On the Church and Society
September 8, 2005
From wars to more peaceful political disagreements, opposing parties often claim that "God is on our side."
I cringe when hearing the Lord invoked or churches taking stances on political issues where Holy Scripture, church tradition and fundamental morality are silent. For example, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' lengthy legislative agenda for the 109th Congress includes positions on the minimum wage, farm policy and Medicaid. Is there really a Christian position on farm subsidies?
But what about the ongoing debate over so-called gay marriage?
The California state legislature became the first legislative body in the nation to approve gay marriage, interestingly without a Republican vote in support. On September 1, the California Senate gave a 21-15 thumbs up to gay marriage, followed by the Assembly's 41-35 approval five days later. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, promised a veto the next day.
As noted by Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman, these votes contradicted Proposition 22, passed by 61 percent of California voters in 2000, which declared that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Even with the governor's veto, court challenges remain and efforts are underway to put initiatives on the 2006 ballot that would place a ban on gay marriage in California's state constitution.
The debate in the state legislature apparently was quite passionate. But one report caught my attention. The Associated Press noted that Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, a Republican, suggested a "higher power" opposed the measure. Sen. Debra Brown, a Democrat, responded that various churches supported the legislation, adding: "I don't think anyone should claim God as being on their side in this debate."
Hmm, really? In this case, it's pretty clear where God stands. Christians turn to the final place they can for assurance and guidance. Holy Scripture makes clear what's moral and immoral regarding sexual relations, and therefore marriage.
For example, Moses wrote: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." (Leviticus 18:22) But some argue that there is much in the Old Testament to which Christians are free to reject. That is true, but those are dietary and ceremonial matters, not the moral law. In addition, Christianity does not use the latest cultural trends to make such assessments (despite some in the church choosing to do so), but views matters through the New Testament.
Jesus clearly upholds the moral law regarding "sexual immorality." (Mark 7:21) St. Paul specifically affirms the prohibitions against homosexual acts at several points. He wrote: "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Of course, this does not mean that God loves the supporters of gay marriage any less. God loves all mankind, and at the same time, we are all sinners. But we have an obligation to confess our sins, seek forgiveness, and work to sin no more.
So, here is a clear instance where the church can and should weigh in on a political issue. Protecting traditional marriage finds its legitimacy in Scripture, morality, societal stability, procreation purposes, and the positive, complementary influences that a father and a mother have on children.
As the California example makes clear, the whims of legislators and the influence of special interests place traditional marriage at serious risk. So do activist judges, as exhibited in Massachusetts in November 2003.
Ultimate protection will come from an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. If we take Holy Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian teachings seriously, then supporters of such an effort do have God on their side.
Raymond J. Keating can be reached at ChurchandSociety@aol.com.
Copyright © Raymond J. Keating