Conservative Theology

September 29, 2009

Religion and Politics / Gay Marriage, Pt. 3

Why Marriage is not Just About the Two People Getting Married

In the last post, we talked about why gay marriage is an inappropriate Christian option.  Now I want to focus on gay marriage as part of a society, and whether or not it has an appropriate place.

So, first off, why does the government say anything about marriage at all?

There are many reasons.  Modern social thinking tries to view humans as discrete individuals whose actions, in general, affect no one but themselves.  In fact, if your actions happen to affect someone else, this is often considered a bad thing. 

But in reality, humans live in relation to each other.  Therefore, if the law is to treat people like humans, it has a stake in certain relationships.

The worst argument I have ever heard of for gay marriage is that "if you disagree with same-sex marriage, don't marry someone of the same sex" (warning, explicit language!).  The argument is that gay marriage only affects the people getting married.  Unfortunately, our society's view of marriage has degenerated so low that people actually buy this argument.

The fact is, in marriage, one of the MAIN POINTS of getting married is precisely so that SOCIETY will treat you DIFFERENTLY.  Note that it is society that is the one who is now bound to do something when someone gets married.  Primarily, when someone is married, it is encumbant on the society to treat them as a unit, rather than as individuals.

Here are a few examples of the ways in which society's rules change for people who are married.  Note that this is just scratching the surface:

  • Presumption of partnership in business dealings - we don't get people to sign things separately - one signature works for the two of them.
  • Presumption of parenthood - no one has to perform a paternity check to see if someone's children are theirs.  Note that this works even if a partner is unfaithful - if someone sleeps with your wife, their kids are actually yours, because she is your partner, not theirs.
  • Privileged conversations - being married REMOVES the right of society to require testimony in a court of law against each other.  You cannot be compelled to testify against your spouse.

In addition, marriage law sets a norm of practice in many areas.  Many policies stem from marriage law, including:

  • Education - the way that marriage is presented in education is primarily dependent on the way in which it is described legally
  • Standard policies - as the government regulates more and more businesses, the way that businesses are expected to deal with their employees is based on the statuses assigned to them by the state.  If the state treats them as married, then before long businesses will be forced to do so as well. 
  • This can even get into churches.  Churches have been stripped of their tax-exempt status for not promoting the public good - and this is often based on whether or not their beliefs match up with the norms established by law.

So, as you can see, marriage law has VERY LITTLE TO DO with what people do as individuals, and VERY MUCH TO DO with how society is expected to respond to those who are married.  Therefore, the argument that "whether or not gay people get married doesn't affect you" is simply false.  Marriage is an important societal institution, and as such it very much affects all of us.  The decision of how we decide who gets recognized as married is a decision that affects all of us.

If two people want to take part in a religious ceremony that DOESN'T implicate the rest of society, there has never been anything stopping them.  I am not aware of any law that prevents a marriage ceremony.  However, marriage itself is not like that.  It not only requires things from the people getting married to each other, it also requires things from society at large as well.

September 27, 2009

Religion and Politics / Gay Marriage, Pt. 2

The Biblical View of Marriage

JB

Before we examine gay marriage from sociological views, I think it is most important to examine it from a Biblical view. 

Of course, there are the basic rules, laws, and admonitions against homosexual sex in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  This should be the first clue that gay marriage may be improper, but it is not definitive.  Certainly Biblical admonitions against certain things may be cultural or contextual, so it is always important to discern the operating principle to determine if the rule applies generally.

First of all, Biblically, sex should occur inside the confines of marriage.  I hope I don't have to convince you of that, and am going to assume that I don't have to.  So then you have the question, can homosexual couples get married?  To determine the answer to that one, we need to ask the question, "what is the purpose of marriage"?

Many people say that the Biblical purpose of marriage is children.  That is simply not true.  The Bible certainly places a high importance on children (Psalm 127:3-5), but it does not list it as the reason for marriage.  In fact, the Bible is explicit about why marriage occurs.

Genesis 2:24 says, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."  Therefore?  Whenever you see a therefore in the Bible, you should take a look and see what it is there for. 

The story is about the creation of woman.  Why was woman created?

"Then the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Genesis 2:18)

Here's the deal - man is incomplete without woman.  The purpose of marriage is the completion of God's creation.  That is why, Biblically, gay marriage isn't appropriate - it doesn't complete humanity, but instead represents and incomplete picture of God's creation.

Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that you can only be complete inside of marriage.  The Bible also gives another form of completeness in humanity - that of being completed by God Himself.  Therefore, single-ness can be appropriate, but only if it God's completion of you is treated as seriously as a marriage.

So, for Christians, it should be clear why gay marriage isn't appropriate.  In future posts we will talk about the social case against gay marriage in a plural society (i.e. a society which is not exclusively Christian).