Maybe it’s because I grew up in a society where gays were not reviled but accepted as a normal fixture of the community and celebrated for their originality, creativity and outlandish lifestyle which we, I suspect, secretly aspired to. I don’t know.
Perhaps it’s because our downstairs neighbors were an unlikely couple: he was an oilman who worked for Shell Petroleum while she – er, he – was an openly gay hairdresser who owned his own beauty parlor. That they lived together until she died of an unknown disease showed me, long before the debate reached the US Supreme Court, the possibilities within a monogamous homosexual marriage.
Then again, maybe it’s because the doors are now open, as Francis Schaeffer put it in his landmark book, How Should We Then Live? Published more than 30 years ago, Schaeffer’s book retains its place in the Christian canon for detailing trends in Western thought from ancient times till the seventies. I wonder how he would have reacted to the US Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage (in effect, upsetting the laws of states that ban it)?
Schaeffer’s contention that If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute – that is, if we do not adhere to the absolute standards espoused by the Bible, laws will be enacted by the elite in light of current cultural activism – may be seen to be embodied in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s remarks that The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.
Whatever. The news that homosexuals in the US could get married did not cause yours truly much dismay. That it did not, however, caused me dismay (I will reflect on that in another post). There are a hundred million things that give me dismay, among them my teenager’s early morning arrivals after nights of partying with friends (this occurs only during Ramadan btw), my ever-increasing white hairs, the need to prepare meals everyday of the week, the loss of our gardener, the need to prepare the lawn and house for a weekly gathering of 50-70 people, the 42,000 people who become refugees everyday, etc …
What got my gut was learning that there now exists a book which asserts that it’s alright to be Christian and gay at the same time. C’mon, if that is true, then why did it take decades of legal fights to gain the Supreme Court victory? Why are so many gays still apprehensive of coming out?
At first thought, I wanted to buy Matthew Vine’s God and the Gay Christian to investigate his claims. Then I looked at my overflowing TBR bookshelf and decided against it. Still, the mind cannot rest. And so I am setting down some – please, I’m not a Bible scholar! – of the things that the Bible says about marriage and sex. And yes, I’m prepared to receive flak for these. Also, since all my arguments come from the Bible, stop reading if you don’t believe in it as the Word of God.
First, let’s dispel this notion that homosexuality is only mentioned in the context of it being a forbidden activity for God’s children. The Bible’s first ever mention of homosexual behavior is shocking even by today’s standards (correct me if you feel otherwise): a mob of men demanded two male visitors to their town to be handed over by their host so that they could gang-rape them. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” (Genesis 19:4-5) The host, in this case Lot (Abraham’s nephew), did not accede to his townmates’ demands. Instead, he offered his two daughters to be raped!
Second, let’s look at God’s design for marriage. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”(Genesis 2:18) After declaring everything he had created to be good, God pronounced Adam’s solo lifestyle to be not good. From this we can presuppose that if God had meant for Adam to spend the rest of his life with another of his own kind, He could just as easily cloned Adam right there and then. But. He did not. Instead, he caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:21-22) Because for Adam no suitable helper was found. (Genesis 2:20) The feminists (and I still believe in their ideals btw) may flail against it all they want but God designed a woman to complement man in marriage.
Third, let’s look at God’s purpose for marriage. Surprise! It’s not about sex – it’s more about having someone else continue the family name. Sadly, current cultural trends have brought into disrepute God’s original purpose for marriage to be an avenue for procreation and framework for sustaining and nurturing products of procreation. But think about it! How did we arrive at a population of seven billion if we did not procreate? Also, why does sex (sometimes) result in a material consequence?
Still, with popstars and celebrities showing off their charming progenies, getting married and bearing children remain an alluring option for many. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” (Genesis 9:7) sounds increasingly archaic in our post-modern world and yet how many of us think that we are fulfilling an injunction that is as ancient as the flood whenever we engage in sex and produce offspring?
Marriage, in the post-modern sense is now centered on the individual’s rights to love whoever he or she chooses whereas before, even wealthy young women could not choose their marriage partners. Ever heard of Margaret Beaufort who was only twelve when she married the 24-year-old Edmund Tudor? (Beaufort was 13 years old and pregnant when she became a widow btw.)
Therein lies the blot in Justice Kennedy’s argument for same-sex marriages. In seeking to interpret the intent of the writers of the Bill of Rights and the Fourth Amendment, he stated Without the recognition, stability and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples. But children were not meant to be brought up by same-sex couples! “What about adoption?” you ask. There are millions of children who need a home. Granted. What we’re talking about here is God’s original purpose for marriage. Which, if you look deeply enough, is abrogated in some way by Kennedy’s remarks concerning children of same-sex couples.
How can same-sex couples procreate when they cannot be joined as one flesh? (More can be said about how the female and male anatomy are structured to become one flesh during intercourse but enough!)
So. Am I for or against granting gays the right to marry? As a Christian, I am torn. In a sense, legal recognition is an affirmation of same-sex marriage. While I recognize such unions to be sin in the eyes of God, I also realize that a person’s sexual orientation does not make him or her any less human. Marriage, as defined by civil law, accords heterosexual married couples many societal and workplace benefits absent for same-sex couples. It is not surprising that many same-sex couples wish to be given this right (to marry) because … come to think of it, isn’t this tantamount to discrimination also? (We are discussing the case of the US where, as far as I know, sodomy is not a crime.) Besides, the lack of legal recognition will not prevent gays from engaging in relationships akin to marriage.
Going off tangent, one can argue that perhaps this landmark decision should make us question the age-old separation of church and state that lies at the heart of the same-sex marriage debate: the church cannot legislate morality in the same way it disciples its flock.
And yet, if we do not cast out legal tradition but instead look at how different cultures in other parts of the world have conducted themselves down through the ages, it is a given: marriage is a heterosexual practice whether it is ordained by a civil government or a village’s code of conduct. That, it itself, should give us pause before we embrace this new right given to a growing segment of the population.
Meanwhile, there remain many arguments for and against same-sex marriage, many of them requiring mental calisthenics to understand the Fourth Amendment and what it says about due process and equal protection. Perhaps Justice Clarence Thomas, one of four dissenting voices, best described the ramifications of the US Supreme Court’s decision when he declared it “will have inestimable consequences for our Constitution and our society.”
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3
Suggestions for further reading:
1 This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence by John Piper
2 What Does the Bible Say About Sex? (40-minute Bible Studies) by Kay Arthur
3 Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? by Gary Thomas