It looks like either through Supreme Court fiat or through state legislatures and/or propositions, “same-sex marriage” will likely be the law of the land soon. Christians and moral conservatives have spent immense time, energy, and money trying to keep this from happening, apparently to no effect. There are deep divides in culture over this issue and it’s worth asking, what’s at stake? Why does this issue matter so much?
My own take is that this is nothing less than the public battle over God.
When same-sex “marriage” is discussed generally, the arguments for it are what I would call horizontal—they have to do with relationships we have with each other, horizontally, person-to-person. From the horizontal vantage point, someone asks why I care if two males or two females gain marital status in public parlance and the legal system. This is the “consenting-adults-who-do-no-harm” argument. That is, if two, or more, adults choose to act a certain way, if it doesn’t cause demonstrable and immediate harm, why do I care what they do? Am I not just inserting my values horizontally on them? This horizontal-only view fails to recognize, or willfully ignores, the fact that there is a vertical dimension to this issue as well.
The biblical account of human origin says that God created us in His own image (1). Further, the biblical account explains that both male and female, together, make up this image. Adam might be called “man,” but his completion was brought about through Eve, his essential counterpart. Adam and Eve, male and female, represented the image of God corporately. Adam bore God’s image individually, but it was not until Eve was on the scene that God said of His image on Earth that it was “very good.”
It is ultimately both male and female corporately that represent God’s image in our humanity. To attempt to reduce the image of God to all male or all female, as in same-sex “marriage,” is in fact to attempt to redefine God, or at least our public articulation of Him. We attempt to remake God when we remake His image as it’s reflected in marriage. We attempt to redefine God when we attempt to redefine marriage. (None of this is to say that God in fact changes, any more than applying makeup to a mirror changes the features of the person holding that mirror.)
Moral relativists wonder why Christians should care so much whether same-sex “marriage” is legal and the law of the land or not. What relativists fail to grasp, or refuse to admit, is that the elevation of same-sex “marriage” to accepted legal/cultural status is not just the elevation of another point of view, but the elevation of another worldview, another philosophy of life, another religion, and another god.
The new god being advanced through same-sex “marriage” may be no god—atheism—or a maybe god—agnosticism. Or it may be any/many gods—pantheism. From whatever background the argument is made for same-sex “marriage,” there is a common thread, and it is this: the god of the nation that recognizes same-sex “marriage” is not the God of the Bible, or the God this nation has pledged allegiance to, or the God worshipped and prayed to by our founders and subsequent generations. Same-sex “marriage” is a watershed issue because it so clearly requires choosing our corporate/national god.
The divide over this issue can be no less tearing and disruptive than the divides in ancient Israel over the same issue—which god was God? Israel was forever being challenged as to whom they would serve; to which god would they bow? Their choices were many, as the surrounding nations gave evidence: their options included multitudes of gods from Egypt, also Chemosh, Baal, and Milcom among others. The worship of these alternative gods included late night reveling, drunkenness, immorality in heterosexual and homosexual trysts, and the sacrifice of their own children. Sound familiar? It’s important to note that the alternative gods to YHWH always reflected the worst of our fallen humanity—capriciousness, blood lust, pettiness, and faithlessness.
Israel’s great post-Exodus leader Joshua told the nation in his waning days to choose which or what god(s) they would follow, but that he and his household would follow the Lord/YHWH (2). We find ourselves in a very similar situation today. Which or what god/God will the United States follow? Who or what will be our national god?
The stakes are high—I would argue, incalculable. For while the nation whose God is the Lord is blessed (3), as the United States certainly has been, the nation that rejects the God in whose image we are made should count on no such blessing.
1. Genesis 1-2
2. Joshua 24
3. Psalm 33:12
For other thoughts on this issue see Al Mohler’s blog (http://www.albertmohler.com ).
Why does anybody care if 2 people of the same sex want to marry?
Hi Jeffrey, thanks for the question. Let me ask you one in at least partial response: do you believe it’s wrong to oppose same sex marriage? If yes, why? On what basis is opposition to same sex marriage wrong?
Mike Halpin, I would answer that as both a yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the law should have no say regarding marriage. No, at least in the sense that I do not think a baker should be sued for refusing to bake a cake for a same sex wedding if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
Jeffrey, you’re more diplomatic than the courts have been or are likely to be going forward. To your “yes”, the law should have no say re. marriage, that’s a philosophical position but not a practical one now, or likely in the future. The New Mexico Supreme Court informed a Christian photographer who refused to shoot a same sex union that doing business in the public arena required they surrender their religious belief re. marriage. That’s current law and judicial precedent. Marriage is so inextricably sewn in to the fabric of our culture that it will certainly remain a legal issue for the foreseeable future.
Everyone has a view of right and wrong, marriage or otherwise, based on their world view. My point in this article was that same sex marriage looms large as an issue because at a fundamental level it’s an attempt to redefine our humanity, our origin, and our ultimate purpose and end. It goes to the essence of who we are, and how we got to be who we are. In Matthew 19 Jesus quoted Genesis 2 to define marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and Scripture has been the lingua franca of public morality in the West for millennia, though all that is changing now. So, while I hope to show respect and grace to all, and share the hope in Christ I’ve embraced, I can’t agree that “same sex marriage/unions” are an amoral issue, because they’re not to God. All best, Mike
Mike Halpin, you make very valid points. My yes and no answer was not intended as being self-contradictory. As long as a couple is of legal age to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation, be they straight or gay, what is the big deal about it if they want to marry? I am a religious person, however, I am neither a Bible thumper or homophobic person. In the U.S., some politicians say marriage laws should be made at the state level and some people advocate a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Personally, I would advocate keeping government out of the issue of marriage. Either let a judge, if they choose to, perform a civil union or let a Church decide to perform a marriage ceremony for a same sex couple. One story that was reported about a judge, Kim Davis, being jailed for refusing to grant a marriage license to same sex couples. Either resign from your position or comply with the law. It is as simple as that. Even if being gay was a choice, not that I am saying it is, what is the gripe that some people have regarding an issue that is of no real concern to them? Another thing worth mentioning is the hypocrisy of people like Newt Gingrich, a man who advocates a defense of traditional marriage, however, he has been married 3 times.
Jeffrey, thanks for the feedback. Numerous legal privileges are tied to marriage already, so extricating marriage from a formal legal status isn’t likely. In the past because we collectively held to a view of life in which God created us, and therefore defined us and directed in our relationships, there was no conflict re. what marriage was. Again, the point of my article was to show that the acceptance and blessing of same sex unions is in fact a re defining of God Himself. Marriage is about more than us because it’s God given and a reflection of God’s nature. Letting go of that past, collectively held foundation for marriage is a tough sell for those who haven’t pitched or re defined God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture and Christ. I hope those who call Jesus Christ Savior will show love and grace to all regardless of our very significant differences while sharing the hope of the ultimate relationship our hearts were made for, to be vitally connected to God as Father. The bottom line in all of this isn’t, at the end of the day, about marriage, but about the God who gave marriage. All best. Mike
Mike Halpin, I read this blog post thoroughly and got the general idea and reasoning for it. You probably get the dictionary’s definition of the word marriage. No direct reference is made to it as being solely the union of a man and a woman.
All best. Mike