A few times recently, I’ve mentioned the church’s debate over the practice of homosexuality (trying to establish a framework for the debate, and showing how the UMC has [or exercises] no authority regarding its statements of belief). Those were addressing issues internal to the Church. I don’t want them confused with how we handle issues external to the Church.
Here, I’d like to look at an issue that goes beyond the Church:
How should the Church be thinking and acting regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage?
First, I should share my personal history. In 2004, the state of Kentucky had a proposed amendment outlawing same-sex marriages and civil unions. I voted for it. That’s the only vote I’ve ever cast on this issue.
I’m ashamed of that vote now. Here’s why…
At least within the Church, I hear two primary reasons people give for keeping same-sex marriage outlawed:
- If we believe homosexual behavior is against the will of God, we shouldn’t endorse it by making same-sex marriage legal.
- We should preserve the sanctity of marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman.
Obviously both positions only hold true for those who are convinced homosexual behavior is incompatible with Christian teaching. If someone starts with that presumption (whether it’s right or wrong — not the issue I’m attempting to discuss here), do either of the two points above have merit?
Let me ask some other questions:
Are these same Christians interested in outlawing cohabitation outside of marriage?
Are they interested in making it illegal to have sex with anyone other than one’s marriage partner?
Would they be willing to pass laws that make divorce an option only in a few rare cases?
To all of the above, I think the answer is no.
You see, even “conservative” Christians aren’t really interested in legislating their sexual morals. Many would probably say that though they don’t endorse some of these things, they can’t presume to outlaw them for all people.
And if we were so concerned about using the law to preserve the sanctity of marriage, we would need to start passing some pretty strict laws about divorce — or even much stricter laws about which heterosexuals may get married in the first place.
But we’re not passing these laws or trying to. And we shouldn’t be. It’s good and needed for the Church to work out its understandings of sexual morality. But none of us are serious about legislating that for all people. That doesn’t leave us with much to stand on in any continued attempt to outlaw same-sex marriages.
Some may find political or pragmatic reasons to keep up this fight (reasons I find unconvincing) but their biblical or theological reasons to keep up the fight fall apart, I think, when we look at their responses to other issues.
There you go. All I have to say about it in under 500 words. I know you’re shocked. Am I thinking too simplistically about this?