Saturday, May 12, 2012

Gay Marriage

In the last several years no political issue has been a more frequent topic of conversation in my household  than gay marriage.

On this subject my wife and I are in between a very large rock, and a very hard place. We are Christians and we try to mean it; and we live in America in the 21st century, we have gay friends and family, and we would never want to drive an unnecessary wedge into those relationships. 

Obama's announcement of his support for gay marriage has really stirred up the struggle anew. For years I have had a very nuanced defense of my position against gay marriage. I have known for years to avoid the moral argument.

Christians cannot and should not force their moral ideals on other people.

If you believe that, then any morality that you try to codify in law has to take the form of a logical, practical and "secular" reasoning. And so I have said things like, "the most ideal situation for a child is for a mother and a father. Allowing gay couples to adopt is telling a child they don't deserve the best." And, "the reason the government gets involved in marriage is because it has an interest in stabilizing those relationships because they will be ushering forth the next generation. The government does not take an interest in lesser relationships, and because a gay relationship will not produce a child, there is no reason for the government to take an interest in a gay relationship/marriage."

The problem is, this reasoning is sounding more tinny and hollow to me as the years go by. Though it does hold some sway for me, it just feels...irrelevant. It's like Obama said, "But I think that there's no doubt that as I see friends, families, children of gay couples who are thriving, you know, that has an impact on how I think about these issues." Implicit in that statement is the acknowledgement that he has the same concerns that I have posed. But where he has come down, and I feel myself landing there as well, is that even if I believe that a child in a home with two dads or two moms is less than ideal, it is very difficult to make a case against it when a) broken homes (mostly single moms, some single dads) are commonplace, and b) children of gay couples do just fine. There is something to be said for context. Call me relativistic if you want to, but it makes sense to oppose gay marriage in an extremely conservative context (like, say, the Philippines), but it makes less sense to do so in the United States. Why is that? Well...

When I think of defending a stance against gay marriage I just feel weary. I simply don't have the energy for it. It's that feeling of putting your thumb in the dyke. This is the way the tide is turning, I can't exactly explain why I don't feel like standing against it. I do not have similar reservations about abortion. I don't have any qualms about my stance and feel no need to buckle to peer pressure. I unequivocally state that I think conception is where life begins. But I don't have the same certainty with gay marriage. 

Another resounding factor is, and please forgive me for saying this, What Would Jesus Do? I do not believe that Jesus, were he here today, would be making a full-throated defense for "traditional marriage". I think it would be, in his view, beside the point. Jesus had a way of putting a bee in everyone's bonnet, of giving very unsatisfying answers to our egos. I do not see him shouldering up alongside the conservative standard bearers and raising a sign that reads: "Marriage: one man, one woman, one lifetime." And that has nothing to do with whether or not he believes that statement, but more to do with the way conservatives are using it to bash their fellow humans in the head. 

And that's another thing that bothers me: 98% of Christians oppose gay marriage because God Said, and therefore totally contradict their belief in the ideals of America, the Constitution etc. There is also, of course, a measure of good old fashioned bigotry involved. By that I mean it is something that goes beyond their "ideals" into a simple base human instinct to reject those that are "other." You know there is an element of bigotry because, to my knowledge, there is no large Christian movement clamoring for the outlaw of divorce in all cases except for adultery, there is no movement to outlaw swinging, or adultery in general. There is no law against adultery, even though it is a grievous sin. Why the double standard? 

Though I feel myself moving firmly in the direction of not opposing same-sex marriage, I still have my hang ups. I think it is a cynical thing that Obama "changed" his view right as our election season is coming into clearer focus. I also think it's cynical that he now thinks it should be allowed, but he leaves it to "states rights" which liberals have called thinly veiled bigotry when used by conservatives in the past. If  something is as clearly wrong as the lack of civil rights for blacks in the 1960's was then why wouldn't you, as the president, push for legislation? It is with things like that in mind that stoke my fear that I would gravitate towards a position out of peer pressure. Everyone does it, allows themselves to be cowed by popular opinion, myself included. But I try has hard as I can to not be. I think it is a noble thing to not give in for fear of hurting someone's feelings--if you think something is true then you should humbly own it as your own until you are convinced otherwise. 

I'm weary, and I'm tired of fighting. Going forward I make no case against same-sex marriage (though like Obama, I reserve the right to change my mind). But would I vote FOR it? That's a different conversation to be had. But my shaky and tentative answer is, probably.


Nathan Birkebak said...

I'm not sure if the government should be in the marriage business in general. When someone, say, converts from one spiritual belief system to another, they don't have to file paperwork at their local courthouse; such a decision is an intrinsically subjective one -it's going to mean any number of different things to someone based on their unique situation, and his/her transfer of allegiances, so to speak, can't be explained and made legally intelligible in the form of a contract. This leads me to wonder if the pcocess of registering the nature if your relationship with the state is an obsolete convention. What does it even mean to anyone anymore? "Christians" divorce just as often as everyone else. I say civil unions for everyone -gays and straight people alike. Marriage is ultimately in the eyes of God, and I don't really care what congress does or doesn't decide about it.

Tommy Grommesch said...

Socially, what Nathan suggests makes sense, but realistically... not likely. Legal polygamy makes as much sense as gay marriage, if not more, and on a moral-free standpoint should be implemented... but nobody's fighting for it, because most people see it as immoral and/or freakish. 50 years ago, this was gay marriage, but people get loud and volume sways hearts, so we're left with everyone freaking out over an issue with zero actual significance, solves no problems, but merely gives people further validation in something their soul once told them was wrong... on the other hand, Christians are faced with the dilemma: are we to strive for our nation to be like the kingdom of God? Or are we to strive for our OWN lives to reflect what the kingdom of God will be like, leaving others out of it insomuch as morality is concerned and focus first on their salvation? But how can you declare Christ without talking about sin? I lean greatly to the latter, but the problem when simplified comes down to: Vote FOR or AGAINST inviting sin into a sacred institution. How can you get around that?

Betsiejane said...

You can't legislate morality, but I believe it is wrong to legislate immorality. Being a follower of God, I look to His word to determine right and wrong. His word is very clear that homosexuality is immoral, just like adultery, lying, theft, gossip, etc. is. I can't control the decisions our country makes, but on a personal level, my vote will always be to stand for God's righteousness anywhere, anytime.

Jason Dean said...

@Nathan Although I do sympathize with the frustration of govt being involved in marriage I am glad they are. I am glad there is a mechanism in place to go after deadbeat dads, and that women aren't left destitute when their husbands leave them.

@Tommy & Mom: I honestly think you guys are missing the point of what America was founded on. Our constitution doesn't exist to elevate one person's code of morality over another--in fact, it is designed to give the most freedom to people as possible, irrespective of morality. So in American law you do not ask, "does it comport with the Bible?" you ask, "if this is allowed, will it hurt?" I know you would respond that yes, sin always hurts, but that is a metaphysical idea--and the constitution has nothing to do with the metaphysical. You have to show in practical, logical, rational terms why something should be permitted. Everything that is a sin shouldn't be against the law, you wouldn't want it that way, so why are you so passionate about this particular sin? Why not fight how easy it is to get a divorce even though Jesus gave us only adultery as an out? That is FAR more prevalent and affects FAR more lives than gay marriage--why the imbalance in your outrage?