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Don’t Give Up on Biblical Marriage

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on March 23, 2013
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The New York Times: “Young Opponents of Gay Marriage Undaunted by Battle AheadMarriage as it is meant to be—don’t give up on it!

Television programs and movies treating same-sex marriage as the norm are chiseling away at the moral sensibilities of many. Pleas that “gay people have a right to be happy” are making many hesitant to stand publicly for the true definition of marriage. And one U.S. senator (Ohio Senator Rob Portman) recently changed his position on same-sex marriage mostly because of the sexual preference of his own son. Thankfully, however, other more thoughtful and younger political activists are organizing to network support in defense of the continued definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman. Like the war to defend the sanctity of human life, the war to defend marriage will be long, but, as these eager and energetic young leaders point out, the long-range consequences of losing it are great.

This “pro-marriage movement” is building a grassroots effort to show the public, our lawmakers, and our judges the importance of one man, one woman marriage for society and the long-term catastrophic consequences of abandoning it. The movement is taking shape in organizations like the Family Policy Institute of Washington,1 the Heritage Foundation,2 the Love and Fidelity Network,3 and the National Organization for Marriage.4 The National Organization for Marriage, for instance, is organizing a march on the National Mall for Tuesday, the day the Supreme Court plans to hear arguments in the debate over Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved law banning same-sex marriage.

>Historically, “gay” rights began to be recognized in America’s legal system when activists succeeded in shifting the argument from “morality” to “constitutional rights.”

Historically, “gay” rights began to be recognized in America’s legal system when activists succeeded in shifting the argument from “morality” to “constitutional rights.” After the homosexual lobby lost before the U.S Supreme Court in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) by a 5–4 decision, those wishing to expand the interpretation of the 14th Amendment’s Due Process clause to embrace the right to engage in homosexual activity realized they had to change the question. They recognized the moral foundation of society—which was biblically based—could not be as easily changed as social and legal opinions about civil rights. After all, freedom and rights are dear to all Americans. The key then, historically, was for them to change the question from one of morality to one of civil rights. Ultimately, the 1986 decision that had reinforced traditional morality was overturned in Lawrence v. Texas (2003). As a result of this strategy, laws based on morality are now unconstitutional.

Taking a lesson from the past, pro-marriage advocates recognize that to protect marriage for the sake of our culture and the future of our children, the battle for public and legal opinion must be fought not on the grounds of “rights” or “happiness” but on the foundation of what marriage is actually about.

“To the extent that the other side is able to frame this as a vote for gay people to be happy, it will be challenging for us,” explains Joseph Backholm of the Family Policy Institute. The defense of marriage is not about making “gay” people unhappy or depriving anybody of their civil rights. “It’s really a broader defense of marriage and a stronger marriage culture,” says the Federalist Society’s Will Haun.

In the report “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It,”5 the Heritage Foundation lays out the arguments. Human beings come in two complementary forms—male and female—biologically suited for the norm of permanent marriage between faithful partners able to produce and raise children. The report points out, “Government recognizes marriage because it is an institution that benefits society in a way that no other relationship does. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children.”6 Thus supporting traditional marriage—not only by keeping the legal requirement that it be between one man and one woman but also by encouraging their faithfulness to each other—is a way of protecting children and society.

Proponents of same-sex marriage assert that America has a tradition of expanding freedom for those deprived of it. But does the exclusive recognition of marriage between one man and one woman deprive anyone of freedom? No. The Heritage Foundation report explains:

Promoting marriage does not ban any type of relationship: Adults are free to make choices about their relationships, and they do not need government sanction or license to do so. All Americans have the freedom to live as they choose, but no one has a right to redefine marriage for everyone else.7

It is common knowledge that the bonds of faithful marriage are in trouble. High divorce rates are bad for everyone (with the obvious exception of divorce lawyers), and those who suffer most are often children. The report explains:

In recent decades, marriage has been weakened by a revisionist view that is more about adults’ desires than children’s needs. This reduces marriage to a system to approve emotional bonds or distribute legal privileges.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships is the culmination of this revisionism, and it would leave emotional intensity as the only thing that sets marriage apart from other bonds. Redefining marriage would further distance marriage from the needs of children and would deny, as a matter of policy, the ideal that a child needs both a mom and a dad.

Decades of social science, including the latest studies using large samples and robust research methods, show that children tend to do best when raised by a mother and a father. The confusion resulting from further delinking childbearing from marriage would force the state to intervene more often in family life and expand welfare programs. Redefining marriage would legislate a new principle that marriage is whatever emotional bond the government says it is.

Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage. It rejects the anthropological truth that marriage is based on the complementarity of man and woman, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage to abandon the norm of male–female sexual complementarity would also make other essential characteristics—such as monogamy, exclusivity, and permanency—optional. Marriage cannot do the work that society needs it to do if these norms are further weakened.8

Redefinition of marriage will only further destroy all that marriage is designed to do to benefit the entire family and the society of which we are all a part.

Redefinition of marriage will only further destroy all that marriage is designed to do to benefit the entire family and the society of which we are all a part. Biblically, marriage is in intended to reflect both the complementary roles of the co-equal persons of the Triune God (as Genesis 1:26–27 says, “let Us make man in our image … in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them”). It is also meant to reflect the union of Christ with the church (Ephesians 5:22–33) and provide a stable place in which children can grow into mature, responsible adults and best learn God’s truth (Ephesians 6:1–4). In addition, from a merely civil and social point of view, parents who complement each other and are faithfully committed to each other provide a secure environment in which to raise children. The Heritage Foundation report cites additional statistics demonstrating the societal consequences of broken homes in terms of crime, behavioral problems, and promiscuity.9

Some point out that states recognizing same-sex marriage have not had a demonstrable increase in divorce rates. But the consequences of further eroding the stability of traditional marriage and the traditional family will inevitably become manifest over the long term as more and more people come to regard marriage as a matter of personal convenience rather than a commitment essential to family integrity.

As far as protecting freedoms and rights is concerned, while there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage, there is a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. The legal repercussions of legalized same-sex marriage encroaches on the religious freedom the government is constitutionally obligated to protect.

Redefining marriage is also a direct and demonstrable threat to religious freedom because it marginalizes those who affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman. This is already evident in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., among other locations. Concern for the common good requires protecting and strengthening the marriage culture by promoting the truth about marriage.10

Public opinion is shifting on this issue, sliding toward greater acceptance of same-sex marriage, so remember that what you say to your friends and coworkers about it counts. The issue of same-sex marriage is being debated from the grassroots level to the highest court in the land. And while the United States Supreme Court is not directly answerable to the public, the justices are not deaf to the people’s voice. Furthermore, justices are appointed by elected officials who must listen to public opinion.

No one’s freedoms or behaviors are restricted by defending the traditional, biblically based definition of marriage that has come down through 6,000 years of human culture since God originally defined human marriage as a union of one man with one woman. God our Creator knew what was best for human beings when “He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’” (Matthew 19:4) and instituted marriage. Human beings—sinful selfish creatures that we are—have a habit of wrecking our own lives and our own families through faithlessness and failures. Wrecked families hurt a lot of people. The solution is not to throw out the sort of family for which God designed us by simply redefining it. Instead we should affirm the biblical basis for marriage as the best for all while we strive to build better stronger families. Strong families are good for children and good for society, and they don’t deprive anyone of their civil rights.


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Footnotes

  1. www.fpiw.org/about/our-mission.html.
  2. www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/03/marriage-what-it-is-why-it-matters-and-the-consequences-of-redefining-it.
  3. www.loveandfidelity.org.
  4. www.nationformarriage.org/site/c.omL2KeN0LzH/b.7980587/k.BF50/Home.htm.
  5. www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/03/marriage-what-it-is-why-it-matters-and-the-consequences-of-redefining-it.
  6. www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/03/marriage-what-it-is-why-it-matters-and-the-consequences-of-redefining-it.
  7. www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/03/marriage-what-it-is-why-it-matters-and-the-consequences-of-redefining-it.
  8. www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/03/marriage-what-it-is-why-it-matters-and-the-consequences-of-redefining-it.
  9. www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/03/marriage-what-it-is-why-it-matters-and-the-consequences-of-redefining-it.
  10. www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/03/marriage-what-it-is-why-it-matters-and-the-consequences-of-redefining-it.

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