I’m out of the office for the next couple of weeks, so I’m posting a couple of guest articles. This was written by my friend and fellow pastor Blake Jennings. Since we’ve been discussing the issue of homosexuality from a biblical perspective for the past few weeks, I thought this was an appropriate time to post his thoughts on gay marriage and how it relates (or doesn’t relate) to the civil rights movement. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section.
In recent interviews about his opposition to California’s Proposition 8 (prohibiting gay marriage), famed actor and director turned activist Rob Reiner described efforts to legalize gay marriage as simply an extension of the civil rights movement. To deny gays and lesbians the opportunity to marry the person they love violates their fundamental human rights. Therefore, it is analogous to the racial segregation prevalent in the south decades ago.
If that’s how the gay marriage debate is framed, then proponents of gay marriage have already won. For if it is accepted as an extension of the civil rights movement, then to resist gay marriage is to stand with the racists and bigots who resisted racial desegregation. That logic is leading a growing majority of Americans, including many Christians, to embrace gay marriage as legitimate.
But is Rob Reiner correct? Is the gay marriage debate simply an extension of the civil rights movement? That movement was dedicated to overturning a clear and compelling injustice: based on race, a portion of the population was denied access to basic rights enjoyed by the majority of the population, including access to the best schools and use of public facilities and services.
But wait. In the debate over gay marriage, gays and lesbians actually enjoy the exact same right to marriage that heterosexual men and women enjoy: you can marry any person you want so long as it fits the legal definition of marriage. They are not discriminated against. They have the same access to the civil institution of marriage that a heterosexual does.
So this is not a civil rights issue; it’s a definitional issue. What is the definition of marriage?
And that question, ultimately, is a question of authority. Who has the authority to define marriage? For those who follow Christ, the answer is God alone. Since He created marriage, He gets to define it. And while He has left many of the details to human governments to decide (how old do the bride and groom have to be; how far removed genealogically; etc.), the basic definition has been set in stone since Genesis 1 & 2. Marriage as God defines it is a lasting bond between one man and one woman (Gen 2:24).
In response to this quotation, proponents of gay marriage will often point out that many of the regulations of the OT were set aside in the NT (thou shall not eat shellfish, for example). Or they will rightly point out that many followers of God both in biblical times and today fall short of that definition, pointing to King David’s polygamy or the rampant divorce rate in our churches today. Both points are true. But both are refuted by Jesus Himself in Matthew 19:4-9. He first reiterates God’s definition of marriage in Gen 2, proving that unlike the restrictions on shellfish, this regulation stays. God’s definition of marriage is timeless. Second, Jesus addresses the tragedy of divorce. While God allows it in very limited circumstances, it was never God’s ideal and does not invalidate God’s design for marriage.
As followers of Christ, we must recognize that marriage is not a human institution. It is divine. And therefore, humans do not have the right to redefine it. States may legislate the details, but not alter the basic God-given definition. Therefore, Christians cannot in good faith support gay marriage.
In my next guest blog, we’ll consider a more practical question. Assuming the United States continues on its current path, gay marriage will likely become legal nationwide in the near future. How should we respond? How vocal should we be in our opposition to gay marriage? How do we keep this from being a distraction to what matters most to God: the gospel of His Son?
For more on homosexuality, check out our recent sermons on the topic (Blake’s is here and Matt’s is here).