In light of Proposition 8’s judicial overturning, our repost of Charles’ “Should We Feel Great About Proposition 8” was timely and thought-provoking. I do not intend the following to be a full-fledged articulation of my thinking but a beginning sketch for hopefully fuller realization.
The debate over this vote and its aftermath continues to prove rancorous and uncivil in the highest degree. However, this should not surprise anyone. We live in a democratic time with numerous and easily accessible routes of communication. Further, these channels of discourse touch upon a deeply sensitive issue. The moral good and public acceptance of one’s lifestyle or the upholding of deeply held beliefs and institutions will bring out the fight in most. What struck me about the debate was that both sides often came out looking bad. This situation did not pit evil homophobes against peaceful defenders of true love.; nor did it face-off pure champions of godly virtue against conscious, willful destroyers of marriage. The arguments put forward in support of Proposition 8 were at times peripheral or sensationalistic. The intimidation and hatred shown against many Proposition 8 supporters was disgraceful as well.
Issues surrounding the nature of marriage present Christians with wider difficulties of discerning the role of our faith and of Scripture in culture. While most agree that theocracyis the wrong form of government to pursue, the opposite course of complete separation of faith from the public square proves troubling as well and, in the end, impossible. Religion offers premises so fundamental concerning humanity’s end, truth, morality and happiness that separating it from the self in civil matters can only really occur by some unhealthy, illogical division of the self or by the outright rejection of Christianity for more secular, naturalistic assumptions.
Perhaps the answer begins by asking anew how God reigns over this world in the present. When Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world, he seemed to establish two spheres of authority. God is God over all; but is he God in the same way over all? On one hand, Jesus is Redeemer and Mediator in relationship to his Church. On the other hand, Christ is Creator and Providential Sustainer of the entire world. Do these differing roles/relationships establish different basis’ for the government and law structures of each? Does the special revelation of Scripture hold more direct sway over the Church and some form of natural law (like Romans 2:14-15) rule in the civil realm? These ideas are far from novel. Luther, Calvin, Turretin, Rutherford, and a plethora of others held to some form of this view. These ideas also provide a possible ground for lawmaking that recognizes unchanging truth applicable to all even in a pluralistic society. The debate is worth having.
Even if we accept this division, the question of Proposition 8 does not go away. Marriage stems from God’s creation not his redemption. Marriage appears to hold truths applicable beyond the Church as an institution centered in the complementary differences between men and women, both in biology and in strengths and weaknesses particular to one’s sex. Rejection of only heterosexual marriage can only come about when, as the recent Proposition 8 ruling states, gender has no bearing on marriage (and no real bearing anywhere beyond social construct, I might add). Heterosexual marriage can also only be rejected when the denial of natural men and women is coupled with a highly individualistic culture that places personal, often fleeting happiness over greater goods and selfless sacrifice.
For these sinful foundations of the gay marriage argument, Christians have no one to blame but themselves. For their arguments would likely have significantly less power if we looked at our own marriages as covenant mirrors of Christ and the Church, built further to ground society and raise the next generation. Instead, our infidelity and divorce rates show a callous disregard for the true creative ordinance of matrimony that makes us look hypocritical when criticizing homosexual persons. Restoring marriage will take much more than some better form of Proposition 8. It will take a less individualistic reform of heterosexual marriage, a restoration of God-honoring complementary sexuality, and a deep love for those struggling with sexual issues, heterosexual or homosexual, in a way that speaks the truth only in the context of loving relationship.