As most of you know, I live in Canada. Here, it is legal for same-sex couples to marry each other. And somehow, the apocalypse has not occurred. Shocking, I know.
Speaking as someone raised in a post-Christian culture, now living in a post-same-sex-marriage culture AND as someone that is an evangelical Christian (according to surveys, most of you now think I’m a homophobic hypocrite, which is fantastic), here are the main reasons why I am not bothered by same-sex marriage – and why I think that Christians, even those that believe homosexuality to be a sin, need to back off the issue.
1. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, it hasn’t affected my life much – and it has meant something very positive for many others. I have friends that are GLBT and, for those that do have long term relationships, the ability to have a legal standing on par with heterosexual couples carries weight in every area of their lives. And the fact that two consenting adult people love each other and are committed to one another does not devalue me, my marriage, my religion or the society I live in. If anything it has created a more stable, tolerant and accepting society. (It’s for this same reason that I am not against same-sex couples adopting; children in the foster care system are desperate for a stable and loving home. If two men or two women can provide that safety and security, that love and hope, then more power to them and thank you. To me, it’s more important that a child isn’t languishing in an institution without a loving family.)
Even for those that are, for religious reasons or otherwise, against same-sex marriage can admit that since same-sex marriage has been legalised in Canada, our society has not gone to hell in a hand basket nor has traditional marriage or families been under attack. In actual practice, our society has become “live and let live” which is actually a rather tolerant and comfortable place to be.
2. My personal definition of marriage goes beyond the government’s definition of marriage to that of a religious sacrament, undertaken within the context of an affirming community of believers, serving as a foreshadowing or a demonstration of Christ’s love for the church. With that in mind, I am a firm believer that, in the interest of separation of church and state, a post-Christian or post-religious society should, in fact, be exactly that – post-religious. In Europe, most of the governments do not ‘marry’ couples. Rather, they issue civil unions allowing for legal connection in matters of health, access, finances, custody and adoption etc. Then, if one is religious, you go to your faith community and have a marriage ceremony as your tradition dictates and understands that sacrament.
Personally, I’m a fan of that system. The word “marriage” has become more of a civil union understanding, in practice, as evidenced by most celebrity “marriages” and the divorce rate, even/especially amongst Christians. So the word has lost much of its religious and original meaning. Since the word “marriage” has come to mean more of a civil union in practice within our society, as long as the government is in the business of performing marriages, there is no need to discriminate.
I don’t look to the government to define marriage to me.
3. I don’t believe that the traditional family needs me to “defend” it in the least. (And even if I did, I wouldn’t do it within a court system but through how I live my life.) Within Christian community, family is defined liberally, crossing blood lines to include all of those within the community of believers. God promises to find the lonely and place them within families. We are cautioned against the idea of making an idol out of our familial relationships, foregoing any alliance above that of our affiliation to Jesus.
My marriage is the greatest relationship of my life, spiritual in every way. My ability to have a strong marriage, that affirms God’s heart for relationships and demonstrates unconditional love is not altered by someone else’s inability or disinclination to do so. If people around me are getting divorced or having affairs or treating each other terribly, I’m still called to a Godly marriage. If people around me are in same-sex relationships, I’m still called to a Godly marriage. We raise our children in spirit and truth, regardless of what the world, the church or the neighbours are doing.
So I find the argument that same-sex marriage or relationships are a “threat” to the traditional family to be short-sighted on one hand and rather ignorant on the other.
Part of me also asks “What traditional family?” Perhaps that is a cultural ideal but the truth is that most of us were not raised in a “traditional” two-parent, 2 kids, 1 dog home (well, I was but that’s beside the point!). Whether it’s due to divorce, death or some other circumstance, most children are raised in non-50s-television-show homes (which, from what I can tell, is what many of the staunchest “marriage defenders” are actually looking at as the ideal rather than Scripture).
4. Finally, most arguments against same-sex marriage fail to take one thing into account: love. And not just love between two people that wish to live their lives together. Rather, we miss an opportunity to love those that are different than us, to express love to those that we even disagree with strongly, to affirm their right to make choices different than our own. As Nathan Albert wrote, we have turned it into an ‘issue’ to debate, to fear, to feel anger over and lobby. On both sides, probably with cause. But we have forgotten that it is not just an issue. It’s about people. So when we debate an “issue” and forget that it is backed by people – imperfect, wounded, beloved people on both sides – we dehumanize each other.
It’s missing the point. The point of God, the point of Jesus, the point of the Holy Spirit is not to block same-sex relationships. The point of Christianity is not to create a theocratic Christian society. No one is won to Love by the tactics of war and hate.
God does not need me to defend marriage. He does not need me to block other people’s decisions. He does not need me to wade into a culture war or gang up on a minority or sow seeds of discord and fear. He does not need me to defend Him, my understanding of His best or even my way of doing life. I have much to learn.
He has called me to an active, all encompassing, radical love that looks beyond all things to see the value and humanity of each person, to speak the words “you are loved more than you could ever imagine” to every soul.