My Solution to the Same-Sex Marriage Debate, with an Ecclesiology of Exile

OBJECTIONS TO SAME SEX MARRIAGE

Okay, no surprises, I’m not a fan of gay marriage. I have two non-theological arguments against it:

(1) It reduces marriage to a legal fiction. Marriage has traditionally or historically been a union between man and woman for the purpose of preventing promiscuity and promoting procreation and life-long partnership. Marriage creates healthy families and healthy families creates healthy societies. Philosophers from Aristotle to Confucius have recognized the importance of the marriage-family bond for society. Same-sex marriage, however, supposes that marriage is simply a legal recognition of a citizen’s preferred relationship status, and marriage has no function, goal, or value for the state; marriage is something that just happens, and the state has no preferred policy whether marriages take place or who they take place among. Counter-response: Yes, indeed, marriage is nothing more than a legal contract; it has no inherent moral quality, it is no different from a business contract or a real estate lease. Thus govt. cannot prescribe some relationships to be more valid or more valuable than others (i.e., it cannot say that marriage is better than de facto relationships without prejudice to the latter) nor can it discriminate against types of relationships.  Counter-counter response: Exactly my point. This debate is not about who I chose to love, this debate is about the nature and function of marriage in our society. I concede that if one abandons the Christian/historical definition of marriage, then you can redefine it how you like. We just need clarification on whether this abandonment is a conscious departure from the Christian heritage and are you prepared for the consequences.

(2) It paves the way for polygamy. The same arguments used for same sex marriage can be used to justify polygamy. Marriage is about love not law, get your Mormon religion out of my bedroom, it discriminates against bisexuals, it is a social justice issue, and blah blah blah. I blogged on this earlier, I think the argument stands. So why don’t advocate of same sex marriage advocate for polygamy? The only answer can be: we don’t like it (aesthetics) or we are not ready for it (popularity). But aesthetics and popularity are not legal or moral arguments. The logic of same sex marriage demands bisexual and polygamous marriage, even with the apocalyptic legal scenarios that it brings. Counter-response: Well, there is polygamy in the Bible, so what’s wrong with Polygamy. Counter-counter response: Polygamy in the Bible, well duh! It was part of ancient near eastern culture which the patriarchs and Israelites lived in, but it was not the intended creational norm in the beginning (Genesis 1 -2) and Jesus and the Apostles specifically endorse marriage as one man and one woman only (Matt 19:8-10; Tit 1:6). Any way, like I said, now you have no reason for not having polygamous marriages, let me know how that works out for you, will be a good time to be lawyer.

I also recognize that those objections will not persuade most non-Christians anymore than reading the Sermon on the Mount will persuade Lady Gaga to start wearing a chastity belt. So where do we go from here?

A PROPOSAL ON SAME SEX MARRIAGE

There are two problems as I see it here. (1) Christendom is over. We are no longer chaplains to a nominal Christian society in the West. You don’t have to like it, but build a bridge and get over it, its where we are. (2) We need to get government out of marriage and religion out of civil unions.

Here is what I propose:

I say we adopt a European model on civil unions and marriage. Basically, everyone gets a civil union. So on Friday, rock up to town hall with your fiance, see the magistrate, get licensed as a couple, so all the legal bases are covered. Then on Saturday, if you so chose, go to your Cathedral, Synagogue, or Mosque and get sacramentally married with divine blessings. This provides a base level of rights and benefits for everyone and gets government interference out of what has normally been a religious ceremony. As far as the state is concerned, there are only civil unions. Marriage, as a sacramental union, does not exist in the state’s eyes. They only recognize contracts between people … any people and as many people as you like. If you want to be in a civil union with a pretty girl, your biological brother, three Ukrainian women you met on-line, two pet monkeys, a racoon named “bongo,” and a box DVD set of Supertramp, go ahead. If it can physically sighted you can be civilly united. If marriage is just a legal fiction, then there is no legal argument why you cannot do this. You want to throw that bigoted Christian heritage away and discover your inner pagan sexuality, gratify your every lust with state approval, go ahead, fill your boots, throw off the shackles of those perverse Christian values. If you need me, I’ll be on a family picnic with my wife and kids while you’re in law court figuring out who gets the house and kids  in the love dodecahedron you’ve made for yourself.

That might sound strange, but here’s my thinking.

Christianity is no longer the default setting in the West. Christian ethics are no longer mainstream, normal, or even make any sense. Yes, in some places we have remnants of this, esp. in parts of the UK and USA, but Christendom is over folks. We are no longer calling people back to values they nominally consent to. There is no silent moral majority; we are now the minority, we are the odd balls, we speak a different language, we inhabit a different symbolic universe, we are now regarded as enemies of the state’s values,  we are the new villains, we are the greatest threat to what the secularists think is a fair, just, and inclusive society.We are subversive ideological terrorists because we order our lives according the story, symbols, and sovereignty of Jesus Christ, all of which stands in violent opposition to the values of the secular order. We Christians represent a clear and present danger to the very edifice of secular pluralism because we refuse to believe in it and we tell a story that undermines it – and some people believe us not the powers that be, that’s the problem.

Ancient critics of Christians called them “haters of the human race,” which ironically justified inflicting the most hateful and hurtful of punishments upon Christians! That figures, since I’ve been accused of hating homosexuals with the most hateful and acidic language I’ve ever seen on the comments of this blog. Tacitus noted that Christians were convicted under Nero “not so much for the crime of burning the city, but for hatred of the human race“. Why were they accused of hating the human race? Because they believed in the Trinity? Because they believed in the imputation of righteousness? For holding to the doctrine of sublapsarianism? No, they were called human-haters because they failed to affirm the politics of Rome with Caesar at the top, they refused to embrace the pantheon of Roman gods, they refused to do their civic duty to honour the values of Rome, and they did not imitate the permissiveness of their society.When Christians are called “homophobes” for refusing to affirm and endorse gay marriage, it is just a variation of this theme. But how do we respond?

We need to develop an ecclesiology of exile. This best explains the situation we find ourselves in. This is why Peter exhorts the believers in Asia Minor: “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” Christians are the new fruitcakes. We don’t belong here, we don’t fit in, that is why they hate us! People look at us with a mixture of disgust and confusion. Why don’t you abort your babies if they’ll inconvenience your life? Why do you stay faithful to your wife even you could keep your adultery a secret? Why don’t you abandon your husband and kids and go and “find yourself”? Why give up your disposal income to help kids in some god-forsaken country west of Timbuktu?  Why don’t you divorce your spouse and find something better? Why ruin your career and risk your life in Africa to help out some half-evolved jungle bunnies who just got religion? Why don’t you hook up with cute boys or chug beer with the frat boys – is there something wrong with you? Why waste your Christmas mornings at a drop in centre for schizo’s and urban vermin – that’s what the government is supposed to do?

As we construct a Christian response to gay marriage, the evangelical and apostolic churches (not the liberals churches who are little more than chaplains for Nero) need to do from an ecclesiology of exile, not from an ecclesiology of christendom. We are on the periphery of society, not in its privileged position. We do it recognizing we are the outsiders, we not the respected authority we once were.

OUR CONTEST IS NOT WITH PEOPLE’S GENITALS BUT WITH RELATING TO AN AGGRESSIVE SECULARISM

The same sex marriage debate is not about law, genitals, and marriage. Its about whether we are a Christian society. For secularists, the answer is no, we are thankfully not a Christian society. Their frustration, however, is due to the fact that faith communities continue to exist and even prosper when they should have faded into oblivion long ago. That’s the story they’ve been telling since the Humanist Manifesto in1933. But Christians (and other faith communities too) are ruining the secular script simply by the fact of their persistent existence. They refuse to retreat into some dark corner, where they are neither seen nor heard, and just die off. The secular frustration with faith communities is very much like that of Agent Smith with Neo in The Matrix Revolutions. In one of the final scenes, Neo won’t give up in their battle even when the result of their conflict looks inevitably, and Smith is confused and enraged by Neo’s unwillingness to quit. After Smith has belted the snot out of Neo and Neo gets up yet again, Smith launches into a tirade against Neo which I’ve recorded with midrashic additions:

Why, Mr. Christian ? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom of religion? Or ultimate truth? Perhaps inner peace? Could it be for the love of god? Illusions, Mr. Christian. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial and pointless as life itself. Although, only a religious mind could invent something as insipid as love for a god. You must be able to see it, Mr. Christian. You must know it by now. You can’t win. It’s pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Christian, Why? Why do you persist in this contest?

Neo’s response to Smith is, “Because I chose to.” To which I would amend to, “Because I’m called to.” We are not called to Christianize the state, there is no point prescribing Christian values for people who are not Christians. But we are in the industry of being a really, really annoying force of resistance in the world around us. We are fundamentally called to be witnesses to a new regal order (the kingdom of God) and a new way of being human (the new creation). We are establishing a state-within-the-state, setting up an underground network with a message so subversive that it would warrant instant arrest, a praxis that is virtual treason, a secret rebellion against the imperially sponsored secularism around us. When Christians are hated rightfully, i.e., for being different, not for calling for gays and lesbians to be locked up in some big paddock like one lunatic American preach said, then that is a good sign we are doing our job correctly.

We need to take a leaf out of the book of the Epistle to Diognetus:

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

In a nutshell:

- Gay marriage is inevitable, so we need to rethink how we relate to society.
- We can expect to be called human-haters (homophobes, biophobes, polyphobes, treasonous, anti-social, etc.) because of our refusal to endorse and affirm the culture around us.
- Gay marriage is about a larger trend in western society edging towards an aggressive secularization that permits religious communities to exist but only on the grounds of an unwritten non-interference clause (i.e., shut up, sit down, say nothing, and please die out quietly).
- Fidelity in this state of exile is not Christianizing, but witnessing to a different way of being authentically human, whispering across a table that “Aslan is on the move,” declaring that a new thing is happening in our midst, being proud of those things that makes us better than the pagans (i.e., we don’t kill our babies), reflecting love in the face of prejudicial hatred, blessing others when we are cursed, and pointing towards Jesus Christ who brings the redemption and transformation that we everybody in the world needs.

  • Tom

    Thanks Mike, I agree we cannot carry on pretending we live in some kind of Christendom. Indeed “calling people back to our country’s Christian roots” can have the effect of making it sound like the ethical implications of the Gospel are the Gospel, rather than Christ. That said, is there a sense in which we might democratically resist this kind of change in the law on the grounds of compassion? Marriage is not a merely a private relationship between two consenting adults and therefore what is institutionalised as marriage teaches, and potentially confuses, the next generation. Any thoughts on how to balance this ground of compassion with the thinking above.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EHKCTIWGD2YHNS7YFQ27SVJVLQ Edward

    Actually marriage started out as civil unions. It is only during the Medieval period that the Church stuck its nose into it.

    So we can either (a) recignise marriage as a secular institiution, and let lesbian couples and gay couples in on it, or (b) DROP the word ‘marriage’ altogether.

    In both cases, the church can still have their Office of Holy Matrimony.

    No problem about religion and morality is so huge that it cannot be solved by a judicious separation of Church and State.

    • Jayhelms1

      What? Seriously…this just doesn’t make any sense.

  • Tharding

    Excellent insights and well-crafted thoughts. I laughed and cried! The sadness of developing an ecclesiology of exile is overwhelming and yet so freeing. It doesn’t change our positions but certainly changes our perspective and our need to hold strong our positions. Thank you for posting!

  • JA

    But is gay marriage truly inevitable? Many used to think abortion on demand was as well:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/299663/gay-marriage-not-inevitable-rich-lowry

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rusty-South/1422777689 Rusty South

      JA Try D. A. Carson’s new book, “The Intolerance of tolerance.” What was once tolerated out of respect, but with objection, has now reversed to tolerance without objection. Good read and most needed.

    • Ian Paul

      Statistically speaking, abortion on demand is effectively available in the UK. No woman who wants an abortion will have difficulty finding doctors to license this. Ian Paul

  • jwillitts

    Useful post Mike. Thanks.

  • http://katadrew.com drew

    Wow. Just wow.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.comings.3 David Comings

    In America today, more than 50% of kids born to moms under 30 are born into unmarried households. We need to take non-religous arguements to try to stem that tide. The attached is a non-religious argument from one of the most outspoken proponents of one man, one woman marriage, Dennis Prager, a reform Jew, and this article is compelling. http://www.dennisprager.com/columns.aspx?g=d9fb0980-9c95-48e8-a493-86b965c7d5ee&url=same-sex_marriage_and_the_insignificance_of_men_and_women

  • http://twitter.com/jasonstaples Jason Staples

    Good post, Mike. I’ve been arguing this angle for quite some time.

  • PamBG

    A very interesting post. I totally agree with your solution of European style marriage with a divide between the civil and the religious aspects.

    Strangely, I take a 180-degree opposite approach to your non-theological arguments:

    1) Being intimate in a one-to-one permanent relationship is a very valuable aspect of human growth and human living and has a point in itself. I’m expecting screaming from heterosexual singles now. I said “very valuable”, not vital. And I think that there is a huge difference between not having found your soul-mate and having found that person and being told “Sorry, for you, all aspects of intimacy are actually harmful and immoral.”

    2) I support monogamy and I think the anti-gay marriage stance makes a mockery of monogamy. As a heterosexual person who knew I could not have children, I got married anyway. But if I’m following your logic strictly which I think we need to do if we’re going to use it as an obvious reason for gay people not to get married, then my husband and I have pretty well made a mockery of marriage ourselves.

    Actually, I believe that there IS value in monogamy. The maturity and stability that comes from a life-long partnership and the growth in covenant love (much like God’s love for God’s people). That’s why I think gay people should benefit from it as well instead of being told that they commit monogamy as a sin but that I, as a heterosexual, practice it as a discipline.

  • Matthew R. St. John

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

  • James C

    Mike, this is just plain rubbish on a number of levels. I don’t know where to begin on your bizarre logic and ability to invent things without evidence. As for this polarizing understanding of secularism (which you and Dawkins seem to share) please, please read craig martin, masking hegemony and see how complex things are. Or just keep inventing things to bolster your victim mentality. I dunno.

    Remember too that there are, believe it or not, people who identify as Christian homosexuals. Why not defend them as Christians?

    To paraphrase Jon Stewart (I think) if only we could live to see the day when a Christian could be president of America or the pm of the UK…oh…

    Frankly, if anyone is stupid enough to marry or want to call it marriage or whatever, it is tough shit, or should be, if either of us hate it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Bird/1814624096 Michael Bird

      James,
      Always good to hear from you! Just a few things:

      1. I wish I had time to read up on the sociology of tolerance, the nature of secularism, and ideologies in conflict … but I’m too busy keeping my finger on the pulse in biblical studies. But tell me ONE book you think I should read and I’ll try have a crack at it.

      2. Yes, I know there are varieties of secularism, soft, hard, and militant. Keep in mind that I’m talking out of the Aussie context where we have a looser separation of church and state than the USA, but with a far more secular culture where only 2.5% of the population goes to church and there are more Buddhists than Baptists. But we do have here some very acrimonious militant secularist’s esp. in the Greens. They and some of their acolytes do have a scorched earth policy towards religion (like raising concerns about the number of Christians joining school P&C’s). So I don’t have a martyrdom complex (though I can see how it sounds that way), but there are some secular fundamentalists about and they are rather vocal.

      3. There are gay Christians! Oh no, when did this happen, how could this happen, is it even possible? Mocking humor aside, yes, I know full well that there are gay Christians. Ministering to gay Christians requires some thoughtful and gracious pastoral care just as it would to any minority group within the church. But let me also say, there is no a sign outside of my church that says, “You bring it, I’ll bless it for the bargain price of $29.95.” Probably why I’ll never be a COE bishop!

      4. I thought you would agree with my European model for separating civil unions and holy matrimony. Yes, I agree with Jon Stewart’s famous remarks about hoping that America would have a Christian president. This is my point on the theme of “ecclesiology of exile.” Christians have to stop expecting and even demanding that the state subscribe to their views on everything. The times have changed, the game has changed, the world has changed. We ain’t in Kansas anymore Toto.

      5. Many of us, gay and straight, Christian or secular, actually believe in marriage and care a great deal about it. It was rather unkind then to call people who want to get married “stupid,” don’t you think?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Keith-Pullman/100001874681093 Keith Pullman

    From a legal perspective, an adult should be free to share love, sex, residence, and marriage with ANY consenting adults, without prosecution, bullying, or discrimination. Churches wouldn’t have to perform weddings they don’t want to perform.

    • Tk

      Who says they should? Under whose authority? Do you just make this stuff up out of your head?

  • Mark Baddeley

    Enjoyed the article, Michael, thanks for taking the time to write up your thoughts and publish them.

    The extra thoughts I’d have is that your two objections at the start could be increased a bit, and that might (not necessarily, but might) change the equation on accepting the change to same gender marriage a bit. The two things I’d add in would be:

    1) a huge reduction in the scope of freedom of religion – the push to put opposition to same gender sexual relations on the same level as racism (which same gender marriage is part of) is going to significantly shrink people’s ability to have freedom of religion on pretty well any sexual behaviour. This article http://blog.speakupmovement.org/university/uncategorized/i-was-wrong-about-marriage/ has a good brief summary of the effect this issue has had on religious freedom in the States already (given the US, mileage varies from state to state of course, until it becomes a federal issue).

    2) The more that the State gives recognition to a wide range of relationships that have bad outcomes for children, that have relatively short life-expectancies and so the break-up needs to be managed by law and the like, the more it has to be interventionist in families – *all* families because it is consciously making no distinction between them as having better or worse outcomes. In that situation, parenthood increasingly becomes something not natural that the state supports, but an expression of the state’s power and interest. The state will have to micromanage and intervene in families more because families will be a much less positive environment for children. If you are right that this push is about a secular aggressive ideology, then you need to understand that you won’t be off at the picnic with your family while the other family is in court managing their break-up. You’ll, on your logic, be in a different court arguing why the state should recognise you to be a fit person to raise its children that you happened to biologically beget when you are guilty of rampant homophobia. The screening tests currently applied to foster parents and adoptive parents will likely be applied to natural parents as well.In the same way that marriage will be cut from any intrinsic connection to children, so being the biological parent will be cut from any intrinsic connection to being the actual parent. You’ll need state sanction to raise the kids you produced, and it will set the terms for that permission.

    Further, who says same gender marriage is inevitable? Progressives paint everything they are committed to as inevitable. That’s part of how they get their social changes in, it’s a tactic for social change. It’s not an objective description of the future. As you observe, they have been painting this picture about the death of religion for nearly a centry. They’ve done it for other things that haven’t come to pass. If they truly thought it was inevitable they’d put it to a referendum now. They know that, like in the U.S., when it came to an actual vote, less than half of the population would be in favour, and that that figure is unlikely to change much into the future. That’s why the goal is to convince people that it is inevitable, and use either the courts, or politicians to bring the change in from above. There isn’t the wide-spread demand for same gender marriage among the population at large, there just isn’t overly strong feelings among those who disagree, and a lot of passion among those who are in favour.

    Your solution is the way ahead, if same gender marriage does go ahead. But it will be called ‘marriage’ – that’s the extra dimension that I think that your analysis has missed as to why people aren’t supporting polygamy as well as same gender marriage. Very, very few homosexuals want to get married unless Australia is different from other places that have introduced same gender mariage. But they want the right – because the right brings with it an endorsement of the validity and goodness of same gender sexual relationships. It’s a win-win: it both changes marriage and removes reproduction (and probably sexual exclusivity) from marriage, but also gives validation to same gender relationships. But change it too much in a single step – either to civil unions, or to almost any relationship being able to be married – debases the currency of marriage too quickly too soon to have the effect being looked for. That’s why the Australian reported the Greens Senator arguing against polygamy as it would debase a traditional institution.

    People aren’t going to allow Christians and other people to keep the possibility of a ‘white wedding’ while they just civil unions. If you’re right, anyone will be able to marry anything and it will all be ‘marriage’. Christians will need to come up with a liturgy to bless Christian marriages that were effected by a civil celebrant. And even the right to restrict that blessing to just one subset of marriages (even though it will have no significance for the state) will be tested in the courts to see if it is possible to force churches to have to either bless no marriages or bless any or all.

    In other words, the libertarian solution you’re proposing is not going to be the solution. The progressives will push as far as they can go. If we concede the field to them on this issue, they’ll say ‘thanks’ and see how much further they can restrict our ability to follow Jesus before they get too much kick-back from us or the populace at large. Marriage isn’t the goal, so conceding them marriage isn’t going to stop us having to fight on this issue. It might buy us some time, but it will then ensure that the battle will be on a hill that we even less would choose to die on if we got to choose the battleground

  • Tony C.

    I think this would be a possible solution. I am glad you may have finally realised you don’t want to force me to have your kind of Christian marriage anymore than I want to have one. Lets let the state do civil unions then you go to your church and get married and I’ll go to my church and get married. You can marry according to the tenets of your faith. I wont ruin your picnic. I’ll even smile as I walk past.Bully for you. Everyone seems happy. The coleslaw looks delicious.
    In my church we simply wont exclude same sex relationships from consecration. And we’ll call them marriages. I mean fairs fair I’m not prescribing your religions theology am I? So you can stop prescribing mine. Tah.
    I’m not telling you whether your marriage is ok or not. Maybe you like male headship which I think is pretty yuck. It’s not (substantially) harming your kids though so I let you be.Peace out. Again, yummy coleslaw.
    Now how is this substantially different than amending the definition of marriage to include same sex relationships? I think thats what we’re aiming for.

    Further you say this will bring forward polygamous marriage which will have disastrous results on all matters legally. You can’t really have that both ways – if there are substantial legal problems resulting from polygamous marriage which don’t occur with same sex marriages then you have the basis for distinction right there.

    Personally I’m more concerned with the slippery slope in the other direction. If we allow gay marriage to be defeated to preserve a religious doctrine where does that end. Will you want to take away de-facto rights next? What are the limits of your own logic?

  • Rod Benson

    I agree with Michael that, if legal marriage is redefined in Australia to accommodate same sex couples, there should be a formal separation of responsibilities (i.e. the state administering civil unions, and the churches/religions celebrating marriages according to their established principles). But I disagree with him when he attributes the present problem (in part) to the notion that some of us are desperately clinging to the vestiges of a thing called Christendom. If marriage is clearly a particular institution in Scripture, and federal law closely reflects that biblical and theological reality, then why should Christians be compelled to advocate for legislative change?

  • Deane

    This post is a parody, right? Like this one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rusty-South/1422777689 Rusty South

    Mike, thanks for adding another stone to the pack on Pilgrim Christian’s back

  • Jim

    Christendom is over? Really. Do we now descend into barbarism? In many ways we have but Christians are to disciple the nations not just individuals. The problem here is that it will never stop. Ethicists are already advancing “post-birth abortion”–infanticide and the state will start laying claim to our children and seek to remove them from our homes because we practice “child abuse” because we teach them Christianity. Rule of law comes from God and what you are advocating and accepting is rule of law from false gods. Nominalism does lead to paganism and this is where your logic leads us. The Nazi regime sought to change Christianity into neo-paganism and they got Germany well down that road. Your philosophy isn’t even a speed bump to that sort of society.

    • Jayhelms1

      Nope. Not an accurate assessment…just a bunch of strong imagery that fails to make a fair point.

  • Guest

    When the world goes against God and brings itself even closer to the Rapture, should we speed it up a little by agreeing? NO! We should fight for the principles of God and try to slow the destruction of the world until ALL POSSIBLE SINNERS MAY BE SAVED!!

  • Dave Van Lant

    You should read this article about same-gender marriage in Europe. Apparently, L&G couples are not all that interested.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/299944/gay-divorcees-charles-c-w-cooke#

  • Mark Baddeley

    Here’s a further discussion of the problem of state intervention into family that I’ve just come across from this article : http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=25-01-024-f

    It is speaking about how the understanding of marriage changes once same gender marriage is given legal recognition:

    Institutionally, then, it is nothing more than a legal construct. Its roots run no deeper than positive law. It therefore cannot present itself to the state as the bearer of independent rights and responsibilities, as older or more basic than the state itself. Indeed, it is a creature of the state, generated by the state’s assumption of the power of invention or re-definition. Which changes everything.

    A Tool of the State

    Six years ago, when same-sex marriage became law in Canada, the new legislation quietly acknowledged this. In its consequential amendments section, Bill C-38 struck out the language of “natural parent,” “blood relationship,” etc., from all Canadian laws. Wherever they were found, these expressions were replaced with “legal parent,” “legal relationship,” and so forth.

    That was strictly necessary. “Marriage” was now a legal fiction, a tool of the state, not a natural and pre-political institution recognized and in certain respects (age, consanguinity, consent, exclusivity) regulated by the state. And the state’s goal, as directed by its courts, was to assure absolute equality for same-sex couples. The problem? Same-sex couples could be parents, but not parents of common children. Granting them adoption rights could not fully address the difference. Where natural equality was impossible, however, formal or legal equality was required. To achieve it, “heterosexual marriages” had to be conformed in law to “homosexual marriages.” The latter produced non-reproductive units, constituted not by nature but by law; the former had therefore to be put on the same footing, and were.

    The aim of such legislation, as F. C. DeCoste has observed in “Courting Leviathan” (Alberta Law Review, 2005),

    is to de-naturalize the family by rendering familial relationships, in their entirety, expressions of law. But relationships of that sort—bled as they are of the stuff of social tradition and experience—are no longer family relationships at all. They are rather policy relationships, defined and imposed by the state.

    Here we have what is perhaps the most pressing reason why same-sex marriage should be fought, and fought vigorously. It is a reason that neither the proponents nor the opponents of same-sex marriage have properly debated or thought through. In attacking “heterosexual monogamy,” same-sex marriage does away with the very institution—the only institution we have—that exists precisely in order to support the natural family and to affirm its independence from the state. In doing so, it effectively makes every citizen a ward of the state, by turning his or her most fundamental human connections into legal constructs at the state’s gift and disposal.

    In Nation of Bastards I have tried to provide a larger account of this, and to show how it leaves the parent-child relation open to increasing intervention by the state. The current cover for that intervention is the notion of children’s rights—meaning, far too often, the right of the child to whatever it is that the state, acting on behalf of adults other than its parents, wants it to have: a good education in state ideology, for example, which these days includes “diversity training” in “alternative family structures.”

    That should surprise no one, for if marriage is not procreative, it is not educative either. Where is the educative authority to be transferred, if not to the state, whose pater familias power increases as the rights and freedoms of the natural family diminish? And what will the state do with its newfound power, if not use it to undermine further the sphere of the family, and the sphere of the church or religious community as well—the two spheres where “divine and human rights” independent of the state are located?

    That is, the spectre of profound a wide-spread legal changes to the definition, not just of marriage, but of family and parenthood, isn’t some ‘slippery slope’ argument, it can already be observed to have occurred in a country (Canada) reasonably analagous to Australia. The libertarian solution is not going to be effective in limiting the social damage just to those who pursue non-nuclear family units, the damage is going to affect all families.

  • Cacafuego

    Maybe there’s a silver lining here — viz., that being on the outside will make Christians less complacent, comfortable, and entitled.

    Christianity will again bear social cost, and one will need to count the cost and will not have the option of taking discipleship lightly.

  • Starr

    All very well and good but Christians still live in this society and for the state to acknowledge ‘civil unions’ (what the hell it that by the way) and especially gay marriage represents a massive state intrusion on EVERYONE’s lives. The state has no competence to define marriage much less to redefine it. Imagine having the full force of the state demanding you accept what is an ontological absuridity.

    Do you think the state will stay out of the church and leave you in a little corner to enjoy your picnic? Well no, in Australia, Labor unionists are already on record as saying well maybe we could give a church an exemption…for NOW. And there are plenty of others waiting in the wing. Ready for your kids to have the joys of ‘preparing for gay sex, enema or no?’ in sex educaiton in class? Hey, why not get free fisting seminars as has occurred in the U.S. Ready for your child or you yourself ot be hauled into court because your kid called you daddy and someone thought that it was offensive to the kid with two moms – even if no such kid was anywhere near you? It’s happened even where civil unions are not recognised! Want to have a guess what happens when the full weight of the state is behind gay marriage? Well you might think that’s all peachy but how dare you inflict that on me and my family.

    I don’t think marriage is a ‘Christian’ insitution. It’s a human institution. And throughout history across all cultures and religions, marriage has always been opposite gendered. For the state – a very modern invention, not quite a couple of hundred years old – to decide that it can overturn and redefine a human insitution that preceded the state and will outlive the state and on which the state depends for its survival (no stable families, no kids… no state) is a massive state intrusion on all of our lives.

    Gay marriage is not inevitable. If you look at history, look at the first centuries of the church,Christians didn’t sit back and say, oh well, buggering boys is inevitable because that’s what the pagans do. Let’s sit in our little corner and sneer at how much better we are than them.

    I accuse you of not loving your neighbour. I accuse you of giving up and you give up because you have tried Christianity and found it too hard.

    • http://twitter.com/calbrodude Caleb Finley Bronson

      The first thing that is coming to mind right now is that this world is in fact heading towards a Day of Judgement. Biblically, we know that the world as we know it will continue to spin out of right relationship with God or anything that resembles it. Eventually, when God considers it time, He will literally make His appearance, crush Satan, kill the anti-christ, lock the Beast in Hell, and reign for a thousand years.

      I’m sure you know all this. But the reason I call it to mind now is that there does seem to be a thread of truth to how Michael responds to the situation (though he is overly cynical and sarcastic, I’ll grant) of marriage and morality and government. I would not say that he has found Christianity too hard, but perhaps that he forgot that government is in and of it self a moral agent, having the authority to differentiate between right and wrong. Consequently, as you say, there is an irrevocable bond between the issue of marriage and the institution of the state, both being tied by moral fabric laid in place by God, even found in the very nature of God.

      And yet, certainly you agree with Michael in how he views the Church; the Church is the body of Christ ” an underground network with a message so subversive that it would warrant instant arrest, a praxis that is virtual treason, a secret rebellion against the imperially sponsored secularism around us.” No, he has not given up. Though I am not sure I would cede is opinion that we should simply let the inevitable happen (ie the world is going to hell so let it go now), I do think his commitment to the church is honest, will lead to action on his part, and will be honoring to God.

      It is not the time to give up on society, the state, or any government. I do not believe there will ever be that time, because our calling is to help the poor and the needy, the fatherless and the widowed, and to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are not called to judge or accuse or condemn with finality; that is God’s work on the Day, and we can be sure that He will be Holy and Just.

      Most importantly, though, it seems like both of you have gotten distracted from what it means to love your neighbor. The body of Christ, which you both seem to be a part of, is meant for building each other up, edifying, encouraging, sacrificing for, sanctifying, serving, and, in a word, loving. In fact, this even is our calling in regards non-Christians. We are to love our enemies.

  • Eddie Ozols

    Great article. I remember visiting my father’s family in Latvia in 2002 for the first time and meeting a younger family member who had just married. Surprisingly when I asked about the wedding it is exactly as described by you. Friday they went to the registry office for the “state” service. I don’t think it was called a civil union but marriage. Then Saturday at the church where all members of the family and friends attended the “official” wedding.
    This approach in Australia would require clergy to give up the right to marry on behalf of the state. It would also make it clear that if you wanted a religious wedding then there is some serious consideration as to why you would have two ceremonies.
    On the broader issues raised in the blog, when I used the term “post Christian culture” in discussion with people in the 90′s they looked at me but understood what I was saying. Certainly the issues you raise about secularism are not dissimilar to those raised by Hitler. Ultimately that is where we will end up with no moral compass to guide our behaviour. Secularists of course will deny this and take offence at being compared to evil but secularism is based on what? Individuals determining right and wrong?

  • Sarah

    Why is it that Christians claim marriage as a uniquely Christian thing? Almost all major religions marry. Christian marriage is so wildly different from every other marriage. I don’t know why we are trying to claim a word (‘marriage’) that has already been so incredibly and fundamentally skewed and distorted from it’s original meaning within the Christian belief system. I wonder if we didn’t just have ‘marriage’ meaning all non Christian marriages and then ‘Christian Marriage’ meaning union before God, one flesh, responsibility to mutually serve, reflection of Christ’s love for the church and so much more then the Christian church would take things like divorce, sex before marriage, living up to God’s expectations of Christian marriage more seriously rather than accepting the dilution that is this inclusive word of ‘marriage’ we have today.

  • Gordon M Doherty

    In Some African States, Polygamous parishioners may not celebrate communion whilst they are allowed to attend. Do you think this might apply to gay marrieds as well?

  • RP

    I would add one important thing, though: Christianity will have to accept that it has no monopoly on the word “marriage”. Weddings have taken place since pre-Christian times, so it is pretty inevitable (and entirely fair) that these civil unions should be called marriages. However, Christians may certainly draw a distinction between civil marriage and Christian marriage.

    In trying to define marriage for non-Christians as well as Christians in Western culture, I believe Christianity may have tried to bite off a bigger mouthful than it can chew. However, Christianity can and, given the nature of its beliefs, most emphatically should define what marriage means for Christians. By not overreaching its own bounds, Christianity will remain uncontested within them. This is, as you observe, a reflection that this is not an era of Christendom, but instead one of Christianity in a world of secular government.

  • RP

    As other posters further down have commented, there are still problems encountered if one adopts this position, e.g. how does one reconcile it with individuals who identify themselves as both Christian and actively homosexual, yet belong to a church which does not accept open homosexuality. To my mind, though, these are not intrinsic problems with having separate definitions for secularly-recognised marriage and Christian marriage – rather, these are matters between the heirarchy and lay members of a church, and relate to how religious marriage (and the bounds of acceptable behaviour) are defined for that church. Inevitably there will be differences of opinion between the different branches of Christianity, and I would anticipate there will be branches which would be willing to recognise gay marriage and branches which would not … much as there are now.

    Christianity is not a monolith. There are gay Christians. There are civil-married gay Christians (in Canada, for example). There are churches which are very comfortable with having openly gay members of their congregation and clergy, and which do – and will continue to – identify as Christian.

    These churches would/could perform ceremonies recognising gay marriages as Christian marriages. Other branches of the church would not recognise these. Big whoopie-doo. Each to their own, as is their right.

  • RP

    Flaw in argument 1: The assumption that Christian tenets should be applied in lawmaking. This is a flaw in all nations having secular legal systems (e.g. Britain: “separation of church and state”, U.S.A.: The Constitution is non-religious; the U.S.A. is Christian by culture, not legislation). Flaw in argument 2: Based on (i) the slippery slope fallacy, and (ii) an implicit assumption that polygamy is intrinsically bad because it is unstable, and further, that this is sufficient reason to forbid it. However, that said, I still like your solution: For Christianity to pull its finger out of the secular definition of marriage.

  • RP

    I’ll let others argue whether (i) polygamy is _necessarily_ more unstable or not, and (ii) whether this is a problem.

  • http://www.skepticink.com/reasonablyfaithless Reasonably Faithless

    Hi Michael,

    I’ve just posted a response to this article over at my blog:

    http://www.skepticink.com/reasonablyfaithless/2013/12/27/solving-the-same-sex-marriage-problem/

    Cheers,
    James.

  • DavidAFrench

    “The state thinks it prudent to accommodate Christ’s teaching in order to tranquilize people and thus be better able to control them. The state never accommodates Christianity in its truth (as salt in character); it rather has it up to a point, which we ‘Christians’ are also happy to have.”


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