When you value something and think it might be lost, silence is not usually the best option. However, speaking up on hot topics runs the risk of alienating rather than winning over. Tone matters if you want to talk to people who may not agree with you.
If you care about the uniqueness of marriage as I do, but also wrestle with the complexity of how it affects real people, you’ll appreciate the tone of this video. You may not agree with everything here, but the approach respects a breadth of opinions even as it speaks from a place of clear conviction. The message defines itself by being for rather than against. That’s huge.
The way we approach a message is also a message. When faith influences a position, one’s point cannot be lobbed like a grenade without saying something hateful about that faith. Christianity is not a cold set of do’s and don’ts; it’s truth wrapped in a person. If you’re a Christian, you must learn to speak to people with grace even as you speak of truth with clarity.
The following saying has been around for thousands of years and is profound in its simplicity. Only Jesus makes it proactive and not just reactive: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12).
What questions does this raise for you?
Cliff Foreman says
Thanks, TIm. This video does have a winsome tone. But the problem with this line of argument is, of course, the one concession, “Not every married couple has children.” That problem came up recently in the Supreme Court. When two older people marry it has nothing to do with having children.
It’s very hard to make a secular argument against gay marriage in this current situation, since people have accepted that homosexual orientation is congenital and our society is founded on the principle of equal rights for all. That’s why even political conservatives are starting to support gay marriage.
I have begun to say that gay marriage is an example of a misapplication of the principle of equality. In attempting to establish an egalitarian society, creation should trump reason. The right to have an abortion is another example of this: men and women should be treated equally, but creation has given women the responsibility to care for children in the womb. It’s not reasonable that only women should get pregnant, but that is a given of creation.
An argument against gay marriage has to start by assuming the authority of the ancient and nearly universal institution of marriage and then question the right of human beings to alter that institution abitrarily along a peculiar line because of the concerns of our particular cultural moment. We assume that we can take an institution based on heterosexual life-long commitment and simply alter the heterosexual aspect of it. Why just that particular part of the definition? I guess we’ve already altered the life-long part.
The argument about children is part of our understanding of the purpose of marriage, but it can’t be our only argument. We need to argue for the importance of heterosexual love as well. It’s hard to make that argument without recourse to faith. People in our culture seem to think that sexual desire, defined as “love,” is its own justification.
Things certainly have shifted quickly. Watch the last scene of “La Dolce Vita.” Even Fellini wants us to see the prevalance of homosexuality in Rome as a sign of the decay of civilization.
Joani Jack says
Tim, you have a knack for posts that I simply can’t resist… even in the midst of trying to do my “real job!” My apologies to the children who need my care today, while I’m theorizing about marriage instead…
Like Cliff, I do really like the tone of this. (I also love the word “Mum”) But I would agree that it’s hard to make these arguments from a secular standpoint. While children are an important by-product of marriage, our society is filled with exceptions. Childless marriages; single, unmarried and childless people who are productive and fulfilled; children born to couples that are unmarried but given full rights and protections once they become a “Mom and Dad”; and what I struggle with on a daily basis — UNFIT PARENTS. Our newborn nursery is filled with drug-addicted babies, and unfortunately, plenty of these are heterosexual marriage products. I have to be honest when I tell you that as a pediatrician, were I simply viewing things from a secular standpoint, I would be far more comfortable sending these babies home with two loving men or two loving women than a heterosexual couple with full rights who are doing a lousy job (right from the start) of parenting.
So… for me, the secular argument doesn’t pass muster, and is a bit dangerous if you desire to protect marriage from a faith-based standpoint. There are too many exceptions on both sides, and the medical literature is very difficult to interpret — because no one on either side ever conducts the studies without knowing in advance what they want to prove. The hard truth (in my analysis) is that we don’t have a full understanding of the impact.
That brings me back to square one, which is based on my beliefs as a follower of Christ. I have a zillion reasons why I want holy matrimony to be sustained and protected. In a faith setting, I believe that the simple fact that a man and woman are required to make a baby is a large statement by our Creator… a “biological mandate”, if you will.
That “mandate” is (in my opinion) is extemely helpful as we try to determine God’s design and is something I’ve been pondering quite a bit lately. As well as the fact that (not to be crude) men and women… well… “fit together” in a manner that two women or two men do not. I’m just being a practical doctor here, and don’t mean to offend. Those two things remind me of Paul’s words, “He has made the truth plain to them…”
In terms of legal marriage for everyone, though (Christian and non-Christian)… my mind continues to struggle with trying to make a civil marriage into a sacrament for those who don’t share our faith. I’m trying to understand if there is biblical support for a political agenda that places our faith-based requirements on those outside our faith… I just started looking so I don’t have conclusions yet. But, something about it feels very confusing to me. As though I’m trying to apply principles from two different systems and make them fit. Like combining pounds and ounces with grams and kilograms.
Any time I begin to feel that tight, constricting feeling that we are losing control… I try to remember the context of the Scriptures. Christians weren’t in control of ANYTHING… and daily had to choose how long they would remain underground, before speaking their convictions with the likely result of death. And yet, the gospel spread to the “ends of the earth.”
Now that we are the majority, then our struggles are different. Sometimes, they are harder. We can enforce our way on others, and protect our institutions… and perhaps we should. But, we can also lose our mission in the process. It comes back to the somewhat cheesy saying of “What would Jesus do?”
I wish I could answer that definitively. I have no doubt He would love to hang out at wedding ceremonies. But I also think He would likely hang out in a gay bar, too. Perhaps the struggle and tension of these kinds of “culture wars” are precisely what He intends, to challenge us to understand our calling both inside the church walls, as well as out in the world as the salt and light He intends.
Good stuff, Tim. Thanks. Sorry for the length — edit as you choose.
Cliff Foreman says
In light of Joani’s post, here’s one more important idea. The Puritans always held that marriage was a civil institution. In the Bible, God institutes it in the garden. It’s intended for the whole human race. So it’s not a sacrament or command to the people of God. On that basis, we aren’t legislating our own religion so much as a creation structure. Even the Greeks and Romans, who practiced homosexual sex and bonding, held to the institution of heterosexual marriage. Of course, we believe it is a creation structure because we believe the Bible teaches that, and our culture has lost any sense of obedience even to the structures of human nature. So we are left with arguing for what should be a common understanding of human nature based on the statements of the Bible about that nature. Just a couple of decades ago most people in our culture would have shared our assumptions, but I remember saying back in the early nineties that I thought we had already lost this argument.
Tim Filston says
Thank you for these contributions. I hope others will become freer to weigh in down the road, especially those who disagree. Comments are a big part of what makes a blog like this work. In the private feedback I have received, I hear the video has offended. I expected as much, but part of the purpose here is to be able to speak more openly about things which need to be discussed between people who disagree. My main point is an ideal of what it can look like to do that with a certain tone. I also see in this video the respectful suggestion that our egalitarian culture, leveling all differences, is not neutral, and it is not without faith-based commitments.