Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Same-Gender Marriage

The recent ruling by the California Supreme Court striking down a state law that was approved by the voters of California a few years ago which defined marriage as between one man and one woman will no doubt cause a great deal of controversy. I am fully aware that there are good, moral people on both sides of this issue. I am also aware that our congregation is not of one mind on this issue. And so I address the matter with some fear and trepidation.

On the one hand, it seems that the dictates of fairness and human compassion would lead one to celebrate the court’s decision. After all, aren’t all people “created equal” and all entitled to “equal rights?” Isn’t the attempt to exclude homosexual people from marrying each other just another form of discrimination? Aren’t we going through some of the same moral enlightenment that we did in the 1960's when the Civil Rights movement took the country by storm?

These are persuasive arguments.

Fairness and compassion have replaced truth and wisdom as the guiding principles of modern moral thought. The four justices of the California Supreme Court who voted to overturn Proposition 22 acted out of an extreme sense of fairness and compassion. But I honestly wonder how wise it is and what relationship it has with truth.

My concern is with the redefinition of “marriage.” In all of history, no system of philosophy and no major religion has ever defined marriage as anything other than a union of male and female. Granted, in ancient times, polygamy was permitted and encouraged. But never were persons of the same gender united in a relationship termed “marriage.” And yet, in a very short period of time (can you imagine anything like this happening 30 years ago?), four state supreme justices and millions of their supporters have succeeded in changing something that has stood for millennia. I submit that no one can know the upheaval that this will cause in our society if it is not over-turned.

The United Methodist Church, through the General Conference, recently reaffirmed its stand against same-gender marriage, affirming that marriage is to be defined as between one man and one woman. It further reaffirmed the prohibition of United Methodist ministers conducting same-gender weddings, or allowing same-gender weddings in United Methodist churches. There were efforts to change that stance, but they failed. The Judeo-Christian Scriptures consistently affirm marriage to be between male and female persons. If the decision of the court is allowed to stand (if a constitutional amendment either at the state level or the federal level defining marriage as between a male and a female is not passed), it will not be long until those who hold to traditional, biblical values and who refuse to conduct same-gender wedding ceremonies, and churches that refuse to allow such weddings to be held in their buildings will be labeled “heteosexists” and will most likely convicted of “hate speech” for voicing traditional values.

To assume that this is simply a matter of fairness and compassion is naive. I call the congregation of Chino UMC to pray, seriously pray about this. Consider what upheaval this decision may cause society and the church. Pray for those wounded by years of perceived unfairness who feel vindicated by this decision. And pray for those who are wounded by the decision itself. Let us search the heart of God for wisdom and truth.

No comments: