Everyone is sharing their thoughts on the Supreme Court’s recent decision to establish marriage as a right to any two people (regardless of gender). And from the intensity and number of both positive and negative reactions, this certainly does feel like a momentous step in our nation’s history. I wanted to bring together some rambling thoughts I’ve had on this issue and point to some resources that may prove helpful.
1) This is not a simple question.
Should we be against “gay marriage” in the civil arena? In light of developments and where we are now at, many Christians would say “of course!” But it isn’t as easy as that.
On this question I have been moved (in a humane way) by the desire of two people for mutual connection and a permanent relationship, and especially about their need for legal status when it comes to end of life scenarios and other important concerns. Some thought “civil unions” was a way to permit this and yet hold marriage for one man and woman, as it has always been. But that solution no longer is viable, it would seem. For more on this line of thinking (the plight of those who experience same-sex attraction) I strongly recommend Wesley Hill’s book Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (read my review here).
I have also been keenly aware of just how clear Scripture is on the nature of true marriage and the intent of marriage – to be a picture of Christ and the church. Redefining marriage doesn’t change its nature, it just lessens the idea and makes it more of a bland, pliable entity. Joe Carter explores that angle well in an article for Tabletalk called “Defining Marriage.”
A third consideration has been the futility of legislating morality. I can hold onto a biblical definition of marriage but allow others to have their own opinion – why do we have to force others to live up to Christian values? Additionally, should the church really be focusing so much on political questions? John Piper didn’t think so, and I agreed. Furthermore, focusing clearly on the marriage issue can tend to obscure the Gospel and imply that Christianity is just about morality. This is why I was leery of the Manhattan Declaration. Yet, morality and law do go together, some laws clearly are moral concerns. And encouraging a good society – protecting children and the rights of biological parents, these factors all make this particular issue (gay marriage) one that may very well be worth fighting, just from a pragmatic standpoint.
2) What about America?
Many Christians love America, and to a certain extent I do too. So how should we feel about our nation’s embrace of gay marriage?
Well, I agree with John Piper that we should weep over the “institutionalizing” of sin that it represents. And we should not be afraid of standing up for truth and owning the offense of the Cross.
But in another sense, America has always been a pagan nation. We can certainly pray for God to bless our country, but the direction she is going puts the lie to the commonly held assumption that America somehow deserves God’s blessing. Christians are citizens of a heavenly country, and God used this sociopolitical nation to advance his Church, just as he used other nations in other times. God is doing big things in other places, and we don’t have a corner on Him.
3) How is the Church to respond?
If you don’t click on any link in this post other than this one, that would be fine. Russell Moore’s article in the Washington Post is incredibly helpful with regard to this question: “Why the Church should neither cave nor panic about the decision on gay marriage.” Read that and be encouraged.
As for strategy when it comes to pastors and how they go about marrying heterosexual couples only and avoid legal troubles, I actually think Roger Olson’s proposal is worth considering. Be sure to read his follow up post too.
And of course, we should continue to resist the pressure to reinterpret the Scripture. Kevin DeYoung has given us a very helpful book that clearly explains the arguments being made that try to say the Bible doesn’t forbid homosexual practice. His book addresses the chief arguments and opens up the Scripture in a clear and forthright manner – and is careful to be charitable and loving in its tone. The book is from Crossway and is titled simply What Does the Bible Teach About Homosexuality?
Finally, we should not be surprised if we are misunderstood and hated. Jesus promised this: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19). Persecution is promised: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). A martyr complex will do us no good.
In conclusion, let me just share a link to a post I wrote on the occasion of gay marriage being legal in Minnesota. My comments there apply to today as well: “Marriage, Meaning and Minnesota: How to React to the News that Gay Marriage is Now Legal.”