Gay Marriage, and Also Some Stuff I Actually Care About

Gay marriage, at this point, is a political inevitability, for one reason: nobody my age can think of a particularly good reason to be against it. Those of us who hold to historic Christianity have to acknowledge that the scriptures and the historic witness of the Church both consistently teach that homosexuality is a sin (though, for a well-argued counterpoint from a theologically conservative gay Christian, Justin Lee, you can go here), but no one I know of can make a convincing case that that fact should influence public policy when all sorts of things that are just as immoral are perfectly legal, and even embedded in the very fabric of the Church. Perhaps that sounds like a two-wrongs-make-a-right argument, but it’s really not; it’s an I’d-rather-not-be-perceived-as-a-hypocrite argument. It’s an I’m-not-interested-in-winning-a-political-battle-and-losing-my-soul argument.

Whenever the gay marriage battle rears its ugly head, I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on divorce from Mere Christianity:

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question — how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.

It’s understandably not a compromise that will satisfy everyone (though I’d argue that it fits with Luther’s “Two Kingdoms” theology quite well), but in some sense it’s the one the Western world has arrived at — and for a good reason: it’s more-or-less unavoidable. Before no-fault divorce was officially made legal, couples who wanted to legally end a marriage were still able to do so, and everybody knew it. “Collusive adultery” — adultery committed intentionally, with the knowledge of both spouses, in order to secure a divorce on the grounds of unchastity — was surprisingly common, and other legal tricks proliferated as well.

Gay marriage is currently in a similar position. Popular rhetoric aside, the issue is not a question of whether “gay people can get married,” or whether “people can marry whomever they choose”; this is, in fact, something that’s already happening. Every day, two people of the same sex stand at the front of a church, or in their backyard, or on a beach, and exchange rings and vows of commitment. The “gay marriage” issue is really one of whether the government is somehow obligated to acknowledge these commitments the same way it acknowledges mixed-gender marriage.

This is a really stupid question, as far as I’m concerned. The legal benefits of marriage aren’t really all that great. You get to file your income taxes jointly (but whether they actually work out to cost you less is kind of a crapshoot). You get to visit each other in the hospital (and how often will that come up?). You get the other one’s stuff if he or she dies without a living will (and, in case you’re thinking about it, there are much easier ways to get other people’s stuff than marrying them and then murdering them — being a Wall Street exec, for one). And if you get sick of each other, you have to get a divorce instead of just walking away (I’m not sure if that one’s a benefit or not). If I’m forgetting anything, please let me know.

Legally recognized marriage ain’t Candyland. It’s basically like shacking up, except your mother expects you to take it seriously.

Still, why anyone thinks the question of whether gay couples should get hospital visitation rights is the Civil Rights Issue and/or Moral Crisis of the Decade is beyond me. There are much greater injustices, and much greater evils, that we should be talking about instead.

Heck, let’s talk about one right now: Usury. It’s condemned throughout the Bible, yet we have entire industries in this country (credit cards, payday loans) that subsist on finding foolish or uneducated people and tricking them into being in debt for the rest of their lives. Most of this was made possible when we dismantled our anti-predatory lending laws during the deregulation craze of the ’80s. Where were the evangelicals demanding a Constitutional amendment banning usury back then? (Answer: bowing down to the shrines they had built to Ronald Reagan.)

The other day, on Facebook, I was discussing gay marriage with a former pastor of mine. He’s a man I have nothing but respect and admiration for, but we rarely agree on politics since he’s a libertarian-leaning conservative. The following quote from St. Paul came up:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, emphasis mine)

I pointed out that greed was a much bigger problem in our culture than homosexuality, and neither the Church nor the GOP (God’s Own Party?) was doing anything about it. He responded with the following:

Nonsense. Utter nonsense. I know of no denominations or parties that think that Greed is a Christian value or virtue. I do know of people who think that others are greedy when, in fact, they are envious.

Working, saving, doing without, investing and then EARNING a profit, is not greed. In fact, the Bible considers that a virtue.

So, confronted with a scripture verse condemning greed, my conservative friend’s response was essentially to deny that greed is even a thing. Confronted with scripture condemning homosexuality, queer theologians (like Justin Lee, linked above) respond by denying that homosexuality is a sin.

And when someone can explain to me how those two approaches are different somehow, I’ll start voting Republican.

6 thoughts on “Gay Marriage, and Also Some Stuff I Actually Care About

  1. On the greed thing, you really must read Brad Gregory’s chapter on it in The Unintended Reformation. It’s chapter five: “Manufacturing the Goods Life.” I may post some excerpts from it on my blog. It’s quite fascinating to read.

  2. Pingback: Gun Control at Chick-fil-A: Confessions of a Culture Troll « The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism

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