Your Gay Marriage Is No Threat to My *Non-Gay Marriage

martha and Kathryn

The reverends Kathryn Zucker Johnston and Martha Spong on their wedding day.

If you know me, my church, or my blog well at all, you know that I support gay rights. I think God supports gay rights. I think the sacredness of marriage is about mutual love, commitment, and respect. Period.

And if you have had the opportunity (or misfortune?) to talk with me about “the issue” in more depth, you might also know that I understand other views on the subject. I know there are certain biblical passages that lead some Christians to believe that sexual relationships–and by extension, marriage–should only be between one man and one woman.

These Christians are wrong. (Which Jesus will surely confirm for me in heaven, after a few days of him explaining everything I got wrong . . . ) But I get where they are coming from. I see how an intelligent, faithful, logical person could believe that same-sex marriage is not within God’s will for Christian people. I don’t agree. But I get it.

Here’s what I don’t get: Christians who argue that making same-sex marriage legal is a threat to “traditional” marriage. Whenever I express my dismay at this line of reasoning, my husband (who, to be fair, does cook and listen to classical music and is fashion conscious and definitely hot) says, “Well, of course I will divorce you and find some guy to marry when they legalize gay marriage in Kansas.” (A.k.a. When hell freezes . . . but we’ll save my particular state’s dysfunction for another post.)

The chairman of National Organization for [straight] Marriage, John Eastman, says that if the Supreme Court decides in favor of gay marriage this week it will discourage heterosexual couples from marrying.

I do not get this. I mean, is this something people actually believe? Or is it just the best than they can do for a legal argument because the real reasons– “I think gay sex is gross” or “Everyone should be obligated to live by my own narrowly defined moral code” or “I have anger issues due to my own repressed sexuality”–wouldn’t sound good if you actually said them out loud in front of the Supreme Court?

A Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage would discourage heterosexual couples from marrying. Because, since Loving vs. Virginia (which legalized inter-racial marriage) you hardly ever see same-race couples anymore.

Ultimately, according to Eastman, the survival of the species is at stake. (We have not switched to a discussion of global warming. We’re still talking about gay people getting married.)

I think this is how the argument goes: If gay people get married, then non-gay people won’t want to get married as much. So we would end up with a lot of married gay people who, thanks to those pre-teen sex ed videos, we all know cannot make babies. And we wouldn’t have enough married heterosexuals to propagate the species. (Never mind that we are already threatened with over population. Never mind that it is possible for a man and a woman to make a baby whether they are married or not.)

Or, maybe the argument is more along the lines of: There won’t be enough opposite-sex couples to raise children in “healthy family structures.” (Never mind the 30 years of scientific research indicating no detrimental effects for children raised by two parents of the same gender.)

I honestly don’t know what the argument is. It makes no sense to me. And I am very interested to see if it makes any sense to the Supreme Court justices this week.


*Please note: By saying my marriage is “non-gay,” I do not mean to imply that there is a lack of joy and playfulness between my spouse and myself. It’s just that I’m female and he is male and I really don’t like the term “straight” as it implies that others are “crooked.” And, let’s face it, “heterosexual” is pretty obnoxious when used repeatedly in a blog post.

**Also, I commend to you the blog of my cyber-friend, Martha Spong (pictured above).

16 thoughts on “Your Gay Marriage Is No Threat to My *Non-Gay Marriage

  1. While I cannot agree with you on the morality of homosexual relationships, I do agree that the existence of a sanctioned “legal” homosexual marriage code within the secular law does not present a threat to heterosexual marriage. We do a pretty good job of threatening hetero marriage ourselves without outside help.

    When it comes to the secular law, the benefits that go along with marriage under the secular law, etc., I would say let the secular courts and legislators do what they must to make sure the people receive same treatment under the law. This is not a Christian nation… we cannot expect it to run according to any religious moral code.

    My only concern (and this is simply a concern, not founded on anything particular) is that the legalization of same-sex marriage within the larger sphere of the country may have implications on congregations exercising their own religious policies. Whether or not you agree with them, the same general principle holds true under our secular law code… the right to follow a religious code as you please. In our law-suit happy culture, my biggest concern is that if a congregation has a same-sex couple among them but does not give them the “rights and benefits” of being married (whatever they may be) or refuses to perform the ceremony because of their religious convictions, I foresee discrimination lawsuits being brought up because some church somewhere discriminates against the legal definition of marriage.

    THAT is my biggest concern… not the destruction of the institution of marriage or any sense of morality like that, but the intrusion into the convictions of a body of believers of the “outside world”. Whether or not you agree with those convictions is another story, but I believe they should be allowed to exercise those convictions without being compelled by the secular law to violate them. If same-sex marriage is instituted in our country as the norm, I would hope it is done in such a way as to not allow this intrusion.

    • Robert, I’ve heard the concern about lawsuits before. Here is my question–a sincere question that I haven’t looked into yet: Have there been any successful law suits against pastors who refuse to officiate an inter-racial or inter-faith wedding because of their religious convictions? I definitely think that religious communities should have the right to not participate in practices that go against their faith convictions (we are Anabaptist, right?).

      • A fair question, Joanna. Hence my statement of it being a concern, “not founded on anything particular”. I don’t know of any such suits. This does not mean that they didn’t happen (or that they DID happen), just that I don’t know.

        There have been lawsuits and other such things that have occurred within the past year where Christians, acting out of personal conviction, have opted to not provide a service to a same-sex couple. Florists and photographers in those cases. I don’t know off the top of my head how successful those suits were but I imagine that even defending against the suits would be an expensive endeavor for a small business and may even drive them out of business. Does this translate into lawsuits against churches? That I don’t know and cannot predict hence why it is a “concern” and not something that would bring me to stand against such legalization. But it is one that I believe deserves consideration in the conversation, both within the Christian community as well as within the larger national conversation. Is religious conviction relegated only to the actions and doctrines of a “recognized” religious institution, or is religious conviction something that stands outside of “institutionalized” religion?

      • To be perfectly honest, I see the secular adoption and definition of marriage as a relic of Christendom. The state essentially sanctioned and adopted the church institution of marriage as part of the state legal code and this dates probably even back to our ancestors in Europe during the time when there was no separation of church and state.

        And now that Christendom is on the decline (if not gone all together), the state is continuing to define and shape marriage. Perhaps it’s time for the church, if they want to keep a particular distinctive witness, to no longer participate in state-sanctioned unions. If a couple want to be married in the eyes of the state, there is no need for a religious blessing on that union… in fact, a religious blessing on the union would, itself, be a violation of that separation of church and state, wouldn’t it? That would then allow church organizations and religious communities to define their own religious code without needing to have state support or sanctioning of it. People could then get married “officially” according to the state and then, if they want to have the religious ceremony, they can do that as well.

        *shrug* i don’t know if that’s a better or worse solution but it does seem to solve the whole “should it be legal” question with a “Yes, it should be legal” without conflating it with religious doctrinal teachings.

      • Robert, I think that this is the direction we should go. Separate the religious and legal aspects of marriage that have been conflated. It is very odd for me, as a Mennonite pastor, to do anything “by the power vested in me by the state of Kansas.” Very odd indeed.

    • Ontario has legalized same-sex marriage. Individual congregations and denominations still have the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples, just as Catholic priests will not marry non-Catholics, or Muslim clerics will not marry Christian couples. Speaking as a lesbian woman (with a gay son who will be married in church next month after having the banns read), I can honestly say that if I chose to marry another woman, I would not choose to marry in a church that didn’t want to marry same-sex couples. I’d be smart enough to either choose another church, or go to city hall. So I do really doubt that there will be a problem in that regard.

      I do think most gay and lesbian Christians will respect the right of non-inclusive communities to not marry them, and I don’t understand why a non-Christian couple would want to be married in a church anyhow. All we’re asking in return is that those of us who are both non-hetero and Christian (and there are many of us) have the same right to be married in an accepting church as our hetero sister and brothers.

  2. I like what you say, Ruth. As a hetero Christian, homosexual acceptance and inclusion is one of my basic requirements for where I will place my church membership. I am very uncomfortable offering only three choices to my brothers and sisters in Christ who are gay and lesbian: You may live a life that is loveless, promiscuous or a lie. These do not feel like Christian choices to me. I do not feel like these choices are Democratic either.

    Robert brings up points at the juncture of Democracy and Capitalism (lest we forget they are not the same). That’s a whole nother ball of wax. The law says Woolworths lunch counter now must serve black people; will we similarly legislate that florists and photographers must serve gay couples? It seems to me that should be the legal requirement. That seems like an area where market forces on their own will manage things. If I were a gay couple, I wouldn’t want a hateful person on the other side of the camera recording my big day. In the late 1960s, if I were black I would have thought twice before ordering anything at a Woolworth’s lunch counter that I couldn’t see prepared before my own eyes. Laws cannot change the human heart. That said, laws must be set fairly and let the people work out the kinks and advance whatever social change that is going to happen.

    • Dabra- I wonder where in Scripture you find any guarantee that we will live a life with a happy sexually-satisfying relationship. What about all those folks who remain single throughout their lives? Is there a place where the Bible says that they will be granted a spouse? What about when Paul repeatedly asks for God to remove the “thorn in his side” whatever that situation is, and he is told that “my grace is sufficient for you”. Paul remains in a situation that was not of his choosing. Is it different for homosexuals? If Scripture says that it is sinful (as most traditional readings have been for thousands of years) cannot God’s grace be sufficient for those not attracted to the opposite sex to remain single? I myself was well into my thirties and had never been in a serious relationship. I wanted to be married but God had not put that in my life up to that point. Should I have entered into a sinful sexual relationship because marriage was not in my life at that time? Jesus said the way was difficult and the path narrow and few will find it. There is no guarantee that we get the life of our choosing, especially when it is counter to God’s plan as laid out in His Word (in my interpretation of it).

      • Linda, I appreciate that you end on the word “in my interpretation of it.” I think we need to remain humble and keep our hearts open and understand that “interpretation” is always at play. Obviously, you and I interpret the Bible differently.

        There are a lot of people who see in Paul’s words a prescription for suffering in this lifetime, and they take great comfort in those words — to embrace suffering as evidence of God’s favor and to trust that redemption in Jesus will be worth the temporal discomfort of now. I’m studying 1 & 2 Thessalonians now, for example, and I see how he encourages that community to embrace its suffering. They are suffering because they are under immense peer pressure to return to cult practices, Roman emperor worship, and the like — to rejoin the “in crowd” of the first century Mediterranean. This would mean separating from the one true God and God’s anointed one, Jesus. In other words, breaking the biggest commandment (Both by Hebrew Bible and Jesus standards). That is upper-case S type Sin.

        Does the prescription to suffer apply to homosexuality? I’m not in the camp that believes so. I don’t call myself a theologian; I’m just a student doing my best to walk the walk. Joanna elsewhere has a great post on the scriptural interpretation of “homosexuality.” She goes back to the original Greek word, which is more closely translated “pederasty,” for example. It’s a very thoughtful essay. I think one of the links above in the first paragraph will take you there.

        In terms of the way being narrow, I think what is meant by that is much bigger than this issue. The narrow way, as I interpret it, is a radical counter-culturalism that uplifts the downtrodden and affirms Love. Love with a capital L — Agape — that is so much grander and more important than erotic love (homosexual or heterosexual) or any other form of love. The narrow Way is the way found in Matthew 25:31-46, serving Jesus by serving the least of these. The narrow way is in the beatitudes. The narrow way includes praying for those who persecute you, turning the other cheek, offering radical hospitality to strangers, giving up one’s worldly goods to follow. We fail at these BIG things. In concentrating on them we will find our way to the narrow path. Once we are on the narrow path, then little things (like whether someone should wait to marry in their thirties or later — or settled for a lesser love in their twenties) will sort themselves out.

        With regard to our gay brothers and sisters in Christ, I am erring to love them as they are, as the creator created them. I see them among the “least of these” of our society. I don’t judge them as Hell-bound, lest God judge me in kind. My gay brother-in-law, who is very dimensional to me, is not an abomination, but a kind and thoughtful person who desires committed love. In my prayers, I affirm that for him and leave it in God’s hands. In the meantime, if his suffering can be made meaningful, fine, but is that God’s plan as laid out in his mysterious Word? Not in my interpretation of it.

  3. I tend to think that same-sex marriage, if equalized, would make more heterosexuals want to get married. Oh! The joy of seeing a loving couple so devoted, and wanting to have God officialize it on earth! I don’t know what more to say, but I will say that we all, as the human creations of a loving God, need to reach an understanding, an enlightenment, and soon!

  4. I didn’t say your brother-in law is either hell bound nor an abomination but we are all born with a natural inclination to sin in some way or another. I have read many explanations of scripture that people have used to justify homosexuality as anything but what I feel the Bible clearly identifies as sin. God can deliver us all from our own sinful natures regardless of what that sin may be. He also calls us to a holy fellowship which means we need to confess our sinful inclinations and turn away from them. And I agree on your discussion of the narrow way and the beatitudes. However, we cannot expect the fellowship of believers who follow Scripture in the traditional interpretation to simply say “okay we disagree on this issue” but go ahead and continue in your sin. I cannot raise my children in a congregation that accepts sin. What would that make of me other than a hypocrit? I can understand that we have different interpretations of scripture, but I cannot understand why those who disagree with MCUSA’s statement of faith and understanding of scripture want to force those of us who do accept it as correct to change our stance. Doesn’t the Anabaptist (and all Protestant denominations for that matter) exist because of differences of interpretation? Shouldn’t those who disagree with us form a fellowship of like-minded belivers? Wouldn’t that be a better solution than to cause others to stumble? What sin that you see clearly identified in Scripture are you willing to accept in your fellowship of believers you are accountable to? Hate, lying, adultery (however you define it)? Are you willing to allow sin in your congregation because somebody else decides that they don’t think it is really a sin? The Bible also calls us to be accountable to one another in love and to rebuke sin in all it’s forms, not just those that we decide that we disagree upon.

    • Linda, you say: “I can understand that we have different interpretations of scripture, but I cannot understand why those who disagree with MCUSA’s statement of faith and understanding of scripture want to force those of us who do accept it as correct to change our stance.”

      Those of us who interpret homosexuality differently have no desire to make you conform to our beliefs. We want a polity that is more in keeping with the traditional GC polity that allows us to discern and YOU to discern as you may as well.

      Here are some rhetorical questions for you to mull over. I really don’t expect an answer here. Are you as strict on divorce as the Mennonite Confession of Faith? It does, after all, specify one man one woman FOR LIFE. Does your congregation rebuke divorcees, exclude them? How about maintaining closed confession? Would you have a congregation in disagreement with that teaching position to leave on those grounds? Pretty soon you’ll be down to a narrow denomination, no doubt about it. Whether it is truly the narrow Way is for God to decide, I suppose.

      The Confession of Faith is a living document, and a GUIDELINE. Written in the early 1990s, it is in need of revisiting and respectful conversation.

      I’m sad you feel that those who disagree with you on this issue need to leave the faith. We merely wish to live and let live. We are here in the Mennonite faith for the peace witness, which is core and rare, and crucial to our understanding of Christianity. We are also here for the believers’ baptism and the separation of church and state. We are here to try to advance the reign of God, to the best of our abilities, though we are not perfect.

      Now, as to sin, you say: “I cannot raise my children in a congregation that accepts sin. What would that make of me other than a hypocrite?” My answer: it makes you human. Linda, we are ALL sinners. Surely you are not saying you and you’re congregation are sinless? Or perhaps every Sunday at your church is a big happy rebukathon? No need to answer that. Again, it’s rhetorical. And it comes from a tired place.

      Look, you and I disagree. I am willing to let the conversation continue in appropriate and productive venues. This summer at assembly, perhaps, and in other places where human beings can sit for some time, see one another face to face, appreciate our dimensionality and humanity, and really talk. Not pontificate in the comments section of someone’s blog. You will not change my mind here. I will not change yours.

      I grow weary.

  5. Did you read what I said. Yes, we are all sinners. The difference as I see it, is that I try to confess my sin and turn away from it. Not to find a way to make scripture not really mean what it (to me and many others traditionally have seen it) says. So in no way was I trying to suggest that I nor anybody else are sinless. What I’m saying is that what sin that you identify as sin are you willing to accept in your fellowship? It is no different, better or worse than that of homosexual relationships. It is sin that must be addressed as such. All of the other issues that you have asked about concerning the statement of faith are just as you have described them, guidelines, not sins. Concerning divorce and remarriage, I believe Jesus allowed for it in the case of unfaithfulness. As for the traditional GC stance, as I currently attend a formerly GC congregation, I can tell you as someone raised in a MC conference, I have been very uncomfortable with many of the views of not only congregational members but even our pastoral leadership. There was a reason why the two conferences existed separately in the first place. There is a huge gap between perspectives and I really don’t see how MCUSA can survive the current crisis. Either the traditionalists will leave or the other way around. So I make you weary. My apologies.

    • Again, I refer you to Joanna’s posts on scriptural interpretation. You and I simply see things differently. George LaKoff, in his book Moral Politics, ascribes these kinds of differences to psychological hard wiring.

      Upshot: I can live with you and your congregation in my denomination. While I see LGBT exclusionists as operating contrary to Christ’s mandates (again, see Joanna’s posts), I am willing to accept you, release any anger I may have, and remain in conversation or agree to avoid it as long as we are respectful. You apparently cannot extend the same grace my direction. You clearly believe I have missed the narrow way and you must rebuke me, try to change me and you anticipate the denomination expelling me and the other inclusionists if we do not change our ways.

      Grace to you, sister. I respectfully decline to participate in further word exchange on this blog. This has become pontification on both sides, not discussion. You are welcome to take the last word.

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