Prior to my paradigm shift circa 2009, I was a major opponent of marriage equality. One of my go-to lines when asked why, was always the catch-all phrase “because it will hurt the sanctity of marriage”.
I was convinced that in some direct way, same sex marriage would harm mine. If, for no other reason, than Fox New said it, I believed it, and that settled it.
Seriously, I believed that– and said it often– even though I was previously divorced, and let’s admit: there’s no sanctity in divorce.
This year as I approach seven years of marriage and look back on all that we’ve experienced, I realized that we’ve spent our entire marriage living in states that have legally passed marriage equality. Same sex marriages have been happening around us the entire time, and it made me realize:
Your same sex marriage hasn’t affected the sanctity of mine.
Not even a little. The fact that I’ve lived in states where my LGBT friends and neighbors are treated equal in the eyes of the law has not in the smallest way, done anything to harm the “sanctity” of my marriage.
But, you know who has?
Yeah, I’m the biggest threat to the sanctity of my marriage.
When I’m selfish, self-centered, put my needs ahead of my wife’s, and don’t treat her the way she deserves to be treated?
Yeah, that’s what affects the sanctity of my marriage. When my marriage has been at rocky points, and during the times it lost its sense of beauty, it can usually be traced back to yours truly.
It’s all me… and if I want to actually be concerned about the “sanctity” of marriage, the whole of my finger pointing ought be in the mirror and no where else.
Least of all, to the LGBT community.
However, if there is an external, cultural force that is affecting the sanctity of my marriage (and marriage in general) I know what it is:
The Christian culture of divorce.
Previous and recent studies have shown the truth to be that we Christians (especially the conservative type), are actually the biggest threat to the sanctity of marriage… a fact that should grieve us deeply. More than a decade ago, Christian researchers at the Barna Group discovered that born-again Christians are more likely to divorce than other population groups. As stated by George Barna himself:
“While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing. But the research also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families. The ultimate responsibility for a marriage belongs to the husband and wife, but the high incidence of divorce within the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages.“
Furthermore, the recent study that is currently making the rounds, “Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding the Impact of Conservative Protestantism on Regional Variation in Divorce Rates” in the American Journal of Sociology, shows that the truth goes one step further. Conservative Christian culture isn’t simply destroying the sanctity of their own marriages, but the marriages of their neighbors as well. As reported by Sarah Pulliam Bailey with RNS:
“Researchers found that simply living in an area with a large concentration of conservative Protestants increases the chances of divorce, even for those who are not themselves conservative Protestants… Conservative Protestant community norms and the institutions they create seem to increase divorce risk…”
All those years I spent accusing the LGBT community as posing a risk to the “sanctity” of marriage? Turns out, I was accusing the wrong people– it was my tribe who I should have been calling to repent and change their ways. (Well, it’s not exactly my tribe anymore– there was this one night a while back when Jeff Probst called me and said: “Ben, the tribe has spoken… I need you to bring me your torch.”)
So yes, there are two things that do threaten the sanctity of my marriage: my selfish self and Conservative Christian culture.
The LGBT community, doesn’t make the list.
So, if you’re a member of the LGBT community, I just want to take a moment to apologize.
I spent years of my life not only opposing you, but outright slandering you, and for that, I most sincerely apologize. I pray you will forgive me.
And, if you’re someone like me, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to apologize to the LGBT community as well.
Because, truth be told, we might actually be the biggest threat to the sanctity of marriage. Call me a heretic (you’ll have to go to the back of the line), but I think we might want to pluck the beam out of our own eye before we accuse our neighbors of having a speck in their own.*Update, 1/24/14: a note of clarification. I didn’t spend “years attacking” marriage equality. I simply was a former fundamentalist who opposed it, and cited “sanctity of marriage” as one of the reasons. When I came out of fundamentalist thinking (2009) I changed my opinion on this matter and realized that citing “sanctity of marriage” was completely untrue. I have also been an open proponent of marriage equality on this blog previously.