I’ve debated about posting this because I know it’s controversial right now. I know many folks are going to disagree with me and I’m prepared to deal with that, I guess. But at this point it comes down to needing to explain my position to folks on both sides of the issue. I feel like I come across in some fora as equivocating.
First, the basics: I am a Christian who practices according to Mennonite faith traditions. I am married to a man I met in college and have been in this marriage for 21 years. It’s one of the happiest and most blessed features of my entire life. I also have homosexuals with whom I am very close.
That’s who I am. That’s what shapes my worldview and gives me this response to the question at hand.
In my mind there are two sides to marriage. My marriage especially. We had to get a license from the state of Indiana, just like we’d get to drive a car or to sell liquor or to put a deck on the back of our house. But then we were also married in the Evangelical Mennonite Church. To do THAT we had to attend counseling sessions with the pastor, make a declaration of faith and have a church ceremony complete with communion, where we dedicated our marriage to the Lord just as we dedicated ourselves when we elected to be baptised. In my mind I have two marriages. The one from Indiana and the one from God.
As far as I’m concerned, anyone of consenting adult age should be able to get the marriage license from whatever state they live in. Once we made marriage part of the State’s business and started handing out little treats and favours to encourage monogamy I think we owe it to people to say “go ahead.” After all, we wouldn’t deny a business license to someone because they were black or Muslim or a woman. We should have the same approach to marriage licensure that we do to others. Yes, there are some restrictions–you can’t drive a car under 16 without a farm waiver. Nor can you marry your sister. You can’t get a non-profit corporation status and earn a profit–nor can you marry more than one person at a time. (I’ll address polygamy another day.) It just makes no sense to me that we are using our religious objections to prevent a civil licensure.
By the same token, my Evangelical Mennonite church of my childhood believes that gays cannot be married in the eyes of God. So I don’t think that they should be forced by the law to allow homosexuals to have their weddings there. Of course that church also taught me that Divorce was an abomination in the eyes of God and that remarriage after divorce was a constant state of adultery. So why they are conducting weddings between people who have been divorced is something I question. We claim to hold marriage to a Christic standard within the church itself and yet we relax those standards in other cases all the time.
Do I believe Homosexuality is a sin? Frankly I don’t think what I believe on this issue matters. I’m not the one who offers redemption from sin. I’m not the one who offers punishment for sin. I do believe that everyone has been separated from God by our human, unholy natures and we enter into a relationship with Jesus so that we can once again speak with God. Part of that relationship is what we Christians call “the indwelling of The Holy Spirit”. That means that we get God with us at all times, affecting how we see the world and how we respond to things. Listening to the Holy Spirit in your life is one of the constant struggles for Christians, because we are so prone to letting ourselves talk over what the Spirit is telling us. But if you’re a Christian you’ve got the Holy Spirit and that will inform you of sin and wrong thought and action. God is God and I’m content to let God be that. I’ll let the Holy Spirit talk to Christians about whatever is in their personal life and how God wants them to handle it. I’m not God’s hall monitor, appointed to hand out tickets to people with their sins listed thereon.
I do know that if you aren’t a Christian you aren’t expected to abide by Christian doctrines and covenants. Why should you be? I’m not a Muslim; I don’t pray toward Mecca five times a day and I drink Coke. I’m not Hindu; I eat beef. So why should I expect people who aren’t Christians to act like Christians?
I do, however, expect Christians to act like Christians. That means, principally, that we love everyone regardless. Just the way God loves us. It also means that if something about someone else offends us or harms us we turn the other cheek. Even if you argue that the existence of Homosexuals being certified as married by the State harms the church-based institution of marriage you….that’s right…turn the other cheek. I personally don’t see how any more harm can be done to marriage than what we as a Church have already done. So it seems very arrogant to say now “we’ve broken our toys, and so you can’t have a toy because ours are broken and your toy will just make ours look more broken and busted.”
Then there’s the issue of Romans. I keep seeing people pulling out that Romans 1 listing of all the sins out there, because that listing includes homosexuality. (Along with a lot of other things…)
But there’s one phrase that keeps getting left out. God gave them over.
Whenever these things are listed everyone insists that we have to curb them in society because they’re sins. But the Bible itself says that God gave them over. What does that mean to us? Well, it means that we can and should tell people about God in whatever strength we’re given. We can and should let them find God using the roadmaps we’ve provided. But God tells us that, unless people are Christians they can do whatever. They aren’t expected to act like Christians.*
So all of this boils down to one thing for me. I think the only response we as Christians can have to the issue of marriage is to allow state-sanctioned marriages to be open to all citizens of the state.
In return I would ask that homosexuals extend the courtesy to the various religions that they continue to practice religious marriage in whatever manner their faith proscribes.
*There are Gay Christians. And I believe that since they’re Christians they’ve got the Holy Spirit and their chosen church fellowships to deal with and where they stand with God is between them and God.