Every state in our country restricts marriage in various ways. In most of them you can’t marry 1) a family member, 2) a minor, 3) more than one person, or 4) someone of the same gender. All law is imposed morality, and we see that current marriage law imposes on anyone who would like to marry these (and other) restricted persons. For the polygamist, love won’t cut it. For the pederast, emotions are not enough. And for the homosexual, the state has never defined marriage based on the strength of affection between two (or more) people. True, some people marry for love. But we’ve never had a love commission at any government level measuring the strength of emotional bonds between two people.
Until now. Or so you would guess from the reasons given by same sex marriage proponents. Here is Washington State Governor Gregoire saying that the state cannot tell homosexual people that their love does not qualify for marriage (see just after the 2min mark). But the state has never said anything about the love of homosexuals or the love of anyone else for that matter. The state has supported the union of one man and one woman because that union not only naturally produces children, but it has been seen as the best environment in which to raise them. This shouldn’t be controversial. As my friend Joe Backholm points out, take one million kids raised by their biological parents and one million kids raised by anyone else. Which million do you think does better? If you’re not sure, you’re not paying attention. This is not an argument against adoption or anything else. It simply makes the point, plainly for anyone to see, that kids do best, all things being equal, when raised by their biological parents. The state has historically supported the union of one man and one woman for this reason.
Gregoire also says the state cannot discriminate this way against homosexuals, and to do so is similar to the separate but equal evil of segregation. We’ve seen this is false. The state does discriminate–against homosexuals, polygamists, pederasts, and the incestuous. Now imagine, 30 minutes after two homosexuals get “married”, a guy and his two consenting fiances walk up to the county court house demanding their marriage license. They are in love, you see. And who can argue with them? Polygamy has as much historical presence as homosexuality. Probably more so. But the state can discriminate against one and not the other? Now a lot of sentimental people would never want the state to grant marriages to a dude and his wives, or a dude and his three cats, or a 9 year old boy and his 30 year old girlfriend. But if the criterion is love, and the state cannot discriminate–in the words of the governor–then there is absolutely nothing to stop that train. The president has recently said his view on marriage has evolved. Shouldn’t we expect it to continue evolving? Or is this the one place evolution stops? Of course this doesn’t mean beastiality is right around the corner. But who would have thought in the 70s that we’d be here?
Christians are required not to be sentimentalists, and to see the consequences of ideas before those consequences arrive. This is what it means to be prudent. Go back to 50’s unitarian conformity and you’re on the doorstep of the 60’s. Ah, the good ol’ days. We’re also required to resist tyranny and protect the weak. One common response to the fight over gay marriage by Christians is to say that marriage is one thing for non Christians and another for Christians. They take an oath before the state (at least sign something), we take an oath before God. Therefore, we should not withstand what they are doing. But consider, when God told Noah he would require a reckoning for murders, was he only talking about Jewish murders (Gen. 9:5)? Of course not. When Dan Savage gets a speaking spot to high schoolers on anti-bullying, and proceeds to attack his lame understanding of “the bullshit in the Bible” and the “pansy-assed” Christians who believe it, is there any wondering what this effort is about?
The irony is elephantine. In the name of not discriminating or imposing on others, elected liberals are imposing a minority view on the majority. Gay marriage has been voted down 32 out of 32 times when states actually vote on it, most recently by a landslide in North Carolina. Never has Peter Berger’s quip been truer that if India is the world’s most religious country and Sweden the most secular, America is a nation of Indians governed by Swedes. The only way gay marriage has become legal in a state is when enforced top down. It’s not as if the proponents of gay marriage are signing Referendum 74 that actually lets Washington voters choose what they want. Actually, I should qualify that. Some proponents of gay marriage probably have signed the Referendum, and hats off to them. They at least want democracy to live, stand with racial minorities in our country who overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage, and would likely never tell African American pastors who disagree with them to evolve like Chris Matthews did.
Data says that roughly 40% of evangelicals vote. The common line in churches is that the gospel is all about love, and politics all about power. This is true in one sense. The gospel is all about love, and when it comes to power, it primarily exercises left-handed power: sacrifice, blessing, love, influence. Politics of the usual kind is all about right-handed power: coercion, force, violence, control. What kind do you think is being used right now to redefine marriage? Do you think you’d be called to exercise some right-handed power if you saw a man raping a woman? But I digress. Whatever kind of power voting is, it’s a privilege and a basic civil responsibility for Christians. I’ve been amazed to be at churches where people simply do not regularly vote. I’ve also been amazed at the refusal of many churches in Washington to take part in the Referendum effort. If you’re a pastor at a conservative church, you might have a few people who are over-zealous, who have not gotten the beam out of their own eye but complain about all sort of political specks out there. But you probably have a lot more people who are lazy in their civil duties, duties that affect their neighbors. You can talk about being missional and loving the city and shaloming all over the place, but if you don’t care enough to protect Johnny down the street from learning in school that marriage is a genderless institution and that we all need to explore our sexuality, then it’s time for another walk through Romans 1 with your eyes open. It’s time to remember that Jesus got murdered by political authorities because he threatened their influence. If we want to do justice and love mercy, this is the easy and first thing. Perhaps after the little, we will be entrusted with more.