Question: Is gay marriage okay? Should it be a big deal for Christians?
After much consideration and a deep desire to be true to myself, I have decided to come out as a homosexual. That’s right, I’m a guy who likes girls!
“You are so brave and we support you. Wait. . . . huh?”
Immediately, my knowledgeable friends will remind me that everyone knows that homosexuality means attraction to the same gender. “Homo” means same. Even so, I am choosing a new meaning. All humans are Homo Sapiens, so . . .
Playing with language like that is no more nonsensical than redefining marriage to include homosexual relationships. So since words are now fluid in their meaning, I figure, just go with it. Two now is equal to any 2, 4 or 46 items –though not 32! We had to cut things off somewhere! (And under current education guidelines, sadly, we are headed that way. )
There are times when words can evolve and change their meanings–such as in the historical shift on what constitutes liberal or conservative in American politics, but there are some things that shouldn’t change. For example, when ice cream companies decided to move from half gallon sizes, they didn’t just keep the label and change the contents. They went to the trouble of saying (albeit in small print) that this package now only contains 1.5 quarts, not two. That let us poor consumers know that though we were paying the same price, we weren’t getting the same amount of product. There would have been the “Great American Ice Cream Revolt” had Breyer’s, Edy’s and Blue Bunny just decided to redefine half gallon as something less than that. We want such foundational principles to remain constant. Messing with them can be pretty dangerous–we don’t want our accountants or doctors changing the terms when it comes to balancing the books or administering doses of needed medications.
So is marriage a foundational principle or a term with no intrinsic meaning which can be modified at will?
From a Biblical perspective, marriage is one of the very first social constructs of creation.
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” (Genesis 2:18 ESV) Giraffes and dingos, though delightful, weren’t a good match for Adam.
“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:21-25)
Immediately, this relationship is known as marriage and the partners are called husband and wife. (See Genesis 3)
What was its purpose?
The most obvious reason was the one noted in Genesis 2:18–helping. Was Eve there just to provide another set of hands to move big furniture? When you look at Adam’s job description, he was God’s steward over the earth. He was to tend the garden, but also to name all of the animals. So he was part politician, part farmer and part taxonomist. As a fit partner, Eve had to be able to accomplish those tasks.
She also had to be able to unite with her husband.
Back in the day, I remember putting together models where the directions were very simple: “Insert Tab A into Slot B.” The parts matched up perfectly so that the model ended up looking like a Mustang and not a Franken-mobile. Man and woman were designed to fit together. It is broader, however, than mere reproductive compatibility. Sexuality, as God created it, was also a way to build intimacy within the partnership.
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” (Genesis 4:1a)
This “one flesh” is a spiritual and relational bond, not just mere physical connection.
And this unity of man and woman is a type of (Or a pale reflection of) the bond Christ has with the church.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:25-32)
Marriage was created and defined by God, so, like numbers, it is not suitable for reinterpretation.
Believers are not being bigoted, cruel or hateful by limiting marriage to a union between two members of the opposite sex, they are simply following the dictates of God. (The question about homosexuality is for another day.)
But we live in a secular society. Can’t the culture choose to redefine marriage as it sees fit?
Perhaps we should stop and consider why government got into the business of certifying marriages anyway. The secular advantage was to allow for ease of inheritance, legal acknowledgment of parentage and to prohibit bigamy. It later allowed for such things as taxation, benefits and legal recourse for marriage dissolution. The government doesn’t care a whit about the spiritual aspect of the relationship, only the legal.
So I have a somewhat radical proposal: I suggest we just drop marriage as a secular pursuit and return it to religious groups. The state can, rather simply, in truth, opt for partnership contracts where persons of any gender (or combinations of persons) can enter into a legal bond that guarantees them the rights of inheritance, visitation, child custody, etc during the life of the contract. I have similar documents–a durable power of attorney naming who gets to make medical decisions in case I am unable to do so and a will that clearly states who gets what when I die. There is no need for a ceremony. A county clerk could rubber stamp and notarize the contracts while dissolution would be handled as a simple contractual issue. Taxes could be simplified by eliminating joint returns. Parentage is now established by DNA testing, so there is no need for assumption of consanguinity. One of the newer benefits of marriage was with regard to medical benefits. That, too, is now moot as, due to the Affordable Care Act, more companies are dropping spouse and family coverage due to costs and regulations. That would also provide more equity as singles would receive equal treatment under the law.( A single policy, for instance, can be just $5,000 a year, while a family policy can be worth $20,000. The single doesn’t get the extra $15,000 he saves the employer.) There really is no reason anymore for the government to be in the marriage business.
So instead of doing a disservice to the language by labeling relationships that are not marriage “marriage” in order to get the benefits afforded to that institution, let’s just keep marriage a religious practice and let the government focus on partnership contracts instead.
Got a question? Ipymin@gmail.com