Remember the friend I reconnected with over lunch on Tuesday? We’d been facebook friends for awhile but never really talked. Then I saw an essay he’d written, a response to a friends email asking him why he opposed Prop 8.
I was pleasantly surprised to read what he had to say (he was probably pleasantly surprised that I agreed, as our small Southern Baptist school is not notorious for turning out open minded, progressive types), and said so, and we got to chatting.
He made some really interesting points, and I hope you enjoy reading this. (Reposted with permission.)
Don’t worry, you’re not pestering me at all. They’re very good points that you raise.
You’re right in saying that for millennia marriage has been between a man and a women, and for about 800 years now the institution of marriage in the western world has been primarily proctored by the church (beginning around 1220 AD). And for much of that time the utility of the institution of marriage was for the structure and maintenance of societies and cultures, including taxation, childbirth, inheritance issue, etc.
But societies and cultures continuously change and evolve. For example, until recently (maybe within the last 200 hundred years) marriage was primarily a business agreement between families – love had very little to do with it. As such, marriages, even in the western world, were arranged by the parents, with the children who were being married having very little say in the issue. In addition, marriage was indelible (well, until Henry VIII formed the Church of England).
Our modern-day institution of marriage has changed drastically from what it was just a few hundred years ago. Now we marry for love; and if it doesn’t work out, we divorce because of a lack of love. Parents still advise their adult children, but they are no longer arranging marriages on behalf of their children. Procreation is still an important part of marriage, but many married couples remain childless (sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstance), and many more children are born and raised out-side of the institution of marriage.
The notion of restoring or preserving traditional marriage is mis-leading. If we were truly attempting to restore and protect traditional, biblical marriage, then the church would be pushing for a restoration of arranged marriages by parents, and abolition of divorce. However, the church is doing neither.
This isn’t a point I make to be contrarian. Really consider why the church is ok with our society allowing children to marry without the consent of parents, and why divorce is allowed. It’s because the church and our society has shifted their understanding of marriage as primarily being an expression and commitment of love.
Furthermore, you’ll find in the new-testament that Jesus spoke out adamantly against divorce and re-marriage (equating it to adultery), yet never mentioned homosexuality.
So, why is it that homosexuals should be allowed to marry their same-sex partners, and why is it truly an issue of equality? Before we look at that, there’s a fundamental point which we may disagree on here, but which is critical to this argument. Is being a homosexual a choice, or is it something that we are born with?
If homosexuality was a choice, then it could be equated to such things as political affiliations, i.e. I choose to be a Democrat. However, if Homosexuality is something that we are born with, then it becomes an intrinsic characteristic of who we are – like being white/black, male/female, italian/french, etc…
If, for arguments sake, homosexuality is something that we are born with, something that is intrinsic to who we are, then there may be rights and liberties that should be awarded. The reason this is an issue of equality is that a minority group (approximately 5% of the population) is being, by law, blocked from engaging in a rite that is a fundamental act within the tapestry of our culture.
Unfortunately, civil unions are not equivalent to marriage. For example, being in a civil union does not guarantee you access to benefits (such as healthcare, social security benefits, veteran benefits, etc). If I was in a civil union with a man and I died, my estate would not continue in his name. Rather, he would have to pay an inheritance tax for any property or money that I possessed.
In addition, civil unions don’t hold the same cache that marriage does. If you were to see a heterosexual married couple and a homosexual civil-union couple, would you have the same impressions of their love and commitment for each other? This is an assumption, but I would guess that you would attribute more validity, more love, and an impression of more permanence to the married couple than you would to the couple engaged in a civil union.
But what does California gain by banning same-sex marriages? In my opinion, nothing. The protection and perpetuation of heterosexual marriages were never in question. For the four month before the November election (when same sex marriages were legal), did your marriage feel less real, less special, less legitimate? Did the structure of our culture begin to crumble? I would presume that neither your marriage, nor our culture, began to disintegrate during the four months preceding the elections.
However, what is the impact on the GLBT community? A fundamental, inalienable right (though we only had it for a short time) was stripped away from us. 18,000 Californians who were married in those four months have had their marriages potentially destroyed. And over a million Californians who are homosexual, have been told that we are second-class citizens who do not enjoy access to the same rights as our brothers, sisters, and parents.
As to the intercession of the courts, I believe that it is a fundamental duty of the courts to protect the rights of the minorities in our society, even against the protests of the majority. For example, the Supreme Court decided that segregation of blacks and whites was wrong – even though during the time of the civil rights struggle, the Majority of southerners violently wanted and fought for the continuation of “separate but equal.” And why, because we know, as a culture, as a nation, that “separate” can never truly be “equal.” So yes, the California Supreme Court overturned the will of the majority, as did the US Supreme Court in the ’60’s, but nobody looks back on that decision with disgust. Nobody would say that the US Supreme Court was legislating from the bench and betraying the will of the people; because what they did was an act of justice to protect and revitalize the life of a long-discriminated-against minority.
There was a time when homosexuals were arrested for simply being homosexual. Bar and clubs were raided and shutdown by the government for the simple fact that homosexuals congregated their. It use to be the official HR policy of the US government to not hire homosexuals, because we were considered weak, feeble, and prone to being compromised by foreign spies. There are still many parts of the country where homosexuals are attacked, beaten, and killed simply for being homosexual.
Granted, things are getting much better now, but it’s impossible for me to believe that homosexuals are not a persecuted minority.
As for the response of the church, I believe that it’s hypocritical for the church to say that they supported a ban on gay marriage because of a desire to protect biblical marriage, yet have no problem conducting marriages between two people who are divorced, and according to the new testament, are actively participating in adultery.
I also find it hypocritical that the Church sees the gay community as being god-less and sexually perverse, yet does not realize that it’s the Church that has forced the gay community into those constructs. In other words, the church condemns and expels homosexuals, and then calls them god-less for not being in the church; the church refuses to recognize (and in fact, fights against) gay marriage, and then calls us fornicators and perverts.
It’s unfortunate because the church should be an advocate for social justice and equality. The church should be a redemptive force in our world, reaching out in love to those on the fringe. The great commission says nothing about saving human institutions or fighting against the progressive trends of culture; it commands us to go out, bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the masses. But instead the church chose to alienate and push away the very people that christ has called us to love.
So, I know that was a long response, but those are some of my views on the issue. I’d be really interested in hearing back from you. If you’re interested, there’s a book called “The Children Are Free” by Jeff Miner which gives a very strong, biblically-based argument, on homosexuality in the bible. I know that it’s not easy to read books that you may fundamentally disagree with, but it may give more insights into the issue of homosexuality and the church.
Thanks for reaching out to me.