Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Really—Is This Marriage?

In the debates I’ve heard within the context of the church regarding same-sex marriage, the call to preserve marriage as a union between a man and woman is referred to as “traditional.” It’s a fairly accurate term, since marriage has been looked at that way for a very long time. It is too bad, in my view, that anyone who finds a shift in that tradition difficult is often labeled as a hater or a denier of human rights.

On the other hand, those of us who are heterosexual followers of Jesus and interested in the debate about marriage might be missing something in the conversation. There’s a mirror being held up to us and we are avoiding taking a look at the reflection.

First of all, while the statistics are a challenge to accurately nail down, the evidence suggests that divorce rates in the US are ridiculously high (including for folks who are Christians), marriage rates are falling and premarital co-habitation is rising.

We have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: Is this the tradition we are seeking to preserve? It is, after all, our reality. Or is it a lost ideal that we treasure? Is traditional marriage something that we heteros have mangled and crushed so thoroughly that it is hardly recognizable as marriage any longer?

There’s a story of an artist who would take several cellos, smash them with a sledgehammer, cover them with resin, and then sell them as art. It was as though he was asking the art community, “What do you think: Is this art?”

It seems like the gay community is lining up for marriage licenses and asking the rest of us, “Given that you’ve slaughtered the traditional concept of marriage, what do you think: Is this marriage?”

Second, when we look closely at all the people whose images are reflected in the mirror, do we only see them and us? If we look carefully we will see a common humanity that stands in tragic solidarity before God, all made in God’s image and yet fractured and broken. At the same time, it is a humanity that constitutes the world that God loves, a world that God, through Jesus Christ, is reconciling to himself, not counting their trespasses against them (see 2 Corinthians 5).

Since the battle for same-sex marriage rights may be over, we heterosexual Christians have the opportunity to do some self-reflection and start the conversation anew. Rather than point outwardly at the other while attempting to preserve a sense a righteousness, it is time for us to confess our own brokenness before God—including the sexual misadventures, fantasies, and deviances that roll through our heterosexual minds—and recognize our complicity in the sins of the world (see Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 about the connection between the mind and sin).

If we expect to participate in the ongoing ministry of Jesus in the world, then we will have to do so confessionally and with repentance. Our rapidly changing culture—one in which our story of faith is losing its dominance—is still our context for ministry. We don’t minister in the abstract; we minister in what is real.

And to do so with integrity, we need to look deeply into that mirror.


Dave Jacobs said...

Oh my gosh Mike…this is such a good and timely word. Just the other day I was talking to a pastor about this very thing, i.e. has the "traditional" marriage in America really done all that good for our society? Thanks for being brave enough to share your thoughts. I'm going to float this around to my readers.

Anonymous said...

This Mike, as I see it, is the bigger issue facing ALL of us living in the 21st century. You hit it and hit it well. Time to take our eyes off the 'bad guys' for a moment and realize we're all guilty of defending an institution that has fallen into dis-repair long before the gay-straight issue ever entered the stage.