Marriage And Sexuality
Unlike today, when I was growing up, society’s prevailing attitude toward marriage was positive. This would be from 1945 when I was born, until 1963 when I graduated from high school. Television and movies portrayed marriage as an ideal to personally hope and strive for. It not only offered individuals the promise of shared fulfillment, love and happiness, but it also enhanced the community by modeling a standard of maturity, responsibility and stability.
Marriages were expected to last a lifetime because the institution of marriage was designed with mature, responsible and stable couples in mind. Marriage as an institution provided a model, a standard to measure up to. Failed marriages were not only the source of personal pain and embarrassment, but of public censure. The stigma of divorce was that it represented a tear in the social fabric. Likewise, sex outside of marriage was considered shameful, and pregnancy outside of marriage carried with it the same shame.
As a consequence, many couples got married when the woman became pregnant … to cover up their shame. But the failure of individual marriages does not make the institution of marriage a failure. Neither does the fact that not all married couples have children alter the principle of marriage. Despite the failure of marriages, the structure of society continues to be maintained by the integrity of the “family unit”, consisting of a man, a woman and their offspring.
Although marriage wasn’t strictly thought of as a religious rite (A civil ceremony was an option.) many non-church-going couples chose to get married in a church setting because church weddings were more highly regarded, and provided a bigger stamp of approval, so to speak. In any case, growing up, I saw that couples had options. They could get married in a church, get married by a judge, have a common-law marriage or just sleep together and risk public shame.
I saw marriage as having as much to do with social cohesion as with sexual attraction. Marriage was part of the natural progression of living a responsible and respectable life. In other words, to me it was the polar opposite of sex, drugs and rock & roll. So, my attitude toward marriage did not change when I became aware that society around me was changing — more marriages were failing, ending in divorce, and more couples were choosing to “shack up” together rather than making the commitment to marry. In all of that, the individual’s responsibility to adhere to social mores remained the crucial issue for me. In the context of marriage, homosexuality was never acceptable and never part of the picture.
I learned about homosexuality as a teen-ager. My parents met a lesbian couple who became our good family friends. Bert (Berta) and Alice were well-read, well-traveled, fun and interesting to be around. Alice was the quiet intellectual and Bert was the entertaining raconteur. They broadened my mind and introduced me to such books as D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover. One summer Bert got me a great job. She was working for Doris Duke as house manager of Falcon’s Lair, a mansion in Beverly Hills once owned by Rudolph Valentino. She hired me to do the gardening for two weeks while the regular gardener was on vacation. That was a super experience for a teenager.
Bert & Alice had been a “couple” for many years, but never referred to one another as “wife” or “husband”. To them, those words were only euphemisms. They introduced us to two male friends of theirs, who referred to each another as “my partner”. At first I thought they meant business partner, but eventually I got the message. Even though their relationship was long-term and monogamous, they also did not claim to be married, nor did they use the words “husband” or “wife” to describe each another.
Around the same time, through my participation in community theater, I met other homosexuals. At the time, I had no reason not to accept these friends and acquaintances for who they were. Their sexual attractions were different from mine, but I considered that to be none of my business. The operative word was “different”. They chose to live differently. However, that in no way excluded them from accountability to the same laws and institutions everyone else was held accountable to.
When I was in college, a roommate of mine told me about some gay Catholic friends of his who found an “underground” priest to “marry” them in secret. I remember thinking how hypocritical and rebellious it was for them to insist that their religion conform to them; to do what they wanted, even when their religion forbad it, and yet to still have the effrontery to self-identify as Catholics. My roommate (as well as the homosexual couple) considered their union “sanctified” because they loved each other so much. That made me uncomfortable. I didn’t think the standards of any religion should be changed in order to accommodate personal feelings. But this was the era of “If it feels good, do it”.
I was not a sexual bigot. I had homosexual friends. Neither was I a religious bigot. I wasn’t a Catholic, nor did I identify with any religion. In college, my only association with churches was as a music major. I sang in choirs, including paid positions as section leader, soloist and choir director. I wasn’t a member of any church, therefore I felt no obligation to follow any church doctrine. However, I expected anyone who did belong to a church to follow their church doctrines. To me, anyone who wanted to change the rules to fit their own feelings were simply rebelling against authority and being hypocrites.
My views on homosexuality began to change when I became a Christian and began to study the Bible. I learned that God doesn’t see homosexuality as just another “alternative” behavior, but as a sin. The plain meaning of Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, is clear on this point. I have heard arguments claiming homosexuality is not a sin. However, in every case these arguments either distort or completely change the meaning of the Scriptures.
Refuting such false and deceptive arguments can be accomplished through the faithful adherence to sound exegesis. That is an issue that deserves a full explanation. I will address it separately, at another time. For now, the point I wish to make is simply that I was not opposed to homosexual behavior until after I had read and studied the Bible. My attitude was changed by faith, not by ignorance, fear, hatred or bigotry.
For millennia society in general has considered homosexuality immoral. The Bible labels it as sin. But for the past 50 years or so, social mores have been changing. There is now a moral argument that society should accept diverse expressions of sexuality, including same-sex unions, based on the assumption that all gender roles are equal, including those of bride and groom. Also, there is a political argument that says marriage between two individuals of the same gender should be legally recognized and made socially acceptable on the basis of “equal rights” for homosexuals. The problem with these arguments is summed up in the old saw: “You can’t legislate morality.”
The institution of marriage specifically ordains the union of a man and a woman. Historically, in the West, the institution of marriage took its definition from the Bible. But traditionally, elsewhere in the world, all the major non-Biblical cultures shared the same institutional concept of marriage. It was an institution designed specifically to sanctify a man and woman for the revered purpose of ending their dependency on their parents and beginning a new family. Specific laws did not create this institution of marriage. Rather, the laws of each society merely reflected that universal essence of what marriage is — not a relationship built on rights, but of a man and woman’s moral accountability to God, society and each other.
Institutions are foundational. They sustain fundamental values and hold society together by establishing a meaningful social identity. The institution of marriage has been accepted by society at large, including many of those who fall outside the norm — those who for one reason or another reject the cultural or religious views that give rise to the institution. Until the mid-twentieth century, most individuals who rejected society’s standards did so discretely. Heterosexual couples who lived together out of wedlock gave the impression they were married, and gay couples gave the impression they were roommates. But they did so knowing they were flouting social standards. They chose to live according to their own divergent lifestyles, without presuming to change the institution of marriage. They saw themselves as outside the norm.
But since the 1960s the gay lobby has been aggressively working to redefine the institution of marriage by breaking down society’s traditional moral standards. They do this both by undercutting religious beliefs opposed to homosexuality and by changing the argument from one of moral standards to one of legal rights. They are making an end run around the traditional moral values of the majority, by making a bogus claim that all they are seeking is “equality”. But the gay demand for equality is a non-sequitur. Homosexuals already have the same legal right to marry as heterosexual couples do — to someone of the opposite gender, because that’s what marriage is. What they are really demanding isn’t a right, but a special privilege.
Regardless of any changes in the law or the dismantling of the institution of marriage, homosexual couples will never be “married” in the eyes of God. The purpose of marriage is not for providing equal access, equal opportunity or equal rights. God designed marriage for his purposes, not ours. And for that reason, marriage is a holy union of a woman and a man. For that reason, the family is sanctified and society is blessed. A homosexual couple may love each other, but their union is sinful at its core. Such a union is neither sanctified nor a blessing to society. It is not equal to that of marriage.
Libertarians and “Leaving People Alone”
Recently, I was surprised by the level of passionate support for same-sex marriage exhibited by libertarian college students in the audience of a John Stossel program on the Fox News Channel. He was interviewing Ann Coulter. Judging by the students’ jeers and smirks, they didn’t simply disagree with traditional conservative values, but they seemed genuinely astonished anyone could possibly hold such traditional views. Their demeanor toward Coulter was condescending.
When Stossel asked Coulter, “Why can’t gays get married like straights do?” Coulter’s answer was legally and logically to the point, “Um, well, they can. They have to marry a member of the opposite sex.” The audience groaned and booed at her answer. Stossel then asked, “Why can’t they marry a member of their sex?”, interrupting her to interject, “We believe that individuals should be left alone.” Coulter pointed out, “…my reasons I’m telling you … for libertarians or gays or anything else, marriage is the most important institution for civilized young people … I want to make divorce a lot more difficult, too.” Again there were derisive groans from the audience.
For a libertarian to say the legalization of gay marriage is just a way “that individuals should be left alone” is a perverse contradiction of terms. How does undermining one of the most basic and commonly held institutions in all of civilization “leave individuals alone”? It doesn’t. It rips apart the moral fabric of society. It forces the majority to recognize and accept something that is so morally offensive that the Bible calls it an abomination in the eyes of God. That is not an example of government staying out of our personal lives. Forcing all of society to accept same-sex marriage by passing laws to give equal standing to homosexuality usurps the right of society to set its moral codes according to traditional and religious standards.
The law is a standard. The phrase, “all men are created equal” is a Biblical principle. It means that there should be one standard for all, applied equally to all. Gay marriage violates this principle. If the law is changed to allow for gay marriage, then the government is redefining the institution of marriage, rather that reflecting the will of the people. If the will of the people changes and comes to accept the redefinition of marriage, it will not reflect so-called “equality” but the rejection of God’s standards, as typified by Sodom and Gomorrah.
Such a forced redefinition on the part of government is an abuse of the law because the law is intended to support the institution marriage, not design it. Society at large has already done that a long time ago, and our traditions have sustained the institution for thousands of years until the present time. If homosexuals wish to live intimately as couples, that’s their business. However, they do not have the right to make the rest of society condone and sanctify their lifestyle, particularly since it offends so many on moral and religious grounds.
The Intolerance Of Political Correctness
And yet, that’s exactly what they are trying to do. One of the most offensive tactics employed by pro-homosexual forces is to malign anyone who disagrees with their agenda. They have established the misnomer “homophobe” as a pejorative to demean anyone who doesn’t fall into lockstep with their position. All opposition to homosexuality is ascribed to motivations of fear, hatred, ignorance and bigotry. In effect, while loudly demanding the nonsense that same-sex marriage is their “equal right”, the homosexual lobby insults and demeans anyone who stands against them. They deny that any genuine grounds exist for opposing same-sex marriage.
The homosexual lobby does not tolerate or respect moral or religious arguments against them. They relegate such arguments to moral and religious bigotry. Rather than addressing the actual arguments, they revert to the old stand-bys of name-calling and accusation. The difference between right and wrong holds no significance to them when the wrong is identified as homosexuality. And they particularly don’t have any respect for Biblical arguments against homosexuality, because they have their own way of looking at Scripture in order to make it comply with their own wishes. Bottom line, they consider both moral and religious arguments against homosexuality to be bigoted and irrelevant.
The sad thing is that the gay agenda has managed to upgrade an aberrant behavior to the level of a genuine controversy. Controversy feeds emotional rhetoric as dry kindling feeds a burning fire. But resolving a controversy is like extinguishing a fire before it destroys everything it touches. The gay agenda is out to destroy the time-honored institution of marriage. Their demand for the so-called “equal” treatment of gays is accompanied by an assault on the rights of anyone who does not approve of homosexuality. The mob mentality of gay activists leads them to trample over long-held doctrinal teachings of Scripture. They do not seek to resolve controversy. They choose to fan the flames. But this fire needs to be extinguished.