Wednesday, May 06, 2009

RENDER UNTO CAESAR: Weighing in on the Gay Marriage Debate

I personally don’t understand all the fuss about gay marriage, and I really don’t buy into the argument that gay marriage somehow undermines heterosexual marriage. The biggest threat to regular marriage isn’t gays wanting to get married, it’s straight people who don’t take marriage seriously enough. In this country, we have literally millions of Americans living together and having children out of wedlock. One in three marriages ends in divorce. There are currently about one million abortions performed every year, and the overwhelming number of them are performed on young, unmarried women, with nearly half of them low-income minority women. If these situations aren’t threats to the sanctity of marriage, how is a gay American who wants to be in a stable union a threat to the sanctity of marriage?

My personal feelings are that marriage should be a sacred union between a man and a woman, a union that provides a safe and stable environment for procreation. The church recognizes it as such, and as a Christian, I feel the church shouldn’t budge on the issue. But with regards to the law of the land, I feel all Americans should have the same rights. Telling two gay Americans that they can’t share their lives together with the legal protections afforded by marriage is no different than telling two black Americans that they have to move to the back of the bus, or go eat in a different restaurant, or that they can't vote because of the color of their skin. All Americans should enjoy the same legal rights. I don’t see any wiggle room on the subject.

I have always found it interesting that Christ spoke strongly about divorce and adultery as sinful, but never once mentioned same-sex unions. I think it’s hypocritical of Christians to rail about homosexuality but ignore the issue of divorce and adultery, which in Biblical terms is any sex outside of a marriage. Would any mainstream Christian church refuse communion to a divorced person, or a single person who wasn’t a virgin? Would any mainstream church refuse to perform a burial service for a divorced person, or a single person who'd had sex outside of marriage? I seriously doubt it, yet they have refused these same ceremonies to homosexuals, a practice I find terribly hypocritical.

Here's another thing to consider. According to a recent Barna poll, evangelical Christians have one of the highest divorce rates in the country, currently standing at around 25%. Where’s the outrage from the evangelicals? If they want to preserve and protect traditional marriage, why aren’t they protesting divorce, or working to pass laws that forbid heterosexuals from living together outside the bounds of marriage? If they want to protect the sanctity of marriage and think taking legal action is the right route, then why not start there?

These aren’t absurd comments when viewed within the context of the argument. It’s only by refusing to acknowledge all the issues as a whole do we delve into absurdist theater. When we look at the issue in this manner, fighting only for laws against gay marriage seem silly and terribly selective. If fighting for laws against gay marriage is your way of defending traditional marriage, then why not be consistent, and also demand that singles stop living together, stop having sex outside of marriage, and that divorce be outlawed. Only then will you be consistent and hypocrisy-free. Are you willing to go that far?

I suspect most people would back away once they consider the larger issues, and what defending marriage actually means when they look at the big picture. If you're going to insist that homosexuality is a sin, then you need to also acknowledge that divorce is a sin, and sex outside of marriage is a sin as well. Be consistent, and then ask yourself if you're without sin before casting the first stone.

In the end, it comes down to this: gay marriage is a civil rights issue. I don’t think it’s right to deny legal rights to some citizens and allow them for others. Christians seem to forget that Christ calls us to live and prosper within any governmental system or culture, be it democratic, communistic, fascist or socialistic. Christians thrive and prosper under all types of governments, all over the world, and live under all types of laws. It’s not our job to force our beliefs on others through rote of law. We are to exist within whatever culture we find ourselves in, be it corrupt or honest, sinful or pious. We are part of a larger kingdom, but we have a obligation to our earthly kingdoms as well, and it’s not a sin to honor that connection. In fact, Christ instructs us to honor it without complaint.

Christ solved the issue for us, and did it very simply. Whenever I think of His comments to the Pharisees about paying taxes, I imagine His reply to the gay marriage issue, a civil rights issue if there ever was one, sounding much the same. “ Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”

Let the church stand strong on upholding the sanctity of marriage as a holy union between a man and a woman. And let the state provide equal protection under the law to all its citizens.