Executive Director’s Note: This is a momentous week for the future of marriage in America. At CBMW, we have a major stake in this cultural matter. We’re pleased to feature the writing of a leading young evangelical voice on the subject of marriage, Andrew Walker of the Heritage Foundation. We hope that this piece can be used in your prayers for and engagement with the DOMA and Proposition 8 Supreme Court rulings.
by Andrew T. Walker
This month, when the Supreme Court announces its rulings on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, debate over same-sex marriage will inundate our TVs, our social media accounts, and probably spark a few heated discussions.
Christians can’t sit out this debate. Marriage is at the core of how Christianity understands human relationships. Christians should support policies that reflect the truth about marriage, in the interest of caring for our neighbor.
Proposition 8 is a constitutional amendment passed by California citizens in 2008 that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Proposition 8 arose in reaction to an activist California Supreme Court decision instituting same-sex marriage, despite the state’s civil union law that granted the same rights and benefits of marriage.
Because of these lower Court decisions challenging Proposition 8 and DOMA, both cases now stand before the Supreme Court. What’s at stake is whether citizens and their democratically elected officials have the authority to make marriage policy.
Now, America anxiously waits for the Court’s decision, expected by the end of the month.
How the Court will rule is anyone’s guess. Declaring what the Court should do, however, is a matter of conviction and stewardship of our constitutional order.
What should the Court do? The Court should continue to uphold marriage laws that reflect the truth about marriage. It shouldn’t end the debate in a sweeping, Roe v. Wade-style ruling that disenfranchises voters and creates cultural rifts. The Court shouldn’t override the votes of millions of Americans who have gone to the polls in over thirty states to have their voice heard on marriage. The Court should uphold the rights of citizens to make marriage policy.
What should Christians do? We, too, should continue to advocate for policy that reflects the truth about marriage; about what it is, why it matters, and the harms of redefining it.
Christians can advocate for marriage by appealing to the good it contributes to society. An institution that predates government, marriage unites men and women and attaches them to their children. Marriage provides society what the government cannot: the next generation of citizens. Marriage policy limits government by respecting parents’, not government’s, authority to care for a child. Marriage also contributes to the well-being of children and adults. It represents the greatest antidote to childhood poverty. Meanwhile, married adults are happier, healthier, and better off financially.
Marriage maximizes human flourishing in ways that no other relationship can. In marriage, a man and woman come together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces. It’s no surprise that kids do best in a house with a married mom and dad, a fact that social science readily confirms.
The harms of redefining marriage are real and consequential. The erosion of marriage began long before the current effort to redefine it. Starting in the 1970s, no-fault divorce became common, teaching that marriage is something less than permanent.
Same-sex marriage is the next step for a culture that distances marriage from its child-centered roots and prioritizes the emotional lives of adults. It enshrines into law a view of marriage that denies children need both a mom and dad, putting the desires of adults first.
Same-sex marriage will lead to an increased showdown with religious liberty and rights of conscience. In places like Washington State and Washington, D.C., which recognize same-sex marriage, people and organizations of faith are facing penalties for operating their business or charities in accord with the principles of their faith.
In other words, Christians who desire to live out their faith will, sooner or later, have real cause for concern about the redefinition of marriage. From concern over what definition of marriage is taught to children at school to concern about the freedom to operate businesses consistent with their convictions, redefinition of marriage poses challenges to Christian freedom to express and adhere to biblical views about sexuality in our everyday lives. We would do well to address the issue now by confronting the myth that legal recognition of same-sex marriage is inevitable. We should make the case for marriage between a man and a woman in the interest of our neighbors’ good and our most basic freedoms.
Sadly, when churches do not confront sexual confusion and brokenness, it compromises their moral authority to speak on the definition of marriage. Leaders should confront and overcome an unwillingness to address not just same-sex marriage, but rampant divorce, unwed childbearing, promiscuity, and cohabitation.
While Scripture teaches theological truths about marriage, it also calls us to be concerned about the good of our neighbor. Marriage serves that good. Marriage may be about theology, but that same theology should motivate Christians to seek the welfare of our fellow citizens.
However the Supreme Court rules, the debate on marriage will continue. It is incumbent that Christians contribute. To abdicate the public square is a violation of both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. We should not opt out.
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