Inconsistent Christian Views on Gay Marriage

There are now twelve states that support same-sex marriage or civil unions. Certainly this number will continue to climb. Is there anything positive about the the discussion of same-sex marriage or should we oppose any SSM decisions?

This post is deliberately limited. I will not tackle every possible issue in this discussion. Rather, I wish only to discuss a few salient points. I've seen the two Dr. Phil shows on the issue (especially concerning the CA legislation concerning Proposition 8) that aired a couple months ago (one of them can be found at http://drphil.com/shows/show/1172/). There was a panel of three advocates on either side. The entire audience was split down the middle: about 50 pro-gay marriage, about 50 anti-gay-marriage.

(1) In every discussion of same-sex marriage (= SSM) I've heard, the following thing must be admitted: the entire discussion is predicated upon the morality of homosexuality. Though this might seem elementary, it is typically overlooked in the discussion. Something that really struck me in the debate on Dr. Phil was how no one discussed this issue. No one on the anti-SSM panel or from the audience ever said the obvious thing that the pro-SSM side couldn't understand. Those in favor of SSM saw how the anti-SSM group was inconsistent. This is the case, I would argue, especially because the anti-SSM never came out and said what was painfully obvious.

When a married gay man looked at a married woman on the other side and asked her, "What does my being married do to your marriage?" In other words, how does gay marriage affect heterosexual marriage? And it's a fair question, though not enough to make it moral or immoral. The genocide occurring in Darfur doesn't affect me at all; it doesn't mean it's a moral thing to do.

To keep their argument going, anti-SSM people should have said: "Same-sex marriage should be banned because it occurs between two gay people. Homosexuality is considered immoral, and therefore, SSM is immoral. If homosexuals can be called, "married," and they are immoral, and heterosexuals can be called, "married," and they are moral, then allowing SSM means that the notion of "marriage" is brought down. It's subhuman; or immoral." This is the point of view of anti-SSM. Either no one was able to articulate that thesis, or no one was courageous enough to say it. Nevertheless, it should have been said. It's the "elephant in the room."

If homosexuality is not immoral, then there is no problem with SSM at all. If it is immoral, then there is a problem with SSM, since "marriage," it is assumed, is and should only be, between heterosexual persons. That is, if marriage is by definition between male and female (and therefore moral), then allowing SSM means that marriage is no longer moral, but immoral.

(2) This next part, I imagine, will be more invidious to the reader. I have only two questions: isn't it a good thing that this entire discussion has come to light, and doesn't it show that Christians are being completely inconsistent? Let me explain.

I won't speak about marriage across the globe (yet), but here in the US, marriage has always been united with the State. We all know it. The officiator, in fact, says, "I lawfully declare you husband and wife."

Now, why in the world does the marriage officiator have the legal right granted by the State to declare anything at all? Can I go to the courtroom and get baptized? Can a judge officiate the Eucharist? Why not? The answer to this question is crucial. The sacred has no place in the mundane; the mundane has no place in the sacred. If it does have a place, then we should dispense with the entire concept of "holiness."

When we get married, we must go to the State to get a marriage license, but we do not go to the State to have a religious ceremony. Why? Because traditionally, a marriage ceremony is a sacred ceremony that historically and theologically does two crucial things: (a) it makes a covenant between the couple and God that the couple will behave as a covenant couple until they die, and (b) it makes a covenant between the couple and the community that the couple will behave as a covenant couple until they die. This is why the marriage ceremony should be held so seriously: it means there could be tens, hundreds, or thousands of people who are now enabled to keep the couple accountable to their vows.

Thus, my first point: the church officiant should not have legal rights to declare anyone or anything legal according to the State. If a couple wants a marriage license, then let them. If they want a sacred marriage ceremony, then let them. Can someone have a marriage license without the ceremony? Of course they can; it happens everyday all over the US. What's positive about this issue? It clarifies what the role of the Church is.

Here's my second point: Why in the world aren't Christians "up in arms" against all those who circumvent the religious ceremony? Where are the picket lines opposing this? No group is standing outside the courthouses screaming at those who choose just to get a marriage license.

Similarly, the typical anti-SSM stance is driven, as discussed above, by the belief that "marriage" is sacred and is only ordained by God. If homosexuality is not ordained by God, then marriage should not be "ordained" as legal. But, as my first point notes, the Church's boundary lines are way too blurred with the State.

But let us change the discussion and compare it with homosexuality. What about those who get married, in a religious ceremony, according to Satanic worship? What about atheists who get married? What about Muslims, Hindus, or Jains getting married? Christians believe that all of these examples demonstrate couples who get married under false pretenses. Therefore, they are not granted "sacred" or "valid" under God (especially by the atheists!).

Where are the picket lines? Where are the vehement blogs and articles?

No one bothers about them. No one meets a Hindu couple at Kroger and says, "Oh. I didn't know you were Hindu. I can't believe you were allowed to get married."

The State, in theory, can allow any couple, regardless of faith, nationality, or creed to retain the legal status of "couple" in the United States. They have granted marriage licenses to murderers, those guilty of incest, gossipers, liars, adulterers, Satanists, atheists, and on an on.

Does this mean that the Church should endorse these as legitimate marriages? That's up to the Church and if the ceremony is done with clergy in front of an audience. In any case, it doesn't matter if the Church accepts them or not for them to be legal; they are still granted by the State legal status as a couple.

In other words, the Church's criteria and the State's criteria of marriage are different, and they should be. Their goals are very different. Their values are very different. We should not expect them to think the same thing, because one is concerned with the theological value of marriage; the other is concerned with the legal value of marriage.

Point two, then, is thus: Christians I've heard and met are inconsistent on this point. If you oppose gay marriage because they are not considered moral by God, then you must also, with equal force, oppose every single other marriage that is done under a false god or no god at all.

What we have, de facto, in the US, are thousands of different types of marriages: marriages endorsed by all kinds of faiths and religions. Such is the state of marriage right now as we know it.

If we oppose others who are married under different religious systems, then we oppose billions of marriages across the globe.

I'm afraid that we will need more than one or two shows on Dr. Phil to combat billions of marriages. Moreover, I would need more than one blog post. :)

I haven't said one word about whether or not the Church should endorse homosexuality, SSM, or the like. Rather, this post is primarily about the forms of arguments used by typically-Christian opponents of SSM.

It's time for the Church to consider seriously its affiliation with the State in such sacred issues as Christian marriage. It's an entirely different issue if one wants to speak of Hindu marriage, Jewish marriage, etc. We are then forced to discuss the Truth claims in each religion.

I imagine the discussion will move to this: "Hey, how are you? I heard you got married? Was it a Christian marriage or under some other faith? Or, did you just get licensed by the State?"

What I personally believe about this discussion is left for another post. For now, it's worth examining the way we're talking about it.