Tonight I'll conclude what could have been titled "One more woefully short post about an infinitely complicated topic." To wrap up the week, here's what I think is the #1 most explosive topic facing Churches of Christ in America today: gay marriage.
Note that I didn't say homosexuality. The church has felt pretty secure and unified on that one for a long time. But gay marriage is a first for my congregation, since the CoC wasn't formed until about 200 years ago and has always been concentrated in the US.
For a different take than you might have seen before, let me share my opinion on what this fight over gay marriage is not about, no matter what Christians proclaim:
1) It's not about the sanctity of marriage. Divorce rates are embarrassing in the church, just like they are in American culture at large. If we were really serious about the sanctity of marriage, we'd be doing the basics (more premarital counseling, more mentorship, higher expectations of our peers) and the extreme (looking closer at arranged marriage customs and other worldwide practices that seem to lead to healthier, longer-term relationships than the American model) to protect it.
2) It's not about homosexuality as a whole, because it's not really about lesbianism. Besides the fact that the bible doesn't speak on lesbianism, two women being together just doesn't bring the "ick" factor to many heterosexual male Christians. And it's heterosexual male Christians who lead the way in the Churches of Christ on this issue (because women aren't allowed to serve in leadership capacities, as noted in my previous blog post).
3) It's not about freedom and the role of government. Most Christians in the south (where CoC is most prevalent) are in Republican-leaning states, and are linked with policies about small government and minimal regulatory interference in our personal lives. Dictating whether or not two single, consenting adults can get married is a pretty strong form of interference.
4) It's not about love and relationship. The church is all for relationships built on sacrificial love. A heterosexual couple, a men's fellowship group, a youth group of teenagers... all highly valued forms of social and personal connection treasured by the church. I have grown up greatly blessed by this.
So what's it about? Sex. Sex between men, specifically. To keep this post from being too long, I'll just list two of many reasons why I think the church is on dangerous ground here:
1) Marriage is much more than sex. We're saying that two men can't marry because they will have sex, and that sex might be a sin. So is the sin sodomy? What acts are okay and not okay, even within a marriage bond? Leviticus clearly lists "sex during a woman's cycle" as sin against God, but I've never heard a single sermon or church teaching on the topic.
Why not? Because it's none of the church's business what my spouse and I do behind closed doors to enjoy each other's bodies. Sex is only one part of marriage, and it's private.
2) Marriage is much more than procreation. This break between marriage and procreation happened early in human history, and even early in the Old Testament. King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines -- the purpose of that had nothing to do with procreation. This was about sex and power, with Solomon the ruler and the women his subjects.
God looked on Solomon, with his 1,000 sex partners and perhaps no true love, and we believe God still accepted him despite the ridiculous gluttony of marriages. Yet there are people today with one partner, a truly loving relationship, and no path to marriage.
So there you go -- my fast opinion on what this debate isn't about, and what it is about. At the cultural level, this debate is already over and every state will have legalized gay marriage during my lifetime. But at the church level, the debate is just beginning and will continue to be a dividing point for decades to come.
May God bless this mess!