The ongoing marriage debates in our culture right now make me want to wave a flag and hide in the corner at the same time. I’ve talked before about this shifting conversation, and I think that shift is only speeding up. Even the Pope seems to be allowing that some form of civil union should be considered.
Many traditional marriage supporters may be wondering what’s happening as the ground shifts beneath them. That’s understandable. But from my admittedly biased perspective, it seems like the traditional marriage folks have clung to a dogma without having a real conversation. Again and again they talk about how they were for marriage, not against it, and were defending marriage from all the crazy redefinition that would include gays.
The problem with that is I never saw an actual conversation about what marriage is and how it’s working and not working. They would chant “one man and one woman” and ignore all the mess of collapsing marriages. People get divorced all the time. It’s not ’til death to us part,’ it’s ’til we no longer feel like it. I think that’s an important reality that’s been absent in the traditional marriage conversation.
As last week’s Supreme Court decision and the ensuing reaction highlight, the conservative church is losing the debate over gay marriage.
Frankly, I welcome it.
For much of my life I’ve noticed the conservative church taking an approach to social issues that basically tells other people how to live. It’s judgmental, it forces beliefs on others and it denies people basic rights. I’m sure they don’t see it that way, but I think that’s how it’s coming across in the wider culture. What’s worse is that it gives the impression that blindly following a bunch of rules is what makes someone a Christian, that what is good and right and lovely in the eyes of God is wearing long skirts, not drinking beer and making sure people don’t get gay married.
I don’t get it.
I think it’s time for the church to stop expecting the world to follow our beliefs. You can’t legislate people into Christians. That’s not the great commission.
The church claims to be about love, but when all we do is argue about cultural issues and try to make people do stuff they don’t believe, we’re exhibiting the opposite of love.
It’s time the church figured out how to live in disagreement. It’s time churches figure out how to be the minority. Because guess what—that’s where we are.
Where this gets especially interesting is that the church itself is in deep disagreement. I used the phrase ‘conservative church’ above because not all churches condemn the LGBT lifestyle. Some churches are LGBT affirming and it’s interesting watching both sides try to navigate these waters. I think it’s time for the church to recognize the disagreement, let other people live how they want to live, and move on as brothers and sisters in unity.
Some other people have more eloquent things to say about faith and LGBT issues than I do:
Scroll down for Rachel Held Evans’ response here. She hasn’t blogged about it yet, but I suspect she will. She also has a guest post at CNN about how religious beliefs can change. In the light of this week’s court rulings, I think that’s an important reminder for Christians, who throughout time have changed their minds on things like slavery, segregation, women’s rights and more. (As a side note, I think Rachel is a powerful and much needed voice today, both deeply thinking and deeply faithful. I think I was once jealous of her blogging and book deals, but it’s pretty clear I couldn’t do what she does.)
Reading stories like these (and also browsing my social media feeds and seeing a lot more joy than dismay) gives me hope.
Presidential election night is such a nervous, glorious mishmash of emotions. I can think of no other event when something so big is decided so quickly. Sure, the election drags on forever, but despite the polls you never know for sure who’s going to win. Then everybody votes, we tally ’em up while some talking heads blather on, and it’s decided (usually: thank goodness for not repeating 2000). Done. The next four years are in place. History is written.
I’ve tried (at length) to write about the marriage amendment in Minnesota without success. I did manage to write about how their language offends me (since then I’ve seen ads touting “real” marriage?!), but I haven’t written directly about the amendment. I’ll try now (and it’s my last “here’s where I stand” post of the election cycle, I swear).
For all the articles I’ve read and back and forth arguments I’ve considered (enough to make your head spin), I think this is the strongest issue for me (and it stands regardless of your views on homosexuality).
“This is not an amendment to Christianity. It is an amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution. We live in a pluralist society, not a theocracy. So while it may be important for Christians to debate Christian perspectives on marriage, it is not fair to force all Minnesotans to have the same ideals. Whether we like it or not, not all Minnesotans are Christians. Forcing religious ideals on non-believers is a violation of the separation of church and state. And, to use Alexis de Tocqueville’s words, it is a tyranny of the majority. What happens when the majority of Minnesotans are no longer Christian? Are we willing to accept the precedent this amendment sets – that the dominant religion can force their beliefs into law? If not, we suggest voting NO.”
Thank you for putting words to the argument I’ve been having in my head for the last decade.
I think it’s sad that this whole issue is about protecting the sanctity marriage from people who want to get married. Meanwhile few are protecting the sanctity of marriage from the ones already married and getting divorced. If you want to be pro marriage, put your effort into helping marriages, not passing laws.
Minnesota is in the midst of a political battle over marriage. In less than a month we’ll vote on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman, disallowing gay marriage (which is already what Minnesota law says).
I’ve dreaded the debate this amendment would bring. And I’m reluctant to talk about it. It’s very polarizing and a good way to lose some work (I’ve been blacklisted for far less). It’s also a good way to lose some friends. I was more vocal than I should have been in the 2008 election and said some things I regret. Since then political discussions on Facebook often make me cringe (if not shudder). Sometimes I wonder who these people are that I once called friends. I don’t want to come off that way. Hopefully I don’t. If I do, I hope you’ll forgive me and we can talk about it instead of my words making you mad or scaring you away.
This is also an issue that’s hard to be quiet about. This week I came across a Google ad on my site that pointed to the pro-amendment camp. I was curious what kind of advertising they were doing, so I clicked on it and came up with this landing page:
What I found makes me very uncomfortable.
There’s no mention of homosexuality or gay marriage at all. Instead they’re advocating for traditional marriage (the typical “we’re not anti-gay, we’re pro-marriage” line). What makes me so uncomfortable is that argument leaves no room for, well, life. I think traditional marriage is great. But it rarely happens. I think kids should have parents—plural. But that doesn’t always happen. I think dads should be involved in their kids’ lives, but to say that marriage is what keeps a father “nearby”? That’s kind of, well, icky.
I think what I find so difficult here is that there’s no attempt made, no caveats, no nod toward life happening. Divorce happens. Death happens. Adoption happens. We’ve got single parents, divorced parents, re-married parents, step parents and adoptive parents. None of them fit very well in this view of traditional marriage as presented by this ad.
Using the word “biological” as a norm is unsettling when you have kids who aren’t biological.
Let’s face it: A lot of families out there are weird. They don’t look very traditional. I think that’s OK. But it’s important that we include these different situations. Inclusiveness is important. It’s harmful to kids to hold up this traditional model as the only way to go and not acknowledge that there are other families who look different, even weird, but that they’re still OK. They’re not defective or somehow less of a family. To do otherwise communicates to an already confused kid that their family is defective, and by extension, they are. This is the crux of diversity training and a driving force in Sesame Street for the last, I don’t know, 40 years.
Maybe what I’m dealing with here is a communication issue. Nothing more. The text is pulled from this page on the campaign site, which gives a little more context.
I hope that’s the case. I hope they’re not being intentionally exclusive. But that’s hard to believe. You don’t spend millions on advertising without being intentional. Especially when you could make the same point with inclusive language.
It’s probably not hard to guess that I’m opposed to the amendment. I guess I could just ignore the messaging of the “other side,” but I guess being a writer I’m curious about why they’re communicating this way.
Next year Minnesota will be voting on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between one man and one woman (and if you can’t guess, we’re deeply divided).
That means in addition to the typical presidential year politics, Minnesota will be having a knock down, drag out fight over gay marriage. I’m not looking forward to this one.
It means we’ll be hearing all sorts of arguments that seem to have nothing to do with one another. Gay marriage advocates will argue for civil rights. Traditional marriage proponents will argue to preserve marriage and the family. And you’re left scratching your head, wondering what civil rights has to do with the sanctity of marriage. Both sides will the think the other is crazy and our already polarized society will get even further apart.
Which brings us to Kim Kardashian and her 72-day marriage (Sidebar: I love it when Kardashian appears on How I Met Your Mother and Marshall makes a comment about how his wife keeps telling him why Kardashian is famous, but he can’t remember). Perhaps part of why the gay marriage debate depresses me is because we sit around and argue about whether or not gay people who love each other and are committed can get married, how that act is somehow going to ruin other peoples’ marriage, how marriage is supposedly all about children—and in the midst of all that half of marriages end in divorce and the celebrity spectacle machine celebrates a sham of a marriage that couldn’t even last three months.
Marriage is certainly under fire. But it has little to do with homosexuality.
Whatever side of this debate you’re on you probably value the idea of marriage. Maybe instead of clubbing each other for the next year, we should support that idea of marriage. Maybe we should help couples figure out if they’re really ready for marriage. Maybe we should help married couples in trouble navigate the relational rocks that lead to divorce. I have no delusions that divorce isn’t necessary, but I think most people would agree that fewer divorces would be better.
A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.