Becky observed last night that my post yesterday on gay marriage was rather wordy and not as simple as she would’ve liked. So, I’m taking that as a challenge, and today I’m going to try to condense my arguments a bit. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.
So, my list of assertions that lead my to my position on gay marriage:
1. While the Bible teaches that homosexual behavior is wrong, the Bible does not teach that the civil government should try to outlaw every sin.
Religious beliefs can disagree with government laws in one of three ways:
The law can require behavior that my religion tells me is a sin. For instance, pacifists who are drafted to serve in the military. Typically the US has allowed for conscientious objector status, allowing those people to take non-combat roles. Another example is the allowance in the Constitution to “affirm” rather than “swear” oaths of office, for those who believe they should not “swear”.
The law can outlaw a behavior that my religion tells me I must do. For instance, the law could instruct me not to share my faith with other people. In this case the Scriptures are quite clear – we must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
The law can allow a behavior that my religion says I must not do. And here the Scriptures are quieter. While certainly we know that God wants our rulers to be just and merciful, we don’t see anywhere that God says “your rulers should enact all of my laws as laws of the state.”
1 Tim 2:1-4 says this:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Paul says that we pray for our rulers, with the goal or the hope being that we can live peaceful, quiet lives. And note that Paul doesn’t say to pray that our rulers would try to enforce God’s laws on everyone – Paul says to pray for peaceful, quiet lives, and that from that people might come to a knowledge of the truth.
2. If we’re not going to use Christian (or Muslim, or Jewish, etc) principles to dictate the details of our laws, instead we should base the laws on socially-agreed-upon principles of freedom, asking “what is good for society as a whole?”.
Because, really, what other platform are we going to use?
3. Socially-agreed-upon principles change over time.
Just one example out of many: when the USA was founded, the only people allowed to vote were white, land-owning males. This was the socially-accepted norm. Over the past two hundred years, society has come to agree that anyone 18 years of age or older, and who is not mentally incompetent, regardless of gender, race, or land, should be allowed the vote.
Those changes didn’t come about because either people said “oh my, our voting rules are un-Christian, we need to make them more Christian” or because people said “oh my, our voting rules are too Christian, we need to make them more secular”. By and large, the changes came about because society’s views, both Christian and secular, changed.
4. If you’re with me this far, then we’ve gotten to this question: is “gay marriage” a reasonable freedom to allow? Something that will be beneficial for, or at least not harmful to, society as a whole?
And this is where the debate really engages. My position is this: yes, gay marriage is a reasonable freedom to allow, for the following reasons:
- We can embrace a civil-religious disconnection.
- State-sanctioned marriage is essentially a specific path through contract law. When you get married, you automatically get a LOT of legal advantages, things that would be difficult to attain otherwise. What good reason do we have to say that any two people shouldn’t be allowed to enter into a contract that way?
- Society’s views have changed, and we may as well acknowledge the change rather than pretend it didn’t happen.
From a strictly pragmatic Christian viewpoint, too, we need to pick which battles we want to fight. Yes, we want to see each person come to know Christ and become more like Christ. By fighting this semantic argument over civil “marriage”, we aren’t accomplishing anything other than alienating a large group of people who Christ calls us to love. We certainly aren’t helping ourselves gain an audience with them so we can share the Gospel. Real change comes from the inside out, as the heart changes.
5. The government must protect the rights of private groups to discriminate based on their beliefs.
Freedom of association (guaranteed in the First Amendment) implies freedom of disassociation. If a church doesn’t want to perform gay marriages, they shouldn’t be required to. If the Boy Scouts don’t want to allow gays as leaders, they shouldn’t be required to. If a religious organization doesn’t want to hire gays, they shouldn’t be required to.
OK, so I cut it down to 5 points, albeit with a lot of bullets and lists in between. Questions? Comments? Snide remarks? Let it rip in the comments.