This brings me to the end of my series, “There Are Two Marriages.” Before my concluding thoughts, I want to thank so many of you for contributing to the conversation in the comments (and some of you on your own blogs). I’d also like to invite you to join me for a video chat discussion on Google+ at 10am CDT on Thursday, September 15 (tomorrow). If you go to my profile on Google+ at that time, you can join my hangout, and we can talk about these marriage posts.
This is a tricky issue, to be sure. And I’m not sure that I’ve worked through it perfectly.
I am well aware that, in the past, the US government did have an interest in what happens in the bedroom. We learn that in 10th grade when we read The Scarlet Letter. (Yeah, yeah, I know that’s set in colonial America, but it’s a commentary. Get it?) The proliferation of early 20th century American laws against sodomy, adultery, and the like shows that the state did at one time think it could legislate and litigate what citizens did in private.
But we don’t think that anymore. Those laws have been struck down, vacated, or ignored for years. Now the state pretty much stays out of the bedroom.
The result is that pretty much anyone can get legally married, as long as they are of opposite genders. The state doesn’t care if they have intercourse or not, and the state neither asks nor investigates whether they do. As seen in many comments on previous posts, adults get legally married for all sorts of reasons. And other couples, who would seem primed to get married, don’t — again, for various reasons.
Legal marriage has become a way that two adults can legally bind themselves to one another. Some of those couple have sex, and a lot of couple who are not legally married have loads of sex. QED, legal marriage has nothing to do with sex!
So, as Christians, let’s at least be realistic about that part. If we’re going to allow adults to form legal partnerships, and if we think that’s better for society, then let’s open that ability to same-gendered couples as well.
And, finally, let’s leave it to churches to marry whom they want to, but let’s make it clear that those marriages are sacramental, not legal.