Is Gay Marriage Really The Greatest Threat to Marriage in America?

I want to tell you up front that I am nervous about writing this post and very concerned that I will be misunderstood. I ask that you will read this with humility, as this is the posture it is written and that you at least consider what is being said and not be blindsided by the emotional convictions surrounding the discussion.

On February 23rd, President Obama had Attorney General Eric Holder issue a statement to Congress and the Justice Department telling them to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. After considering it in light of two recent lawsuits in New York and Connecticut, the President decided they can’t in good conscience defend the Act since, at its core, it is discriminatory and only serves to continue the legal marginalization and prejudice towards homosexuals. In effect, the federal government no longer has a blanket Act that can deny the recognition of homosexual marriages.

This was heralded by many Gay rights advocates as a huge victory. Meanwhile, the Conservative Right (which somehow also means the Evangelical Church) is loading their artillery and preparing for war. Many conservative/Christian groups are preparing to step in to defend the law in lieu of the federal government. Although this recent edict from the president is not necessarily saying that the Executive branch supports gay marriage (his stance is still to support civil unions), this is a step in that direction and it is bringing the issue to the political and religious forefront.

Many Christian leaders (I won’t name them specifically, just use Google), have come out in strong attack against the gay marriage movement and call it the greatest threat to the institution of marriage the church has ever seen. They have lobbied, they have picketed, they have made signs, and a few have even done all of these and put them on youtube. Although, many are not as extreme as the crazy youtubers, there is a general consensus amongst Evangelicals today that gay marriage poses a serious threat, if not the most serious threat, to marriage in general.

I would like to propose something different.

Gay marriage is not a serious threat to heterosexual marriages. There, I said it. That is not to say that homosexuals should get married or that the church should support it. What I’m saying is that the act of them being legally recognized as married for tax purposes and other legal considerations does not affect or pose any real problems to heterosexual individuals who are married now or hope to get married in the future. In many states, homosexuals can already adopt children and if they desire to live in a monogamous relationship with their partner, they are doing so with or without the blessing of the federal government. Regardless of whether it should be done, the act of it being done doesn’t change or significantly impede the ability for a man and wife to love each other well and have a healthy marriage.

Now before you start to print off my picture and burn it in effigy, let me get to the point of what I’m saying:

The greatest threat to the American institution of marriage is not gay marriage, it is HAPPINESS.

I know, this doesn’t seem to make sense. It would seem that happiness in a marriage would be a positive thing. And in one way, of course, it is. It is definitely a good thing to be happy in a marriage.

What I mean is that the desire for people to be happy, specifically the overwhelming desire for married individuals to be happy above all else in a marriage is the greatest threat to marriage the church has ever seen. Maybe I should say that it is the pursuit of happiness that is the real threat.

The underlying motivation for people to have affairs, ruin their marriage with debt, destroy trust with pornography, neglect each other with work, or just kill the life of the marriage with busyness is the pursuit of personal happiness. People go into marriage thinking that as long as they marry the right person, that connection will make them completely happy. As anyone who has been married for any extended period of time knows, this is not true. So men and women begin to pursue happiness elsewhere and in effect, divorce rates climb.

So here is my question. Where is the religious right’s artillery in light of the impending and proven threat of happiness on American marriages? Where is the picketing? Where are the conservative religious leaders standing in front of TV screens condemning the rise of individual happiness as a motivation for marriage?

Gay marriage is an issue the church does need to respond to and the teachings in the bible as to the morality of homosexuality is clear. Regardless of what the government recognizes, the church doesn’t have to follow suit. But if this is our response to the tomato of gay marriage being thrown at the giant that is the church, why isn’t our response to a true threat even greater? It seems to me that the overwhelming anger seen in the church attacking gay marriage is really a smokescreen for the guilt of letting the pursuit of happiness run amuck in our churches and infect the integrity of our marriages.

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3–5 ESV)

14 thoughts on “Is Gay Marriage Really The Greatest Threat to Marriage in America?

  1. I like this. I was worried for a bit, but overall, I think you make a good point. The church needs to be warring much harder against the issues which are literally destroying heterosexual marriages, like the pursuit of happiness. It is too easy to shift the focus to some other group we do not place ourself in because then we don’t have to fix anything.

  2. Cody,
    Thanks for your courage to say it like it is. If just us Christians would take our own marriage vows seriously and honor our covenant, biblical marriage would be so attractive and such a stabilizing force in our society that any other deviation from God’s plan for marriage wouldn’t even be a bleep on the radar screen.

    The great thing about a Biblical truth (in this case the covenant of marriage) is that it remains true no matter what culture says about it. So as you said, there is no real threat. Rather than using God’s institution of marriage to beat up on gays seeking an illusive relationship, we should rather continue to woe them with the true love of Christ. .

  3. Nicely done Cody. You came at that from your own perspective and stood on truth. I often think that we, myself included, often cry out so loud against a sin that we forget about our own and maybe that is the point. Why is not premarital sex and infidelity in the top ten threats ??

  4. I love you Brother. You are so wise. We Christians do this all the time. We sort sins into bins labeled “bad” , “worse” and “unforgivable.”

    It’s our kindness, love and Grace that attracts people towards the Redemption we’ve received. The Holy Spirit is very good at standing for truth and convicting peoples hearts of their own sin. Any, “help” we try to give usually only distracts us from listening to the Holy Spirits whisper of conviction in our own life.

  5. Dang Bro, Great post. So true. Pursuit of Happiness – as you defined it – is a dangerous force to be considered in our marriages. What if we pursued the happiness of our spouse more than our own? I would expect we would be happy as well.

  6. Cody – I didn’t know that you were a member of the blogosphere.

    This is a great post. Do you think that conservatives or evangelicals or Christians or whoever should still attempt to defend the law? I believe that there is room for groups to defend the law on grounds other than it being a threat to Biblical marriage (because, as you’ve well argued, it really isn’t – at least not in any direct way).

    Having asked this, I agree with most everything you’ve stated here, especially about the pursuit of happiness being a more real threat to Christian marriage than anything else. But don’t you think that permitting homosexual marriage is a threat to our country in other regards? Aren’t there ramifications for our society on leaving this law defenseless? Is there no foundation for a pursuit of a Biblical ethic in how we legislate?

    Also – I don’t know if I would call the anger against homosexual marriage a smokescreen – this seems to imply intentional divisiveness. But you’re right that the many of the protesters may be missing the point, entirely.

    There is another interesting angle to this from a governmental perspective with an administration not enforcing a law passed by Congress, especially given the President’s stance against homosexual marriage throughout his campaign and time in office. But there is no need to travel down that road – you have enough discussion on your hands with your post, as is.

    • I am in fact a member.

      I don’t think its out of the question for Evangelicals to defend the law protecting heterosexual marriage. The big thing, though, is trying to find the balance between legislating Christian values and not waging war on non-Christians for being non-Christians. Yes we want to stand up for Christian ethics, but we need to remember that the government is not a Christian institution and that we respond to a secular state with grace and mercy, not with damnation.

      It’s something I’m still working through. I appreciate your comment. By the way, how can you call yourself a pastor and DTS student and not have a blog?

  7. I know it wasn’t the purpose of the post and maybe it is better to not tell everything, but I wanted to know what you thought about the situation itself. I personally don’t think the idea of something “threatening marriage” should be an issue at all since it is simply a social act. What is really threatened through both bad marriages and preventing people from potential good marriages is valuable years of enjoying life. I also wouldn’t say that pursing happiness is the culprit behind a bad marriage or bad living for that matter, but instead it is where people place value that determines whether their pursuits are constructive or destructive.

    • There definitely is some personification involved when I use the term “threatening marriage.” We might be saying a similar thing between my “pursuit of happiness” and your idea of “placement of values”. If what you value is your own fulfillment over that of another, then it can be a damaging factor in a marriage. Which I guess is another way of saying what I was saying.

      As to your first question, it’s probably best to have that conversation offline. 🙂

  8. I don’t know whether or not he actually said it, but British thinker (and critic of the Christian faith) Bertrand Russell is said to have commented that “The problem with Christianity is that it’s never been tried.” the fact is that some Christians clearly live out their faith. But most have settled for the photoshopped version of a relationship with God that is designed to make them happy. But as the sub-title to The Mystery of Marriage asks: What if God’s purpose in marriage is not to make us happy but to make us holy?

  9. Cody, I found your blog through a tweet of your father’s, and I have to say, I really enjoy your writing. Your thoughts challenge me, and even though I do not agree with everything I have read (in this post and others), I look forward to reading more from you. 🙂

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