|That time of year again|
What has been lost here, and thrown into a very un-diverse pile with everything else, is the word "marriage", as marking a unique institution/union/contract between a man and a women. I'm going to miss it. Where did the old concept of marriage? Its identifiers might have been markers such as, two biologically different sexual entities, two organically and chemically different personality types - two prototypes - one male and one female - ready to share in what the two uniquely different biologys bring to each other in synergistic, natural physical relationship. They can combine, build, and pass on a unique set of genes, reproduce, if desired, into an extended unique nuclear family. These were not the requirements of a marriage, yet they are just what it was; no, what it is. Two people of the same sex can't accomplish this. Yet, this is not to propose to deny them a legally recognized partnership. But that partnership needs its own namesake. Perhaps, the original legal institution of marriage is also due some Constitutional protection for its original namesake.
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 judge's decision - even if it is present in the judge's mind. This is what happened, in my mind, in front of the Supreme Court. There was no one there distinguishing between a opposite-sex union and a same-sex union. Christians could have argued that same-sex couples/friends could find equal protection under the law in civil unions, as they were already afforded several states. Just as the Constitution guarantees Christians freedom of religion, it guarantees any two people the freedom of association. The Constitution guarantees them civil 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 (it is, and always will be, what it has been from the beginning) - 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, to their shame (in my opinion), could not personally distinguish between a marriage and a civil union. No one showed up to point that out and then 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. The Christian should not withhold from others the same Constitutional protections that give them freedom from persecution from others (which Christ did not have, nor desire, nor desire for us, for refuge instead of Him). Blessed are the persecuted. And blessed are those whom any of us might persecute. And we persecute the homosexual community in the workplace, job market, housing market, on the street, and in church.
But now, the words of a judge reverberate in my head. I came in late to a court proceeding one time, arriving early for my own, only to hear a judge comment on the ruling he had just made. He reluctantly ruled the way he did, because he had had no other choice. He was exasperated. He wished the defense would have raised a point which would have allowed him to rule in their favor. He offhandedly remarked to the other remaining person in the court-room, besides myself, that, "I could have granted . . . (such and such) . . . 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, including homosexals, but it does not grant any two people of the same-sex the right to marriage, it merely grants them the civil right to legal protection equal to those of marriage. Civil rights. It grants them the right to a civil union, not a marriage. We needed to not only define and defend marriage, but also to help the Constitution define and defend marriage in legal terms. There is a legal argument - not my argument, but a sound legal one. 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. In many mainstream Christians, there appears only to be an appetite to treat anyone resembling a homosexual as less than human.
To the homosexual community this event is not so much about marriage as it is 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 1972, would be labeled with the diagnoses of having a mental disorder. This push by the gay sector was not so much about couples rights, in my opinion, as human rights. About gay individuals having no basic human rights, who are able to be indiscriminately fired from a job, evicted, refused service, discriminated against, beat up, refused this or that human dignity, simply based on mere mannerism, the mere suggestion that they were not wholly heterosexual. I believe 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 what a civil union was. With society's own demonstrated lack of respect for marriage, and Christians equally so, they likely saw no better opportunity to step into the public arena and claim marriage equality. But now, it is also my opinion, notwithstanding their Constitutional right to legal unions, they inadvertently took it too far and created a whole new social problem for themselves.
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 of the sinful nature 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. But many others have seem to have been, by their own revelations. What this has raised in my own awareness is (and surprisingly), (and apparently) how many men and women who self-identify as heterosexual do actually possess both heterosexual and homosexual tendencies. And they are not comfortable with them. Yet, that is how God made them. This phenomenon helps me explain why, for many of them, homosexuality does appear to be a choice. I am inescapably a heterosexual. And I am not ashamed to report that some of my favorite relatives, artists, and acquaintances are of the homosexual orientation.
I believe there are many homosexualy oriented people who are in marriage-like unions calling out to God for His presence and direction in their life right now, not even sure what to do, but who the Lord will continue to call, and many of whom will seek to make adjustments in their lifestyles to please Him. They see themselves rightly as imperfect (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.
We have to allow people of various sexual orientations to be friends with each other without threat of punishment or judgement. And we should not, as it profits the Lord, even hesitate to be friends with those of sexual orientations different than our own. We all walk together after Christ.
This Supreme Court decision is a heartbreak for me, yet in it, there is a beautiful lesson, and blessing for all. 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 it (the Constitution) can make a definitive legal distinction between the two -- if Christians can.