It’s not really about who you can love, and it never has been. For despite the sloganeering going on around the issue, it doesn’t take a court decision for “love to win.” There are countless examples indeed of individuals of the same gender who have deeply loved and cared for each other–some of whom I personally count as friends, and some who we can find even within the witness of the scriptures, including David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Paul and Timothy.
Nor is it exactly about human rights, though for far too long–particularly before the advent of civil unions–our society made it difficult indeed for individuals who are genuinely committed to each other to be legally and socially recognized as such. Long-time partners of the same gender were routinely denied standing at the hospital bedside of their loved one, or handling their affairs after they passed. But simple contract law should have been enough to take care of that, had it not been for the bigotry and opposition of others.
Similarly, at least insofar as people of faith might be involved, it’s not about treating others fairly, for it has never been right to discriminate or ostracize others, no matter how differently they may be from ourselves. We are called to not only care for all of God’s children, but to preserve their dignity, and when we’ve not done such, we’ve not been faithful disciples at all.
And it’s not even just about sexual behavior per se, for we’ve long since passed the period of prudence in our country, with a clear majority of even heterosexual couples cohabitating and sharing a bed before they ever share in an actual wedding ceremony.
What it is about, however, is capturing a social construct and institution that has stood for millennia as a major ground target in a campaign to change the culture when it comes to our understanding of God’s preferred will for all of His children and our prideful rejection of it in favor of our own understanding.
All of which is what makes the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage deeply disappointing (though not surprising) to those whose faith has led us to a different conclusion about the God-designed mandate concerning marriage. For in one of the only verses I know of that is repeated four times in the Bible–in Genesis 2.24, Matthew 19.5, Mark 10.7, and Ephesians 5.31–as well as in the complementarian argument that runs throughout the Bible–it is clear that the “cleaving” conceived of by our Creator is meant to be between one man and one woman.
In a hubristic 5-4 vote, however–embodying what C.S. Lewis once called the “chronological snobbery” or “presentism” of our time–nine individuals in Washington have now declared that this understanding is no longer the correct one, thus redefining an institution that up until just fifteen years ago, in fact, nearly every society, nation, and religion on earth had for thousands of years prescribed along similar lines.
So while we may understand why those within the gay and lesbian community are celebrating that opinion, some of us can no more congratulate the Court on that decision than we could on the judgments of earlier courts which declared that no slaves or descendants of slaves could be a U.S. citizen, or that “separate but equal” was not inherently discriminatory, or that abortion should be considered the unfettered right of every woman, never mind the fate of the unborn child involved, or even that the death penalty is completely constitutional. For sadly enough sometimes, particularly when it has involved moral issues, the Supreme Court has been supremely wrong.
We will, of course, respect the decision as the new “law of the land,” and we will likewise respect those individuals who may be legally wed under the expanded rubric. We will continue to view all of God’s children, both gay and straight, as those of sacred worth, and urge others to do the same. Everyone of any orientation, as well as those of any race or background, is and will always be welcome within our church, and we will do our best to be both in ministry to and with all persons, irrespective of their beliefs or behavior.
But as also noted in the Supreme Court ruling, our congregation will not in the practice of its faith be compelled to disavow the historic understanding of marriage outlined in the scriptures. As per the Discipline of The United Methodist Church, thus, we will continue to operate as before the ruling: none of our clergy will conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies, nor will such ceremonies take place within our sanctuary.
I recognize that we are not all of one mind on this issue, and that others have come to their position out of good hearts too. What love has to do with it, however, is loving people enough to tell them the whole truth which the scriptures reveal to us. And if we find ourselves now running counter to the culture, well, it certainly is not the first time that Christians have had to stand against the counsel of the caesars.
Ultimately it’s not what is said in the Courtroom that matters nearly so much as what has already been spoken in the Throne Room of God.