Speaking of Gay Marriage (and The Abiding Validity of Abstention)

David Blankenhorn has recently amended his posture on the whole issue. Some conservative Calvinists find much with which to resonate in Blankenhorn’s outlook, but also worry that a public intellectual ought not to resign himself like this.

Point well taken. But I’d like to highlight what resonates.

Perhaps speaking for those of us who believe that the institution of the family is the cornerstone of society, that the sexual revolutions of the twentieth century have done more harm than good (which isn’t to say all bad either), but that homosexuality shouldn’t enjoy the sanction and solemnization of holy matrimony yet are also just as bothered by the political efforts to marginalize a particular class of sinners, Blankenhorn writes:

I had hoped that the gay marriage debate would be mostly about marriage’s relationship to parenthood. But it hasn’t been. Or perhaps it’s fairer to say that I and others have made that argument, and that we have largely failed to persuade. In the mind of today’s public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens. And to my deep regret, much of the opposition to gay marriage seems to stem, at least in part, from an underlying anti-gay animus. To me, a Southerner by birth whose formative moral experience was the civil rights movement, this fact is profoundly disturbing.

Again, Tuininga’s point is well taken. There is a sense in which Blankenhorn simply appeals to sentiment and is thin on argument. This doesn’t really satisfy the intuition that marriage is an institution entitled to formal and legal definition and affirmation, which,  seems to demand that anything else doesn’t rise to such a high standard and ought not to be formally and legally affirmed. Still, there is something to be said for highlighting Blankenhorn’s instincts here. At the very least, it is worth taking pause and giving serious attention to what the rankled debate has done for cultural cohesion, no matter what side of the debate one is on. It may also be worth contemplating what the national debate has done for Christian-to-homosexual relationships. By and large, Christians tend to be categorized as those sympathetic with marginalization. But do believers understand that were they to show some serious concern for the problems of aligning with a mere desire to outcast that their concern for preserving the institution of marriage might be better heard? But even more than that, do believers, in their temporal quest to marginalize a particular class of sinners, ever take stock of what damage may be done to their eternal calling to draw every class of sinner into the fold? Could abstaining from certain votes go some distance in being obedient to Christ’s command to be fishers of men, even married ones?

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12 Responses to Speaking of Gay Marriage (and The Abiding Validity of Abstention)

  1. RubeRad says:

    Interesting post. It is I think a valid point that it is kind of farcical to have the debate at the level of “can gays marry”, when the farm has already been given away that gays can adopt.

    Somebody should go read all of this (or at least this) and report back.

  2. cath says:

    Or just this.
    “The gay-marriage juggernaut has nothing to do with liberty, and everything to do with providing the elite with a new moral mission…”

  3. djbeilstein says:

    More than a tough issue. Certainly, there has been less than stellar thought coming from Christians on this issue. The responses by most confessional Christians have been much better in my humble opinion.

  4. Zrim says:

    Rube, to the extent that Irons and her husband were run out of the OPC by its theonomists, she has my sympathies. But she has never been satisfying to me. She never seems aware of the larger cultural concerns with regard to the institution of the family and how gay marriage doesn’t exactly prop it up. And my impression is that hers is largely another American made crusade framed on individual rights that leans heavily on sentimentality.

    Blankenhorn seems to show a sensitivity to a variety of dimensions. But one point of commonality he now shares with Irons, an done I’m glad to see, is a serious discomfort with the “underlying anti-gay animus.” One thinks of how Utah was disallowed into the Union until it repealed its pro-polygamy laws. One read on that is a legislative effort to protect the institution of the family, but another is an underlying anti-Mormon animus, and I tend to give more credit to those who recognize such complexities.

  5. Zrim, I appreciate your overall point here, but it’s worth emphasizing that the responsibility of Christians (like anyone else) to pursue justice in the area of marriage and the family (our temporal obligation in the secular kingdom) is distinct from our unique Christian obligation to demonstrate the love of Christ to our neighbors who struggle with homosexuality. Anti-gay bigotry is a denial of the gospel, but our avoidance of bigotry shouldn’t change our basic commitment to justice in the public square. In that sense, it is the very two kingdoms doctrine that prevents us from saying, as one of my professors wants to say, that affirming gay marriage is the Christlike thing to do. As I’ve said before, we testify to the lordship and love of Christ but we always do so in a way that upholds basic natural justice (i.e., natural law) in the secular kingdom.

  6. Zrim says:

    Matt, again, points well taken. I just want to give Blankenhorn’s a little more emphasis since I think we’ve been clear enough on what the abiding creational norms are here and their implications for the fate of the family. But a concern for the abiding animus is also worth dwelling on a little more and what that may be doing to our eternal witness.

  7. djbeilstein says:

    Zrim, what do you mean when you say, but a concern for the abiding animus is also worth dwelling on a little more and what that may be doing to our eternal witness’?

  8. Zrim says:

    djb, what I mean is that so long as Christians are identified as being all about marginalizing (as in make sure Adam and Steve remain permanently single), our calling to make every class of sinner a part of the fold gets pretty difficult.

  9. justsinner99 says:

    Do we “marginalize” adulterers, fornicators, etc. too?

  10. Zrim says:

    Andy, is there a concerted political effort to do this? Sure, they’re just as harmful to the institution of the family, but don’t we politically tolerate adulterers and fornicators? So if it’s the institution of the family that is at stake, why no political effort to make sure these ailments are curtailed?

  11. justsinner99 says:

    There is a big difference between (politically) not making it a crime to commit adultery (although there are legal ramifications in the case of divorce) and the state trying to officially sanction or legitimize it. That is what the state is doing in this case.

    It’s one thing to leave them alone to their own sinful devises; it’s quite another to be using the coercive power of the state to make everyone accept such sin as normal or acceptable.

  12. Zrim says:

    Andy, there was a time when no-fault divorce didn’t exist and unmarrieds couldn’t get lodging without breaking the law. Does the current political and legislative scene which has reversed those situations make me think of adultery and fornication as normal and acceptable? No. It may be a matter of compromise and the imperfections of civil arrangements, like Blankenhorn is suggesting, not a matter of being politically forced to consider what is immoral moral.

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