“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NIV
Today I want to stir the pot a bit. Please state your point of view kindly. The argument you have in mind is likely, not new and that Christians of goodwill can disagree on how we interact with the subject at hand.
Before this gets started, let me remind anyone who reads this that I am a conservative Christian and I am a member of an LCMS church. I take the subject of marriage, within the Christian context, quite seriously. I believe in a covenant marriage in the sense that it should not be broken without abuse, desertion, or adultery. I also think forgiveness can be extended to those who divorced in other circumstances.
Even within churches and denominations, there is disagreement on this subject. However, I approach this subject as a conservative Christian with moderate leanings. That should cause a discussion, and I will explain that if necessary.
C.S. Lewis kicks off this discussion on church marriages versus civil marriages
Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is quite the different question-how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine.
My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christian and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.
I will admit, with trepidation, that I read this quote a long time ago and found myself agreeing with Lewis and have used this reasoning in how I approach the public square. I shrink from all forms of political discourse, especially on social media. I think this discussion emerges from all sorts of Christian theologizing, and I am shocked at the outright exhibition of angry expressions directed toward those Christians who view things differently. That is what I am addressing today. Can we, as Christians, discuss this subject without throwing bombs of “You’re no Christian!”
David French has changed his mind about gay marriage in the civil/state arena.
David French, a conservative Christian, caused an uproar in the Christian community with a simple, well-thought article: Why I Changed My Mind About Law and Marriage, Again.:
“Walking through my flip, flop, flip on one of the toughest issues of our time.”
…declaring that religious belief is not the same thing as declaring civil law. Outside of the most hard-core integralists or dominionists, there is broad and wise consensus that importing divine standards whole cloth into civil law can be a recipe for division, oppression, and ultimate harm to the church itself. Our nation possesses an Establishment Clause for a reason.
What is the Establishment Clause? Essentially it prevents the government from establishing a religion. In other words, the Lutheran Church is not the state’s official religion like it has been in Norway and Sweden. Even there, things are changing. In the US, the Lemon test states:
Under the “Lemon” test, government can assist religion only if (1) the primary purpose of the assistance is secular, (2) the assistance must neither promote nor inhibit religion, and (3) there is no excessive entanglement between church and state.
After Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, He was initially concerned that any religious objection would be treated as intolerant by those who do not hold to a covenant marriage POV. He gives examples of this in the article.
it’s plain that there are progressive Americans who most assuredly do not believe there are good faith objections to same-sex marriage, even on religious grounds. They view any objection to same-sex marriage as inherently and purely bigoted, and want the law and culture to punish orthodox Christians for upholding the teachings of their churches.
He felt that the legal response had effectively protected religious liberty and gave examples of the cases that won.
…since Obergefell, both LGBT Americans and people who uphold orthodox Christian teachings on marriage enjoy expanded individual and institutional liberty. That doesn’t mean there aren’t issues left to resolve—and it certainly doesn’t mean that parts of the left aren’t keen to reverse religious liberty’s legal advance—
Thus, he decided to support the Respect of Marriage Act which has since been signed into law.
I wrote Friday in The Atlantic in support of the Senate’s version of the Respect for Marriage Act
The act contains “important protections” for religious liberty, including “an explicit statement by Congress that ‘diverse beliefs about the role of gender in marriage’—including the belief that marriage is between a man and woman rather than between persons of the same sex—’are held by reasonable and sincere people based on decent and honorable philosophical premises’ and that such beliefs ‘are due proper respect.’”
…I don’t want the law to discriminate against those Americans who sincerely hold different views of sexual morality, sexuality, and marriage and organize their lives and their institutions accordingly. I want aggressive secular culture warriors to stand down, and if they choose not to, then I want the law to block their efforts to roll back the First Amendment.
David French is then accused of not being a Christian.
This is the part I hate. Christians accuse progressives of ill intentions. Christians themselves can also wear that label.
The culmination of the critiques came from Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who took to the pages of World Magazine to pen a piece called “The Parable of David French.”
One Christian claimed he should be subject to church discipline. Another suggested his stand was like supporting slavery. French, who signed the Nashville Statement, states:
Marriage is the “covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.”
He points out that the Nashville Statement does not realistically define the view of marriage in the public square. He signed this statement which I believe has some difficulties, but that is for another time.
Under this legal regime, civil marriage was a quasi-contractual relationship between a man and a woman, provided they were of proper age and not too closely related. It was breakable at will. In fact, civil marriage is a less binding legal arrangement than your typical commercial contract. It’s not a true contract. It’s a quasi-contract.
In civil marriage, individuals can and do break their marriage quasi-contract for reasons that range well beyond the small number of defined justifications (such as adultery or abandonment) for a “scriptural” divorce. Then, once a civil marriage ends, the law allows a person to enter into any number of additional civil marriages provided that they are serial and not simultaneous.
In other words, folks, divorce is rampant in the public square. Yet the church is not out there protesting lenient divorce laws. Is that because there are lots of divorced people in churches, and that is somehow overlooked? Some people cohabit without marriage, and laws have been passed. When was the last time someone suggested a protest regarding that law? French then goes on to make the “Ouch” point.
One of our local conservative “marriage activists” had been married three times.
There are lots of people like that hanging around the church. Many have not “repented” either. I know a number of stories like this in local conservative churches.
You keep saying the word “marriage.” I don’t think it means what it used to mean.
So the word “marriage” has been messed with, inside and outside the church. Attempts to reclaim a pan-societal view of marriage are naive at best. Statistics appear to indicate that the majority of people in the US, including 52% of evangelicals, support the Respect for Marriage Act.
I don’t think Al Mohler, Carl Truman, or Russell Moore, along with us, will be able, with fancy rhetoric, to change the minds of society in general. That ship has sailed. But faithful churches can change the mind of some of those inside the church to accept that point of view. That is where the rubber meets the road. If churches would get out of the Christian politics game and focus on the individuals in their churches, maybe the word “marriage” might mean something to those in the pews.
Years ago, I talked with a neighbor who asked me why I was pro-life. I pulled out all the stops, pamphlets, documentaries, etc., and got nowhere. Instead, I began to discuss my Christian faith when she showed interest. To my surprise, she talked to my pastor and became a Christian. She joined my church, and over time, she became pro-life herself and began volunteering to support women with complex pregnancies.
Why do we expect people to understand our views if they don’t adhere to our faith in our church community? Isn’t that in the realm of what Christians believe is “the conviction of the Holy Spirit?”
CS Lewis’ view of two types of marriages.
At this point, I find myself leaning towards French’s position. There should be recognition of two types of marriages. Many do not view marriage in the same way that the conservative church sees it. At the same time, I believe that all people, regardless of beliefs or practices, should have the protection of the law in their relationships. The granting of the legal status of committed couples outside of the conservative church is easily achieved by legalizing civil unions. But wait! Even that ship sailed because too many were sitting on their butts and protesting “homosexuality.” The gay community and their friends have changed the meaning of marriage to mean committed relationships. So, I believe the argument is done. The Christian community, with its high divorce rates, can’t even use its own church marriages as an example of covenant marriages. I can assure you that there are not many people who look at these churches and see those marriages as an example of Christ’s relationship to the Church, as some of the gospel boys like to tell us should happen. (It doesn’t happen very often at all.)
Also, there are a number of denominations and churches which ordain gay marriage. The church community is split, meaning the conservative church will need to work harder to get its message out within their local church communities.
I think Lewis had it right. (Yes, I know a letter was found to Lewis from Tolkien disagreeing with him, but it was never sent.” So just how significant was the disagreement to Tolkien?) The government and progressive churches, as well as the conservative church, grant marriages. It is confusing. So, I would suggest they come up with a better term than “covenant marriages” since I have heard some progressive churches are now using that term.
Judgment is one day coming. Do we know what that might mean for us?
I have a gay friend, and I suspect he is reading this post. We shared dinner one night, and he asked me a difficult question. “What do you think of me as a married gay man?” I asked him, “Have you read your Bible?” He said he had, and I had reason to believe him. He said he disagreed with those passages in the Bible relating to gay relationships. I told him we are given free will in this world, which extends to his view of the Bible and faith issues. I said, “You know, one day, I will have to stand before God and give an account. I am more worried about how that’s going to go for me than I am about convincing you why I’m right.” He laughed, we clinked glasses, and went on to enjoy our dinner. The conservative church has matched the progressive community in word, thought, and deed. Conservatives think the progressives are killing America and are planning to “save America.” Some progressives believe that religion is to blame for many problems and plan to do “something” about it. Maybe it’s time to redirect our efforts into reforming the church. Wait, that’s already happened, hasn’t it?