North Carolina vote on “same sex marriage” raises secular and religious questions

May 8, 2012

Rev. William Barber has called out the media for asking the wrong questions about “same-sex marriage.” There is much to be said about this matter, so if you are going to begin reading, please stick with it to the end. I think Rev. Barber is correct to separate the secular constitutional issue from the religious arguments. Though one may oppose “same-sex marriage,” it is a dangerous thing to argue for a government policy based on religious doctrine. The government that supports a church today could very easily lock up all the members tomorrow. Read history.

There is a profound theological argument, but my opinion is that we are better off to leave that out of any discussion of civil legislation. This does not mean that Christians leave their values behind when they enter the public square.

This position leaves Evangelical Christians in a delicate position. Since we are obligated both to respect human institutions, including government, and also required to participate and bring our values to civil society, In this instance. Evangelicals should be making the case for marriage as a protection for the weaker parties in a legally binding contract, women and children, and a benefit to those who take the risk of raising a family.

We have to all humbly understand that the civil contractual side of marriage has been looked at differently in various times of history and cultural settings. The secular understanding of marriage, the part we deal with in law, deals with financial obligations and property. Of course, Christians set a much higher standard than the worldly authorities, but we may certainly influence the laws that govern society. It is not a good idea, and creates a tremendous social confusion, to extend the marital privileges to couples of the same gender.

When we discuss constitutional amendments and other kinds of law, the core of the issue is money and property. It is solely about the woman who gives of her youth and her body to bear children (to her economic endangerment) and defenseless children. Only couples that are so constituted require this special legal protection.

Now, we all live in the real world. To be perfectly honest, there is hardly a bigger joke than the high-dollar, lavish, self-indulgent wedding ceremony in which man and woman (frequently serial adulterers) recite meaningless “vows” that do nothing but mock the marital state. My “straight” brothers and sisters have done enormous violence to Holy Matrimony, and “gay” people are largely blameless. It is one of the things that makes this argument so difficult. All these folks who are such high-octane opponents of “gay marriage” should call the church to fasting and repentance for the sins of divorce, lust, fornication, adultery, and every act (by deed and omission) that demeans marriage. These are things we encourage or tolerate. We are going after the specks in gay people’s eyes while we are blinded by a log in the eye (Biblical reference! Matt 7:3).

No matter what Rev. Barber thinks, the people who oppose “same-sex marriage” are not motivated by hate. At least, they should not be. Out here in real life, people say hurtful things and use language that is bound to offend the very people who should be reached with the Gospel of reconciliation. I am often appalled by the attitude of people toward fellow human beings, especially when they are claiming some soft of Christian affiliation. Still, although I am certain Rev. Barber meant no harm, it is rather hasty to pull out the “H” (hate) word, and George Wallace?

I grew up in Alabama in the 1950s and the evils of segregation and racism are not unfamiliar. May I humble propose that there is no “right” to marry. We restrict the contract by age and mental capacity. It was a grave offense to forbid inter-racial unions and to be deeply regretted. The civil contract concerning marriage exist for couples conceiving and raising children. It would be dishonest to ignore the fact that, in some cases, gay people with children are entitled to the same protections and that should be guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. We should not, however, allow the exception to swallow the rule. To expand participation in this contract clouds the protections extended to those who most urgently need it, women and children.

Rev, Barber suggests that, if the Fair Housing Act or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were put up for a vote today, they would fail in the south. As a native southerner, and the great-grandson of a Confederate veteran, I fear he could be correct. No, we do not wants minority rights put up for a popular vote. Marriage is not an absolute right and society is entitled to pass appropriate regulations.

I asked you to stick around to the end, so thank you for reading this. Rev. Barber makes a very persuasive argument that convinces me that, if I were a resident of North Carolina, my vote would very likely be “no” on this measure. Old school southerners can smell this kind of thing a mile away and this looks like a bad law that was hurriedly conceived by people with a power emotional commitment to a position that seems to be entirely righteous. Nonetheless, no Christian is ever obligated to vote in favor of a bad law masquerading as a divine mandate.

Some day, well-churched, zealous, self-confident, power hungry individuals will be judged on what they did to embody the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Were they as kind and patient as Jesus? Were they willing to bring the Good News to people they despise?

Perhaps it would be a better use of God’s resources for us to meekly approach those who may be a little different, keeping in mind that we too are fallen sinners and, but for the grace of God, deserving only of hell’s eternal fire.

 

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