I'm not willing to say...it doesn't matter. No, traditional marriage is good for society. I believe that’s indisputable. But society in the end (in terms of our expectations) is about stability and order....not for those who will ultimately end up in hell, but for those who are yet to be called and those who cherish the Blessed Hope.
Order exists for us to promote the gospel of Grace. Society is for the lost who will hear the Gospel and repent and believe. But it’s not an end…it’s a means and a very fluid and imperfect one.
While homosexual relationships are by nature perhaps 'more' sinful than that of an ordinary unbeliever....in the end they need the same thing that the perfectly happy middle class yet pagan family with four kids needs...redemption found not in civil law but in the gospel.
Secondly I said:
If the unbelievers are engaged in immoral behaviour, then what should our response be? If our society legalizes immoral economics, supports war and violence, perverts justice, steals from other peoples, promotes idolatry and sin on every front.... basically this is the scenario for every Christian, every believer who has lived in the post-Israelite New Covenant era. This isn’t a new issue, but again… What is our response to be?
The state is about using violence to prevent violence. The motive is not altruistic, it is to help the state itself. The state wants first and foremost order and stability. Usually it is a self-serving institution, but something that we can benefit from.
This takes many forms of course and often the state does a poor job. Social issues, especially in a country that has a large population are as vast and as complicated as the geography of the United States itself. Politicians have little desire or incentive to wrestle with the deep fundamental or foundational issues. In the end, the state will always tend toward pragmatism which fosters stability.
Men like easy paths to power and are more likely to seek power by focusing on issues that are easy then in wrestling with tough problems that put their power (which in part rests in how they're perceived) in jeopardy.
Complicated arguments don’t market well. If they did, my writings would be much more popular.
While pragmatism is not morally upright, in an imperfect world it is often to be preferred. The rare leader who rises up and lets ideology guide him is usually something to be feared. Even those who rise to power on ideology are often in the end pragmatists.[ii]
Our times are not that different than what we find in the New Testament. Increasingly we are in an era of post-Christendom. In some ways that's similar to the pre-Christendom era, and in other ways it's more difficult because of all the baggage we have to deal with.
We live in a day that's much like Noah's and of course we're told to expect this. What was the response of the early Church to Roman society? How did Noah respond in his day?
We bear prophetic witness, we proclaim the Word of God to a lost and dying world. We live as the exiles in Babylon. We build our houses, tend our gardens, raise our families and worship God. Our very presence is a finger of Judgment pointed at the world. Our worship, our altar-presence is a prophetic warning. We bring warning and the fear of Judgment, but we also hold forth the Word of Life.
In none of these scenarios did the people of God look to the state to enforce Kingdom-laws. The people of God did not look to Caesar, Nebuchadnezzar or some ante-diluvian ruler to enforce the Covenant.
Our response to the world is the gospel and its commands...Repent and Believe.
And our lives had better reflect something of the fruit of the gospel or else we are indeed just wasting our time.
If we substitute this testimony, our Altar/Temple presence, and our status as exiles with enfranchised[iii] power...then we become essentially Babylonians. We become full citizens to a worldly kingdom and its ideals and abandon our heavenly citizenship.
We enter the world of dog eat dog and since we're building the Kingdom in a way other than what God has prescribed...we end up with a cheap copy, an imitation. And we also run the risk of compromising the vision altogether, getting lost in the world and its ways....losing sight of the prize.[iv]
If we think we're immune, then we're fooling ourselves. And not if, but when we do fall and fail...the world is watching, God's name is taken in vain (in several senses) and the gospel testimony is harmed.
Thirdly I asked:
How can we socially respond in a way that's morally right, faithful to the gospel message and most conducive to the promotion of the gospel? If we have to be persecuted, so be it... and on one level we always will be....but what can we do, what should we do to help the cause of the gospel?
Once again I would say we should hope for social freedom. We can't live without government. If our society truly was Christian we would need less government...not more.[v]
I would rather have sinners sinning in their homes and yet retain freedom for Christians to operate...than a society where unbelievers were forced by violence (the threat of law) to comply with some kind of quasi-Christian understanding/construction of society. That doesn't help anyone....neither the Church nor the unbeliever.
Freedom doesn't help the unbeliever, he just goes on sinning. But it does help us. If the unbeliever starts to wax bold with some kind of new social vision that seeks to bring about a pagan sacralism? Well, we should oppose that too! That's the beauty of democracy. Again it's not Christian, but it's a wonderful mechanism that prevents even the Pagan Sacralists from gaining absolute control.[vi]
Of course our ‘Christian’ democratic republic has been hopelessly corrupted by greed and lust for power, as we should expect. In the end I don’t have a great deal of hope in democracy but I do have hope in the fact that man builds and then sets about to destroy what he built. Nothing is very static, radical regimes least of all.
Some Christians would say...let the gays marry. Social stability and monogamy are good for society even if it's in a sinful context.
I don't think marriage really means anything more than sentimentality to the unbeliever and literally for them it is often nothing more than a piece of paper. So in that sense does it matter if the lesbian couple I know has a piece of paper or doesn't?
What are we prepared to do? Again, should I want a Christian state that will kick their door down and imprison them? Does that help the gospel?
I can't go so far as to say...let them marry. It's better than cohabitation someone might argue. Why? It doesn’t matter what they do, they’re sinning regardless. Whether they’ve pledged themselves or not…is not my concern.
Because I cannot in any way endorse what they do...even on a social level. It's always wrong. So I can't go that far. I cannot ‘support’ homosexual marriage.
But what if the state allows it? Okay, well the state murders people all around the world, steals, lies, cheats, tries to make itself into a god. So...why should this be any different?
So if the state legalizes it… it’s yet another example of fallen man failing to repent and believe. Essentially it doesn’t change anything. We go on just as before. America was wicked, is wicked, will grow more wicked and someday will fall. And then, men will replace it with something else.
I don’t support Gay Marriage, but I’m not entirely or absolutely opposed to it either. Either way, the lost need to repent.
Maybe the state should get out of marriage certification altogether? People could just register for tax purposes? Isn’t that really what started all this, a desire to make legal decisions, to share benefits? I wouldn't be opposed to that.[vii]
My wife and I wrestled with this when we were getting married. I had already come to many of the positions I now hold with regard to this topic.
We wanted nothing to do with a ‘church’ wedding and I was perfectly prepared to visit the county courthouse, be married and then perhaps craft more explicitly Christian vows to say in front of others….or perhaps not. My wife and I were and are in agreement on this. We’ve never regretted (in the least) not having a ‘big’ wedding.[viii]
At the time I was a seminarian and I remember being shocked at the reaction I received from some of my peers. Sinful! Church Discipline! These were phrases thrown at me because I considered just ‘registering’ my marriage rather than engaging in a big ceremony ‘wedding’ (no pun intended) both the state and sacramental notions. They couldn’t fathom that I was rejecting the cultural-sacramental notions, not to mention the narcissism, the waste, and all the marketing ploys.
My wedding obviously has nothing to do with ‘gay’ marriage but in bringing it up I’m trying to suggest many of us have not really thought about some of our assumptions with regard to marriage. While gay marriage is certainly incorrect, many Christians I would argue are not thinking about this issue properly. Sacral assumptions tied to the culture have clouded their thinking. And hence my comrades at seminary were left in astonishment at what I suggested and some became quite upset.
If anything it led me to dig in my heels all the more. When I engaged them on this issue, no one could make much of a case from the Bible. It was all cultural… what I was doing offended them because I was rejecting the Christian Cultural Status Quo.
[i] Consider the beauty and richness of a fifty or sixty year marriage. And yet if those people are not Christians they stand guilty. They have tasted good things and not given glory to God or called on His Redemption.
And how sad. I must confess it brings tears to my eyes when I see marriages like that and someone dies…. If they’re not believers, then really and truly…it’s over. That was it.
While my relationship with my wife will not be the same in Eternity, we will still be together. Our relationship will live on as brother and sister in Christ. At least I believe this to be the case. Some offer different opinions.
But for those outside of Christ, the beauty is tarnished, the grass withers and dies. It’s very sad.
[ii] Stalin and Mao rose to power shrouded in Communist ideals but in the end abandoned those ideals and became pragmatic totalitarian rulers. Hitler, Pol Pot, and only a handful of others were really and truly guided by deadly and frightening ideology from which they did not stray. This is of course a generalization but I think an argument can be made in this direction. Even most tyrants are in the end pragmatists and shape their power around what is possible, not what they believe. Or perhaps to put it another way, their power and its potentiality is all they really believe in anyway.
[iii] I’m not speaking specifically of the vote, but in more general terms, someone who is invested in the society, someone who has a political voice.
[iv] Dominionists like to caricature this view by suggesting you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Or they might say that I’m echoing the well known maxim…that you don’t polish brass on a sinking ship.
Likewise I might say to them….you can’t swim in a septic tank and come out with white clothes and smelling like a rose.
[v] I often use the following two examples….
If Maple Street was solely inhabited by Christians, would we need speed limits? No. Because as Christians we should be putting our neighbour and especially our brethren ahead of ourselves and we wouldn’t go speeding down the street, irritating people and putting their children into danger. We wouldn’t need a Theonomic government seeking to regulate our lives, let alone a pagan one.
Or, if the local convenience store owner was selling inappropriate magazines and the Christians came to dominate the community, would we need to pass laws banning his selling of the magazines? No. If the neighbourhood is Christian, he won’t be selling any of the magazines and according to Capitalist dictates (which the Right employs) he should quit selling them. Why would he stock something he can’t sell?
These are deliberate simplifications. I realize Christians don’t do what they’re supposed to do. Some would still speed. Some would buy the magazines on the sly. And this doesn’t take into account, pagans driving down the street, or driving from another neighbourhood to get the magazines. I realize that.
But, if we really and truly had a Christian society…whatever that is… then Law (Violence) would not be the tool we would wish to employ.
Remember when the cop pulls up behind you and turns on the siren, there’s a threat of violence. If you don’t stop, you might ultimately die.
If we ban the sale of magazines, we (in this case the Christian community) are essentially threatening him….you sell these magazines, we will fine you. A fine is a punishment with a threat of violence. Don’t pay…then face the consequences. Violate our dictates again, your business may be shut down…destroyed. Refuse to comply, in the end, uniformed men with guns can come and seize your goods, your property, or padlock your doors. That’s what law is.
[vi] We should never sign on to a party or a ‘political’ ideology. We need to be wise and discern the problems of the day. I don’t believe single issue voting is responsible.
I’ll amend that. For me, my one issue is anti-Sacralism. As I said elsewhere, I’d deliberately vote for a Hindu Lesbian if that helps defeat a Christian Sacralist. If ‘Ellen’ ran against Todd Aiken, she’d have my vote. In today’s climate because a Communist would have no real ability to implement his agenda, I would vote for Gorbachev before I would vote for Jim DeMint. I think all these people are evil, but Aiken and DeMint more so. I realize that’s pretty extreme to a lot of folks, even those who might somewhat sympathize with my views. Others will know exactly what I mean and why I feel so strongly about it.
Continued antagonism has driven the movement beyond a desire for acceptance. They’ve realized the Christian Right will never ‘accept’ them and so now ironically they’ve turned the tables. Sacralists are learning that others parties can also call on the state to enforce ideas. They’ve realized that ‘acceptance’ won’t suffice. They need a social revolution and over the past twenty years they’ve made some amazing progress.
Right, the Sacralists argue, someone is going to use the power, and it might as well be us. They use ‘no-neutrality’ arguments to buttress this and act like they’ve been given a blank check.
But does this way of arguing accord with Scripture? I’ve often asked…can someone present me even one verse to support this? There aren’t any. It rests on philosophical argument rooted in Sacralist and Dominionistic assumptions which do not stand.
[viii] Her dress was about $30. I wore a suit that had been given to me. Our rings which neither of us wear anymore and wouldn't bother with today, were under $500. And that was it. We didn’t pay for flowers, a cake, decorations or anything. Her sisters were so distraught they tried to come up with some stuff, but that was for their sakes, not ours. If they had respected our wishes, we wouldn’t have had even that. We were married in a living room (in the presence of her immediate family) and our honeymoon consisted of moving belongings from the Mid-Atlantic to the South.
In no way am I suggesting that this is the way it has to be done. I’m just sharing. We’ve just never been terribly interested in conforming, at least on certain levels. And in no way has this detracted from our marriage. We’ve been married over fourteen years, and thus far it has been most excellent. We have been extremely blessed. When life seems to be against me I have to remind myself that I have something many men do not…a good wife. Truly she is worth more than her weight in gold and rubies.