Keep Calm And Carry On: How We Respond to Same-Sex Marriage

Keep Calm And Carry On: How We Respond to Same-Sex Marriage June 27, 2015
Photo Credit: Drama Queen.
Photo Credit: Drama Queen.

In Canada, we’ve had legalized same-sex marriage for sometime now. It’s become taken for granted, but the decision yesterday by the highest court of the world’s largest superpower has reignited the discussion around the entire globe.

When I became a Catholic, a convert from Evangelical Protestantism, I wrote about the appeal of the Rock in Shifting Seas. Like many washouts from the emergent church movement I was attracted by a church which spoke clearly about Her beliefs.

I left a decidedly wishy-washy Evangelical church for a greater standard of truth. And that’s not to criticize, what I mean is: I left a church which made a conscious decision not to speak out about many truths (like same-sex unions) for a church which held truth to a standard in which it was clearly and confidently arrived at and spoken about.

All that to say, I chose Catholicism and it would be unfair, and lacking cordiality, to hide behind it and to not lay claim to the beliefs that I chose.

And one of those beliefs is an affirmation of the traditional, sacramental definition of marriage.

So how do we, how do I, respond in the face of a decision to redefine the marriage institution. How ought we Christians—we Catholics—orient ourselves in the ongoing discussion?

I have some ideas.


We Must Respond with Love

In my opinion, a proper Christian response has to keep in mind two things.

The first is love.

St. Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians extols us to show love above all else. Our acts of goodness, our preaching and teaching, our gifts given and received and, indeed, our persecution and martyrdom in the name of truth means nothing if we don’t have love.

Our response, then, in the face of same-sex marriage needs to be, first and foremost, one of Christian love. We are not a people of hate; they will know we are Christian by our love. They will know God by our love. Our primary outward facing response must be to show our neighbours love.

But some people may object: St. Paul was writing to the Corinthians not only to extol virtues but to correct wrongdoings in the church at Corinth. After all, merely a chapter later St. Paul is admonishing women (in a not too generous way) for speaking in church. Don’t we, the Christian faithful, have a duty to admonish those who pretend to give and receive themselves in same-sex marriage?

Don’t forget that St. Paul was writing to an audience of Christians in a church over which he held authority to teach. His audience already professed to share in the Christian faith.

And this is where we must make certain distinctions because—and this is the second thing to keep in mind—the Sacrament of Marriage has not changed.


Marriage and Marriage

When my wife and I were married in an Evangelical church we made particular intentions to be married by “banns of marriage” instead of by requesting a marriage license from the government. In our province, churches have the ability to declare a couple to be married by reading out their “marriage banns” on a Sunday morning in front of the congregation. The provincial government then, in hindsight, acknowledges that the couple is married on their actual wedding day.

We were church married, and it was an intentional choice.

Ultimately, the state cannot dictate what is and what isn’t sacramental marriage. As a Catholic, my marriage is sacramental, it’s the same marriage that the Christian church has professed, in continuity with the purpose and plan of God since the beginning of time.

I’m sacramentally married, so what’s the big deal with the government changing what marriage means to them?

Because maybe this is the point in history when, finally, on a more global scale, the definition of marriage is different. And, in a sense, it’s semantics.

Marriage, as the Church calls it, is different than marriage as the state calls it. And that’s fine.

Some may, and certainly will, get bent out of shape by the gay agenda stealing our word but it’s only a word after all and I think we can let it go.

And, surely, as we continue to step away from the plan and purpose that God intended for the world we can’t, and shouldn’t, ignore the increasingly deteriorating social fabric. It’s collateral damage on a path that leads away from the revealed truth of the Church and the Bible, but it’s a path we’ve been on for a long, long time and writing a column, giving a talk, or engaging in a debate likely isn’t going to suddenly reverse that course.

So what am I advocating? Do we give up?

By no means.


Our Clear Path Forward

Our path forward, as Christians—as Catholics—has never been more simple. We keep calm and carry on.

We respond in love because secular society isn’t held to the same standards as we are as Christians. No more would I expect the secular world to adhere to the Good Friday fast than I would expect them to respect my definition of marriage.

This is first and foremost.

Next, we recognize that we’re not speaking the same language. My marriage, created by God and administered by the Church, is a sacramental marriage. It is, in my opinion, how God intended it to be. But the wider world does not see it that way. They call marriage something different and that’s fine. When we say marriage we know what we mean.

Finally, we get our act together. The Catholic Church needs to reinvigorate married couples to be a witness to the calling of sacramental marriage. We need strong, loving, Christian families to increasingly witness to a fallen world. Surely we’re called to be a City on a Hill but we aren’t called to storm the doors of City Hall. Relax, the battle for marriage (which was likely lost half a century ago anyway) is over and in many ways that’s a relief. Now it’s time to live out our married lives as a testament to our calling.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, not always known as a baston of clear leadership, issued a brilliant statement on the Supreme Court’s decision. In its conclusion it asks American Catholics to move forward—to keep calm and carry on—with a full measure of faith, hope, and love. Yes, what marriage is, to the secular world, has fundamentally changed. But no, marriage in the Catholic Church has not.

Certainly, there are days to come when the class of Christians who affirmed the traditional definition of marriage will be labelled as hateful discriminators and bigots but we’re called to do what Christians have been called to do since the beginning of the Church: to witness with love. The era of the “Christian” Western World—if it ever really existed—is surely in its twilight but what’s wrong with that?

We needn’t bemoan the end of Western Christianity with a collapse of our definition of marriage. We need to affirm, with love, what we really mean by marriage and show grace, mercy, and overwhelming kindness to our fellow sojourners who call it something different.

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  • JoyInTheLord

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • This is the best thing I’ve read about the whole thing yet. I agree with every word. Just carry on. Thank you!

  • There are a couple of problems here: 1) The issue in the US wasn’t just gay marriage. It was judicial overreach. Not just on the Obergefell case but also the ObamaCare case. There are many SSM supporters but conservative voters who are not happy about this.

    2) There will be fall out from this. Religious schools, charities, and even churches will probably loose their non-profit tax status. This was asked during the case’s hearing. They said it would be a problem. And this is only one targeted area. Hilary Clinton, a Presidential candidate, has already stated that she thinks religious people need to get over themselves when it comes to abortion. She’s a SSM supporter. Having lived in Canada for two years I’ve seen what happens to civil liberties for those who respectfully object. It’s not pretty. Even you can admit Bishops speaking the Truth in Love being threatened is not charitable. Yet just looking at my Twitter feed is disturbing the amount of hatred over a supposed win is already happening.

    3) Being an American I was flabbergasted at just how many Canadian Christians don’t appear to care when it comes to conscientious objections. I volunteered to stand outside a hospital that performs abortions. We had a difficult time getting anyone to volunteer during the day let alone the 24 hours that happens in US cities. People didn’t seem bothered by the fact that their taxes were going to fund abortions. Or at least only a small number. This is just plain scandalous to me as an American Catholic. The reason why we have such limited funding of abortion in the US is because we objected so loudly to it and people readily agreed that you shouldn’t coerce someone against their conscious. If you ask me Keeping Calm and Carrying On looks different between Americans and Canadians. It shouldn’t be remaining silent. It should be Keep Calm and Carry On Vocally Objecting and if necessary practicing civil disobedience.

    4) It doesn’t matter what the civil authority thinks marriage is. There is only one True Marriage and that’s the one Jesus taught. Anything else is not truly a marriage. It’s the one that should be promoted. To acknowledge something other than that is scandalous. Even my husband and I got into a discussion about that today over a non-Catholic Christian who is divorced and dating. I simply can’t approve. It’s not moral. I don’t have to be mean to this friend. But at some point I’m going to have to charitably tell him that I can’t in good conscious support these acts. It’s like any sin. Silence just feeds the notion that you approve de facto and I don’t.

    • Very well said. Keep calm and carry on vocally objecting. Staying silent is what led to the current situation and will only get worse.

  • Pingback: Keep Calm And Carry On: How We Respond to Same-Sex Marriage | CatholicBibleTalk()

  • “No more would I expect the secular world to adhere to the Good Friday fast than I would expect them to respect my definition of marriage.”

    The Good Friday fast is a catholic rule of discipline, binding only on catholics. Marriage being b/w a man and a woman is plain natural law, knowable via natural reason without the need for divine revelation. Therefore, the comparison fails. Just as one needs not be catholic to know that abortion is murder, one needs not be catholic to know that homosexuality is a sexual perversion; neither of which can be a ‘right’.

  • Moreover, it isn’t ‘my’ or ‘your’ definition of marriage. It is THE definition of marriage as God defined and that all people ought to respect and abide by. Would you say that it is ok that pro-choicers have a different definition of “human life”? If not, then why is it ok to say that homosexual activists have a different definition of marriage? He who defines the terms, wins the argument. It isn’t ‘us’ who try to impose our ‘opinion’ on others! It doesn’t help that our side falls for this lie.

  • Eze Bonaventure

    The issue at hand needs conscious and dedicated reaction and response from us all the Catholics. First we must abide by the church teachings in action and in reaction. Our stand must never be in doubts

    We must keep to our faith at all circumstances.

    The secular society must not subdue us nor prevent us from proclaiming the only truth about marriage as a sacrament.

    The wave will soon got the developing nations. American government will do anything to ensure most nations followed them

    We must start serious advocate now. Keep the faith God bless us all.

  • I agree that Canadians seem cluelessly insouciant to the dynamics of American culture, which is pwfhaps why w tend to look at them as if they were in a different continent.

    Perhaps I can best describe the difference by saying that in the US it is not wnough to obey Big Brother. You must LOVE Big Brother and you must agree that w + 2 = 5, except when it equals 3, because to say that it equals 4 is to take away someone’s civil rights and can certainly cost you your job, and will certainly cost more people their businesses. The legal and educational systems here are social conformity mechanisms, not mere government machinery. Plus, litigation is the lifeblood of the legal professikn and, having exhausted the available money in sex abuse, the law firms that grabbed church money are just otching to get their hands on more goodies, and this is exactly the mechanism to force the Church to spend oodles just to go into court, Judas Kennedy’s perjury on First Amendment protections notwithstanding.

  • Pardon the typos please from my tiny keyboard.