I wrote the following letter to my pastor Brian Emmet at Covenant Ministries, in response to his latest newsletter, which decried permitting homosexual marriages.
Greetings to you! I very much appreciate that you had the wherewithal and the bravado to take on the issue of gay marriage in your last newsletter. Thank you for expressing your views and opening the floor to discussion on the matter. I’ve always been impressed not only by the wisdom that you relate but also by your open ear.
I’m not sure you’re going to be surprised to hear from me on this issue, given the discussions that we’ve had on similar topics before. But this particular issue is very important, because it concerns what America is and what America is built upon and it
concerns your own freedom in ways that you may not have yet considered.
I’ll begin with a humorous little snippet that has been going around the Internet to illustrate a basic set of counterpoints to the concepts of “traditional marriage”:
Any good religious person believes prayer should be balanced by action. So here, in support of the Prayer Team’s admirable goals, is a proposed Constitutional Amendment codifying marriage entirely on biblical principles:
A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)
B. Marriage shall not impede a man’s right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)
C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a
virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)
D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)
E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the
constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)
F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother’s widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen. 38:6-10;
G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)
While it’s a bit over the top, it serves to illustrate the basic point of “Biblical” marriage not being between one man and one woman at all. That instead is Western tradition (minus Mormonism, perhaps). So I think the premise of trying to defend “Biblical” marriage is
The real problem with opposing gay marriage is that it violates the Church / State boundary that provides Christians with basic protections and freedoms. There is a reason why getting a marriage license is a function of the State and performing marriage rituals is a separate affair. Christians do not oppose recognition of the marriage of a Hindu man and a Hindu woman, two Buddhists of opposite sex, or even two atheists of opposite sex. Does God bless the union of two atheists? Would you oppose state recognition of the marriage of two atheists? Of two Muslims?
The purpose of marriage is to signify to the State that two individuals are planning on having their affairs permanently intermingled and interchangeable. It is like forming a special corporation of two and enables official recognition of this union by wills, insurance companies, employers, and for taxes.
There is a very important and separate definition of marriage that perhaps even deserves its own word – the sacred union of two Christian souls under God.
Words cannot express how important I feel it is that these two definitions are separate. The freedom for a pair of individuals to declare themselves a corporate union is not a religious
statement. Religion ought have no place in the matter, and what goes around comes around – imagine perhaps a Catholic State that did not recognize Protestant weddings! Indeed, history has shown these examples to be more than hypothetical.
I respect the decisions that you make personally, your freedom to hold your own opinion, and (very importantly!) your freedom to express your opinion to other people. I will fight for this right. I have fought for this right — my non-profit went to Federal Court to defend the
right of people to publish the faults of a company. My non-profit was founded to provide speech to all. Why do I spend inordinate amounts of time and money making sure that people, even people with whom I strongly disagree, can say what they have to say? Because I believe in Free Speech. I think God believes in Free Speech.
So to that end, let me say that it is a false argument for you to claim that you will lose your rights as a Christian if you do not stand up now against gay marriage. Your vision that the state will tell you exactly what you may say is and is not a sin is indeed a terrifying one, Brian. But I assure you that as hard as I will persecute you for your un-Christian foolishness in opposing civil unions of people you personally feel God does not approve of, I will come after those who would seek to stifle your speech athousandfold. As long as I, and those like me, live — you will be able to preach whatever you would like to your congregation. I will defend your right to call homosexuality a sin with my life.
I am here to warn you that you will lose your rights as a Christian, and deservedly so, if you do not stand up now in support of the recognition of gay civil unions. Because if the present majority is permitted to declare by use of religion what constitutes a valid civil union or not, you put yourself in terrible peril. While you may now feel your branch of the Protestant Church has popular appeal, what if it were to sway from the warm comforts of majority opinion? I know you to be a strong man, Brian, and one of your word. You are the very last sort of person I could see cowing to what most people thought. So what if that strength of conviction was to take the church beyond what the common American supported? What if it became a common “corrective technique” to disband marriages not approved as being “sufficiently Christian”? Is it possible that if you were no longer deemed legally married to Kathy and your children now all legal bastards, you might think twice about how your message came across? As I said above, history shows this sort of thing to not be hypothetical at all. By turning functions of the state into a popularity contest, you endanger America’s future liberty and your own.
I challenge you, Brian, to meet with some of these gay couples, to observe — I challenge you because I believe you are up to a challenge like this and have a good eye and a loving heart. I would challenge you to first hear their stories, see how they do or do not care for each other, and then to explain to them why you think that it should not be legal for the state to declare them a union. Because something grates against me as wrong for two people who have loved each other for decades, lived together, supported each other through good times and bad, in times of sickness and of health, for richer and poorer, and faithfully stood by each other’s sides…for these people to be told that their union means nothing and that their fidelity and perseverance is moot in the eye of the State because some people believe that God does not appreciate two people loving each other in the way they love each other. You have every right to say that these two people are living in sin. You have every right to say that these two people are not Christians as you would recognize. You can claim that the union between these two people is void under God, as you understand Him. But ask yourself if you really have authority to declare that this union ought be void under the State.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.“
Actively barring the legal recognition of civil unions between two loving people feels like it is neither loving God nor one’s neighbor. In fact, it seems to be rather strongly disrespecting both.
I hope for you to stand by me then, as a Christian firm in your faith, declaring that gay civil unions under the State are a separable issue from holy matrimony recognized by your Church, and that you are as eager as I to perpetuate the freedoms that enable you to speak freely about Jesus by permitting people to have the freedom from having their unions validated by a court of religious opinion.
Sincerely & Respectfully Yours In Christ,