North Carolina recently put gay marriage in the headlines by adding a ban to their state constitution, joining thirty other states that have similar constitutional amendments or regular old laws prohibiting gay marriage. This has forced the issue front and center and has caused me to consider my own position. While I believe that the Bible clearly does not allow for gay marriage, I find my position on its legality to be much more nuanced than my position on its moral standing.
Marriage, while a religious institution, is not primarily a Christian institution. Other religions all have a concept of marriage. The exact origin of marriage as an institution isn't important to this discussion so I'm not going to discuss it. Suffice to say that the Judeo-Christian creeds do not have a monopoly on marriage. Marriage is also very much a secular institution. There has, throughout most of human history, always been some State involvement in marriage.
Furthermore, Christians (at least most of them) believe that it is wrong to force nonbelievers to behave like believers when it comes to matters that do not harm others. It is right and even necessary for a Christian to use force to prevent or deter acts of aggression such as rape, murder or theft. But when it comes to activities that, while sinful, are not a threat to another person, the Christian is under no such obligation. In fact the Christian (or anyone else) would be wrong to prevent such actions with force.
Now by force I mean physical violence and anything that derives its power from physical violence. Law is enforced through violence, hence it would be wrong to outlaw activities that are sinful but not harmful to others. This why no one would ever propose banning the sinful practice of getting drunk in your own home. It would essentially be the same as holding a gun up to someone's head and saying "No, you can't do that."
Yet this is exactly what we have done with gay marriage. Now I believe very strongly that marriage is between one man and one woman for the duration of one lifetime, but how does this give me the justification to hold a gun to two men's heads and say "Nope!"? How is this different from forcing people to abandon a belief in Islam? What is special about marriage that allows us to use the State's monopoly on violence to force the issue?
I can see one argument that is somewhat reasonable, but I believe flawed. We've already said that violence is warranted if it protects an innocent person from harm. The argument could be made that gay marriage is harmful to children. If this were the case, then it would be a compelling argument to ban gay marriage. The problem with this argument, aside from the issue of evidence which I am entirely too unfamiliar with to comment on, is that it can't stop at gay marriage. Divorce HAS been proven to be harmful to children in many different studies, so if this argument were to be used we'd have to ban divorce as well as gay marriage. While I think divorce is wrong, we have to remember that Moses allowed divorce in the Law. Also, while Christ clearly condemned divorce as adultery, he never did away with the legality of it. As best I can tell, it is inconsistent to advocate for the banning of gay marriage while not also advocating for the banning of divorce, yet this is something no one is proposing.
In any case, I believe the argument fails because the harm being done by those immoral practices isn't sufficient enough to justify intervention by force. As such I find no compelling argument to ban homosexual marriage. Its wicked and harmful to the spiritual well being of those who practice it, but that in and of itself is not sufficient cause to use force to prevent it.
There is another aspect to this discussion that we are overlooking. Christians need to consider the missionary aspect of this discussion. Right now Evangelicals have no right to witness to homosexuals, and they have absolutely no reason to listen to us! For decades we have been sending them the message of "What you do is especially wicked and we will have no part with you." Presidents and congressmen have sexual affairs and we don't get outraged over that. But two gays try to get married and we foam at the mouth. We need to bring the gospel to these people, not harass them. They think we hate them, and they have every reason to believe that we do!
The simple fact of the matter is that no one has ever been saved through politics. US law is not a tool of the gospel. Christ said that they will know us by our LOVE, not by our politics. This is one of those issue that if we are to have an effective witness, we need to back off politically. We need to do a little less legislating, and a lot more loving.
Look at Christ's example,. The woman caught in adultery? He loved her by meeting her needs (protecting her from getting stoned to death) then he told her to "go and sin no more." The woman at the well? He told her to go and bring her husband. When she said she had no husband he pointed out her adultery and then chewed her out for being so wicked and sinful. Oh wait, no, he didn't do that. My bad.
You and me? Christ loved us while we were still his enemies. Love ALWAYS comes before change. You and I can't change sinners. Only Christ can do that. We can however love them. Maybe we should stop trying to change them prematurely, and instead try to love them.
If you have a compelling argument either for or against gay marriage please let me know in the comments! I welcome the opportunity for both of us to test our positions in an honest and sincere discussion.