Wednesday, July 1, 2015
From against to for. . .
We cannot afford to be simply against gay marriage and the debate cannot be allowed to be simply about who can or should marry. What it must be about is what marriage was intended to be and how husband and wife live it out within the bounds of our sinful and frail humanity but still within God's positive and gracious design. Such a discussion does not begin with same sex marriage but with a renewed call and expectation of fidelity for married and chastity for those not married (gay or straight). In a hook up culture when marriage is peripheral to the enjoyment of sexual pleasure (safe and without responsibility for disease or children) and when reproduction becomes a personal and individual right made possibility by our technology, what the Church must hold up is the radical shape of faithfulness, sacrificial love, and fruitful creation that is a mirror God's own fruitfulness in creation.
We Christians must begin with our repentance. We have not taught our children well. We have not held them or each other to be fully accountable for our choices and habits. We have not struggled to make marriage reflect God's own design and purpose and so it has become our personal preference, choice, and definition. Once having repented as pastors, church workers, parish leaders, and Christian lay people, we must then begin a renewed time of teaching, nurture, and noble living out of such godly relationships.
We can, if we choose, decry the decisions of the SCOTUS that struck down any and all barriers for who may or may not legally marry. And we will. And we should. There will be much wringing of hands, weeping, and gnashing of teeth among us. There will be those who will refuse to preside at weddings and marry anyone lest they be required to marry everyone and others who refuse to preside except to bless some couples and there will be others who do little differently than they have. There will be those who cautiously continue what they have been doing and hope the culture will ignore them and those who will be militant in their rejection of the SCOTUS opinion and same sex marriage and will fight both aggressively and publicly to be noticed. I have no solution here and will not tell you what to do in this regard realizing that some of us will choose different paths.
What I am concerned about is not the fight that will and should take place in the political arena and courtrooms and ballot boxes but what happens in the congregations, from the pulpits, and in the classrooms of our churches. Our parishes are often woefully unprepared to say anything but "no" on this issue. We have not equipped our people to give answer and we have left them dangerously vulnerable to the power of feelings, peer pressure, anecdotal evidence, and sentiment from an extraordinarily effective GLBT lobby. But we cannot just say "no" or we will be labeled simply as naysayers within and outside our parishes. We must speak positively of the created order of man an woman before God, of marriage and children by His design, of home and family as the first place where Christ is known -- or our children and grandchildren will not know about nor appreciate the very gift and blessing of this creative order by God's design.
When sex was divorced from marriage and marriage from children, no one was set free and we were all imprisoned to the insatiable god of personal preference and the worship of desire. The rampant explosion of quick and easy divorce, the rapid rise and acceptability of cohabitation, and the reduction of goodness to personal preference and satisfaction have not added to marital happiness, enriched the lives of our children, answered the loneliness within us, or ended the terror of our fears and doubts. We are lost. We are alone. We are afraid. And we have passed this onto our children -- leaving them without the joy of childhood and with adult responsibility and erotic desire before they can shoulder their weight. We need hope. We need help. We need a higher calling and a nobler perspective than me and my momentary whims. This is what the Church is uniquely poised to offer to a world in love with freedom but unable to use it positively.
When gay people come to us, we must be ready to say more than their desires are bad and their behavior is sinful. In fact, we must not simply begin there but with a positive picture of God's creative will in which gender is not the driving force of personhood and sex not the defining aspect of nature. Self-denial in sexual desire does not stand in isolation from self-denial when it comes to indulgence in every area of life. When straight people cohabitate we must do more than simply say what you are doing is wrong. We must give them a vision of a higher love, a still more excellent way, in which sacrificial love begins with publicly accountable commitment, sanctioned by the God who gives us the power to live it out. When children come to us we must do more than tell them what they must not think or do. We must teach them how vulgarity of all forms cheapens them as God's creation and for whom Christ died and call them to live high and holy the noble calling of their baptism. We must provide for them good and wholesome environments in which to grow, learn, and experience the world God has made (home, school, church, neighborhood, etc...). We must speak the Word of the Lord into their ears that it may inhabit their thoughts and desires.
This is what we should have done and still must do. No less. The "NO' is not a sufficient replacement for the "YES" of God acting in creation and redemption out of love for us.