The Church’s Interest in Marriage
Yesterday, I argued that the state’s interest in marriage has nothing to do with sex. The church, on the other hand, has a great interest in sex between human beings. Put more sensitively, it matters to a pastor whether and how a member in the church is being intimate with another person. That intimacy affects the individual spiritually and emotionally, and intimacy between persons affects the dynamics of the community.
In other words, the church can go where the state cannot — into the bedroom.
A church is a semi-private organization, and as such, it has a vested interest is how its members treat one another. If two members are being sexually intimate, or are considering that kind of intimacy, the other members of that community have a compelling reason to solemnize that intimacy in a ceremony that gives the imprimatur of the community.
Further, the church community carries within it the very designs of God for humanity. The state cannot justifiably speak to God’s design for sexuality and intimacy, but the church can.There is, of course, great diversity across churches about the God’s ideals for human sexuality and marriage, but that diversity does not mitigate the church’s responsibility to discern God’s will in this matter and then propagate the results of that discernment.
Some faith communities will choose to solemnize marriage between same sex partners, and others will not. Churches should be able to civilly debate the nature of sacred marriage and even attempt to persuade other faith communities to join them in performing, or not performing, same sex weddings.
Regardless, the sacramental marriage that is recognized by a faith community has very little overlap with the legal marriage that is recognized and licensed by the state. The two marriages are distinct in principle and purpose, and they should be distinct in our minds and in our practice of marriage as well.
See all the posts in this series here.