Is Civil Marriage between Gay Couples Good for Society?

Is Civil Marriage between Gay Couples Good for Society? March 5, 2013

Is Civil Marriage between Gay Couples Good for Society?

That’s the question Douglas Wilson and Andrew Sullivan debated recently at the University of Idaho. The best thing about the debate was moderator Peter Hitchens, who interjected levity into the long-winded. Folks like Peter Leithart and  Denny Burk have been chiming in on the debate. You can find the debate at

I know people who ascribe to and applaud the reformed theology embraced by Douglas Wilson.

I am not a fan.

Douglas Wilson and I don’t agree on marriage even for straight people. Tim is not the “head” of our marriage. We are equal partners in this endeavor.  Tim is no more responsible for the success of our family/marriage than I am. He is not the boss of me, nor I him.

Wilson and others like him raise a ruckus over the civil union of Gays, decrying that it will lead to a total system breakdown in marriage — as if the divorce rate isn’t already doing that — and that it will lead to marriages between humans and kangaroos.

Okay. Well. Maybe not kangaroos but marriage between threesomes and kissing cousins and such.

But here’s the thing I don’t get.

Throughout the course of human history and world practices, marriage between threesomes and cousins has been the norm.

Used to be in the land before America, polygamy and marrying within one’s family clan was the common practice. Nobody thought it was weird. It was the way of the world.

But, yes, it is also true that the historical view of gay relationships has been a negative one. Gays have widely been regarded as those given over to perverse sexual appetites.

Which is exactly why Gay marriage ought to be considered a  move in the right direction.

The fact that Gays want to enter into committed, monogamous relationship is a statement that they want to distance themselves from the negative stereotypes of the past.

Getting married is a way of telling the rest of us that Gays value relationship more than sex. Gay marriage is a public proclamation that speaks to intimacy and commitment, not appetites gone wild.

Thus, the Gay Marriage movement ought to be viewed as a triumphant move in the right direction because nowhere else in history do we see gay sexual involvement seeking out committed marriage relationships.

Ultimately, allowing for the civil union of Gays is an idea that the moral majority and religiously reformed ought to embrace as affirmation of marriage, and a move away from the perversions of the past.

Gay Marriage is not something to be feared.

Gay or straight, we should be applauding and supporting those who desire to honor the time-honored traditions of marriage.

How can a desire to love, honor and cherish one another, to be faithful to one another, be a threat to society?


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  • Sven2547

    It’s refreshing to see these points made in the Evangelical Channel. You are absolutely right: same-sex marriage is about committed, stable, monogamous relationships. This is something the “family values” crowd should support, not shun.

  • Dee

    well said …. well said…

  • LorenHaas

    You would think the opponents of gay marriage would pick a better representative than Mr. Wilson. He is famous for his glowing description of slavery in the American
    south before the Civil War. Not surprising that he also promotes male headship
    in marriage.

  • Corbin

    I am surprised as well, Karen, as one of the precepts of historical Evangelicalism is the submission of oneself to Scripture as the authority for life and faith. Homosexuality is a sin according to Scripture. Please refer to Robert A. J. Gagnon, who is the foremost expert on this subject and has written extensively on it. Dr. Gagnon has demonstrated that there is no exception to the scriptural mandate that homosexuality is a sin and that there this mandate is universally applicable. If you wish, you may go to to read how and why he reaches this conclusions.

    • Christopher Turner

      The issue is that someone’s religion shouldn’t be pushed upon the rest of the society. I do not subscribe to a god so therefore, homosexuality isn’t a sin to me.

    • Andrew Kohler

      One wonders: how does one become an “expert,” let alone the “foremost expert,” on homosexuality and the Bible? I’ve just taken a quick look at the website to which you link and discovered his support for the ex-gay movement, which instantly discredits him. Further, I always find it somewhat unsavory when people are so fixated on the sex lives of others.

      And like Christopher Turner, I do not believe in the truth claims of the Bible; why should I be made live according to the interpretation of this particular theologian in Pittsburgh? What right has he to control my, or anyone’s, legal rights?

    • Matt Thornton

      I can tell you from personal experience that Gagnon isn’t considered “the foremost expert” on this topic even within the seminary community he’s a part of in Pittsburgh. Not sure if you’ve met him, but …

  • Corbin

    Christopher and Andrew, I was not attempting to make a legal argument, nor attempting to prove the existence of the Christian God. I am pointing out to Karen, that as an Evangelical Christian, she cannot support any form of homosexuality and claim that the Bible is an authoritative source of life and faith. I am not naive enough to believe that you both should agree with me, if you do not believe in the Christian God. I am perplexed why you would choose to come to the Evangelical Patheos Blog Channel and post comments about unbelief in God, as Evangelicals presuppose God and the authority of Scripture for life and faith?

    • Matt Thornton

      Because it’s edifying and pleasurable to exchange views with people with outlooks on the world that are vastly different from one’s own?

      • Corbin

        I think something was lost in translation. You may not appreciate or agree with his point of view, but Gagnon is the foremost expert on the topic of homosexuality in the context of Scripture and I am in personal correspondance with him on the issue. I’m not sure how personally meeting him makes the force of his arguments any less precise or wanting. Again, I do not believe I was clear, I don’t mind have differing views with anyone. My question is why they chose to post unbelief in God and deny any truth of Scripture on the Patheos Evangelical Channel, when Evangelicals presuppose both. Neither comment suggested that they are remotely interested in exchanging views.

        • Matt Thornton

          Corbin – Thanks for the response, and apologies if I’m missing your points. I assure you it’s a function of my lack of mental acuity rather than ill will.

          Re: Gagnon – My point about meeting him wasn’t about the force of his arguments, but about the way he conducts himself, and the effect he has on people around him. I’m happy to abandon the point, as it is ultimately ad hominem. More generally, though, I think I simply have a different view of the scope of his expertise, and more importantly, on the scope of his impact. There are significant numbers of people who seek to avoid him and his classes precisely because of the way he arrives at and deploys his views on homosexuality, and the centrality of the topic in his worldview and conversation. All of that is another way of saying I fail to be compelled by your assertion that he is the foremost expert on this difficult topic.

          Re: differing points of view – I would think that challenges to the things we ‘presuppose’ are the most important differences to explore. I can’t speak to the motivations of any other poster, but for my money, the most uncomfortable questions are usually the most enlightening, especially when our assumptions are challenged.

          And finally, re: laws regarding homosexuality – Let’s assume for the moment that the bible and, more to the point, God, are foursquare behind a prohibition on homosexual marriage (both points far from proven, it seems to me). Fine. Is that a sufficient basis to asset that civil law should likewise ban homosexual marriage?

          Best and peace,


          • Corbin

            Thank you for the response, Matt:
            In short, I believe that civil law should ban homosexual marriage based upon many factors including the authority of Scripture.
            What I am curious about from our conversation so far the seeming ignoring of the proverbial elephant in the room, namely, the significant reasons why you perceive God and Scripture accept homosexual practice as something legitimate.
            If you wish, we can begin to discuss these issues, but what has happened so far, in my opinion, is diversion from the biblical and interpretative issues. My suspicion is, and I could be wrong, that you are unfamiliar with Dr. Gagnon’s arguments and thus have chosen to go back and forth with me on minor issues related to the depth of his knowledge or lack thereof on the subject itself. You that Gagnon’s knowledge is insufficient on the subject and suggest that people avoid taking his classes if they can. All of this simply suggests that there is a downplaying of his knowledge for two reasons: (1) people simply do not like the arguments he presents whether they are legitimate or not and (2) he presents his arguments with strong conviction because the biblical witness does so.
            These two suggestions lead me to believe that you disregard him as an expert on this issue simply because you disagree with his perspective on homosexual practice. This end result, however, does not address the substance of his argument and I sense an indifference to significantly deal with Gagnon’s work. Consequently, must of the conversation up to this point has been diversion. I will be more than glad to discuss with you various points on the issue of homosexual practice, if I perceive that you can demonstrate knowledge of his work. I will not repeat his arguments here as they are easily accesible on the internet, at his website, and in his publications (e.g., books).

    • Hey Corbin: Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this matter. I understood that you weren’t trying to make a legal argument. But I don’t hold to your claim that as an Evangelical Christian I cannot support any form of homosexuality and hold the Bible as a source of life and faith. I’d part with you on the Bible being the “authoritative source”. I think that designation belongs to God and not a script penned by a multitude of men, no matter how Spirit-infused it may be. When we hold the Bible as the “authority” we are, in essence, putting a god before God. Either God is the Word, or he is not.

      And I’m unclear on your remark “support any form of homosexuality.” I don’t support any form of “divorce” as a matter of personal practice but I certainly don’t run about telling my divorced friend how they are failing to live up to the standards as set forth in Scriptures. I don’t quote to them from Deut. 24, and tell them what an abomination they are before the Lord. Nor do I hear the church at large raising a ruckus over divorce and the adultery that ensues, according to the Bible. I suspect this is because if we were to treat sins equitably within the church — meaning give them equal ranting time — we’d lose all the divorced members of our congregations, and a whole bunch of financial supporters.

      It would of course be the height of arrogance and lunacy to go around pointing fingers at those who are divorced and calling them an abomination because we all understand that rarely does anyone stand at the altar taking a marriage vow with the intent of getting divorced. Divorce is a very painful thing. It makes a person feel like a failure. It takes years of therapy to get over all the guilt that breaking such vows creates. To point fingers at the sin of the divorced, seems like a bigger sin, doesn’t it?

      I don’t have the final word on divorce or on homosexuality. Taken from a literal scriptural standpoint both seem to be an abomination to the Lord. Of course, we could add to the list:

      – people who look down on others

      – people who lie

      – people who kill the blood of the innocent (surely this includes children killed by drones or wayward bombs.)

      – people who sit on their front porches thinking of all the ways that gays and immigrants and liberals ought to be shot, strung up, tarred and feathered, imprisoned behind razor-wire, or any other wicked means of harming others.

      – people who run and push their way to the front of the latest gay-bashing protest, or any other forum where they are given a podium and lay stake to a platform that ultimately sets them up as the expert on the sins of others.

      -people who tell lies on each other. Like the ones that state homosexuality is a perversion that is created by and leads to pedophilla.

      – people who pour all their energies into hating on other people, and incite others to be hateful, ugly and condemning of those who don’t live according to what they consider to be the right and holy way to live.

      Wait! What?? You mean in that entire list from Proverbs 6 of the Things God Hates, never once was homosexuality mentioned? How can that be? Somebody call in the experts…

      16 There are six things the Lord hates,
      seven that are detestable to him:
      17 haughty eyes,
      a lying tongue,
      hands that shed innocent blood,
      18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
      feet that are quick to rush into evil,
      19 a false witness who pours out lies
      and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

      • Sven2547

        Well said. It is strange how some people place such disproportional attention and energy toward attacking homosexuals, when scripture pays very little attention to the subject.

      • Corbin

        I get the sense of frustration with some of the Church in Karen’s response, but the content of this response suggests deflection rather than dealing with the text of Scripture. I actually have no problem with suggesting that the Holy Spirit can reveal further and more insight than the biblical text. Where I believe we will disagree is the suggestion that the further revelation of the Spirit is going to contradict what has already been revealed.

        Second, pointing out the Church’s failures in other areas does not address what Scripture says about the issue of homosexuality and its categorizing it as a sinful practice. It seems you are simply suggesting that other sins may have more consequences. This is a possible interpretation, however, the idea that some sins have more consequences than others does not take away from the fact
        that Scripture suggests that homosexual practice is a sin and never makes an exception.

        Third, and this is a point that makes a connection between my first and second points, notice how Karen uses Scripture to discuss the sinfulness or lack thereof of several different actions. This presupposes that Scripture is an authoritative source for Karen, but only in dealing with some issues and not others. In other words, Karen suggests that violence is sinful, hating other people is sinful, but not
        homosexual practice. From my perspective, the Scriptures are not a menu where we get to pick and choose what we like to categorize as sin and what we do not. Such an interpretative practice suggests a convenient picking and choosing what we like and what we do not like. Some in the Christian tradition have referred to this practice as “cheap” rather than “costly” grace.

        Fourth, implicit in Karen’s response is a cynicism against the evangelical Church, on the one hand, and men, on the other. I am not sure, however, how gender makes a difference in deciding whether a practice is sinful or not, nor again, how pointing out the failure of the Church in some areas directly relates to the issue of homosexuality and how it is understood within the context of Scripture.

        Fifth, regarding scholarship or the need to study an issue thoroughly before suggesting an opinion, my point was that Karen may want to go deeper into issues related to the Ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman culture as well as the writings of Scripture and by doing so, may some to different conclusions regarding homosexual practice. I did not expect what I perceived as a rejection of the need to do research on an important issue such as homosexuality. The ease with
        which Karen seemed to disregard the need for more detailed research in this area is NOT something I perceive as laziness, but indifference. My perspective suggests that being good at anything requires that I put some significant work into it, drawing upon people who know more that I do in order to guide my abilities and improve certain skills. Working at ANYTHING requires that we must rely upon other people’s knowledge and expertise in order to do our work better. This perspective of working at something in order to improve at it is not just needed for Bible study and theology, but all fields of inquiry. The only thing I was suggesting was that an informed opinion for or against homosexuality
        should be made based upon more research than Karen provided in her opinion.

        Finally, I want to address what is one more significant undercurrent of Karen’s blog on homosexuality and that is the issue of love. There is no question that God loves everyone equally. There is also no question that God’s love through Christ is meant to draw and accept everyone, regardless of who they are and where they are in the context of life, into relationship. Unfortunately, this is where the message seems to stop in contemporary discussions about Christianity. The biblical narrative, however, continues to speak where some want to end, namely that the love is God is meant to compel change and lead us to repentance, and subsequently receive grace and forgiveness. In others words,
        the acceptance of who we are and where we are is something God unconditionally accepts, but the biblical God expects us all to rely upon the Holy Spirit to change, to repent in obedience to Scripture and the leading of the Spirit so that God can molds us into the people God chooses.

        I bear no ill will against Karen at all, but I do perceive a significant deflection of diving deeper into the issue of homosexual practice in the context of Scripture which seems to stem from a deep cynicism against the Church and a frustration at the composition and collection of Scripture.

        • Steve T.

          Corbin, Jesus constantly critiques the purity codes of his day, not as a once in a while kind of activity, but in virtually every instance where the story narrates an intersection with such codes. In each instance, the good religious folks of his day are scandalized — so much so that the Pharisees go and make nice with the Herodians so that they might destroy him. The Pharisees, keepers of the Jewish story under the violence and brutality of Roman occupation, a sect that would have the support of the Jewish people, would normally have stood fully against the Herodians who were the recipients of all that same occupation might bring to those who participate in it. Yet, it seems they found Jesus’s message of reception and love to those who they clearly named as “sinful” so infuriating, so threatening, so injurious to their understanding and participation of religious practice, that they sought out these friends of Herod so that through the power of the Herodians, they could kill Jesus.

          Many of the good religious name homosexuality as sinful today. The Pharisees named blindness as sinful, held that blood was unclean, proclaimed leprosy to be incompatible with holiness, banned the practice of healing on the Sabbath as incongruent with God’s goodness, and called Jesus, “Beelzebub” for his participation and active practice in loving such folk. In every instance, for Jesus, it seems that love trumps dogma. I believe it still does. And for me, there was a day that I believed what I understand you to believe and might have offered up a similar proclamation. As one who loves the Church and continues to believe it to be the Body of Christ and the hope for the world, the understanding I now hold has only come through years of seeking a deeper understanding of the composition and collection of scripture.

          I appreciate your willingness to engage in such dialogue on this site and pray God’s deepest Shalom for you.

          • Corbin

            Hi Steve,

            I very much appreciate the tone and spirit of your reply. I would like to point you to Dr. Robert Gagnon’s work that addresses the issues you raise (I would address them myself, but my expertise is not to the standard of his): (1) The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2002), (2) Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2003), (3) has a lot of resources where he has addressed critiques of his position and offered further reflection on the issue of homosexuality.

          • Steve T.

            Thanks for your reply. Peace and grace.

    • Sven2547

      So each channel’s comments should be filled with like-minded groupthink?

  • Good post- I hadn’t thought of this before. 🙂

  • Steve T

    We are in interesting times are we not? This past year my state of NC passed an
    amendment to our state constitution that prohibits gay marriage, even though we
    already had laws on the books that would do the same. Though I know across Christendom, we have diverse opinions in regards to gay/lesbian relationships, this step was certainly one that generated much division and redirected our attention from the many other extremely critical issues facing our state. I don’t mean to minimize the issue around gay and lesbian marriage, particularly for those who struggle to have their committed relationships legitimized and legalized through formal institution; however, I must proclaim that the timing of this issue did not appear to be perpetuated by the desire to protect sacred and covenantal bonds, but instead seemed driven by political expediency to find wedge issues meant to polarize the electorate.

    At best, I believe this was a cynical move to manipulate the emotions of the voting public and at worst, was an action meant to further restrict our freedom and place our democracy in the hands of those who believe they alone have the ability to name truth. But really, this is not the reason I write this response. I write this because I hope to speak of love.

    My bride and I have been married for 36 years and believe we have learned a few things about what it is that makes marriage lasting and strong. We understand the bonds of Godly commitment, love, shared history, and covenantal connection that make the “institution of marriage” a holy and sacramental act. Sometimes these lessons have been most painful, coming through our failures to fully love one another as God would have us love one another, and then followed by large doses of forgiveness. Other times these lessons have been garnered through the many experiences of joy, wonder, and amazement at God’s blessings in our covenantal journey – the times when our hearts are overwhelmed at the depth of this love that connects us and makes us one. In the pain and the joy of these years, in the gift of relationship through ease and difficulty, and enfolded in the arms of a loving God, we believe we have been blessed with a context where we might offer at least a few words to this issue.

    We believe, the possibility of this journey together is a sure sign of God’s grace. In such a context, with much prayer, and through transformational connected relationships in the community of faith, we strongly affirm that for us, same-sex marriages do nothing to change this covenantal state. We believe our marriage is in no way minimized or jeopardized by marriage between gays and lesbians, and we believe it is given strength by the acknowledgment of covenantal and committed relationship between loving partners. Ultimately, we believe that scripture confirms God is never slandered by love, but by the rejection of the same. In each rejection, I feel we all become a little less human, a little less connected in our common bond of

    If often seems to me, most of the discussion around this issue never addresses scripture as a whole body of discourse. In almost every case, those on either side of the discussion will take a few verses of scripture to convey their particular
    points. For those who address Deuteronomistic law, never will the discussion speak of laws of purity and blood, which would prevent women who were menstruating from ever entering our places of worship. Rarely do the discussions address issues of dietary purity, another sticky point for the early Jewish community. For those on the other side, they will quickly point out that Jesus never speaks of this issue,
    forgetting that Jesus speaks to very few issues directly, but does constantly
    speak to points of power, oppression, love, and forgiveness, points which
    always takes us deeper, calls us to the harder walk, and gets to the hypocrisy
    of ALL of us. Either way, the discussion is almost always framed in ways that set people apart over and against the other, and rarely is the discussion framed in ways that seek understanding and connection. Good family values verses
    liberal contaminated living or fundamental fanaticism verses concern for
    individual rights, screaming and yelling, bickering and pointing fingers … it
    all must break the heart of the Christ who loves enough be nailed to a Roman
    torture device and then lift up the voice of love, “Father, forgive them … they
    have no idea what they do.”

    In my life, I have lived on both sides of the political spectrum. In my early days, before I ever sought to name my own brokenness, before I could look in the mirror and see the sin in my own life, I found that I could be very expressive about who
    was in and who was out, who was right and who was wrong, who was the good and
    who was the bad, who was Godly and who was not. In latter days, there has simply been too much living, too much dying, and too much pain that has flowed through the journey of my life for me to be able to stake such claims on my own righteousness. These days, it is only God’s grace that fills the holes in my soul, holes that my own surety and arrogance created. These days, I see Jesus with the woman at the well, and I know that wholeness and healing are offered only by love that moves beyond legalism. These days, I see the Jesus who embraces and names as “Daughter,” a woman with blood, an act that was entirely scandalous, that surely fully upset the purity codes held by the good religious of that day, and I know that he reveres her tears and that I should too. These days I see a Jesus who stands with a leper, essentially saying, if you stand with me, then you will need to
    stand with him, and if you refuse to stand with him, then you simply will not
    be standing with me, and I know that if I am to stand with Jesus, then I am
    called to stand in what is often named as the “wrong side” by those who are
    certain of their own purity. These days, out of my own brokenness and sin, the best I can claim, the most I can struggle towards, is God’s love, God’s grace, and a sacred hope for us all.

    It seems to me that such struggle can only be made in relationship, in dialogue, and out of the context of love. Friends, I suspect that though stances of the majority might be legislated and imposed on the minority; the better place — the place where I hope for the fullness and wholeness of your life and you for mine – is the place of love. Such love will never be legislated, only lived.

    And it seems to me that if such love is ever fully lived, we will no longer be talking about “gays and lesbians,” we will simply be talking about “us.” And brothers and sisters, if that is a threat, I believe it is only a threat to disunity, disconnection, and a discordant reality that diminishes and demonizes the other and violates the notion of sacred covenant between God and God’s created.