i’m a [semi] regular reader of dan kimball’s blog and he has recently begun a good (and foreseeably much-needed) conversation concerning gay marriage and divorce. dan lives and pastors in santa cruz, california, where gay marriage was recently legalized. since that time, many gay couples have taken the trip down the proverbial aisle. in a post-worship gathering open forum, someone submitted the following question:
If a homosexual couple gets married legally – and then sometimes afterwards this couple studies Scripture and determines that the practice of homosexuality would be considered sin – would the church endorse and recommend that they get divorced, if the same church holds that a couple shouldn’t get divorced unless there was marital unfaithfulness etc. and in this case, they were faithful to each other in their gay marriage.
much like dan, this is a question that i haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about. i have, though, been confronted with a similar question (in a hypothetical classroom setting). in missions, the question of divorce is prevalent because of polygamous tribal groups. throughout the history of missions, missionaries have come in contact with tribes of people in which the men have multiple wives. christianity, as we know, teaches that god desires marriage between one man and one woman. at the same time, as the aforementioned question points out, scripture also teaches that god doesn’t desire divorce.
in many of these tribal groups, divorced women are forced to turn to prostitution because they are cut off financially from the husband and because of the shame of divorce. so, missionaries have to deal with the spiritual and pragmatic consequences of teaching that men should only have one wife.
so, how do we, as followers of christ, respond to this issue? in terms of polygamous tribal marriages, there have been several ways of offering a response, but for the sake of time (and your attention span, i’m sure…) i won’t go into that. for gay marriages, though, i’m struggling not to offer an off-the-cuff, simplistic response. i want to put more thought into this, but let me throw out some food for thought.
my thinking about homosexuality has shifted over the past several years, thanks, in large part, to a seminar with tony campolo. tony talked about his thoughts on gay marriage and in his latest book, red letter christians: a citizen’s guide to faith and politics, he reiterates his points:
“Allow me to suggest a way out of this conflict and the difficult questions being raised these days about whether our country should approve of homosexual marriages. I propose that the government should get out of the business of marrying people and, instead, only give legal status to civil unions. The government should do this for both gay couples and straight couples, and leave marriage in the hands of the Church and other religious entities. That’s the way it works in Holland: If a couple wants to be united in the eyes of the law, whether gay or straight, they go down to city hall and legally register, securing all the rights and privileges a couple has under Dutch law. Then, if the couple wants their relationship blessed – to be married – they go to a church, synagogue or other house of worship.
“Marriage should be viewed as an institution ordained by God and should be out of the control of the state. Of course, homosexual couples could go to churches that welcome and affirm gay marriage and get their unions blessed there, but isn’t that the way it should be in a nation that guarantees people the right to promotion religion according to their personal convictions?”
in essence, he thinks that marriage is about a covenant with god, so what does that have to do with the government? if the government wants to do civil unions, so be it—which could be for straight or gay couples—but a government-sanctioned union has nothing to do with a sacred covenant between a couple and god. if you want to be married, go to your church, synagogue or other house of worship and talk to someone about what it means to be married and how you can go about that.
i think tony’s point is a very valid (and he makes some other very valid points about homosexuality in general) and tend to agree. to bring this back around to the original question concerning gay marriage and divorce, i don’t think that just because the state of california decides to give the thumbs up on gay marriage that it means that it’s a sacred covenant with god. it might simply mean that the government has recognized your union and will now offer tax benefits and the sort.
now, the next layer of complexity is the question that i come back to often: who died and made me god? 🙂 who am i to judge someone’s union and say that it isn’t recognized by god. certainly, i have fairly clear feelings about what scripture has to say about homosexuality, but still, the life mantra that i increasingly try to live by is ‘it’s not my responsibility to be the judge.‘ so, the question still lingers about gay marriage and divorce and i’m sure it will for quite some time. feel free to give me your thoughts. they are all welcome.
thanks for sticking around for the length of this blog…for those who made it, you get the gold star for enduring perseverance… (and i get the gold star for use of hyperbole…)