Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Let's Get Out of the Marriage Business

Wedded Bliss for All or None
To Protest Ban on Gay Unions,
Arlington Pastor Refuses to Conduct Marriages
By Annie Gowen, Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

To protest Virginia's laws banning same-sex marriage, [Pastor David] Ensign and the church's governing council decided recently that Clarendon Presbyterian will no longer have any weddings, and Ensign will renounce his state authority to marry couples.

Any heterosexual couple who has their union "blessed" in a "celebration ceremony" at the tiny church will have to take the extra step of being officially wed by a justice of the peace at the courthouse.

"What we're saying is that in the commonwealth of Virginia, the laws that govern marriage are unjust and unequal," said Ensign, 45, who has served as the church's pastor since 2003. He said that the matter had been bothering him for months and that he suggested the policy to the congregation's leaders because his conscience would not allow him to continue performing legal marriages on the state's behalf. (source: washingtonpost.com)
Surprisingly, I agree. But not with the last paragraph. Marriage, by biblical definition, is between a man and a woman. "Gay marriage" is a contradiction in terms. Declaring a triangle to have three sides is not being unjust or unequal to squares. Ensign is simply expressing his right to be wrong.

In the process, but for misguided reasons, Ensign stumbles on the right solution: The Church should get out of the marriage business. The authority to grant God's blessing upon a husband and wife who have entered into a life-long commitment of love and fidelity does not reside with the government. This is the domain of the Church. And with Scripture as our arbiter, we do not need to look to a human institution for approval when celebrating and affirming the marriage covenant.

Let the State adjudicate contracts between interested parties. Let businesses determine if they want to extend special benefits to friends. But let the Church maintain the integrity of the marriage union as God intended - one man, one woman in a life-long mutual relationship.

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  1. Samantha sent me.

    interesting distinction you have hit upon here. And one that passes my test for separation of church and state. If I don't happen to be one of the lucky ones who accepts the bible used by Denomination X , that is not my problem unless, for some reason, I think my marriage[s] should be blessed or even recogonized in churches of Denomination X. And more importantly, its not the government's problem either.

    Arguments one has with the rules promulgated within their chosen [although the choice is usually that of their parents] religion ought to be resolved within that religion ... or pick up yer marbles and play elsewhere.
    The "marriage" that lawyers ease people out of are the contract-like civil obligations, the cold corpse of the holy unions and the true love imagined by the churh.

    It cuts both ways: we don't need a law that says what a blessable marraiage is and that keeps the legislators out of the pews and the true believers out of the legislature.

    Have I understood your argument? Agreeing with people is so unusual!

  2. Tell Samantha thanks.

    But yes, I think you've read me correctly. While it may seem that Ensign and I agree (and in practicality we probably are advocating in the same direction), my point is that a biblical church community will be so intimately involved with each other, that they will discern when it is appropriate to unite two individuals in holy matrimony (and I would hold that the bible says that a homosex partnership is not appropriate).

    Example. Two elderly people who, if they married via the state, would lose social security benefits or some change would occur in their health insurance, or whatever. But instead, they keep their "legal" single status and yet are "blessed" by the church to live together in a mutual relationship before the Lord. It seems to me that that is an appropriate situations where the Church can "marry" but stay out of the government sponsored contract business.

    Peace, lgp

    ps, who is Samantha? :-)

  3. Hey Lyn,

    you're right on target with this, although I, as a deist and classic liberal, might view this from the opposite perspective.

    What has happened is that religion and church are critical ways to control people, and thus used by governments to do so. Please note, I'm not discussing the historical hybrid church that had both spiritual and secular power, but rather that there are things that churches do for people that governments look at and want to control. Marriage is one of them. We need to, and should, separate the civil contract that is a marriage from the religious ceremony and creation of family, in a religious sense, that is marriage.

  4. Hi Lyn - thanks for pointing me here. My post on gay marriage I sent you has a good CS Lewis quote for this.

    I guess in Europe this is generally the way it is. Folks are married by the state; and they can also crank it up to another level and have it blessed by the church.

    I think Lewis, and you, are right: it should be clear who is married in a Christian sense and who isn't.


Keep it clean and positive. (And sorry about the word verification, but the spmb*ts are out in full force!)