She asked me, “Is a Rolex really that good?”
“Good for what?” I kidded.
She stuck out her tongue, having grown used to smart-aleck responses from me. But she got the point: a watch is good only when matched up with its purpose. If you need to drive a nail, it is decidedly not good.
What makes marriage good? The answer depends on its purpose.
As the federal court considers whether to recognize same-sex unions as marriages, it must presume upon a definition of marriage. A popular sentiment towards change says: “We should not judge someone because of who they love,” meaning feelings should define marriage apart from gender.
For most of human history, marriage has had a larger role than validating feelings. Governments have not regulated marriage for their interest in adult romance. A government’s role in marriage is to champion the common good by stabilizing unions which produce children. Marriage has been structured around an ideal which yields the most benefit to children: the commitment and role of the two people involved in bringing a child into this world.
At the very least, we have a conflict of values and a need for open discussion about about the purpose of marriage which does not appear to be part of settling the question.
Consider The Four Most Avoided Questions in this debate:
1. Is three still a crowd? If we redefine marriage to validate the romantic feelings of two adults, regardless of gender, then why not three? An article in The Atlantic, documents more than half a million polyamorous relationships in the U.S.
2. What’s next? If private feelings define marriage, on what basis can we continue to structure marriage as monogamous or “till death do we part?”
3. The end of taboo? If marriage is defined apart from the essential building-blocks of family (man, woman, child) on what basis may we deny same-sex siblings the right to marry?
4. Destructive? If you wanted to dismantle marriage, what would be the first step?
A Question of Fairness?
Aren’t same-sex couples denied benefits of marriage, like social security, healthcare, etc.? These issues do not require marriage to be resolved. And as Ryan Anderson (Heritage Foundation) points out, two sisters living in the same household as single women for most of their lives might also be afforded these rights.
Same-sex marriage advocates discount the link between marriage and children. They ask, “Should couples beyond child-bearing years be denied marriage? Even in such circumstances, marriage holds up the ideals that an older man direct his passions where he will not conceive fatherless children hither and yon.
What tips do you have for people of faith to be both gracious in disagreement and truthful according to conviction?
Phil Meadows says
Excellent questions and arguments, Tim. God bless you and your family!
Joani Jack says
Tim, I love reading your words, and I so love your heart for the Lord. And… as often occurs… I have a somewhat different perspective!
Personal relationships as well as scientific study would disagree with your introductory premise that same-sex marriage is based on “just a feeling”. That’s a really hurtful thing to say, actually, to my friends in 20-year relationships who love their partner, love Jesus, love God’s word, and make the same decisions about lifelong commitment as the rest of us.
I would answer your tip as to how Christians can be gracious this way: develop a personal relationship with several LGBT people. Hear their story. Listen to the differences between gay Christians who choose abstinence and those who choose relationships. Listen to their struggles, their hurt, their courage, their faith.
When we do that, we still have much conflict. We frequently disagree. But very, very few of us would characterize those relationships as “just a feeling”.
Love you, Tim. Thomasville is far more golden with you in it!
Tim Filston says
You are implying that I’m ignorant, which I don’t take as a personal dig, but as a way to dismiss my points without really dealing with them. You’re saying that if I understood the science and had more experience with LGBT people, then I’d certainly see it differently. I think we simply disagree because we rank certain values in a different order.
I’m concerned that few people speaking to this issue of marriage seem interested in what marriage is for. Nor do I hear voices advocating what’s in the best interest of children when it comes to incentives for and accountability of their birth parents. Nevertheless, if there is a clear, common-good purpose for changing the definition of marriage, then let’s hear it.
Cliff Foreman says
I think the purpose argument is better than the “what’s next” argument (which is a slippery slope fallacy). Biblically, Jesus cites the creation story. God creates marriage for companionship and procreation. Part of God’s intention in creating humans male and female is that we learn to respect the difference between the two sexes, that we learn to love someone who is like us yet different. When Jesus talks about the alternative to marrying, he immediately discusses celibacy.
It’s important to listen to people’s problems, but if we want to help those people, we need to turn to the teachings of Christ rather than to solutions manufactured by human reasoning or even scientific study. This is especially true with fellow Christians. When fellow Christians come to believe that turning away from the teachings of scripture will solve their problems, a loving response is to counsel otherwise. And I am convince that scripture clearly teaches that homosexual sexual activity is sinful and destructive, that it’s not what God intended for us. The alternative exegeses propounded by gay apologists are misreadings.