contrary to the faith and practice of so many is profoundly offensive. This goes beyond legalization into the realm of endorsement and definition, and as such, is qualitatively different than many other culture war issues.

As long as we’re talking about “marriage” we’re going to continue to see a stalemate on this issue as those who believe in a traditional, biblical view of sexuality and those who want the basic rights afforded to others all around them each refuse to give an inch.

So what’s the solution?

The State needs to get out of the “marriage” business. It should recognize that as long as it uses that term, and continues to privilege certain types of relationships over others this issue is going to divide us as a nation, and is only going to become more and more contentious. We need to move towards the system used in many European countries where the State issues nothing but civil unions to anyone who wants them, and then those who desire it may seek a marriage from the Church. When I pastored in the Netherlands, this was the system- you got a civil union certificate at the courthouse and then a Marriage ceremony at the church. This division largely negated the culture war aspect, and allowed those churches who objected to same sex marriage on biblical grounds to not only opt out, but to be able to continue to teach their biblical view of marriage, uncontradicted by the State.

But more even than changing our system, we need to change our hearts. I don’t know how many proponents of gay marriage will be reading this, so I won’t make much of a plea to them beyond this: please stop labeling the other side of the argument as “hate speech” and bigotry. It’s not. It is a working out of deep convictions and a particular understanding of sexuality as a good gift from a good Creator, to be used within certain boundaries. Personal animosity doesn’t enter into the argument- and when it does, it deserves just as much sanction and rebuke from the Church as anything else.

And that means that in addition to rethinking how we talk about LGBTQ issues in the church, and what it looks like to actively welcome them in the name of Jesus, the Church needs to rethink its political strategies. We ought to stop worrying about ballot measures and propositions which declare same sex marriage illegal, and ought to start focusing on the new realities of this Post-Christendom world in which we find ourselves. Our efforts would better be spent on trying to get the government OUT of marrying anyone. Will this mean giving up one more piece of privilege and power in the public sphere? Sure- the Pastor’s signing of the “Marriage License,” a document issued by the State is exactly that. But if it gets us towards a place of peacemaking with a community we are not doing very well at sharing the Gospel with, isn’t laying that down worth it?

Ultimately, we in the Church need to change our hearts as well. It is our primary goal that the Gospel of Jesus be heard and understood and that the person of Jesus be esteemed. As we often say in marriage counseling, “perception is reality,” and the sad truth is that right now, the gay community in America doesn’t think much of us or our Jesus, not based on the offensiveness of our Gospel, but on the offensiveness of our fighting what they see as fundamental human rights. My fear is that we may (for a while longer at least) continue to win battles like The recent one in North Carolina… but ultimately lose the war in the hearts of a portion of our population who become convinced that the Gospel couldn’t possibly be Good News to them, based on what they do (or don’t) see in us.

47 thoughts on “Last Chance For a Win-Win on Same-Sex Marriage?

  • Very well done, Bob. So glad not only to read a helpful piece on this issue that goes beyond the unhelpful either/or approach that is often found, but that you’re making good suggestions on how we can (must?) move forward.

  • Well said. Sadly, I don’t think it’s possible for the vocal majority on either side to make these compromises. Also
    as an idea, it’s not easy to mock, trivialize demonize, or use to induce fear, so neither conservative nor liberal media will even acknowledge it and bring it into the public view.

  • Interesting, Bob. Today, I was thinking that a win-win is also possible, but I was thinking of a different win-win. I wonder if removing “marriage” from civil law is really possible, or even desired. It technically satisfies the requirements of the state to treat individuals equally, but I don’t think that my friends who are gay and want to be married will be satisfied, because it is *marriage* they want, as well as legal recognition. Civil unions are available, and yet many folks I know sought out marriage over that civil union option. Also, if the state does not perform marriage, then only the churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious groups are left to marry people. That might be more awkward.

    My proposal would be a piece of dual legislation whereby the state recognizes marriage between any two adult individuals (who are not married to anyone else), and religious bodies are exempted from being required to perform marriages that violate their beliefs. I think this is part of the push for amendments against gay marriage, that people in the church don’t want to have the state telling them who they have to marry. If the church would support gay civil marriages, they would be in a better position to argue that they are not just discriminating against gay people, but that they are just trying to live out their beliefs.

    Insisting that the state and religious definitions of marriage must match is a recipe for disaster in the future, if (or more likely when) gay marriage does become recognized by the state. Those wishing state and church definitions to remain separate in that scenario should be pushing for that separation now, too!

  • Michael- good to hear from you! :)
    What you are proposing is what we already have though. No one is forced to marry anyone. As a pastor I can say “no” to marrying anyone for whatever reason I want, no problem. So we’re already there.
    Again, the issue is the STATE defining what is essentially a religious institution.
    Under my proposal, every would be treated exactly the same by state with a civil union (so we check the equality box), those G/L folk who want something beyond equality but also want the tag of “married” could get it from affirming churches (so check that box as well) AND I would be able to teach my kids about marriage uncontradicted by the State, which is really, really important to me (check the religious freedom box) and “marriage” gets put in the same category as all other religious beliefs where we have tolerance but also the freedom to disagree without the State picking sides. I think it’s important to hit all three of those, and so far, my scenario is the only one I can think of that gets there…

  • Bob, this is great. One of the best analysis I’ve heard so far. And I agree… but how do we encourage the Christian community to advocate for this (when some will feel this is a ‘loss’ or we are ‘losing ground’)?

    My only push back… I know that as you say for most, “Personal animosity doesn’t enter into the argument.”

    But having gone through this in California with Prop 8, I saw how politicians drummed up fear and anger even in the Christian community to get votes. I know it’s not everyone, but it’s also something we need to be honest about and repent of… there has been some unacknowledged anger towards the GLBTQ community in the past.

  • Well said Bob. This puts into words the view I hold on this matter. It seems to work well elsewhere. Of course, I don’t know if most Americans care about what works well. They just want to “win” while other “lose.”

  • It’s a nice idea. The problem with it is that I believe that there are many, many people who would not consider giving up another piece of religious privilege in the United States a “win”.

  • Brilliant description of an idea I think many of us in the middle have long held but havn’t always been able to present a cohesive argument for. I love the idea of getting the state out of the religious arena of marriage.

  • ” To have the State legislate an understanding of what is essentially a religious term, and to legislate it in a way contrary to the faith and practice of so many is profoundly offensive.”

    Are you referring to no-fault divorce here or same sex marriage?

  • Bob,
    Solid. I have long believed if we could trace the history of marriage and the State, any State, we would likely learn they never esteemed “marriage” as Christians may have and do. The aim was something different than upholding the Christian understand of marriage as sacrament or at least sacred.

    Keep writing Bob.

  • I hate to be a critic, but this essay struck me as dishonest. Christians don’t object to use of the term “marriage” — after all we all have to get “marriage licenses” from our local county courthouse, whether or not we have a religious ceremony (Unless we are gay, in which case we don’t have legal rights). The issue that Christians object to is the mere existence of homosexuals. Christians happy to exploit public policy and superior numbers in order to pass discriminatory laws on ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING to do with gays, and oppose ANY AND EVERY law or ordinance that tries to lessen that discrimination.

    Just today, in Virginia, the bible thumping majority of the state legislature rejected the appointment of a former Navy fighter pilot, and local prosecutor, because … you guessed it, the man is gay.

    In Lincoln, Nebraska, churches are circulating petitions to try and reserve a city council ordinance that (wait for it), bans discrimination on sexual orientation. A similar ordinance was overturned in Anchorage, Alaska a few months ago in a ballot campaign spearheaded by …. churches!!

    And here is the best part — in Colorado, the Republican controlled legislature — on behalf of Christians (like that Focus on the Family group) blocked consideration of CIVIL UNIONS — like the kind you propose in your article. The ONLY time that Christians ever support civil unions is when it looks like a state will allow for same sex marriage — then suddenly the bible thumpers run ads telling us how compassionate they are, and how they are ok with equal rights but “marriage” is such a special word…blah, blah, blah…it’s all a big lie. Invariably when civil unions are proposed, it is Christians spearheading opposition because they are “marriage lite” or “condoning alternate lifestyles”.

    If Christians are so “reasonable”, why is it that the North Carolina amendment bans civil unions and even private contracts between same-sex couples? Why is it churches in NC were inciting violence against gay kids, and speaking in vulgar terms about the supposed sexual practices of gay men?

    The problem isn’t marriage, it is a problem of hate, and of a naked desire by Christians to use their superior numbers to push for discriminatory laws to punish LGBT persons. Sadly, it is a core expression of modern American Christian identity. It is simply unbelievable to not acknowledge the dozens, if not hundreds, of ballot campaigns, and the open incitements to hatred and violence, by Christians. It is simply unbelievable to not acknowledge the enormous political and financial hardships inflicted on LGBT citizens because of loss of legal rights.

    As for the proposal — to separate civil and legal marriage — we have that. It’s called a marriage license. All couples need to get one, but none of them need to have a religious ceremony to complete a marriage. There are plenty of Americans who get married in a civil ceremony, and they are legally just as married as those who have a church ceremony. There is no reason that civil marriage licenses should not be equally available to same sex couples.

    As for creating “civil unions” with supposedly equal rights — that “separate but equal” approach was the basis for racial segregation, and has already been ruled unconstitutional. More practically, there are 1138 rights and benefits that accrue to married couples at the federal level, and several hundred more at the state level. It would be impossible to rewrite all of those laws, and regulations that provide benefits on the basis of “marriage” to instead read “marriage and civil union partnerships”. Why should we create a second inferior copy of an institution, civil marriage, that already exists?

  • I think the Church has to go further. I think the way of Christ is the way of laying down our own desires and claims, even our own conviction about what is just, for the sake of showing God’s love. Jesus’s crucifixion wasn’t a fair compromise.

    The church has lost all credibility about sexuality and marriage, and I believe we can’t be a faithful presence within culture (calling it away from sexuality as self-fulfillment) until we are, indeed, faithful.

    Here’s another idea to chew on: Jesus says that God granted his people divorce “because your hearts were hard.” That is, God desires no marriage to dissolve. But when betrayal and abandonment has completely destroyed a relationship–when hearts are so hardened against reconciliation–he does not demand we stay in marriages merely to keep the appearance of law. Divorce is an allowance for human depravity, a means of grace even as it violates the original plan God had.

    Could gay unions also be seen this way? Even if we claim that God’s original plan for sexuality is the relationship between a man and a woman, isn’t a committed gay relationship more stable and healthy than one that has no formal, legal binding?

    But to impose our standard of righteousness on others–when we ourselves do not keep to it–isn’t this exactly what Jesus condemns the teachers of the law of doing?

  • Nicely put. The challenge for Christians in a post-Christendom context is to separate the two issues of (a) what God says is right for the Christian life and (b) what our nation should legally permit / command for everyone. The answers to these will oftgen be radically different. Biblical Christians won’t fight in the military, but we wouldn’t advocate passing a constitutional amendment banning anyone from serving. Christians won’t borrow or lend at usurious rates, but why should we seek to prevent others from doing so. Christians don’t divorce or commit adultery but do not make these criminal offences.

    In the SSM arena, even those Christians who hold to a “gay=sin” equation in whichever of its nuanced forms, should not overreach to legislate to make sin illegal.

  • Bob, good to hear from you again too!

    Marriage is something that predates our religion, though, so it doesn’t make sense to define it only in religious terms for the state. There are many atheists and agnostics who nonetheless want to be married. Not a civil union, but married – what are they to do? It seems odd for the state to “get out of the marriage business” when this is a universal human institution. I think it’s better to follow the terms people use for themselves, whether that be partner, spouse, significant other, boyfriend, whatever.

    I think the church has better things to do than police people’s language!

    As for you teaching your child about marriage – that is important! I can see that you don’t want to be contradicted by the state, but I don’t feel that desire comes close to justifying denying someone the recognition of their marriage. You teach that adultery is immoral, but the state doesn’t outlaw THAT. Besides that, the state does all kinds of things that contradict our teachings – condoning divorce, blessed are the rich, might makes right, allowing people to worship idols, killing people with , etc.

    I like what you are trying to do, find something that works for both groups, but I think that this solution is the unfortunate kind of compromise and something of a technicality that wouldn’t really make anyone happy. Isn’t it a bit Clinton-esque?

  • Well, the state could get out of the marriage business. But the real issue is that the word “marriage” has become overloaded. It means too many different things to too many people. Perhaps, instead of waiting for the state to dump the word “marriage”, the church can come up with their own word to use for the sacred binding of a man with a woman. Some churches use the name “Covenant Marriage” to distinguish their union of a man and a woman from civil marriage. Instead of waiting for the state to change their name of the civil contract between life partners, perhaps the church should come up with their own name for their special form or union?

  • The day Christians stop calling sin, sin, is the day we tell the world they don’t need a savior. There is no win-win with this issue. If the church leads the way in accepting a homosexual lifestyle, we open the doors of hell for them, and invite them in. This is not about the here and now. This is about eternity and souls that will be lost in eternity. Christ came with a sword, to divide. Why? Because there is a great division in eternity. If you know someone who is gay and you do not preach repentance, but show what the world calls “love” and tolerance, you do not love them, you hate them. You are more concerned about how they view you now than how they will view themselves in eternity. True love speaks the cross, mercy, grace and forgiveness. But the truth is that without repentance, there is no mercy, there is no grace, and there is no forgiveness of sins. There is judgment. It is a hard message to preach because the world distorts it and calls it hate. And, there are those who preach it in hate. But for those who truly understand that souls are at stake, and that this is an eternal issue, it is a message we must preach…the love of Christ and the necessity of repentance.

    What is the goal of a win-win? Is it unity? Is it so we will all get along in this life? Is it for the sake of being practical?

    My question is, has the church lost its salt?

    • And RJ, my question is, did you even read the whole article, because I was pretty clear about what the goal was.
      you said: “What is the goal of a win-win? Is it unity? Is it so we will all get along in this life? Is it for the sake of being practical?”

      Go back and reread with special attention given to the last couple of paragraphs.

  • Re: “To have the State legislate an understanding of what is essentially a religious term, and to legislate it in a way contrary to the faith and practice of so many is profoundly offensive.”

    I’m puzzled about why we Christians apparently find the term “marriage” somehow more sacred than we seem to view the term “church. ” If, indeed, we view the church is “the body of Christ on earth,” it would appear to have an even more significant meaning for us than does the term describing the union of two humans. Since we allow that there are both civil as well as religious meanings of the word, “church,” why can we not allow both for the term “marriage?” I would much prefer to see our focus on sexual fidelity and integrity among both heterosexuals as well as homosexuals rather than be a part of the sure-to-get-uglier current brouhaha over semantics.

  • Hi Bob.

    Are you saying that the State has no skin in the game of whether or not marriage and family is defined in our culture, and thrives?

    • No, but they will not agree with us as to what that means, and we will not be able to impose our values politically, not for much longer at least, and not without doing a lot more damage to the cause of the Gospel.
      The political piece of this is a fait accompli… Just a matter of time.however if w pivot now, take marriage out of the hands of the state we will still be able to say we have treated the L&G community with a measure of how we would like to be treated when we are in the minority AND maintain the ability to define marriage biblically

  • I get where you are coming from…. take “marriage’ off the tables for gays and offer civil unions at the state level so they can have marital rights without being married.

    I get it – but I do not agree with it…..most gays will not be satisfied with that – the issue is not equity by being given certain rights at the state level, but equality at all levels. It would not satisfy those demanding to drink from the well of marriage..

    What you are advocating is a type of compromise that is way more PC, than it is Kingdom minded. This may sound blunt, but it reads like a watering down of Christianity in an attempt to find common or neutral, compromising ground. A civil union for gay marriage supported by the christian church may seem like apragmatic solution, but in the end it only serves to avoid the issue of where the church will stand.

    The reason why the gay community and the rest of the world does not think much of our Jesus is not because of Jesus, but because of OUR lack in the church. We do not change that lack by making compromises about things God set into order – whether that be marriage being shown throughout the word as between a man and a woman, prayer in schools, abortion, child-sex laws, etc.

    That “lack” would be changed if the church would demonstrate ALL the sides of Jesus – people were drawn to him because of His authority to kick the devil’s butt, his power in miracles and his compassion to heal the sick both in body, soul and spirit. Jesus backed up the word with signs and wonders and it is what we are to do as the church. Jesus gave people keys to the kingdom that caused them to turn from their old ways, gods and idols and in the end then all the “issues” and “rights” they had been fighting for were no longer issues in light of the true Gospel. Jesus was a greater than answer, but most of the time, the church is a less than event. We would change our world if the church would take an honest look at where they were not like Jesus and then figure out why and do all they could to change it! Pastors would create a revolution (saying that having been in the pastorate) THEN – the church would not have to compromise to be more like the world…the world would want to be with us because we were more like Jesus.

    We – as the church – are to see ALL things through the eyes of the Gov’t of God – (even at the state level) and anything that comes against that higher kingdom Gov’t is a broken kingdom connection and we are to do all in our power to bring it back under the correct Gov’t. While we as the church, may not always deal and respond to the issue of homosexuality with a response God would decree as just – the reason we have such battles over abortion, prayer, the middle east, gay rights is because the church abdicated its rights to govern and have authority in said area and now we must fight for righteous laws in order to gain back kingdom ground.

  • I completely agree. This is the only solution I see that can protect both the rights of gay people AND the religious liberty of those whose convictions oppose homosexuality.

    Your example of divorce and remarriage is apt. All the same things could be said of that union that those who oppose SSM say of it: Scripture condemns it; it undermines God’s design for marriage; it’s bad for society; it hurts kids. Yet it is still reasonable to afford them the same rights as other couples. We address the issue in love and humility with those who are of the fold whose trust we’ve earned.

    I am reminded of a quotation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I read recently:

    “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.”

  • Bob,

    I’m torn. I am both over and underwhelmed by your post. Please, I don’t mean anything I write to be in the least bit offensive or mean. I know reading words on a screen can obscure the heart of the writer, so I want to let you know that right now.

    I think your compromise is brilliant, and possibly could very well work. But I think you’ve overlooked two things:

    1) Marriage is sacred to a whole lot more people than Christians; it’s also sacred to millions of LGBT people, and they’re fighting for it. Not just the legality that a civil union would provide all parties, but *marriage* and all that it implies for everyone. Not “marriage if you happen to go to a church that calls is that” but across-the-boards marriage, period. Sure, conservative Evangelicals may not think much of their marriages, but then again they don’t think much of Kim Kardashian’s marriage eighter. That’s understood. But it’s still *marriage* that LGBTs want. I guess what I ultimately mean is this: I don’t think the gay community is going to swing for a “let’s all just have civil unions, then” idea. Maybe a generation or so ago, but I think we’re already so emotionally charged and far too invested to go back there. My gut tells me it’s marriage or bust.

    2) Oh boy, I really want to stress again that I’m not meaning to be mean or insulting or arrogant, so please don’t read my second point that way: it really felt to me, reading your article, that LGBTs were an “out there” group of people that the church is failing community with. I don’t mean that’s what you said or intended, it’s just that I couldn’t help but feel that the tone of the whole article looked at the gay community as if it’s entirely separate from the Church. Well… it’s not. I am a gay Christian man, and I am part of the Church and the gay community, and I am far from alone. It’s not a matter of finding another church in which I am accepted; I have a community where I live that I am in – I believe – on purpose, born into it through God’s plan. I don’t want to find a church somewhere out there that will allow me to get married when the time comes; I want to be married in a covenant ceremony of the most sacred tradition, and I want my loved ones and community there. I don’t care if it’s in a church or not – I want the people of the church there.

    And that’s my problem, really, with your compromise, whether or not it would bring national legal recognition of LGBT unions into existence. My problem is that your compromise just doesn’t cut it for me.

    What I guess I’m driving at is this: say that your idea takes flight and suddenly the nation is taken with it, and it passes and is enacted beautifully. What happens to myself and the many, many in my position? We’re a part – a real part – of both communities. Civil unions for all may love our non-religious LGBT neighbors well, but it doesn’t love me or my LGBT Christian brothers and sisters well. For me, it feels like we’re whitewashing the fence for the non-Christian neighbors to smooth things over, but not addressing a very real and very present problem within our own home.

    I exist. I do. I have a voice. I do. And the longer the Church refuses to recognize that, the longer the Church seeks to continue to oppress that through purposed ingnorance, the longer and deeper we’re injuring ourselves and blocking the Spirit’s work of redemption, healing, and transformative love.

    You want to fix things with the LGBT community for real? Find a compromise that first and foremost publicly addresses and acknowledges that there are gays and lesbians in our churches, and that we’re a huge mess, and that we all need to get together to work it out openly, honestly, and through the love provided by the Most Holy God.

    Oh please understand that I don’t mean to be mean or accusing or to tear you down in any way. I’m just a young man who’s lived his whole life being wrapped in the chains of injustice and oppression by the very people that our God calls to break such things, and I’m desperately praying and hoping for a breakthrough. When I see men such as yourself write what you wrote today, I’m infused with such hope, and I think that perhaps if I can have a voice long enough to tell me view, then maybe, eventually, we can really do something to really affect gospel-powered change for all Christians and their neighbors.

    Thank you, Bob.

  • I’ve often heard Christians, at least outspoken ones, complain about separation of church and state. This is a wonderful example of why our founders had this right and how it benefits churches as well. If churches never allowed the state to co-opt their “marriage institution” we wouldn’t have this problem. I think Bob’s article suggests the perfect solution but it’s 150 years too late. Now it is a state institution and equality can only happen when all consenting adults have the right to monogamous marriage. Otherwise it’s separate but equal and we know the history of that.

  • You know, practically, this might work. If that gets more people to be okay with recognizing the relationships and rights of those of us who happen to be gay, do what you gotta do.

    As was correctly pointed out in the comments- churches already are, and will remain, free to decide what marriages they’ll perform. But, whatever.

    Also, lots of people who consider themselves married- they did have a civil ceremony & have a license- weren’t married in a church. …do you see where this is going? Who’s going to tell them they aren’t “married?” How’s that gonna fly? But, whatever.

    As a country, we’ve been down the path of “separate but equal.” It’s a dead end. But, whatever.

    Here’s my thing-

    This article certainly has the feel of … well, what we’re going to see a lot more of. Christians are getting the picture that this is a lost cause, politically. The polls show it and the next generation will see that out. So, what we’re going to see is a shift from “saving traditional marriage” (aka: no marriage for gays) to “we’re gonna get clobbered by this one, we’re starting to look bad, so lets find a way to put it behind us and move along… for the sake of … what did you call it? “the cause of the Gospel.”

    The acronym that comes to mind here is COA- covering our *butts.

    I don’t mean this to be argumentative or harsh. I agree- enough with the labeling & assumptions. I am on board with the unity and cause of the Gospel. I’m a Christian, afterall.

    I just wish that the primary driving force for change in tactics was not to save our butts (or position of supposed authority), but to see and put an end to the harm being done. Overwhelmingly, our policies and attitudes about sexual orientation have been devastating.

    I’d like to think that, while it’s a normal reaction is to worry about how that makes the Church/us Christians look, Jesus already made His move- to find be with those who’re hurting and rejected.

  • I appreciate your effort at a workable compromise, but nevertheless have some problems with this solution and the arguments for it.

    1. “On the other side, those pushing for SSM need to understand the depth of feeling involved in and around the word marriage- what is for many Christians a sacrament and for all Christians sacred. To have the State legislate an understanding of what is essentially a religious term, and to legislate it in a way contrary to the faith and practice of so many is profoundly offensive. This goes beyond legalization into the realm of endorsement and definition, and as such, is qualitatively different than many other culture war issues.”

    Substitute “interracial marriage” for “SSM” and see if you still agree with this paragraph.

    2. “This division [between marriage and civil unions in Europe] largely negated the culture war aspect, and allowed those churches who objected to same sex marriage on biblical grounds to not only opt out, but to be able to continue to teach their biblical view of marriage, uncontradicted by the State.”

    Earlier, or in the comments maybe, you recognized that legalizing SSM would not (somehow) force churches to marry gays and lesbians against their beliefs. Here, however, you still seem to want to have your wedding cake and eat it too. That is, you want equality and freedom for everyone, but you still want the State to agree with your definition of marriage. It doesn’t seem to be enough that the State can’t/won’t make churches change their definition of marriage by marrying gays and lesbians; it seems that you want the State to “get out of the marriage business” in a way that simply concedes the definition of marriage to (one voice in) the Church. Maybe this is just an issue of rhetoric, but it is a telling one.

    More importantly, I don’t yet see how the civil union option will end the culture wars. Does not a civil union also go “beyond legalization into the realm of endorsement and definition” of socially acceptable relationships? When a brother and sister apply for a civil union, or when a man and two women say they want to enter into a civil union, will the Church really stay out of the conversation?

    Shorter: Basil is right.

  • Marriage is favored over other relationships because it is more important than other relationships. For most people, heterosexual marriage is an anchor and a bedrock, a form of private social security. It ensures that children are brought up and instructed, that old people are looked after and that our primal need for sexual companionship is met without allowing it to degrade other people and destroy everything in its path. Through heterosexual marriage and nuclear families, we learn how to be human, how to live with others different from ourselves (especially those of the opposite sex) and how to sacrifice.

    Marriage is a cultural artifact. Trying to divide it neatly as a church thing vs. a state thing isn’t possible.

    The same sex marriage debate is absurd. How many same sex couples actually want to get married anyway? Research indicates that homosexuals typically have far more partners than heterosexuals do; how many of them really want marriage? Marriage is and always will be a heterosexual insitution. And yes, heterosexual relationships are more valuable to society than gay relationships. It’s self evident.

    Homosexuals are already a minority; those who want marriage are a minority within a minority. Why in the world do we have to redefine a sacred union in order to satisfy so few people? It doesn’t make sense.

    The same sex marriage debate, and the accompanying debate about “rights” is a shameful distraction from far more pressing matters: growing income inequality, unjustified wars, rampant government invasions of privacy, food insecurity, etc. etc. etc. Wake up people!

  • As a gay Christian (which I know some Christians believe to be an oxymoron but bear with me) I 100% agree with you. This is ultimately the best way to make everyone happy. I personally understand that conservative Christians aren’t necessarily bigots because they believe what they believe. If I wasnt gay myself I would more than likely think the same way so I think it is important for the LGBT side to understand that this is not a simple black or white issue for conservative Christians. I think there too much fear from both sides. People are afraid of each other and its causing too much animosity. I hope there can be a win-win for everybody. God Bless.

  • Bob and all,
    I truly wish we could turn back the clock and re-do our state codes so that civil unions are required of everyone and those who are a part of a value-community which brings couples before their god and their community to cut a covenant of marriage would then also do so as it is in some parts of Europe. I wrote in a post called, “Marriage for Everybody and Why It Is Coming to the U.S.A.,” last week:

    “Personally, I wish the U.S. had a system like I saw at work when I lived in Switzerland where everyone who got married participated in a civil ceremony, signed the license and had, from that moment on, a legal civil union so that the covenant of marriage was reserved for Christians, Jews and others who actually saw it as an agreement between the couple, their faith community and their god. At L’Abri when I was there two couples got married, Barry and Veronica and Jerram and Vicky. Each couple did the civil service on Friday at the court house and Dr. Schaeffer married each couple the next day.

    “If we did that over here, we could get us pastors out of “the authority of the state” game which we now must play and our churches would still each clearly decide whether we approve of marriages of same-sex couples, all of whom would still have a right, like almost everybody else, to a civil union. Then the obvious legal right to civil unions, upon which all those other medical and civil rights and privileges would be based would not be subject to a matter of church policy at all. This is a much cleaner system than ours but, given our history, not one which we can get to from here.”

    Really! How would we get there from here? From the Christian point of view (as well as the Jewish and Muslim viewpoints) a wedding performed by a Justice of the Peace outside a community of faith does not begin a marriage, no-matter what it is called. But it is too late tell that to our society. We have been too lax with the word marriage for too long. I would love to see this solution; I just do not see how…

  • Interesting thought, this compromise, but I’d rather change the hearts and minds of America. We’ve done it before. Historically, it wasn’t that long ago that half our country considered slavery a divinely appointed institution. Those slave-owning Christians at times also did their best to sound caring and loving towards those they oppressed.

    Here’s an example from the “The Spectator” in 1859:

    “The intelligent, christian slave-holder at the South is the best friend of the negro. He does not regard his bonds-men as mere chattel property, but as human beings to whom he owes duties … Here the honest black man is not only protected by the laws and public sentiment, but he is respected by the community as truly as if his skin were white … There is a vast deal of foolish talk about the delights of freedom and the hardships of slavery … But when the man, whatever his complexion, recognizes the fact that his lot is ordained of God, and cheerfully acquiesces, he becomes a free man in the only true sense. He then chooses to do and to bear what otherwise might be irksome and intolerable.”

  • It’s amusing that you don’t like being called bigots when you engage in bigoted behavior.

  • Smg77- Like I said, “neither side seems willing to try and see the issue from the perspective of the other and look for something other than a binary, up or down, yes or no kind of solution.” Thank you for proving me right.

  • I was forwarded this article by my mother because she knows I have many friends who are part of the LGBT community. I am not, but I support what they are trying to do. I just want to say that as an individual who was recently married, and not in a church, you have more than just the LGBT community to worry about. The end of this article touches on something that I have been feeling for a long time. I do not trust the church, or the clergy to do what is right or what is loving because their actions have seemed contradictory and hateful. This is one of the primary reasons why I decided not to get married in a church and I think many do. I thing that you will have a tough time changing the usage of the word from a straight perspective as well. I am married, not in a civil union, it doesn’t matter if it was in a church or not, the meaning is the same. I think the church community needs to come to grips with the fact that society has changed since the development of Christianity, that people in America enjoy the right to chose their own religion, or none, and that part of the reason so many people do not adhere to Christian beliefs is because they are not part of a religious community. Many feel that your community are trying to force your values on people who have grown up seeing things in a completely different light. I think there is more to this issue than you realize and the article even inflicted, admittedly, a little hurt in my heart to say that my marriage isn’t a marriage because it wasn’t conducted in the church. That’s all, just some insight from a straight woman who has compassion for those fighting for the rights mentioned in this article. It is nice to hear a non-angry perspective that doesn’t recommend putting them in a concentration camp until they die off. Thank you.

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