By David E Braden
Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t see marriage as a civil right. I think marriage should be defined by the Church.
We have beautiful language in our Scripture about the blessed nature of the marriage relationship. I love that in Genesis, God asserts that humans are relational creatures and that “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The description of Adam and Eve coming together as two individuals to “become one flesh” is powerful and sexy and actually quite intimidating (acknowledging that these stories are also very gendered in nature). What does it really mean to “become one flesh,” for two unique individuals to commit to one another and then somehow figure out how to work together as a cohesive unit, as an anointed team living out the rest of their lives together?
Marriage Isn't Easy
Although I do not know from personal experience, I do know that marriage is hard work. I look at my own parents who are divorced and my many friends who are married or in committed, monogamous relationships and I know that it is very difficult to constantly work at a relationship in order to stay healthy, mutually empowering, and in loving support of one another. With the constant coverage of sham Hollywood marriages, the glamorization of adultery, and the number of couples who get married because it seems like the natural next step, I just don’t think we give marriage the proper reverence and respect it deserves. And so, I think the Church should continue to play a significant role in defining marriage and cultivating covenanted, monogamous relationships.
Two Debates: The Church and Society
The problem with the marriage debate is that there are really two debates going on:
1. The definition of Marriage in the Church and
2. The definition of Marriage in Society
Far too often, I think we conflate these two debates. Personally, I believe that marriage is an institution ordained by God to bless the covenant partnership of two loving individuals. I see it as a responsibility of the Body of Christ to help gay and straight couples alike, united as One Flesh before God and the Church, to grow in their hunger for Christ and to grow in love and in covenant relationship to one another. If the Body of Christ can’t do this, what’s the point of being a community anyway?
In terms of secular society, it is just that. Not everyone in our country or the world knows God or the love of Christ. We thankfully live in a country, however, where our Constitution says that we have a right to be treated the same even if we believe different things. The problem arises in that we also live in a society that bases a significant portion of its tax system and hundreds of rights and privileges on a marriage certificate. To me, it seems innately unjust to claim that we have Separation of Church and State and then to define an institution, such as marriage, on religious terms and then deny access to the federal and state rights and privileges that such an institution affords, including tax benefits, rights of visitation, medical & legal protection, etc.
So What Do We Do?
If we want to be a country that treats all people the same and a country that continues to privilege couples in our tax code and elsewhere, then both straight and gay couples should be afforded the right to a civil union with all the rights and privileges that come with it. Give us all Civil Unions and leave the fight to define Marriage with our Churches.