Thursday, August 9, 2012

Opposing Gay Marriage is Loving

Having been inspired by Leroy Huizenga's recent piece at First Things, titled Opposing Gay Marriage is Rational, Not Religious, I want to contribute something along that same trajectory.

Proponents of gay marriage (or, more accurately, opponents of traditional marriage) often claim that there can be no rational argument against gay "marriage". Hence, Huizenga's volley (as well as those of others such as Francis Beckwith and Robert P. George) is significant and relevant. Opponents of traditional marriage also very often lay claim to a monopoly on love and compassion on this issue. Even though they themselves may not be gay, they so deeply and intensely care for the "rights" of others that they take a stand for gay "marriage". So, not only do they have a monopoly on moral reasoning, they also have a monopoly on compassion and empathy.

But just as opponents of traditional marriage don't actually have a monopoly on reason, despite their claims, neither do they have a monopoly on loving, compassionate other-centeredness. Indeed, the group who stands to be most directly, adversely affected by gay "marriage" is gay people themselves and so it is an act of Christian charity and love to oppose gay "marriage". And, conversely, those who are adamant about their moral support of their gay brethren are actually showing flagrant disregard for their well-being.

Before I defend the claim that gays stand to lose the most in legalizing gay "marriage", and that it's an act of love toward the LGBT community to oppose it, let me first clarify that just because this is at bottom a loving act, that doesn't mean it will always be undertaken in a loving way. Sacrificially serving others is also fundamentally an act of love, but if it's done begrudgingly or with a spiteful heart then the love is lost. Similarly, if the act of opposing gay marriage is done with a haughty or selfish heart, then the loving character of the act disappears. I have no intention of defending Christians who speak the ostensible truth but fail to do so in love, because Jesus says that they are anathema (essentially). My argument is against those who say that it's not possible to speak the truth in love -- that is, those actively supporting gay marriage in the public square, while denouncing the opposition as necessarily bigoted or hateful or irrational -- because that is also an affront to God.

Those who object to my argument would undoubtedly throw anecdotes my way of un-Christian non-love that have taken place in this battle (some real and most fiction), but I'm preemptively halting any such objections because the topic at hand is the nature of the act itself, at root, which is distinct from the question of how the act is being carried out. Though I will also say that, while there are obviously many ways Christians can go about their defense of traditional marriage wrongly and unlovingly, the vast majority of wrongs that are attributed to Christians on this issue aren't actually wrongs at all. Such as standing up for their beliefs by eating at Chick Fil-A and taking pictures of it, which is a perfectly legitimate, loving action. Beckwith makes that last point most clearly and strongly, arguing that it is absolutely an act of love between brothers in Christ and completely Christ-like. But my argument (which shall now commence) goes a step further and claims that it's also an act of love toward the LGBT community itself.

It's a simple observation, but the only proper telos for human sexuality, as created by God, is within the covenant of marriage, which appears throughout the Bible as a heterosexual union at all junctures, without exception. The verses that specifically condemn homosexuality -- which many, on both sides, curiously seem to haggle over quite a bit -- are actually mostly superfluous to the debate as the positive Biblical vision of marriage -- what it is, represents, entails and means -- necessarily precludes gay "marriage" from ever being a good thing.

Of course, even among Christians -- who should all affirm the preceding paragraph without hesitation -- some will object that they only think it should be a legal right in a free society, not that they are affirming gay marriages as good. It is only the right to do whatever we want that is good! While this is a highly dubious move -- dependent as it is on a vision of The Good which Christians are under no obligation to acknowledge or recognize, and which is actually heretical -- even if we grant it for sake of argument, it still doesn't address whether the act of legalizing something which affirms someone in their sin is helpful or harmful to that person. The Christian who cleaves to this position -- who holds that gay "marriage" is an affront to God's vision of marriage, but that it should still be legal -- is in favor of society not only tolerating sin, but affirming it positively. That Christian is helping the sinner to sin, shepherding them toward death, coaxing them along the path to damnation, and claiming that it is worth the trade because, hey, at least they can affirm the secular, liberal state's understanding of "freedom" along the way. This is obviously an untenable position.

Conversely, when we use the instrument of the modern state to reflect God's Law, the law becomes a signpost to the Law, and it performs the same function as signpost. Namely: it shows us our radical fallenness and need for radical Grace. While Grace has arrived, Law is still a perpetual movement in the story of God's love, and it's our duty as expositors of that story to not leave it out in the name of some bland "tolerance". Hence, when we refuse to leave it out -- such as when we oppose gay marriage -- we are loving our neighbors to the utmost.

What about those Christians who don't believe that gay "marriage" is an affront to God's vision of marriage? They speak manifest nonsense, rubbish, and gibberish, and in so doing slander the divine. Anathematize accordingly.


  1. I'm not even sure if there's a point in commenting on this, since you've obviously already figured out God's entire intent on marriage and sexuality. But against my better judgement, I'll engage.

    Moving backwards: to claim that that those who don't oppose gay marriage are speaking "manifest nonsense, rubbish, and gibberish" is to dismiss the entire argument without looking at it. It's name calling. Again.

    To claim that because something doesn't occur in the bible, it is nonbiblical, is also incorrect. For example, cell phones aren't addressed in the bible, and yet they aren't inherently sinful. On the other hand, polygamy is practiced, along with slavery, prostitution, and all sorts of things we consider nonbiblical today. You'll need better evidence to claim that same-sex marriage is, itself, nonbiblical.

    Next, to claim that legalization of gay marriage is unethical bypasses consideration that the legal system is specifically structured to separate church and state. If you want to create laws to enforce religious law, you get a dictatorship. You get ancient Israel, married to the law. You get radical Islam, pouring hot oil on women as a form of honor killing.

    This logic also doesn't extend to other religious laws. Sure, you can make sure that marriage is only legally supported in the "Christian" sense. But then what do you do about all the other religious expectations that aren't legally supported? I suppose you would need to change the law so pre-marital sex is illegal. And, according to some Christian beliefs, evolution should be outlawed, along with any sex outside of the missionary position, and all other religions as well.

    Rather, in a Democratic state where religion and law are DIVIDED, marriage should be entirely removed from the legal system. Then, churches can decide on their own what they will recognize, and the state can recognize the LEGAL RIGHTS currently associated with marriage for all couples.

    There are two things, however, that repulse me most about this blog post. First, your use of what are commonly called "air quotes" in debate, or the use of doublequotes around the word marriage every time it's associated with same-sex marriage. This shows your complete disregard for the concept of same-sex marriage, despite your façade of coming to the conclusion logically. Air quotes, or doublequotes, are used to perjorize a term. For example, I could talk about the blog that you wrote about traditional "marriage," and how you used "logic" to get to your conclusion, and how you are behaving as such a loving "Christian" by teaching other "Christians" to "love" the gays by denying them the decency of consideration. As is no surprise to me at this point, this is just another form of dysphemism, which is an excellent way to make fun of your opponents without finding any good ground to oppose them.

    Second, your post is claiming that explicit denial of foundational rights as defined by the American Constitution is a form of LOVE. In ten years, when gay marriage has been legalized, and we look back on the gay rights movement with the same perspective that we look back on civil and women's rights, we will see a claim like this akin to claiming that keeping blacks in slavery is a form of love.

  2. Here's the deal: take a lesson from God itself. The all powerful being that could force us to love it instead offeres us free will, and the option to deny it. Similarly, who are you to force "righteousness," as you see it, on a gay? How is that Godly?

    Even if you don't agree with gay marriage, even if you don't agree with homosexuality, and even if you don't agree with marriage, you shouldn't be claiming that explicit denial of it to others is a form of "love." To claim that you know what is right and wrong so well that you can decide for others is to claim more over humanity than even God! And that takes a special, inhuman type of arrogance.

    That's not love. That's an excuse to behave in an intolerable and hateful way. That's justification to dogmatically oppress those with different theological views.

    Nathan, I normally enjoy your writings and our discussions, but these last few have been insufferable. I don't know what happened, but suddenly you moved from someone seeking knowledge to someone dogmatically trying to dictate knowledge to others. I ask you this: what is the point of writing these blogs? Who are you writing to? What are you trying to accomplish?

    Are you trying to convince someone of the opposite party that you are right and he or she is wrong? If so, you are doing a phenomenally awful job. You have managed to insult the gay population in such a patronizing way that if I didn't know you personally, I would be inclined to never listen to a word you say ever again. Instead of reaching out to your audience, you have alienated them by casting yourself in an almost godly superiority.

    Are you trying to merely reflect on your theology? Are you the audience of your own writing? If so, you should be warned that there is a thin line between thinking about theology and theological masturbation.

    I think you should really reconsider, if not your theological opinions, then the manner in which you voice them, and the respect you have towards those outside of your theological opinion. Plenty of conservatives and liberals, from all extremes, are able to cohabitate peacefully and have dialogue without insulting or offending each other. However, I can't think of anyone that I know that wouldn't be offended by what you wrote and the way you wrote it.

    And please, for the love of your god, don't make this ridiculous claim that doing something hateful with a loving root is love.

    1. I think about 60% of your response is not really a response to my post, but is bringing in baggage and switching topics to tangential questions. For example, whether I'm bypassing separation of church and state is immaterial because it presumes there is some reason I MUST buy into a 'hard' separation of church and state (beyond merely 'Congress shall make no law..'), which I absolutely don't. It's an interesting discussion in itself, maybe, but not one I'm courting here as it only serves to distract from my argument. Again, same goes for many of your points, so if I pass over them, take that as an indication of their irrelevance to my argument. Now on to your material objections:

      - I did out of hand reject claims that the Bible could possibly leave room for affirming gay marriage as 'good', and that those who would try to make such a claim are speaking nonsense.. I'm not sure why you think I should do otherwise.

      - You said I advocated denying explicit rights located in the American Constitution, and that I called that a form a love. I actually did no such thing, for the record. I called opposing gay marriage, a special class of right NOT located in the Constitution (and not necessary to fulfill equal protection which is in the Constitution), a loving act.

      - You said that opposing the redefinition of marriage is forcing righteousness on people. OK.. I have no idea why you would think that, and you gave no reason for me to accept your position. Do you have one? I think people still have the 'right' to fornicate, to perform illegal/unrecognized marriages, etc. so I don't see how it
      'forces' anything on anyone.

      - You claimed I claimed that doing something hateful with a loving root is love... I claimed the exact opposite, and went to rather great lengths to make sure there was no such confusion. Where are you getting lost?

      To answer your question as to who is my audience, what's my intent etc. I started writing regularly just as a personal outlet, mostly. And that's still largely what function my writing serves, though of course in publishing it on a blog I'd like for others to read it. Though I don't really have expectations for how others will receive it i.e. whether it will be received favorably or not. I expect it rather won't be by most people in many instances -- such as this one -- but I don't know why you think that that is some indication that I'm doing it wrong i.e. unlovingly, badly etc. If you'd like to make that argument, I'll hear it, but since scripture pretty explicitly teaches that praise from the world is not only dangerous, but that THAT is plain evidence you're "doing it wrong", Id say you'd have a tough road to hoe there. BUt good luck.

    2. OH, also, yes I intentionally used scare quotes in the manner you described. Similarly didn't catch why you thought that such a rhetorical ploy is beyond the pale when writing polemic. Do you have a reason it might be? I thought it was a quick, shortcut way to denote that gay "marriage" is not an actual thing, without having to delve into the details of that particular related argument.

    3. Also, my argument wasn't that because gay marriage doesn't appear in the Bible it's sinful; it's because what God defines marriage as DOES appear in the Bible it is good, and distortions of it are bad.

    4. Like I said, Nathan, you aren't interested in listening. So there's no point in continuing this discussion.

    5. Not sure how you got "not interested in listening" from any of that but, OK. You didn't seem interested in entertaining that a side in the debate could possibly consider itself "loving", beside your own side, so there wasn't much hope of a meeting of the minds that I could see. I was still willing to entertain the possibility, at least.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Nathaniel said "Nathan, do you push for criminalization of divorce on the same grounds?" (I misclick deleted his comment.. mea culpa)

      A: No, because of the New Testament teaching on divorce. Practically, you can only really police the nature of marriage on the entry end.

  4. My knowledge of the bible is pretty limited but I was under the impression that Jesus taught that divorce is unacceptable with a possible exception for adultery. Could you point me to some scripture that says otherwise?

    1. That is the fundamental teaching of the NT, though Paul's writings give certain elaboration. But yeah, that is the teaching. And society should reflect that to the extent possible. But what is the extent possible? Means making divorce legal, effectively. Which it is.

    2. I'm not really following. Why couldn't the law say you can only get a divorce in the case of adultery? Why couldn't the law say you can only get married once? Why are you so adamant about the law reflecting certain aspects of biblical marriage (it is between a man and a woman) while denying the law should reflect others (it is permanent).

    3. There are limits within the system with what is possible. For example, I don't propose making idolatry illegal either, even though the first two commandments essentially forbid it. There are rights and freedoms under our Constitution that must be acknowledged (and which are, w/ traditional marriage). To put it briefly.

    4. I don't think our constitution guarantees a right to divorce and subsequent marriage. What are these limits that prevent you from attempting to "use the instrument of the modern state to reflect God's Law" when it comes to other aspects of marriage? You do not have to put it briefly, I am genuinely curious and would like to understand your position. Why is it so important to uphold one specific element of "traditional" marriage while you overlook others?

      Are you married?

    5. Point is if you criminalize divorce (save for cases of infidelity) then any time marriages dissolve people would remain officially married, having no other option, but become effectively divorced. Which in Jesus' eyes is the same as being divorced. Hence, making divorce illegal would not make sense, even in the sense of acting as signpost. That said, I think divorce is too easily undertaken and that there should be some sort of penalties or disincentives for getting one, on top of the 'natural' consequences... and I'd also be in favor of outlawing, say, third marriages. But there's only so much the secular state can reasonably do.

      Yes, I'm married.

  5. And homosexuals can have relationships that are essentially the same as marriage that are simply not legally marriage. Wouldn't it still be the same in Jesus' eyes if the state recognized these relationships as marriage? It seems that you are saying that because divorce is socially acceptable we couldn't outlaw it because people will essentially get divorced without it being legally acknowledged. Homosexual relationships are largely socially accepted, at least where I am located. Wouldn't that, in Jesus' eyes, be the same as if we didn't prevent them from legal marriage.

    Is your wife in a subordinate role in your relationship?

    1. "And homosexuals can have relationships that are essentially the same as marriage that are simply not legally marriage. Wouldn't it still be the same in Jesus' eyes if the state recognized these relationships as marriage?" - Yes; sin is sin whether or not it's sanctioned or legitimated by the state. Never said otherwise. Therefore what?

      Point was that the state can, to certain extents, reflect God's law or not, and the more it does so the more it has the capacity to be a witness. The result of which would be to draw attention to the true nature of marriage and reduce sin by facilitating transmittal of the Gospel. No-gay-marriages isn't the end itself and not God's primary concern (though it is a concern). Saving grace and transforming lives into Christ's image is.

      The divorce analogy fails the same reason to advocating laws against idolatry fail; the state has to grant certain rights, protections and freedoms. And none of those rights it is required to uphold is the right to re-define marriage. Though, because a marriage is entered into voluntarily, it can within reason adopt more or less lenient procedures re: no-fault divorce and such. But forcing de facto divorced couples to retain legal status as married accomplishes nothing, and is too restrictive in a free society (unlike marriage retaining its traditional definition which hinders nothing about the state's duties or individuals' rights).

  6. Mr. Duffy:

    Strong, your point about our opportunities to create laws that serve as a signpost to God's law; as a witness.

    Would you also apply this notion to the issues of poverty / public aid?

    For instance, in light of the Bible's teachings - and Jesus' teachings in particular (e.g. Matthew 25z;31-46) - regarding charity to the least of these, would you support laws/policies/party platforms that emphasize taxation for the purpose of public aid to the poor?

    Thank you for your time.

  7. Preston: to a certain extent, but Christ taught voluntary giving to the poor, not giving that is compelled by coercion. So advocating for forced charity doesn't exactly point to God's law of freely given (because freely recieved ) gift.

    I do think one function of government is to provide a safety net for the most helpless in society, but I think Christ's kingdom is one of more intimate, local associations and arrangements, and not of a centralized power who distributes and redistributes all while usurping.