Last week Illinois became the 16th state to allow same-sex marriage. And promptly joined the previous 15 in their devolved, anarchic state of a post-apocalyptic society and broken families. ...Just kidding.
But you might think all of that if you were following Christian responses. The simplest way I can say it is that these responses were largely disappointing.
I have remained indifferent to the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage. I have opinions but I don't feel I have a horse in that race. But many Christians think they do.
So why should we Christians be grateful that gay marriage can be legalized? Because the government still has no interest in defining the spiritual realities of sacramental marriage. And it doesn't claim to.
There's a reason that when you are married in church you still have to register your marriage with the state. The church will recognize your marriage from the moment you say, "I do." The state only cares about the legal framework being followed and that you've signed a piece of paper.
What's happening with gay marriage is a legal action. I normally champion holistic seeing - that we can't separate spiritual from emotional from physical. But when it comes to governments, they have a very specific purpose and function, and it is not a spiritual one. They are interested in structuring a productive, healthy, society and, in our very fortunate case, allowing citizens to pursue their own happiness.
American Christians love the separation of Church and state, and I mean absolutely love it. We go bananas for it, especially when something like universal healthcare comes to the fore. We want the government to stay out of our religion! But then we turn around and expect that our religious beliefs should be the basis for governing on the issues that we actually do care about. Like gay marriage.
But here's the truth: Christians don't realize how lucky they are that the issue of gay marriage has developed the way it has. We aren't facing the issue of people wanting marriages between three people or with minors or to loosen divorce entitlements to make "marriage" a somewhat fluid definition. We aren't looking at an assault on the structure or seriousness of marriage. We're looking at a group who wants to keep the structure but just be a part of it. Our biggest issue is that gay couples want to affirm marriage's importance as-is.
The issue of our time is that gay couples want to buy into our system: they want monogamous, lifelong relationships, a house in the suburbs, two kids, holidays gathered with their families, and on and on and on. It looks exactly like the image of marriage Christians hold up except for the couple being gay. Some Christians understandably think that that part does matter though others don't. What I'm trying to say is that this image is not so scary. It's not foreign. And since our Constitution is a legal (and not spiritual) document, it's hard to argue they don't have that right.
"But society will break down! Children need a mother and father." Granted, it's hard to argue that by natural design children don't need a mother and a father because, after all, every human has required them for his/her existence. But since gay couples understandably won't be naturally producing their own children, this means there will be more stable couples in society willing to adopt. This is huge! The world has so many children in desperate need of loving homes.
And before you condemn gay couples who want to adopt children you need to answer the question, "Am I willing to adopt a child in need? When I'm married and/or financially stable, do I plan on doing it then?" If the honest answer is no, then you have lost any right to deny adoption to them. People who condemn gay couples adopting but refuse to do so themselves are like the Levite passing the robbed man on the road and then saying the (good) Samaritan shouldn't be allowed to help. Do you think a child in search of a forever home is going to care that their parents are gay? No, no they won't. This particular principle of help and love coming from outcasts is such an offensive theme in the gospels that even today Christians deny its application in our lives.
I see a difference between asking "do you approve of gay marriage" and "should gay marriage be legalized," not because of the answers necessarily but because the questions get at two fundamentally different things.
Our government is designed to not govern based on religious conviction. And the legalization of gay marriage affirms that. For that reason I can say, "Thank God."
When the Church Fails Homosexuals
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