The Gay Marriage Debate: What’s a Christian to Do?
Voters in North Carolina have just made theirs the thirty-first state in which marriage will be between a man and a woman, exclusively. President Obama has responded by endorsing gay marriage. Needless to say, an intensification of the national debate on this issue will ensue. In this post, I make a case for the affirmation of heterosexual marriage in law. Hopefully, these few thoughts will help my fellow Christians enter the public square and engage in this debate with wisdom, courage, gentleness, and respect.
The case begins with an assumption, namely, that both nature and conscience reveal the existence of an infinite personal Creator, a God who rules, blesses, and judges all nations according to his holy will. This was, of course, the faith of our Founding Fathers, who held these great truths to be self-evident and foundational to the good order of any society.
On this assumption, it is a matter of simple intellectual honesty to observe the striking physical and psychological complementarity of men and women, as well as the universal pattern of human behavior, and to conclude that God has a design for marriage. In particular, he clearly designs marriage as a permanent union of one man and one woman for the purpose of mutual support, enjoyment, procreation, the spiritual and physical nurture of children, and the resulting health of society at large.
Such conclusions, though resisted by some, nevertheless belong to the “spiritual common sense” of the entire family of man. This is why all world religions define heterosexual marriage as the norm, and why no culture in recorded history has ever defined it otherwise.
The Voice of Scripture
The Bible, upon which most of the Founders based their worldview, elaborates this norm. Beyond affirming our common sense impressions, it tells us that marriage is a “mystery” which pictures the committed love relationship between Christ and his fruitful Bride, the Church. Citing the rebellion in Eden, it explains why all people are born with a sinful aversion to God’s rule, and why they therefore tend to stray from normal sexual expression into various forms of deviancy.
Accordingly, Scripture unveils a God who promises rich rewards for sexual purity, but also threatens dire penalties against individuals and nations that indulge sexual immorality. More importantly still, it reveals that God sent his own Son for the redemption of a believing people, so that all who receive Christ may find forgiveness and spiritual strength to walk again in his will and enjoy his blessing.
Looking at the debate over “gay marriage” through the prism of these reasonable assumptions, we draw a number of sobering conclusions.
First, gay marriage is bad for gay people. It sanctions a relationship that can never truly satisfy or fulfill, since that relationship is contrary to nature and nature’s God. The fact that gay marriages in the Netherlands typically last less than 1.5 years, and are characterized and undermined by chronic unfaithfulness, is empirical proof of this point.
Secondly, it is bad for children. All sound research confirms what common sense tells us: Children are dramatically healthier, happier, and more successful when growing up with Dad and Mom in a stable nuclear family. Only adult selfishness would lead anyone to intentionally deprive the little ones of such support. With over 40% of American children now born into fatherless homes, I judge that the real crisis in our culture is not same sex marriage, but the erosion of confidence in the traditional nuclear family as the God-appointed womb of healthy, responsible, and productive citizens.
Thirdly, it puts us on a slippery slope towards sexual chaos. If same sex marriage is legalized, the “educative power of the law” will send a message to impressionable youth that it is normal and good. Multitudes of young people will be further tempted to experiment with immoral, unnatural, and dangerous behaviors. Also, “progressive” lawyers and judges will quickly emerge from the shadows to defend still more “rights”—polygamy, polyamory (group marriage), and who knows what else. The resulting injury to sexual health and family integrity will be incalculable.
Finally, same sex marriage will open a door to constant cultural and legal conflict. Henceforth, homosexual activists will insist that schools, churches, and businesses may not speak or act in ways that discriminate against gay couples. Meanwhile, the religiously informed conscience of many citizens will insist that at times they must.
The clouds are already on the horizon. One thinks of Catholic Charities in Boston, which recently elected to eliminate its adoption services rather than violate Church teaching by placing children in homosexual homes. One also thinks of the Canadian courts that are now prosecuting pastors for “hate speech” when they preach that homosexual behavior is a sin. Do we really want to have this war?
Good News for Our Homosexual Neighbors
These and other considerations should move us all to support the legal norm of heterosexual marriage. But they should also move us us to ask a more important personal question: Who really loves the homosexual? Is it those who, in the name of compassion and tolerance, advocate for social arrangements that will actually hurt him, and the culture as well? Or is it those who will tell him the hard truth, truth that will keep him safe, give him hope, and ensure his well being, both in this life and the next?
Brothers and sisters, let us stand solidly in the second group. And as we do, let us be prepared to speak the Good News too all men, especially to our homosexual neighbor. Here it is:
God loves the homosexual. He feels compassion for those who struggle with same-sex orientation and temptation. Recognizing that homosexual practice is both wrong and dangerous, he forbids it. But beyond mere law-giving, he also gives the gift of his only-begotten Son, a fountain of pardon and inner strength for resisting temptation and remaining happily celibate, or—God willing—for experiencing a renewal of heterosexual attraction that may well result in true marriage.
Is this road too hard for the homosexual? So it may seem. But as multitudes of abstinent youth, singles, widows, and widowers will testify, it can be traveled victoriously. All that is necessary is to be “married” to Christ, who so loves his Bride that he enables her to walk with him in purity, peace, and abiding joy.