I am always amazed at people who are so vocal against “gay marriage” that they are willing to shout everyone down. They strive hard to shutdown the conversation with a “we are right, and God is on our side” placard. You will notice, as you read, that I put quotes around “gay marriage” because it seems silly to me to even have such a term. When I speak with people who believe “they” should not be allowed to marry, I always as “Who are ‘they’?” For me, there is no “they,” there is only “us.” The idea of a “gay marriage” confuses me. It’s like saying there are different kinds of marriage, like “hetero-marriage” or “white-marriage” or “black-marriage” or “Irish-marriage” or “Polish-marriage.” It is like saying there are different kinds of “right and wrong” marriages, and I am not sure I am interested in that conversation. None of those are a “kind of marriage” – they are all simply marriage. We might say, “I am going to an Irish Wedding,” but we would never think of saying, “I am going to an “Irish Marriage.” After all, marriage is marriage – right?
Now, the reality, for me, is it does not matter if you are for or against “gay marriage” on a theological level. You can be, that is your call and your understanding of theology. But given that, you have no right to tell me or my church that we must follow your theology, or your understanding of a theological issue. As long as what you are saying is that your views are yours, and in your church they would never perform a “gay marriage” I would say, “Fine.” I am actually cool with that, but you cannot demand others follow your view, or that “gay marriage” should be outlawed. Why? Because, and this is going to come as a shock to many in the church, marriage is not a church issue, it is a social governmental issue – a State issue, and to some extent a cultural issue. According to Freebase.com marriage is defined as, “a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found.” Given that, your culture can not demand my culture follow your understanding of marriage.
I know, many will claim that marriage was ordained by God – but where is that in scripture? Some claim that when God created Adam and Eve he ordained the first marriage, but come on – really? The word translated as “wife” in the Genesis account is “’ishshah” and has been translated as “adulteress, any woman, childbearing, each, each one, each woman, every, everyone, female, girls, harem, harlot, harlot’s, marriage, married, marry, none, one, widow, wife, wife and his wives, wife and the wives, wife or a woman, wife’s, wives, woman, woman of the wives, woman’s, women, women as wives” according to StudyLight.org. To me, it seems to be a rather far reach to connect the creation of humanity to a marriage. Because when we look at the history of marriage we find that many of our great theologians of the past did not see marriage as a church issue. For those who desire to claim that marriage is not a state issue but is a church issue, let me ask you something – if you are a “pastor” of a church, will you perform a wedding without a state issued license? If you did, would you call it a marriage? What if two people, one male and one female, came to your office and said they wanted to get married but that they did not want the state involved in their marriage and they refused to get a marriage license, would you perform the wedding? If marriage was not a state issue, why is it that for a wedding to be “legal” (notice that that is a state concept) the person officiating over the marriage must end with the words, “By the powers vested in me by the State of (pick your state), I now pronounce you man and wife?” The state gives you the power to perform a wedding, not the church. How about this question, Why is marriage only between one man and one women when scripture clearly states that a man can have more than one wife? If those who are claiming a “scriptural view” of marriage is between one man and one woman they are not telling the whole story. What do we do with Paul’s words, recorded in Galatians 3:28 that in all Christian relationships, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Which would include marriage, right?
But some are still thinking, “But it is a church issue. Marriage is ordained by God.” OK, let me ask some more questions – For a “marriage” to be valid, must it be done in a church, by a pastor (or priest) before God? If that is the case, then the church does not see civil marriage as a valid marriage – so they should be outlawed as well. What if your Christian tradition says that a woman cannot be a pastor or a priest, does a marriage performed by a women priest or pastor become invalid? What do we do with people who are married in traditions we disagree with? Is a Mormon marriage valid to an Evangelical who believes that a Mormon is not a Christian? Is a Hindu marriage valid? Is an Islamic marriage valid? Does a Roman Catholic Church recognize a Baptist Marriage? Does a Baptist Church recognize a Roman Catholic marriage? You see, if we want to make marriage a church issue, it opens more doors than we are willing to approach. If we demand that marriage be a faith issue, a religious issue, a theological issue the questions center on which faith and whose interpretation of scripture. If it is a “faith issue” then we need to allow different faiths and faith traditions the freedom to decide who can and cannot marry – and we must accept them all, not just the ones we agree with.
Marriage Over Time
Let’s start with the one who started the whole Protestant Reformation thing, good old Martin Luther. With Luther, the whole idea of recording marriages or setting the rules for marriage passed to the state, Because Luther viewed marriage was a “worldly thing.” In Luther’s mind, marriage was not a theological or church issue – it was something the state dealt with and controlled.
But let’s go back even further, say to the early church from about 30 to 325 CE, what did they think of marriage and the church? For the most part marriage was seen as an issue between those getting married and the family. There was no uniformed marriage ritual or ceremony required, the church was not involved. It was only after Christianity became the “official religion of the State” did they get involved in the marriage business.
The traditional marriage ceremony is filled with legal requirements of the transfer of property from one person to another. Think about that for a few moments. During the wedding ceremony we have a point where we ask, “Who give this woman to be married?” and the father says, “I do” and passes the hand of the women to the man she is marrying, because in our past women were the property of the father and for the marriage to be “legal” there needed to be a public display of the transfer of property. Historically marriage was seen as a legal contract between families – that is why there needs to be a divorce (a legal way of dealing with the separation of property). So, marriage is not a church issue, and if your church desires to not perform a wedding between two people of the same gender, so be it – that is your call. But think of it this way, it has been estimated that those who wanted to see prop 8 pass in California spent almost $9 billion – think of all the homeless, the hungry, the lost, the hurting could have been helped with that money and ask yourself, “Are we being honest to the Gospel when we do that?”
Here are the other articles in the syncroblog:
Kathy Baldock at Canyonwalker Connections – Marriage “I Do” For Who
Dan Brennan at Faith Dance – Sexual Difference, Marriage and Friendship
Steve Hayes at Khanya – Same Sex Marriage Synchroblog
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – In Defense of Marriage
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Nobody knows why or how same-sex marriage is harmful
Herman Groenewald at Along The Way – Same Sex Debate
Margaret Boelman at Minnowspeaks – What Have We Done
David Henson at unorthodoxology – ban marriage
Kathy Escobar at carnival in my head – its easy to be against equal rights when we have them
 “History of Marriage”. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.