Christianity and Same-Sex Marriage

Note: I wrote this piece as my argument paper for my academic writing class in the spring of this year. I decided to share it after I played devil’s advocate during a discussion with friends on facebook. The images were added for this blog post. The numeral throughout are bibliographical markers. The references are at the end of the post.

Christian have arguments against same sex marriage are reasonable.

Christian arguments against same sex marriage are reasonable.

The Western world has come a long way since the days when the British hung people for engaging in homosexual activities. Many countries have since decriminalized same-sex acts among consenting adults and have further passed laws that forbid discrimination based on sexual preference. These policy changes and a greater understanding of homosexuals and their relationships have resulted in an increased tolerance of same-sex relationships. People have generally become more sympathetic of homosexuals, publicly, even though privately, these same people may oppose homosexuality. However, notwithstanding the progress that society has made in accepting homosexuality, religion, specifically Christianity, can be used to argue against same-sex marriage.

Many people dismiss religion when it is proffered as a reason to oppose same-sex marriages. They note a divide between the sacred and the secular. However, Western history is closely intertwined with Christianity, which to a large extent influences Western laws and moral outlook. In fact, many of the social, academic, political, and scientific advances that Western civilization has made have been closely linked to Christianity. Many pioneering scientists such as Newton, Pasteur, Kepler, Paschal, Fleming and Edwards, were not only theists, but Christians and many of the concepts conducive to scientific inquiry were expressly Christian. The United States of America is, to a large extent, the embodiments of Western beliefs. Of the first 110 universities in America, 100 were founded for the express purpose of spreading the Christian religion, highlighting the impact of the faith on education. Christianity has had a wide and immeasurable impact on the arts. In politics and civics, at least 50 of the 55 United States Constitutional Convention delegates were members of Protestant churches. 1The existence of moral absolutes, a biblical concept, is an important idea in the United States Declaration of Independence. This is communicated through the expressed belief in self-evident truths and unalienable rights from the Creator. Further, many aspects of American law come directly from the Bible; the judicial, legislative and executive branches trace to Isaiah 33:22. Fair trials with witnesses have numerous Old and New Testament support. American founding father John Adams — and others — emphasized 2 Corinthians 3:17 as the basis for American civil liberty. The slogan on the Liberty Bell is “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof” is from Leviticus 25:10. Kennedy and Newcombe argued that Jesus Himself was the greatest civil libertarian of all time.

2James F. Williams, founder of Probe Ministries International, says the history of Western culture and Western society are inseparable from Christianity and that for almost 2000 years Christian beliefs, principles, ideals, traditions, and practices have left an indelible impression not only on developments of purely religious interest, but also on virtually the total endeavour of man. He rightly notes that we live in what some call a post-Christian age yet wherever we turn to enrich our lives, we continue to encounter the lasting historical realities of Christian experience and tradition.

In a speech titled 3 “Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy: Understanding and Engagement with Orthodox Christianity in Russia, the Middle East & Europe”, Elizabeth Prodromou, assistant professor of international relations at Boston University notes that policy makers have “rediscovered” religion, having forgotten the role that faith, specifically Christianity, has had historically in nation-building in the United States. She makes the point that religious ideas informed the particularities of U.S. identity as evidenced by the conception of the rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence as divinely granted. More recently, it was also seen in the explicit framing of the Cold War as a conflict with “Godless communism”.

However, notwithstanding the desirable separation between religion and state and the many 4atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion, looking at marriage from a Christian perspective is legitimate. This is true in spite of the differences between a theocracy, where a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, and a democracy, a system that threads the delicate balance between majority rule and protection of minority rights. Whether or not we believe God exists, the Bible reflects human imperfection and offer principles that have been proven to lead to a happier and healthier society. As Lisa Miller puts it is her Newsweek article 5“Our Mutual Joy” (Dec 15, 2008), “…the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history.” This goes to show that religion is not just about God. It is also about humanity’s quest for self improvement and social cohesion.

6Dr Patrick F. Fagan, William H. G. Fitzgerald Senior Research Fellow in Family and Cultural Issues in his paper “Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability” notes that America’s founding fathers understood the vital role that religion plays in a free society. However, rather than shielding the American people from religious influence, the Founding Fathers promoted freedom of religion and praised the benefits that it brings to society. This is evidenced in George Washington’s farewell address to the nation. In this speech, the first U.S. president says that religion and morality are indispensable among the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity. Washington describes these principles as “great pillars of human happiness” and cautions against the belief that morality can be maintained without religion.

Dr Fagan also quotes numerous 7studies, which show that in the decade ending 2006, considerable research documented the benefits of religious practice within society. These studies prove a positive relationship between religion and family relations, reduced infidelity, lessened drugs and alcohol abuse, mental and physical well-being, longevity, and, among others, educational attainment.

Many western laws are based on Christian principles.

Many western laws are based on Christian principles.

Because of the influence that religion in general and Christianity in particular has had on Western politics and civil society, it is understandable that the justifications for many “civil rights” are deeply steeped in and chase their history to religion. Marriage is deeply enshrined in the teachings and beliefs of the Christian faith. For Christians, marriage was instituted by God when, according to the Bible, He blessed Adam and Eve and commanded them in Genesis 1:28 to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth”. Christianity is explicit about who can engage in sexual activity. It is equally clear about the circumstances in which sexual activity can take place, the nature of these sexual acts and the consequences of doing otherwise. Additionally, the religion is unambiguous that Christians should reject all social trends and beliefs that conflict with the teaching of the faith, as the Bible urges, to “…obey God rather than man”.

Christian opposition to same-marriage is not informed by the extent to which same-sex couples can be happy in a marriage. It is not about a couple’s procreative potentials. It is not about being conservative or liberal. It is not about the best environment in which to raise a child. It is not about the wisdom of tradition. It is not about setting a dangerous precedent. It is about religious principles and beliefs. And that’s why true Christians appose same-sex marriage. In fact, if Christians were to support same-sex unions, they will be giving approval to an act that the Bible, the highest source of Christian morality, explicitly condemns. In Romans Chapter 1, the Bible describes homosexuality and other sexual perversions, including heterosexual sexual activity with an individual to whom one is not married, as being the result of “godlessness and wickedness”. These acts, the Bible says, are practiced by persons who have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” in much the same way that “…women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones [and] men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another”.

True, there are some who profess Christianity and support same-sex marriage. They point to the platonic love that existed between Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, and, Daniel and Ashpenaz. More specifically, some mention David rending his clothes at Jonathan’s death and the song David wrote as he grieved for “Jonathan my brother”, whom he described as “very dear to me”.

To suggest that David and Jonathan had an erotic relationship is not only baseless but also reflects a lack of understanding of the word “love” in the context of the Bible. There are three types of Christian love: agape, the love that God has for man; folio, the love that exists between relatives, friends, and brethren; and eros, the kind of romantic love that exists between a man and a woman. There is no scriptural evidence that what existed between the two men was anything more than a deep-rooted platonic friendship.

Some Christians have also pointed to the life and witness of Jesus Christ and His “silence” on marriage. However, they fail to advance this argument in the context in which Jesus came to earth. Jesus spent 33 short years on the earth. His main purpose was to die on the cross to facilitate the reconciliation of man onto God and to set in place the necessary factors for the building of the Church. However, He endorsed heterosexual marriage by attending a wedding in Cana of Galilee where He performed his first miracle. The work of the building of the Church and the enunciation of Christian doctrine was left for the apostles in general and Paul in particular, who was explicit about God’s objection to homosexuality.

Additionally, God has always demonstrated intolerance for sin. However, He arguably never exhibited more intolerance of a sinful act as the homosexuality of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah on which He rained fire from heaven, forever removing them from the face of the earth.

Some judicial decisions have infringed on religious practice.

Some judicial decisions have infringed on religious practice.

Arguments that same-sex marriages will not infringe on religious freedom are not true, as Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin rightly warns in The Rhode Island Catholic. 8Bishop Tobin makes the point that the Church may be required to admit homosexual couples as sponsors for baptism, to rent its facilities for homosexual wedding receptions, or to hire employees despite their “immoral lifestyles”. He also believes that when the Church maintains its teachings in these and many other possible scenarios, it will be accused of bigotry and unlawful discrimination. Bishop Tobin’s fears are not without foundation. Massachusetts required the Catholic Church to place children for adoption with homosexual couples, contrary to the church’s beliefs. And, in Brazil, pro-family activist Julio Severo fled the country to avoid charges of homophobia for preaching biblical view of homosexuality.

Christians understand that God has given each individual a will to choose. They believe that God equally expects each individual to be willing to accept the consequences of his/her actions. They believe that each individual has to give an account of his or her life to God regardless of whether or not that person believes God exists. Christians believe they are called to be the spiritual “light or the world” and the moral “salt of the earth”. They see their opposition to homosexuality not as an act of hate or intolerance of an individual but opposing that person’s homosexual practices as God has commanded Christians to “shun the very appearance of sin”. And while some argue that Christianity should not tell us how we should live, they should remember that many of the Western ideals we have today were formulated by men who flew to the United States to escape religious persecution but who knew that religion and morality were like a marriage in much the same way that the Bible says “a man leave his mother and father, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh”.

Bibliography

1The Impact of Christianity. (n.d.). Retrieved 05 26, 2009, from Faith Facts:

2Williams, J. F. (n.d.). Probe Ministries. Retrieved May 26, 2009, from

3Walker, R. ( 2009, May 14). Retrieved May 23, 2009, from Harvate University Gazzette Online:

4The Roman prosecution of Christians by the emperor Nero in 64 AD; the Medieval Inquisition by the Roman Catholic Church; the Mountain Meadows massacre in Utah Territory in 1857, by a group of Mormons and Paiute Indians; and, Islamic jihads, “holy wars”, which have killed millions over 12 centuries are but a few examples. Colonization and its concomitant atrocities, including slavery, are well documented instances of when religion was used to legitimize and justify atrocities

5Miller, L. (2008, December). Retrieved May 23, 2009

6Patrick F. Fagan, P. (2006, December 18). Retrieved May 7, 2009, from The Heritage Foundation – Leadership for America

7“Are There Religious Variations in Domestic Violence?”, a study by Ellison et al, shows that men who attended religious services at least weekly were more than 50 percent less likely to commit an act of violence against their partners than men who attended only once a year or less. As regard drug and alcohol, Barbara R. Lorch and Robert H. Hughes in “Religion and Youth Substance Use,” (Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 24, No. 3) said that religious practice has for some time predicted significant reduction of substance abuse. Byron Johnson of Baylor University and his colleagues reported that, in the vast majority of studies, participation in religious activities was associated with less drug abuse. They also found that even in cases in which individuals used drugs, the more religious were less likely to develop long-term problems.

8Tobin, B. T. (2009, April 23). Retrieved May 23, 2009, from Rhode Island Catholic

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One thought on “Christianity and Same-Sex Marriage

  1. I really like this piece. An example was shown of
    God’s displeasure with homosexuality and that’s why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

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