I’ve never been known to mince words, so I’ll just say it: the “sanctity of marriage” movement is a joke. Oh, but I’m a conservative Christian – and conservative Christians must be in favor of preserving marriage as between one man and one woman, right??
Right, and for several reasons. First, I believe the Bible places certain restrictions on the marital union, and since I believe my religion is right to the exclusion of everyone else’s (oh yes I did), I must hold to its teachings and commandments as foundational to right and wrong. Second, once “marriage” is deemed to include partners of the same gender, the floodgate is opened for every other possible type of relationship (bigamous, incestuous, bestial, etc.) to demand the same privileges; after all, who are we to say who can marry? And finally, homosexuality just isn’t natural! Not in a derogatory context, but simply from an anatomical standpoint, men and women were obviously made to “match-up,” while same-sex couples were not (like when you end up with two female ends of Christmas lights – ugh).
My problem with the evangelical push for the sanctity, or “sacredness,” of marriage has nothing to do with its condemnation of homosexuality: in that, (in principle, if not always in practice), I support it 100%. Unfortunately, there is much more to “holy matrimony” than – pardon my euphemism – making sure the plug fits the outlet! The Biblical model for marriage (given by God – not the manmade perversions that came later), the Ten Commandments, and the New Testament teachings on the subject, didn’t stop at gender/number rules. The institution itself was set apart as holy, like the Sabbath of the Lord, but the commandment says “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” Thus, it follows that the rules of marriage need also be obeyed in order for it to remain sacred. My two major beefs against the Christian evangelical church concerning the holistic “sanctity of marriage” are relatively black and white: adultery and divorce. Sticky words, I know.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed rampant – often open – infidelity among the members of various churches. Sadly, this is frequently defended by leadership with blanket excuses such as “but we’re all sinners” or “it’s not our place to judge.” Touching, but wrong. While we are indeed all sinful, there is a difference between the occasional sins with which we wrestle, and ongoing, unrepentant sins. Extra-marital affairs, inappropriate sexuality outside of marriage, and use of pornography fall into the latter category. Christians who are members of a church have done two major things: they have professed their faith and desire to adhere to Biblical teaching, and they have identified themselves as part of the Body of Christ. Any sort of adultery conflicts with both. If one continues to walk in darkness after vowing to live in the light, 1 John chapter 1 says that person is not really a Christian; and someone who refuses to live a Christian life has no business being a member of the church. Pastors and other leaders might claim that because these are usually private matters, they can’t get involved. Wrong again. Read Hebrews 13:17, which clearly states that pastors and elders will be required to “give account” for the souls in their care. I’m pretty sure no shepherd wants to explain to God why he allowed adulterous behavior to continue under his nose. As for judging, people seeking a loophole to either abdicate authority or defend sinful behavior will fall back on this (out-of-context) concept until the end of time. But dealing with adultery is not one person’s saying “you’re a sinner and I’m perfect;” it’s a fellow Christian saying, “this is against the word of God and it’s harmful to you and the church.” If you still want to play the “judgment” card, ask yourself how we’re ever to hold one another accountable or maintain spiritual purity within our ranks. Adultery destroys individual lives, families, and ultimately, the church itself – call it what you will, we are commanded to identify this sin and stamp it out if the church is to survive.
The other dirty word – “divorce” – is possibly more prevalent and certainly more often condoned than infidelity. (I’ve blogged about this topic in depth, if you’re interested.) Because state laws have deemed divorce legal and allowable, Christians somewhere along the way decided it has become acceptable to God. This is nonsense. The Bible does cite two very specific instances where divorce may be granted without penalty to the innocent spouse, but it is always a tragedy to be avoided at all cost. Instead, the church has embraced the “last resort” as an early option and has looked for quick justification of divorce as an alternative to the long, personal struggle required to save failing marriages. In reality, the majority of marriages can and should persevere; what do people think “for better or for worse” really means – a bad hair day? God hates divorce: he says so plainly, and anything that God hates, Christians should equally abhor. Further excepting Biblical “out” clauses, there is no defense for the multitude of marriages that end due to basic disagreements, selfishness or bad choices. (Note that the church could eliminate far more bitter endings by dealing with adultery, since it is one of the aforementioned “out” clauses and an obvious an enemy of marriage.) The Bible says that where divorce occurs for reasons other than sexual unfaithfulness or physical abandonment, remarriage itself is tantamount to adultery. So in many cases, one sin is later compounded by another – but how often do you hear the church railing against that? Marriage built upon divorce built upon marriage upon divorce – generation after generation…and this is the Bride preparing herself for the Bridegroom? Seriously?
And speaking of improperly casting judgment, the evangelicals on their soapbox over gay marriage are nothing more than sinners with a log in their eye – the epitome of hypocrites. Churches wonder at the rapid rate of destruction within the body while they continue to accept lifestyles and practices specifically prohibited by God. I don’t suggest a softened stance on traditional marriage, but the church cannot be a credible ally to that cause when Christian (e.g., heterosexual) adultery and divorce rates match those of the rest of the world. There are churches and denominations which have recently chosen to abandon the battle against homosexual unions, and the churches still fighting it disdain the ones who have compromised. “It’s clearly wrong according to Scripture,” they would declare, and they are right. Churches have begun accepting homosexuality not because they suddenly truly believe it to be moral, but because it is unpopular to tell people they are wrong and much easier to adopt the “live and let live” mantra in a decidedly post-modern culture. So how are adultery and divorce any more Biblical or less painful to confront than homosexuality? It comes down to bailing water rather than plugging holes, and water always wins. The Christian church must be wholly onboard the crusade for the complete “sanctity of marriage,” defending it from all enemies. Until then, it makes a two-faced fool of itself and of Christ.