Benjamin Corey has just penned an excellent post on his Formerly Fundie blog entitled "Why Non-Affirming Evangelicals Can Still Support Marriage Equality (And Should). The post can be viewed at the following address: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/why-nonaffirming-evangelicals-can-still-support-marriage-equality-and-should/ I encourage all of my readers to check it out. He makes an excellent argument for the acceptance of marriage equality by all Christians who also happen to be citizens of the United States of America.
Corey makes the point that the U.S. is not a theocracy - that separation of church and state is mandated by the Constitution. Hence, the government (which is theoretically underpinned by "We the people") cannot enforce any one set of religious beliefs on its citizens. Indeed, the Constitution ensures that each and every one of us has the right to believe and practice whatever faith (or absence of faith) we choose. He points out that many of us may believe that adultery is the only legitimate grounds for divorce in God's eyes, but we do not impose that belief on our fellow citizens.
He goes on to point out that "there is a difference between religious marriage and civil marriage." Under our Constitution, the state doesn't have any right to stipulate the form and practice of a religious marriage (and marriage equality would not change this). However, the state decided long ago that it had an interest in promoting marriage as a civil institution; and this option should be open to all of its citizens. Moreover, he points out that there are certain benefits relative to things like inheritance, insurance and hospital visitation that are only available to folks who participate in civil marriages. Thus, he argues that equal access to these benefits becomes a matter of fairness and justice (which almost all versions of God heartily endorse).
Corey also points out the benefits that have accrued to society as a whole because of the institutionalization of marriage. It encourages citizens to live in monogamous and faithful commitments to each other. This, in turn, promotes "stability" within the culture and a "healthier" populace (less opportunities for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases). Finally, he points out that the institution of marriage can be an ideal vehicle for providing a home "to millions of children who are without one."
Many Fundamentalist American Christians do not support abortion, yet the right of those who do support it to seek a safe and legal abortion has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Many Christians feel that it is wrong to own a gun, but that right is also guaranteed in our Constitution. Many Christians feel that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is sinful, but the rights of those who drink them have generally been upheld (except for the brief period of Prohibition). Likewise, the rights of Jehovah's Witnesses to exempt their children from participation in Christmas activities has generally been respected within our society. In short, we do not enforce a set of state religious beliefs or preferences on our populace (although there has always been a vocal minority who has sought to do just that). Most of us understand that if we impose our religion on our fellow man that someone would be able to do the same thing to us - Hence, we avoid the dilemma by mandating that no one can impose their beliefs on anyone else.
Jesus Christ and his apostles encouraged their followers to submit to the civil authorities who ruled over them. Christians were encouraged to respect the laws and institutions of the places where they resided. Aren't modern Christians subject to the same expectations? Moreover, I think that one could make the case that Christianity has flourished under this religiously neutral republic. What other nation has printed more Bibles or sent more missionaries around the world?
I think that Mr. Corey got this one right. In the United States, you are still free to believe that homosexuality is a sin, and that a God-sanctioned marriage consists of one man and one woman. However, as someone who is also obligated by your faith to submit to the government that has jurisdiction over you, you do not have the right to impose those beliefs on others who do not share them! What do you think?