|That time of year again|
So where did the old definition of marriage and its main identifiers go? Identifiers: two different biologically different sexual entities - male and female - ready to share in what the two different sexes bring to each other, ready to multiply, share a unique purposeful, natural physical sexual relationship if desired, produce a unique nuclear family - the original concept of a family, and build an extended nuclear family - to name a few. These were not the requirements of a marriage, they were just what it was; no, what it is. Two people of the same sex can't replicate these things - any of them. So how then the label? Well, this American culture has changed their idea of marriage into something that is unlike the original. Nonetheless, the original is still there. And perhaps it is also due some Constitutional protection.
The American marriage has become indistinguishable to most from a civil union, so why not call it one - instead of calling a civil union a marriage? Some of the Supreme Court Justices saw it, and some didn't. Their arguments were fascinating - to be looked at with fascination in future posts. The problem with court - I have learned the hard way, is when everything is said and done, if an particular argument is not made, it cannot be considered in the decision - even if it is present in the judges mind. In this case, that is what happened with the question of legalizing same-sex marriage - there were no alternatives. Christians could have argued that same-sex couples/friends could find equal protection under the law in civil unions as the already did in several states. the constitution guarantees them civi unions, but in no way guarantees them marriage. It needed not to have anything to do with re-defining marriage - because, epistemologically, we can't - but simply "distinguishing between a marriage and a civil union" - which is easy. God designed our legal system to respond to those sorts of things. The problem was that respective Christians involved in this legal adventure could not personally distinguish between a marriage and a civil union. No one showed up to point that out and create a legal distinction. One Justice hinted at it. And he was the one that we attribute as casting the deciding vote in favor of same-sex marriage.
But now, the words of a judge reverberate in my head. I came in late to a court proceeding one time, to arrive early for my own, and overheard the judge comment on the ruling he had just made in which he was a little exasperated that he had had no other choice. Sympathizing with the party who he had just decided against, he offhandedly remarked to the other remaining person in the court-room besides myself that, "I could have granted . . . (such and ) . . . but, nobody asked". Christians did not show up at the Supreme Court hearing acknowledging that the Constitution of the U.S. does indeed grant all U.S.citizens equal protection of their rights under the law, but it does not grant any two people of the same-sex the right to marriage, it merely grants them the right to civil legal protections equal to those of marriage. Civil rights. It grants them the right to a civil union, not a marriage. We needed to not only to define and defend marriage, but also to help the Constitution define and defend marriage in legal terms. We could have defended it with the same Constitution that others used to nullify it. And we still can, but there is probably less appetite for it than ever.
To the homosexual community this event was not so much about marriage as it was about seeking relief from being treated as people who are less than human. An illegal entity - not long ago even outlawed, and a person who, until the late 1970s, would be labeled with a diagnosis of being mentally ill. It was not so much about couples rights as it was about gay individuals with no basic human rights, able to indiscriminately be fired from a job, evicted, refused service, evicted, beat up, refused this or that based entirely on just their mannerisms. The marriage push was seen by them as an opportunity to push for basic human rights. For them it was not a time to split hairs about the difference between what a marriage was versus a civil union. With society's own demonstrated lack of respect for marriage, Christians equally so, they likely saw no better opportunity to step into the public arena and claim marriage equality. Notwithstanding their Constitutional right to legal unions, it created a whole new social problem for them.
John Cantrell, writer for the Young conservatives, writes that, "A homosexual is not a worse sinner than I am", in an article in which he features Pastor John Piper noting "there is a great distinction between the orientation and the act [". . . homosexual intercourse"]— just like there is a great difference between my orientation to pride and the act of boasting". This leveling the playing field between a homosexual and a heterosexual is nothing new. We are all subject to the orientation we are born with. I know that men are born with greater and lesser tendencies toward homosexuality, because I was born a heterosexual, and was not extended the possibility (or the curse) of having to chose. What this has raised my awareness of is (and surprisingly), apparently, how many who self-identify as heterosexual do actually possess both heterosexual and homosexual tendencies. This phenomenon helps me explain why, for many of them, homosexuality does appear to be a choice. There is, however, not more than one choice for me. Nor am I ashamed to report that some of my favorite relatives, artists, and acquaintances are or the homosexual orientation.
And that spawned another series of thoughts this morning. Nothing new, or original, only very relevant.
Because I follow after his presence, and teaching, and encouragement every moment of everyday (or aspire to), I probably make more good choices these days than in the old days. But, it has been a process getting to this point during which he has been patient, gracious, and long-suffering. I believe there are homosexually oriented people who are in a marriage-like union, calling out to God for presence and direction in their life right now, not sure what to do, and who the Lord will continue to call, and many will seek to adjust their lifestyles to please Him. They see themselves as sinners, as all of us should see ourselves, but in their acts, not in their orientation - thank you Mr. Piper. There are orientations that each and every one of us are born into, tendencies toward drunkenness, fornication, selfish pride, covetousness, exaggeration and lies, the list is long for each of us, and we excuse ourselves, yet we do not excuse others who are born into orientations different than our own. Instead, some of us humiliate them, tell them they are less than human, and tell them they must change their orientation, without laying the same demands on ourselves."God gives us a choice. He does not withhold choice from us out of doubt that we will not make the right one. We don't always make the right one, right away, and should not expect others will either."
We have to allow people of various sexual orientations to be friends with each other without threat of punishment or judgement. We should not even hesitate, when it profits the Lord, to be friends with those of sexual orientations other than our own. Everyone can potentially benefit from the light of a genuine Christian in their lives.
This Supreme Court decision is a heartbreak. It will be interesting to see if the light goes off in the collective American Christian mind that the United States Constitution, ordained by God, and the authoritative governing legal document here in the United States, graciously grants both those who are seeking civil union on the one hand, or marriage on the other, equal protection under the law to do so, and will make a definitive legal distinction between the two -- if Christians can.
I will wrap up this post by later in the week.