But it seems that I must now say something. I have no interest in making one side or the other happy. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a people pleaser. Neither am I interested in identifying with either side, both of which have all too often behaved quite badly. The purpose of this post is to express my thoughts on this matter as they are today. Some may be interested to know what I think. Most will not, and that is fine by me.
First is the matter of the Supreme Court-- the topic of this post. There is a difference between the way the state views marriage from the church. According to the state, marriage is a right not to be denied, which is now extended across the U.S. to gay and lesbian couples. The church has never viewed marriage as a right, and those Christians who believe it should be so understood by the church need an introductory course in the theology of marriage. For Christianity marriage is a gift from God given to two people. No pastor is required to officiate at any particular marriage ceremony. I have the authority, which I have exercised more than a few times over the years, not to officiate at a wedding. I do not even have to have a reason why I might refuse to perform a particular marriage (though I always have). The point is that Christian marriage is not a right owed; it is a gift received. So, the question of gay marriage for the church is not about whether gay couples have a right to be married by the church, but whether they should be included in receiving the gift of marriage by the church. This means two things-- one for progressives and one for conservatives.
For progressives-- if you are going to argue that the church has to perform same sex marriage because it is a right, I will tell you now, that is a non-starter. You need to argue better if you hope for what you want to happen. It may have convinced five of the nine justices of the Supreme Court, but as a church, we have different concerns. As my Bishop, John Hopkins has stated,
I celebrate the fact that we live in a country that seeks to treat everyone equally and does not restrict religious freedom. However, the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court does not determine our theological position.Nor should it. And neither should we the church reformulate theological and moral convictions to get with the program of modern Western Liberalism. If gay marriage in the church is a good thing, it must be a good thing theologically and morally from a Christian point of view. The church, the foretaste of God's kingdom, will last forever. All nation states, including the empire that is America, will one day pass away.
For conservatives-- perhaps it is time for you to finally come to grips with the fact that America has never been a Christian nation and that your continued insistence on telling that story is much more a promotion of mythology than of history. Yes, it is true that the United States was founded in the context of Christendom, where the culture of a nation vaguely reflected Christianity and vestiges of Christian values, but the idea that the United States is a decisively Christian nation, not only undermines the church as the only true Christian nation in human history, but it is an outright distortion of the history of the United States. Those who have been stating since yesterday that we are now a post-Christian nation because gay marriage is legal are simply wrong. The United States can't be a post-Christian nation because it was never Christian in the first place. One can make the argument, however, that America is a post-Christendom nation, but I think that has been in the works for a long time. I'm in agreement with Roger Olson when he states,
American conservative (traditional) Christianity is at a crossroads; this is a crisis. It wouldn't be if they had before disentangled their theology of marriage (including divorce) from government decisions, if they had recognized that America is NOT a "Christian nation" and that true Christianity is always, everywhere, a counter cultural remnant, a group of "resident aliens," a colony of God's people NOT connected to any state or government.It was not the task of the Supreme Court to reinforce Christian values or undermine them. It was their task to interpret how the state understands marriage, nothing more and nothing less. Christian marriage was not the issue. Only the church can decide that.
Conservative Christians need to hear the words of Daniel Kirk, who does not support gay marriage in the church:
The position I came to in terms of our secular society is this:
- Christians are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.
- We are called to do unto others as we would have done to us.
In other words, it is sometimes my Christian duty to ensure that my neighbor has the right to act in ways that are contrary to my Christian belief.
- This means advocating for our neighbors to have the same rights and freedoms that we would not want taken away from us.
In this case, the reasons people have for maintaining a traditional view of marriage are religious. We are a nation of religious freedom. We cannot take away from others what gives life to ourselves.My musings on these matters will continue in the next post.