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Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

Over at Patheos, Timothy Dalrymple asked the following rather interesting question:

Is it time now, or might there come a time soon, when evangelicals should decide that the cost of carrying on the battle against same-sex marriage is simply too high?

Anything you can do, I can do better.

This is part of a new feature he’s starting where he asks a question as “a way of inviting Patheos bloggers, or other bloggers for that matter, and all of our readers collectively, to address a question together and offer different viewpoints.” I’m a Patheos reader, both of Timothy’s blog and several others, and I flatter myself that I’m also in that “other bloggers” category even if I’m not as well educated on theology or religion as a lot of the people who might fall into that category are. And Timothy’s question seems sincere to me, even though I have a rather different vantage point than he does so of course I don’t always agree with him. So I thought I’d take a whack at it.

First things first: It’s always the case that there might come a time when “evangelicals should decide that the cost of carrying on the battle against same-sex marriage is simply too high.” I actually think it’s already here, but I also believe that civil marriage should be open to two adults of the same gender so I’m hardly the audience Timothy has to convince. But getting to the heart of Timothy’s question. There are some beliefs that are truly bedrock to little-e orthodox Christianity, which I think are tied up with the Gospel (as I understand it, not necessarily as all evangelicals would lay it out). These truths would include things like: God exists; humans are essentially good, but in need of perfection; that this perfection is possible; and that if justice requires it God would sacrifice Himself to kick-start that project.

I’ll leave that last claim buried inside a conditional because I know a lot of progressive Christian thinkers disagree with the traditional evangelical interpretation of atonement, redemption and Hell, and I’m really not interested in having that debate. Another day, perhaps. And I’m also open to the idea that this list might not be exhaustive. But my point is this: there’s a fairly small number of “absolutes,” typically having to do with theology rather than ethics.” Anything else, if you turn it into a complete non-negotiable, you risk making an idol out of it. Timothy quotes Focus on the Family head Jim Daly as saying, “We should, humbly and winsomely, never stop contending for the things that matter to God,” and I agree with him. But there are a great many things that matter to God, and sometimes contending for one of them, or contending for it in a certain way, that can poison the way people think about Christianity. When the things people associate with that label aren’t those bedrock beliefs I mention but are instead things like misogyny, homophobia, and a fear of science, it’s definitely worth asking: where are they getting these ideas, and what can I do to avoid that association? If we’re making our “issues” – SSM, abortion, origins of human life, women as preachers, whatever – more important than things like “God thought you were worthy of a huge sacrifice,” that’s idolatry.

To be absolutely clear: progressive Christians do this, too. As a progressive Methodist Christian, I’ve seen the causes people I know rally behind, which are more important to them than the heart of Christianity. This concern about idolatry cuts both ways.

Also, to be absolutely clear: simply because something is negotiable (in the sense that we may want to re-evaluate the degree to which we focus on it or the way we do that), it doesn’t mean the question isn’t worth fighting over. It just means people on both sides should be able to ask, “Am I approaching this the right way, and at the right time, to do the most good without harming my ability to make good progress on other “things that matter to God.”

***************************

Now, getting on to the heart of Timothy’s post, same-sex marriage. Here’s the part of Timothy’s post I really want to focus on:

Marriage matters to God. We must humbly acknowledge the limitations of our knowledge, and recognize the possibility that we are mistaken, but for those of us who believe it’s biblically and theologically clear that marriage was created and ordained by God for the union of male and female, there should never come a time when we reject or conceal what God has made known to us.

Our critics should understand this. We do not regard marriage as a social contract, an arrangement established by cultural convention, and therefore susceptible to renegotiation. We regard marriage (whether or not it is perfectly understood in any given culture) as an institution made by God – and Christians in general are critical realists. We understand there are difficulties in perceiving the facts of the world, but we believe there are facts in the world, and most evangelical Christians, and most Christians worldwide, still believe it’s a fact – as objectively true as any other fact – that marriage is the union of male and female. In the same sense that a hydrogen atom simply is constituted by the creative complementarity of a proton and an electron, a marriage simply is constituted by the creative complementarity of male and female. And just as you can put other particles together in other relations, but those will not be simple hydrogen atoms, so you can devise other human relationships and call them whatever you like – and yet they will not be marriages. Marriage simply is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman.

I’d love to see Timothy write more about this, particularly the theology. I am not a theologian, and while I study religion and the reasonableness of theism, I do this as a philosopher. That means I’m more interested in whether certain thoughts withstand scrutiny than I am in where they come from, so I’ve only ever studied the Biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage as a lay person. Timothy has a truly impressive pedigree in theology (he has advanced degrees in theology from Princeton and Harvard, and also studied at Oxford) so I’m hesitant to challenge his interpretation of what the Bible actually says, particularly when he didn’t elaborate in this post on where he got that interpretation. But let me give it my best shot.

Based on what he says about complementarity, I’m guessing that Timothy is referring to Adam’s initial reaction to Eve:

And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gn 2.23-24, NKJV)

… or perhaps Jesus’s discussion of this text with the Pharisees in Mt 19.3-7. The standard understanding, as I understand it is that, since Eve was created when God took something out of Adam and built it into Eve’s body, Adam and Eve complement each other. They complete each other, and what’s more, all men inherited Adam’s essential maleness, and all women Eve’s essential femaleness, so that a woman will always complement a man in a way no other man ever could and vice versa. I take this to be the purpose of Timothy’s hydrogen analogy: just like the single electron and single proton are different substances, and just like they come together through a specific bond to form a specific atom in a way that no other arrangement of protons and electrons ever could, a single man and a single woman come together to form a marriage. Even if you could get two electrons to bond, this bond wouldn’t produce a hydrogen atom. Similarly, men and women are intrinsically different, and it’s the bond that forms between these intrinsically different types of humans that gives us marriage. Two men may be able to form a bond, it may even have an erotic component, but it simply isn’t marriage. This, as I understand Timothy, is the way the world has always been.

Only… it’s not. Ever since the chicken wars this summer, Timothy’s fellow Patheos blogger Fred Clarke has been chronicling the many forms “biblical families” take. These post start with Dan Cathy’s statement that “We [meaning Chick-fil-A] support biblical families” and follow it up with extensive Biblical quotes either about specific family, other times it’s some abstract teaching about how families should ope. Irate. And we’re not talking about June and Ward Cleaver. Yesterday’s installment mentioned Elkanah, Hannah and Peninnah (1 Sam 1.1-7), the endearing story of a man with two wives. “[Hannah's] rival [meaning the other wife] used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year after year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.” This is a family that Hallmark has apparently not made a card for – we’ve got polygamy and childlessness that basically made Hannah’s wife a torment. Other recent stories include a rather touching account of cannibalism (interestingly, blaming a neighbor for not offering the kid up as a meal), familial gossip that led Noah to curse the offending son’s child to “the lowest slavery,” and Abraham’s (you remember him, the hero of the faith) denying his marriage and letting Pharaoh marry his wife without even divorcing her for the sake of political expediency. That story actually played out again in the next generation. We also got Paul’s advice that it was better not to get married at all. Honestly, I’m not sure I can blame him, looking at this list!

Some (okay, a lot) of Fred’s stories have been evidence of a messy history where the Israelites didn’t obey God. But here’s the important point: this history is pervasive. The Bible is full of polygamy, unpunished rapes, fathers prostituting their daughters and wives, things of that sort. Timothy admits that marriage is not always “perfectly understood in any given culture,” but the more I read the Bible, the more these incidents seem like the rule than aberrations. Ward and June Cleaver it ain’t.

I think if I agreed with Timothy about complementarity, I’d probably agree with him about gay marriage, at least to a greater degree than I do. This is part of why I think being an LGBT ally is partly about feminism. Universal opposition to gay marriage only makes sense if you think all male/male and all female/female relationships are significantly different from all male/female relationships. And that only makes sense to me if you think men are different from women on some deep level. I don’t believe that, so I simply don’t see a reason to deny other people the legal structure that helps them build a life together, based on their gender.

I’m not completely convinced, though, that Tim’s view as marriage built around complementarity is all that accurate, historically. Set all the polygamy, all the rape-cum-courtship, and other aspects of Biblical “family values” that don’t fit all that well in the modern evangelical Christian’s conception of the good family aside, and we’re still left with a significant problem. If you look at the history of why people got married and the expectations they carried into it, personal compatibility is a relatively recent addition to the institution. You can see this in the stories about the patriarchs, particularly Isaac, where Abraham sent his servant off to fetch a wife Isaac had never met. This was an arrangement to join families and produce the next generation for much of human history.

Personally, I think it’s good that marriage means something different today than it did back in the times the Bible was written. It shows me that as humanity grows throughout history God’s will grows along with us. Now, producing the next generation and raising them is important, and if some Christians want to insist there should be an institution that lets us recognize this, I’m not actually against that. But they should recognize that the majority of people getting married in my generation aren’t doing this because they want to have children right off and need a stable environment to raise them in. In my experience, it’s more about wanting to publicly express your love and commitment to this other person, solemnize that relationship before God (if they’re religious), and take on the legal and social structure that will stabilize their relationship. It’s about love between two individuals more than it’s about procreation. If you think that marriage really is about being fruitful and multiplying, though, I think you have to admit that many, even most, heterosexual couples aren’t really looking for that kind of relationship these days. It seems unreasonable to single out homosexual couples as failing to live out this purpose.

(As an aside: When I read Genesis 2, particularly as interpreted through the lens of Paul’s letters, I see it as emphasizing the idea that most humans are designed to live out some kind of partnership, and that celibacy should be a voluntary choice rather than the default status forced on someone by virtue of a sexual orientation they didn’t choose. I am happy as a celibate single woman, but I read this passage as a reminder that my own state as a woman “called” to be single, at least for this part of my life, is the exception rather than the rule. But I’d need another post to really give that topic the detail it deserves, so I’ll drop this point for now. ;-P )

All of that said… I am very glad that Timothy opened this topic, because it’s one I really wish evangelicals – and all Christians, really – would explore in more depth. That’s one more reason why I think evangelicals could make a strategic decision to ‘give up” on this particular battle in the culture wars. When we spend all our time fighting over what secular marriage should look like, there’s just not the energy or attention left to work out a good theology of religious marriage. And that’s a first-class shame. We need to focus more on the religious side of things here than we do. (Timothy, on the off-chance you’re reading this: I would love to see you blog more about sacramental marriage, and would gladly reply in kind, or just be happy to read your thoughts.)

Finally, I want to comment on Timothy’s “social contract comment.” He said that evangelical Christians “do not regard marriage as a social contract, an arrangement established by cultural convention, and therefore susceptible to renegotiation.” In light of that, I wonder… just how reasonable is evangelical Christian resistance to SSM (civil, non-sacramental marriage, I mean)? Because it seems perfectly reasonable to me that a secular state would want to set up a social contract kind of marriage that didn’t derive from the sacrament. The government has a vested interest in encouraging permanent relationships between adults. Committed couples means a built-in social safety net. If my husband can care for me or if we can stretch my income further when he loses his job, that means married couples won’t rely on social safety net programs as much as singles like myself will.

So even if evangelicals aren’t talking about a social contract when they discuss marriage, I think the government has every right to want this. It’s in their interests to know whether tax incentives and other benefits that encourage people to get and stay married are actually going to long-term couples. And there’s really no reason to restrict these couples to the kind approved of by any one religion, is there? If I’m reading Timothy right, he seems to be saying that when evangelicals discuss marriage they’re simply not talking about the same thing that society at large is discussing. In that case, why should evangelical concerns that the Bible establishes marriage as between a man and woman have anything to do with this social contract marriage? I’m genuinely confuzzled by this one. If Christians view marriage as a distinctly Christian institution, why are we so eager to offer it up for a popular vote by codifying it in the law? And why would we give the government the right to define who a sacrament is open to?

That’s the part of this I really wish evangelicals would think about carefully. Do you think marriage is a sacrament, a social contract separate from religion, or some combination of the two? I know my answer here: it makes me nervous when the state tries to tell the church how to carry out its institutions, or vice versa. It seems that the evangelical position stated by Timothy in his post – that what Christians mean by marriage isn’t the social contract idea I believe American society quite reasonably relies on – is actually pretty compatible with this approach. But for those who disagree, I believe these questions are worth asking. What relationship do you prefer church and state to have on this issue, and would you be happy if religious groups other than yours had the same impact? Perhaps, rather than giving up the fight, it’s time for evangelicals to clear up their thinking on how much civil marriage really impacts the sacrament they seem to care so much about?

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
dreamflower02
Dec. 2nd, 2012 02:47 pm (UTC)
To be honest, I'd like to see the wind taken out of EVERYBODY's sails.

What would happen if the gov't declared that ALL unions recognized by the gov't are civil unions, and that the term marriage is an optional state that may be undertaken "on the side"?

Just a little speculation I've had over the years: any recognized social contract could be undertaken as having legitimacy in a legal sense, conveying social benefits such as insurance or the ability to adopt children and other financial or social rights.

Anyone who wanted to also be married could then apply to their church or religious institution, or even make up and undergo their own ceremony for that purpose.

Honestly, I can see a lot of benefits from such an approach. If marriage is truly a sacrament, then the gov't cannot create a sacrament with a civil ceremony--and why should it try? Likewise, why should something that is considered a religious sacrament convey civil legal benefits? Why should a church ceremony determine what kind of tax benefits a couple has?

And I have to agree with many of the who pointed out that concentrating on the particular issue of SSM, while ignoring other issues of social justice is more than a little hypocritical. If Christians must oppose SSM because it's a sin and immoral, then they need to oppose laws permitting remarriage after divorce, co-habitation without the benefit of marriage, pre-marital sex with the same fervor. (And most Christians oppose at least the latter two, but not with the same vehemence they display towards SSM.)

I don't expect anyone to take up my suggestion--it would create even more uproar than we already have. But I think that if the idea of it was examined, some people would realize how untenable their position is.
labourslamp
Dec. 2nd, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
My church opposes cohabitation without the benefit of marriage, premarital sex, and divorces that were not due to adultery, malicious abandonment, or abuse (which I believe we lump in with "malicious abandonment"). It also opposes the practice of homosexuality.

My church's places of higher education do not get picketed by protesters for their teachings on divorce, cohabitation, and premarital sex. They get picketed for homosexuality. I would suggest that some of the vehemence out there (not all) is in reaction to the vehemence coming from the other side. If conservative Christians were getting just as much flack for their other beliefs, I suspect they'd be giving a lot more.
dreamflower02
Dec. 2nd, 2012 08:47 pm (UTC)
You have a point there. What gets looked at and overlooked (from both sides) seems to go hand-in-hand with what the population at large seems to find important at the time. After all, there have been times in the past when the things I mentioned WERE opposed by the Church as a whole with the same vehemence.

I've thought for a long time, though, that separation of church and state could go further than it does, and convey just as many advantages to the religious communities as it does to the secular gov't.

We see it happening now on a number of other matters as well. What do you think of the idea that the sacrament of marriage should be a separate thing than a civil union (of any sort) that conveys legal rights? It would certainly keep any demands by the gov't insisting that a church be obliged to perform a ceremony that would be against its beliefs. And it would make marriage itself even more of a choice, rather than a legal obligation...

As I said: I think it would take all the wind out of the sails on both sides; but as I have never seen this proposal ever made by anyone in a position to do anything about it, so I have never seen the idea debated. I don't even know what the cons would be from someone else's POV. I'm sure there are quite a few holes in the idea, I am just not sure of what they'd be.

labourslamp
Dec. 2nd, 2012 11:11 pm (UTC)
Lutherans have learned, through a lot of hard history, that Bad Things Happen when you try to combine church and state. When you "legislate morality," you're essentially handing over something that was the power of the community and/or church to the power of the state, and while they might be legislating in your favor for a time, later on they might use that law as a precedent to pass something that you don't want. This happened in Germany with the state-church set-up in some of the baronies, etc. over there.

My job as a Christian is to preach the law and gospel and let the Holy Spirit work on people's hearts. No amount of state coercion to get people to behave like "good Christians" will actually *make* them Christians. So as long as I can continue to practice my religion without being fined for hate speech or whatnot, I can be content. And as long as my church isn't obligated to bless same-sex civil unions, we'll weather it the same way we've weathered divorce and the increased prevalence of non-marital sex. The society we'd be operating in is certainly no more tolerant of sin than the Roman empire the Church first operated in--with its mining slaves, temple prostitution, deification of emperors, and gladiatorial games.
dreamflower02
Dec. 2nd, 2012 11:33 pm (UTC)
Lutherans have learned, through a lot of hard history, that Bad Things Happen when you try to combine church and state.

It's a lesson other denominations should also keep in mind; many Protestant denominations went through periods when they were persecuted by whatever the "official state religion" was, and even worse have gone through periods when they happened to be the "official state religion" and persecuted others.

It's also a lesson we can see today as we look at other countries of non-Christian peoples who are trying to make their religion "official". (While that primarily applies to Muslim countries it's not exclusive to them.)

We have a secular nation in the sense that it's Constitutionally prohibited to create an "official state religion". We cannot pass laws that favor one faith, nor can we pass laws that prohibit the free exercise of any particular faith--with the obvious exceptions of things that would endanger someone's safety. And yet in some cases and in some places in the US, both those rights have been violated. Such cases tend to get overturned eventually, but in the meantime some local gov'ts have passed laws that legislate certain religious beliefs and have also passed laws that prohibit certain free exercise. (Cases in point: state laws that insist Creationism be taught as science, or local laws that prohibit religious groups from using public property.)

And so I can't help but wonder if it would be so bad a thing if the gov't got out of the "marriage business" altogether. And a recognized contract of domestic partnership would not even necessarily include a sexual component. It would simply be a family with certain legal and civil rights; and then the churches could get on with blessing those who wanted it with Marriage as Sacrament according to each denomination's own traditions.
labourslamp
Dec. 2nd, 2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
I've speculated on the same thing.

Here's question, then: if we were to go this sort of route, is there any reason we should limit a civil union to two people?
marta_bee
Dec. 3rd, 2012 12:08 am (UTC)
Personally, I think there's a big difference between relationships between two adults and between three adults. It's a truly rare person who can love two people at the same time, romantically, without one relationship interfering with the other. Maybe that's because I think what makes the marriage relationship so close is its about exclusive commitments?

So I think that gives us a big reason to prefer two-person rather than three-person relationships. People in them will just be closer and provide a better kind of care. I may be wrong on that, and if someone could prove me wrong I'd say that civil marriage should be open to them. I think my bugabear is, I simply don't see similar arguments for restricting civil marriage to opposite-sex couples. Unless you think gender is inherent, that men really are different from women, and I don't believe that about gender.

The bottom line for me is: if you're going to tell people they can't have a civil marriage, you need a reason why their relationship doesn't serve the purpose of marriage as well as a different kind of relationship would. I think I can give one against bigamy, but not against homosexuality. And if I'm wrong on the facts, I'm convinceable - but the basic test still stands. IMO at least.
labourslamp
Dec. 3rd, 2012 03:08 am (UTC)
I only brought that "why limit it" question because Dreamflower mentioned the idea of the relationships in a civil union not being sexual at all, and leaving the sexual aspect to it as an aside. At that point we really need to look at what it is that we're trying to establish here as a contract. I was just trying to tease apart other defining factors of a civil union. That's the point where I start wondering how things would have to be defined legally, what legal challenges to it would appear, and whether those legal challenges would allow people to game the system.

As far as the "legal purpose of marriage," I would argue that marriage has, for as long as we've had them (whether for love or not, whether monogamous or not) served as a way to guarantee the rights of any children that are created from that marriage. That's the best legal purpose I've been able to drum up, especially since we've had, in the past, means by which husbands could legally cheat on their wives (concubinage, etc.). Adoption already exists to guarantee the rights of children who aren't being raised by their natural parents.

That said, I understand why giving homosexual couples everything but the state seal of approval on their relationship would make them feel like second-class citizens, so the advocacy for an extension of marriage makes sense. But there's at least one purpose of marriage, the one that I listed above, that wouldn't actually apply to them--at least, not until embryonic engineering plows through that barrier as well. That purpose would apply to polygamy as well, and has in the past.
dreamflower02
Dec. 3rd, 2012 01:02 am (UTC)
To be perfectly honest, I don't see how we could. OTOH, the idea is a little creepy...

But of course, that comes from the image of polygamy as something that is oppressive and submits women and young girls to conditions that limit their rights. If there were no law against it, the polygamous families would not have a reason to hide themselves, and their children would be subject to the same educational laws that govern everyone else.

I don't know--it's certainly a factor, once you begin to think about it. But if the protection of religious exceptions is removed by separating the civil and religious parts of it, the civil authorities could regulate the contracts in order to protect the parties from abuse, without regards to complaints about religious rights, because they'd still have those.

It's a tangle, it really is, but when you think of the tangles we've got currently it might work.
labourslamp
Dec. 3rd, 2012 03:19 am (UTC)
Whenever I look at a potential "reform" to anything I like to start looking at it from the perspective of someone who wants to break the rules, because you know someone will, and that's a good way of gauging unintended consequences.

I think the best way to make targeted changes to any institution is figure out what its legal purpose and precedent is and build on it from there. I know that the best argument for overturning DOMA right now stems from a case overturning an interracial marriage ban, which also called marriage a "right." So we'd have to look back and see what, within American and British law (including common law) all of the marriages have meant, and then extrapolate a reform from that. I don't have the knowledge or legal training to be able to pull that off, though.
dreamflower02
Dec. 3rd, 2012 03:34 am (UTC)
I'm afraid I don't either. But I would love to see someone who does have the legal and historical background to figure out the ramifications of such a change debate the issue. I know it sounds very radical, but I think it could be worth considering.
marta_bee
Dec. 2nd, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
First: congrats on taking your sexual ethics beyond just homosexuality. That's such an important thing to do, and I wish more Christian churches would do better at this. There was one Methodist church I worshipped at for a while in college where they stopped hiring a college student to play organ at Sunday services when he came out as gay - in the same month that they got a new pastor who was divorced and remarried. I quietly found another church after that because I thought it was hypocritical and thought it would get in the way of my being pastored by that man. (He wasn't bad as far as I know - loads of people are divorced - it was just the timing that got in the way of me respecting him.)

But I'm also a little uncomfortable carrying this comparison too far. There's a big difference between condemning homosexuality full-stop and condemning divorce or premarital sex or whatever. Those latter things are bad ways of being a heterosexual, but with Christians who disapprove of homosexuality, usually it's all homosexuality except celibacy. Basically there's no good way to be a homosexual without giving up sex and romance altogether. I think that's what bothers me about the standard conservative Christian picture here. If you want to identify a good way for homosexuals to form relationships and have moral sex lives that don't involve celibacy, I think that is a good thing to do. I try to do it myself; it's one reason SSM is so important to me, because it gives homosexuals a path to committed relationships if that's what they choose, just like heterosexuals have.

I guess I personally have a hard time squaring the conservative Christian idea that all homosexual relationships are immoral with the teaching that God made us for companionship and recognized that (except for rare situations) it's not good for humans to be alone. It seems like that should include heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. But I do respect you and your church for grappling with this issue, and not just being critical of the kind of sins other folks are susceptible to.

Edited at 2012-12-02 10:44 pm (UTC)
labourslamp
Dec. 3rd, 2012 02:24 am (UTC)
Believe me, I understand where you're coming from. I think one of the big reasons we see differently on this matter is because you are using different factors in interpreting God's will--reason, personal experience, etc. My reason is flawed, and my personal experience limited, so I turn to Scripture and, as best as I can, let it interpret itself. There are so many difficult teachings in the Bible--the Trinity, the nature of Christ, how much free will we exactly have, the whole problem of sin itself and why it continues to exist. I know of many people who interpret the Bible's teachings on homosexuality as "actually, it doesn't state that it's sinful," but the passages in Romans, combined with the Bible's admonitions of human sexuality's only proper expression within marriage convince me otherwise. And I don't believe that expanding "marriage" to include homosexuals is a Scriptural answer to the problem either.

If it sounds like I'm deflecting on this, I'm sorry. It is difficult for someone who is not living the experiences of others to discuss things that don't affect her directly. I do know that God is merciful, though, that I'm prone to sins that are far more damaging, and if I expect forgiveness for my sins--even the ones I don't know I'm committing, or that I don't even think are sins at the time--I should hope that homosexual Christians, even those who are expressing themselves sexually, will receive the same.
marta_bee
Dec. 2nd, 2012 09:55 pm (UTC)
Dreamflower, in theory I think this is a really good idea. I'm not sure about asking the state to give up the term "marriage," since I think historically marriage was a legal term before it was a religious one. But really, I'm more concerned with substance than labels.

The real problem I have with this approach in practice is that the word "marriage" is all over the law. So we need a way to say what we previously described as marriage now applies to people with a civil union or whatever you end up calling it. I guess what I'm saying is I have no problem setting up something other than marriage, a civil union that any two adults can enter into, so long as we actually eliminate legal marriage at the same time. Otherwise you're going to get into a problem of double standards where some legal rights are open to heterosexual couples that aren't also open to homosexual couples.

In general, though, I think you're on to something.
dreamflower02
Dec. 2nd, 2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
I think what I am trying to describe is exactly that: ALL the gov't would be responsible for is the contractual side of a partnership of any kind. ALL that religion would be responsible for would be the religious side of things.

It would not be separate--it would apply to all couples. Of course, there would have to be some way to deal with everyone who's been married for years in both the civil and religious sense.

I do know what you mean about historically marriage being a legal term, but as you point out, in our society today marriages are no longer simply a means of conveying property and alliances between families, and so I think it might be a good idea to separate the sacramental side of marriage from the legal side.

It might even take the sexual factor out of domestic unions altogether. A person could enter into such a contract to create a legal family with, say a friend. The union would convey rights such as being able to be with someone in the hospital, or guardianship of a child, and so forth.

And, you know, I honestly don't think it would cause much decline in actual marriages. Truly committed couples of whatever faith still will turn to their own traditions once a contract is signed recognizing the civil union, and many who have no particular faith tradition will still find a way to have a wedding. In other words, if marriage is important enough, they will still get married.
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