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:
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)