Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Can We Save Marriage? Should We?

I have given much thought to the issue of Same-Sex Marriage and Constitutional amendments during the past year. As a former citizen of Massachusetts whose family has not yet been ruined by the specter of Gay Marriage, I grew tired of the rhetoric of many of my well-meaning pastor friends who spent 12 hours per day for weeks on end protesting Gay Marriage at the State House.

My denomination decided to start sending info to each pastor along with instructions on how we were to respond to this threat to our sacred institution. We had posters, conferences with Dobson himself, petitions, bulletin announcements, videos and the promise of great speakers we needed to take advantage of.

I thought to myself, where was all of this energy when abortion was legalized (or before it was legalized when protestants did nothing)? Where is this energy when it comes to caring for the poor? Where is the energy when it comes to petitioning our government on issues of poverty, justice, war, famine, genocide, persecution in other countries or a number of other issues Jesus and the early church spoke out on?

But, gays were about to ruin marriage for everyone else. We had to do something. So what does the church do? We will have the government make a new law for us. They can save the institution. They will make a law and then everything will be okay. We can go directly back to putting our head in the sand and only taking it out when we need the government to help us out.

Okay, a little harsh, but point made hopefully.

I had doubts from day 1 that Marriage would be destroyed by Gay people. I thought straight people had already done a good job of messing it up. I thought, why would gay people want to be involved in something so clearly flawed and uninspired. Is this institution worth saving? Do I care what the government defines as marriage? Do I care about what they sanction? Will it really hurt my church? I mean I don't trust them for much else. I don't rely on their definition of "just war, "weapons of mass destruction," "terror threats", "God and Country", "Patriotism," "right to choose," can continue forever.

They are not the definer of Christian Marriage, which is the institution I actually care about preserving. The New Englander deep inside me said, "as long as they don't come into my church and tell me who I have to perform a marriage for, I don't care." Not really, but making a point here.

I even heard the great cultural critic Chris Rock say that gay marriage could not destroy a sacred institution in the days of the Bachelor, Who Wants to marry a Millionaire and so on. In his eyes it was no longer sacred to our nation. He also says that our national religion is the church of the ATM, but I digress.

Then it hits me. Gay Marriage will not destroy the institution of marriage. Marriage has been crumpling for a long time. Gay marriage is a symptom of a much larger problem. And we must do something about it.

How about befriending gays and lesbians (with no agenda)? Then, if married, have healthy marriage in their presence. Be a model for heterosexual Christian marriage, which many of my gay friends have never had modeled for them (coincidentally many of my gay friends in the south grew up Southern Baptist- don't know what that means, besides there sure are a lot of SBC families in the south).

Those whom we think would destroy marriage need us to show them another way to live, as the church has done for 2000 years. The crumbling of marriage cannot be taken lightly and its problems cannot be solved through legislation. The church has the message and tools to help save any remnant of the institution worth saving. The church needs to take a little of the energy it saves for trying to influence politicians and put it toward truly protecting the institution through mentoring, counseling, modeling, learning, teaching and loving. It will take more energy and more work, but the results will last.

Christianity Today has a couple of good articles on marriage in its latest issue. Can This Institution Be Saved? by Tim Stafford looks at the church's role in saving marriage (with some pleasantly surprising statistics). It is an excellent article. Also, The Next Sexual Revolution calls the church to practice what it preaches on marriage.

Luckily, we are moving in the right direction


DLW said...

There are some good articles on homosexuality at the otherjournal. I summarize/comment on the ones by Stanley Grenz and Walter Wink at my blog.

I also post some of my ideas on the politics of homosexuality in opposition to the NAE, here.


Deborah said...

Wish we lived closer so you could be our pastor. Your insight in this blog is right on. Thanks, Rick.

james said...

And I for one am glad to have served with you. Funny, I've been chatting with my dad, and my sister on the topic. When explaining "evangelicals" to my sister, (who asked 'what the hell does it mean to be evangelical?') i noted the sudden urge of evangelicals to legislate religion. It seems when something threatens their comfortable brand of "christian living", they legislate it.

Can you imagine what might happen, (as noted in 'Mere Discipleship') if masses of Christians went down to their respected statehouses, and volunteered to adopt every unwanted child, regardless of race, disability or deformity, that they might raise them in the love of Jesus Christ.

Nah, let's just legislate it.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Rick. Unrelated: I hate finding a new church to go to. Somebody just go ahead and shoot me (just kidding, put your guns away). Michael of TN

Alex F said...

You might be surprised to learn that I agree with you here. I think there are good sociological reasons to oppose gay marriage, but it does bother me to see how mobilized and outraged evangelicals get by this issue when so much else is totally ignored. The Bible certainly condemns homosexual practice, but it sure seems to come down even more strongly on divorce, for example. Not much outrage there!

I think the reason its easy for people to come down so quickly and so hard against gays is that homosexuality is clearly something "other" than them/us. It's easy to berate a problem that doesn't really hit home for you.