Unless you’ve been under a rock I’m sure you’ve heard the news about today’s landmark Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. You should read both the opinion of the Court and the dissent. There are serious and thought provoking words from both sides. There are a lot of emotions rolling around about this decision today but, in my opinion, no matter what side you are on, you have to be proud of the way the Justices wrestled with this very difficult and fraught issue. Decisions like this are what the Court was made for, no matter how many people claim this is “legislating from the bench.” Today is a day to be proud to be an American, regardless of your personal feelings about the decision.
I haven’t totally worked out my personal feelings about this decision. There are people in my life who I love dearly and who truly and genuinely love God and people who wholeheartedly believe gay marriage to be wrong and this decision a further step in the destruction of our country. There are other people in my life who I love dearly and who truly and genuinely love God and people who celebrate this day as a day of freedom and equality that they believe is also being celebrated in heaven. I feel somewhat torn in the middle.
Above all, I believe that God is love. I believe that God created us as relational beings and that that is part of what motivates us to seek lifelong bonds with other people. It is true, as Justice Kennedy said in the majority opinion, that “marriage has transformed strangers into relatives, binding families and societies together.” This is true, marriage does that. But I don’t think marriage is the only thing that binds families and societies together, or even that it is the best thing to do that. I think the church, headed and held together by God, is the ultimate way to transform strangers into relatives. I think the church, as God intended it, was meant to be the center of relationships that turned into families. I think this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 22:30 when He said, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” Not that marriage is unimportant but that we are all family and that our unity will be so complete that we won’t have need or desire for more intimate relationships.
Trouble is, we have no place to go to experience this kind of unity here on earth. Even our churches have moved away from what God designed them to be. Our churches aren’t families, where we can be real and honest and open with each other. They have become just another meeting on our calendars, another thing to check off our to do list. We go, we sit down (facing the front, not even looking at each other), we listen to what someone else has to say (never sharing our own thoughts/feelings/struggles/joys/questions) and then we go home. This seems so far from the description of Acts 2, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” We are all falling so, so short of this.
So on to the marriage issue. Truth is, all marriage falls short of what God intended it to be. Paul talks about marriage as a picture of Christ and the church but what an imperfect picture it is! How can we even talk about a biblical definition of marriage when the Bible is full of terrible, sinful examples of marriage. People marry for political reasons, for economic reasons, for physical reasons. In the not too distant past (and still in some places) it was not uncommon for parents to choose their child’s spouse, for men to have more than one wife, for very young girls to be given as brides to much older men. Marriage between first cousins was legal in all states prior to the Civil War and it is still legal in half the states while interracial marriage wasn’t legal in the United States until 1967! As far as legalities go, the definition of marriage is not a static thing.
I guess, for me, that’s the crux of the whole issue. Why do we allow the state to even make these decisions? One of the plaintiffs in this most recent case was basically suing for the right to have his name on his husband’s death certificate. He had lived with and loved this man for 20+ years and all he wanted was his name on a piece of paper acknowledging that. Who does that hurt? No one. What does that take away from me? Nothing.
I feel so twisted up about all of this and I’m guessing it’s something I’ll be wrestling with for a long time. But, honestly, today feels like a good thing. So for now I think I’ll celebrate.