by Frederica Mathewes-Green
With some kind of genius for stupidity, I said on my Facebook page recently that I am not particularly opposed to gay marriage. No, it was worse than that; what I said was, “I was asked why I don’t oppose gay marriage, and I’ll try to make this brief. It’s because I don’t agree that gay marriage harms society, or harms marriage.”
I’m no big-time writer, but it caused an outsized stir. My readers are mostly Christian and conservative, and the comments overflowed. Clearly, I struck a nerve.
But it was a nerve I never intended to strike, for I am not actually in favor of gay marriage. I’ve just never opposed it publicly (what I meant by saying I “don’t” oppose it). I don’t think it’s the catastrophe my friends do.
The thing responders most urgently wanted me to know is that people who oppose gay marriage are facing persecution. Yes, history attests that people who believe they have been bullied often bully in return. But blocking gay marriage would not prevent that. We’re in the midst of a long-term change in public opinion on these matters, and will just have to live through whatever that entails.
The other thing animating responders was the prospect of the government redefining what marriage is. Marriage, or at least mating, has defined itself ably for all of human history. Many find it downright surreal that the official line could be that gay and straight couples are just the same.
In that regard, biology (or perhaps endocrinology) is on our side. A young child may be taught that marriage can take different forms, and that the physical differences between men and women are meaningless. But a few years later he’ll be thinking about those differences quite diligently. For the vast majority of teens (90 percent? 95 percent?) those thoughts will focus on the opposite sex. He will discover that opposite-ness is indeed a marvelous thing. This pondering is how we come to understand what are accurately called the “facts of life.”
Life-facts in general don’t impinge on us as sharply as they used to, for we live in a mostly-artificial habitat, insulated from the forces that heave up mountains and sway the tides. Yet we are still embodied creatures. The endless thinking about sex, the endless yearning to have sex, derive their obsessive power from the deep and primitive need to reproduce.
And gay sex does not participate in that. Straight marriage is a gear in the ancient machinery of the universe; gay marriage is not. No law can change that, or even obscure it. Hopefully this child has been taught to be polite, and not say things that might hurt others’ feelings. But no law can make him un-know what we all instinctively know: gay marriage is not the same.
That makes me not worry about it so much. As a conservative Christian, my beliefs about the meaning of marriage already diverge from secular assumptions at a number of points. If the differences between Christian and secular marriage become even more clear, that’s not a bad thing.
In fact, I wish those differences were more clear. What’s the main reason I haven’t joined up with the anti-gay-marriage movement? Sheer exasperation. It mightily annoys me when opponents of gay marriage use the term “traditional marriage” to mean solely “not gay.” Straight marriage is much more threatened by the things straight people do: internet porn, adultery, and most obviously, divorce. To blame gay people for destroying marriage seems a classic case of “Look over there!”
I admit my complaint is a little unfair; other Christian organizations do address those threats, and it’s also true that a political cause must narrow its focus. But it still seems to me there’s a double standard going on.
Here’s what I mean. Some years ago I received a Christmas letter from the head of an evangelical organization. About halfway through he shared that, sadly, he had gotten divorced that past year. But in the next paragraph he had great news: God had given him a new wife!
Well, maybe there were extenuating circumstances, maybe I shouldn’t judge—but it still irritates me how blandly Christians accept this sort of thing. It used to be that, if gay people were expected to live celibately, married people were expected, at least, to preserve marriage for a lifetime. Even if divorce was unpreventable, remarriage wasn’t assumed. That line about “What God has joined together, let no one put asunder” comes from Jesus himself. (Mark 10:8-9).
Gay marriage is only the last in a long series of shifts in sexual morality. Why didn’t premarital sex or cohabitation galvanize our attention, like this has? Where were the protests then? How did divorce and remarriage become about as frequent among Christians as in the general population?
When reminded of those higher standards, of not that long ago, people say, “But it would be too hard for divorced people to remain unmarried. It’s too hard to live without love.” Yet that’s exactly what we ask gay people to do. We should at least admit that it is not easy; it is in fact a kind of heroism, and we should honor it better than we do. I don’t advocate relaxing the rules (of the faith) for gays, but I wonder how straight people came to relax the rules for themselves.
So I don’t care what other people do in bed, and I don’t think that a gay couple living down the street undermines the marriages around them. But I do think that gay sex damages the soul, and I’ll tell you why.
My Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that the whole purpose of human life is union with God. It teaches that this is possible even for the most ordinary Christians. Our church has had plenty of practice—centuries and millennia of practice—discerning what helps and what hinders that process. It has long observed (as have most ancient faiths) that sex outside hetero marriage (gay or straight) is one of the things that impede spiritual growth.
This is not a theoretical belief, but an observation based on practical experience. So it can’t change. But why should other people care what I believe? If I saw someone smoking a cigarette, I might worry that he’s harming himself, and he might suspect I disapprove. But we don’t have to have an argument about it. He’s free to do what he wants, and I’m free to have my own opinion. Live and let live, I say.
But mark this: I also expect my church to be free to practice this faith. While there is much more to the process of soul-healing than sexual activity—anger and pride, for example, are much more frequently addressed—that doesn’t make the sexual morality obsolete. So we uphold it, whether gay or straight. Everyone in my church is there voluntarily; everyone is free to leave at any time. We all struggle with one temptation or another, and support each other on the path. If any attempt is made to restrict what people of faith believe, teach, preach, and practice, this country will have a much bigger fight on its hands.
I’ve resisted joining up with the “defend marriage” movement for a long time, and you might wonder why I’d change my mind now. It’s not that I think I have anything fresh to add to the conversation. People aren’t listening anyway; to gay advocates, I am just another hater. When I tried, a few years ago, to put my “live and let live” perspective into words, a gay blogger responded with a post stating, “Frederica says I don’t deserve to be loved.”
No, I’m joining the fray because it looks like the battle is lost. That means it’s time to stand together. It’s not hard to predict what happens next: winners silence their opponents, and losers are hounded, misrepresented, and punished for their views.
Well, what did we expect? What we are saying seems nonsense to the secular world, and is felt as actively antagonistic. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
This past Good Friday I was struck by the scripture that says Christ suffered “outside the gate,” as an outcast, beyond the city wall. Why should we be any different? As the Scripture says, “Let us go forth to him outside the camp, and bear the abuse he endured” (Hebrews 13:13). It’s time. Let’s go.
Why I Haven’t Spoken Out on Gay Marriage–More Thoughts – Frederica.com