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Changing Our Thinking About Same-Sex Marriage

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I don’t expect to contribute anything substantial to this issue. Haven’t we already seen this thing from every possible angle? I am not saying that people need to silence themselves, sit back, and let the chips fall where they may. I am saying it is hard to imagine that someone is going to bring some new powerhouse argument which changes the tide. I don’t expect this to be any different. But I do expect it to get me in trouble with both sides.

Let me be clear: I do not recognize gay marriage. Whether the government does or does not, does not affect me.

I will attempt to defend the thesis that the government should NOT make homosexual marriage illegal (not that this is precisely the issue). Actually, I am convinced that the government should stay out of the marriage business altogether.

(As I delve into this issue, please understand that what I propose is not necessarily a possibility. We are likely way past this point. Therefore, I am not suggesting any action steps at this juncture.)

Government is Not Involved in What Defines a Church

When we started “Reclaiming the Mind Ministries” (the parent ministry of Credo House Ministries), we had to go through a rigorous process of getting approved for our 501(c)(3) tax-deductible status (translation: where people can get a tax writeoff for money or items they donate to us). I think we had to wait a full year until our government-certified approval letter came. Our attorney who filed all the paperwork informed me (in jest) that if we just became a church, we would not have to worry about this. Why? Because churches are automatically approved for tax exemption. Why? Because what hath Jerusalem to do with Washington? In other words (and listen carefully), the government cannot define what a church is. So if you say you are a church, then you’re a church! (at least from the government’s standpoint). The government is not in the church-defining business, and am I glad about that!

This should be easy for any American to understand (should being the key word). This is especially the case when we talk about American Protestants. We don’t like people in our business. We take a lot of chances in the name of freedom. We know the risks, but they are worth it to us. As Protestants, we have a long tradition of independence from any sort of institutionalized governing authority. We don’t trust them. We tried that and it did not work. In fact, it suppressed a lot of stuff that was pretty important. Therefore, we don’t want any religious institution or governmental authority telling us what a church is.

Too early in my argument? Okay, then join me on an imaginary journey:

Imagine that for the past two hundred years of American history, the government has had a slight hand in defining a church. Let’s say that for all of US history, the government said that in order to be recognized as a church (and get the tax benefits) the church must 1) hold to the doctrine of the Trinity, 2) believe in the inspiration of Scripture, and 3) baptize people.

Imagine that Evangelicals, such as myself, have grown accustomed to the government defining this particular issue. After all, we have never known any different. We evangelicals agree with the three establishment doctrines. . .so no harm, no foul.

Now, let’s say that in 2013 there was an increasing number of people who wanted to start churches and get the tax benefits, but did not hold to the doctrine of the Trinity. The government understands their plea and begins to legislate more broadly. They pass a bill in Congress that churches can now be recognized as churches, even if they do not hold to the doctrine of the Trinity.

What would Evangelicals do? They would cry foul. They would say that from the beginning of Christianity the church has always held to the doctrine of the Trinity. One cannot be a Christian without it. Therefore, we would fight within the system of government. We would cry for the government to pass a “Defense of Church Act.” This Act would contain the provision that the government must establish a definition of “a church” which includes the doctrine of the Trinity.

Yes, we would have all kinds of arguments. But the best arguments would necessarily be the ol’ “slippery slope” ones. You know, the ones that say, “Where does this stop?” After all, if you open the door to a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity, it won’t be long until we will have churches that don’t believe the Bible is inspired, don’t baptize, and a dozen other things.

These protests would sound reasonable to many of us, because we are accustomed to governmental intervention. More importantly, these protests would reveal an important concession that we have unwittingly accepted: that government is the ultimate definer of a church.

The Risk Involved by Getting the Government Out

Do you see the problem? The government should not be in the church defining business. And they are not. And I am ecstatic about this. Mind your own business, government. We did not put you in place for such things.

Yes, there is risk. Yes, there are people all over starting churches and calling them “churches” who don’t believe in the Trinity and a storehouse of other foundational Christian doctrines. Do they have the right to call themselves churches? No, that’s the wrong question. Should the government (or any institutional authority) step in and say they cannot be churches? No. Why? Because it is worth the risk. We don’t want anyone creating enforceable laws that define a church, require certain doctrines, or tell us how the Bible must be interpreted. We have been there, done that. Society, history, and individual conscience will be our guides, not institutions which quickly corrupt, can get things dreadfully wrong, and force us to follow.

Are you making the connection? It is different with the issue of marriage due to the fact that marriage is seen as a religious and civil right. Since it is a civil right, the government believes they play a role in defining marriage (as minimal as they have tried to keep it). And part of this role has been to not recognize the legitimacy of a union between two people of the same sex. Now that they are starting to change their definition of marriage, we get upset. It all really comes down to the tax issues (can same-sex couples have the benefits that are privileged to married people and therefore be “defined” as “married,” according to the government?). In the meantime, what are evangelicals doing? They are pulling their hair out, of course. Legislating. Proposing new laws. Sending money to fight this. In short, we are pleading with the government to define marriage.

Our extremely intense struggle in this issue reveals the bad hand we are carrying. We have conceded that the government has the authority to define marriage. But what hath the government to do with marriage? They don’t. They are not in the marriage-defining business. Why would they be? Give tax breaks to whomever you want. But don’t think that you have the power to define marriage.

Is the Government Involved in What Defines Fatherhood?

It is quite the same thing as a commercial I saw last night. In the commercial a man was hiding in various places in his house. He was first in the cabinet, then under the bed, then under a blanket. What was he doing? Playing hide-and-seek with his kids. The moral of the commercial was for fathers to spend more time with their kids. Then, it asks the viewer to visit www.fatherhood.gov to find out more how to be a good dad. What? .gov? The government wants to tell me how to be a good father? Don’t get me wrong. Being a good father is extremely important. Furthermore, men often need help to discover how to be better fathers. But not from the government. What do they know about fatherhood? I don’t pay the government to either define fatherhood or create “ministries” about being a daddy. Leave it alone! The government has no business in this area. We can take care of it ourselves, thank you very much.

If the government eventually “legalizes” all gay marriage, so what? The truth is, they should not have any say in this issue at all. I don’t want them telling me that marriage is only between a man and a woman or that it can be between couples of the same sex. I don’t want them in the marriage defining business at all.

But what about the risks? What if someone wants to marry more than one woman (or man)? What if a brother and sister want to get married? What if someone wants to marry their dog? Let them! Religious society, culture, and individual conscience will handle this. But by no means should one turn to a governmental authority to create rules where there (out of necessity) needs to be freedom that includes significant risk.

Marriage is Self-Regulating

Marriage is a self-regulating establishment. It is a gift given by God. To the gay couple who comes to me and claims to be married, has tax benefits from the government, has a government-issued certificate, and has had a ceremony in a church, please forgive me, but I do not recognize your marriage. My individual conscience is dictated by many authorities which have already determined that marriage is only between a man and woman. Being backed by the government is meaningless and impotent from my perspective. I am sorry, but I will never see you as husband and husband or wife and wife, no matter what the government says.

In conclusion, I am not necessarily saying the government should legalize same-sex marriage. I am telling evangelicals that we need to gain some perspective and begin to argue in a completely different direction. Let the government recognize same-sex marriage if it wants, but we should never recognize the government as the definer of marriage.

79 Responses to “Changing Our Thinking About Same-Sex Marriage”

  1. I think a good measure of libertarianism is the direction to go from here on out. I always trust michael thoughts on matters.

  2. While I agree with the conceptual argument the fear is that once the government defines it, it becomes a protected class, where the government states you have to recognize it. If you don’t, then you can be sued or harassed for discrimination. Their is a stated movement to force churches to recognize gay marriage, just as they are forcing businesses to provide abortion coverage even thigh the church would never recognize abortion as a mortally acceptable alternative. Governments definition of marriage will legalize and regulate our acceptance or required adherence to it.

    Give them insurance and rights of beneficiary, but do not redefine marriage. In a perfect world, your reasoning would be great.

    • This is why I think our arguments need to change. I don’t think that there is any way, if evangelicals keep going in the same direction with respect to the government, it ends in anything other than what you describe. It is going to be legalized everywhere (except the state of Texas :-). But if we attempt to argue in a way that the government has overstepped its bounds in defining marriage and allow the tax benefits to roll, it possesses more hope and integrity.

  3. First I suggest you do a little proof reading and editing before hitting the print button.
    That said–you are within your rights to not recognize same-sex marriage as marriage in your own mind. You can even exclude gay and lesbian people from membership in your club. But know as you make these choices you are speaking for fewer Americans every day and even for fewer and fewer Christians, not because we have been lulled into false belief but rather because we have woken up and studied out the issues involved for ourselves, because we have opted for a version of God that does not involve making Him out to be a monster who created people the way they are for the purpose of torturing them for being what He created them to be.

  4. This issue has never been about the so-called “definition of marriage” and it has never been illegal for two people of the same sex to shack up together and call themselves “married” (the marriage wasn’t recognized by the government, but it isn’t a crime, it isn’t a violation of any law). So, let’s knock off the nonsense about people trying to redefine marriage or about how gay marriage is “illegal.”

    Then there’s the issue of so-called “civil rights.” THEY DON’T EXIST!!!!!!!! The founding fathers rightly understood that rights exist naturally and are inalienable; they don’t come from the government. Further, anything government can give it can also take away. Thus, all the government can give (or deny) are permission and privileges.

    This is really ALL about the benefits, privileges, recognitions, benefits, etc. that government confers on marriage. The homosexuals want what heterosexuals take for granted. I agree with the author that the government should get out of the marriage business entirely – no more benefits, recognitions, privileges, etc. for ANY marriage – gay, straight or otherwise – and no more making singles subsidize those marriages through the higher taxes that singles above a certain very low income level pay.

    The government only started getting into the marriage business in the 19th century as a way of prohibiting interracial marriage. So, if you’re so perverse that you want government sticking its nose into marriage, then you should have no problem with the government telling you that Christians can’t marry.

  5. Margaret wrote: “because we have opted for a version of God that does not involve making Him out to be a monster who created people the way they are for the purpose of torturing them for being what He created them to be.”

    First, I agree with C. Michael Patton that you’ve missed the point of the article. Second, I found your comment (quoted above) disturbing, because it says you reject God as He is in favor of a god you’ve created. Further God didn’t create homosexuals. He created Adam and Eve and He created them perfect (every subsequent human is the result of the procreative process). It was sin (Adam’s sin) that resulted in everything from carnivorous animals and poisonous plants to birth defects to various sexual/romantic attractions that are not normative (e.g. homosexuality, pedophilia) to disease to death. Adam’s sin resulted in the whole of humanity becoming totally depraved, entirely unable to do anything that pleases God.

    Even if you use the “God created” argument, then God created Pharoah so that he would refuse to let the Hebrews go free and so that God could demonstrate His power (see Romans 9:17) on the people of Egypt. God created all those peoples whom He commanded Israel to exterminate. God has created vessels for dishonorable use and vessels of wrath (see Romans 9:21-23) and is perfectly within His sovereign rights to do so. So, be careful before you start arguing against “God created people the way they are for the purpose of torturing them for being what He created them to be,” which is just a straw man anyway.

  6. C. Michael Patton, the government’s role is to butt out (except maybe to have the courts mediate contract disputes between the parties).

  7. Yes, the government is disturbingly involved in moral issues cloaked in the age old veil of “civil rights” and money. I think Chancellor Roberts also answered Margaret’s post with biblical eloquence.

  8. I agree with Michael. He is spot on. The only authority that the government has in this question is whether to give tax credits, insurance breaks, and economic edges to gay couples as well as to traditional couples.But I disagree with Chancellor, I think trad married still deserve fringe benefits.

    The gov gives $benefits for lots of behaviors that are statistically considered good for society. Insul windows, solar power, elect cars, self employ cost deductions, education, home mortgages, medical, long term cap gains, etc, etc.
    Our society wants to encourage people to participate in that stuff. It is good for society for folks to buy a house. HomeOwners are better for the economic longrun than apartment renters, so we give HOship a perk with interest deduct to encourage home purchases.

    It is the same thing with civil unions. People are free to do whatever they want as long as they are not breaking any laws or hurting anyone else. But there exists a particular civil union (traditional marriage) that has been proven for 1000’s of years to be glue to society and promote civility and boost economies. There are numerous studies that married people are wealthier, live longer, more apt to obey laws, and are by every measure better citizens then unmarried people. Marriage is good for society. We have about 3000yrs of history backing up that statement.

    So I think this gay mar thing is a statistical question. Unfortunately gay marriage is brand new. It first became legal in the Netherlands in 2001. It takes decades, possibly centuries to accumulate enough statistical data to make a comparison of how gay couples compare to trad couples as far as benefits to the society.

    Personally, my Christian bias is that it will fail miserably on every level. But statistically gay marriage has not yet proved itself. Let them come back in 20years and apply for tax+insur discounts, when they have something to prove the value of their partnership.

  9. There’s another factor here besides who should define marriage –whether or not it is a civil right.

    If churches should define marriage, and gov shouldn’t define churches, then gov cannot define marriage.
    However, if marriage is held as a civil right, it must be defined by gov, which is impossible if govs are not to define churches.

    So, I think we should hold that marriage is not a civil right. There is no way to maintain freedom of religion while forcing a religious “rite” to also be a civil “right”.

  10. First of all, I am American, but I want to take serious considerations and learn from Evangelicals who lives in Canada and Europe. How did they had to deal with whole country who redefined marriage? In short terms, will we be prepared for future when all 50 states finally redefine marriage? Are you ready for that?

    For me, I still prefer man and woman from the beginning, but better question will be have you talked to Evangelicals from Canada and Europe?

  11. I hear what you are saying. This post is really about church-state issues more than it is Christian sexual ethics. A few things must be remembered, however.

    * The gov. almost HAS to be a little more involved than you indicate. In the determination of what defines a “church”, the gov. cannot simply let everything pass or abuse would be rife. Every sports bar would get itself classified as a church for the tax breaks. Recall the long process by which the ‘Church of Scientology’ fought to get that status. It isn’t about doctrine (you must believe x & y to be a church), or else Scientology would not have stood a chance with their weird-a** doctrines. But there is some basic set of criteria nonetheless.

    * The state often seeks to promote things that it sees as fostering well being & healthy community; likewise it seeks to disincentive that which does the opposite. This is partly why you see the gov. trying to promote fatherhood, etc. They put on marriage weekend retreats, run ads to curb destructive drug use, etc. Marriage has always been something held in this regard – positive for the rearing of the next generation & vital to the overall health of the society. That isn’t so much a religious issue for the state, but it may explain the promotion of marriage from the very start.

    * Finally, the notion that we can alleviate the angst & ugliness toward the church’s image by switching sides on the legal/political issue (i.e., support legalization) while privately maintaining the biblical view of marriage may be naive. As some replies will show, the most vitriolic voices will not be satisfied by this; they will still call it hatred, they will still wage a nasty PR assault on the Christian view of the issue. And the next move is likely to be to utilize the newly legal status of same-sex marriage to turn up the heat on all Christian organizations – not just churches but charities (even Christian coffee/theology houses).

  12. Funny, but just an old historical point, but to be a Roman Senator, in the Roman empire, a man had to be married, and to a woman. I suppose he could have whatever kind of other relationships, but marriage was ruled somewhat sacred, at least by Roman Law, and for the Roman senate. And indeed Christianity (Judeo-Christianity) was born under the Roman empire, and in its first five centuries the vast majority of Christians lived in territories ruled by the Roman emperor. Indeed the great Pax Romana, the peace brought to the Mediterranean world by Roman rule, was one of the factors that allowed Christianity to grow and spread in its earliest years. Btw, centuries after the end of the last Roman emperor in the west, when Islam was becoming the dominant religion of the Mediterranean, the Latin language and Roman civic institutions still continued to underpin the society of Western Europe. Indeed in many ways the social hierarchy of the Roman empire still affects the West, as it is also true that the power structures of the empire had a profound effect on the development of church hierarchy, from here to degree we get the early papacy. And indeed too Christianity also took many other things from the Roman empire. Noting later Greek philosophers and the part that came from Roman aristocratic values.

    (Gal. 4: 4, etc.)

  13. Besides tax exemption, I think there are other aspects that motivate Christians to be politically involved in this subject, like children adoption, for instance. If the government accetps homossexual families, then gay couples must have the same right to adopt children as have heter couples. I think we, as Christians, should fight that.

  14. Steve Driediger October 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

    There’s another very interesting way around this whole debate. Perhaps the church should get out of the government’s way and leave the marriage business to them.

    Clearly the Bible says much about the God-ordained union of one man and one woman. But as much as marriage has become a legal, financial, and civil matter, it should not be the domain of the church. Perhaps the blessing and support of the church of a one-man/one-woman union needs be recognized as something different than what we now commonly refer to as ‘marriage.’

  15. Amazing, there is no ordinance in Scripture for marriage. No ceremonial words, no water, no oil; only the injunction that those who God has joined together (physical and thus natural) no man should dissolute. At best it is a covenanted relationship dictated by custom and therefore binding. The Puritans considered it as such, and, therefore left it up to the civil authorities to sanction the covenant; however, they the union was sacrosanct once consummated. Personally, in my opinion, whether the government sanctions gay marriages in a civil ceremony or whatever will not change the Biblical standard of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. We Christians do not have an exclusive right to determine the use of the word marriage, and to argue such is not logical or convenient. We do, however, have an obligation to insist on a Biblical standard for those within the circle of our fellowship. Equal rights and equal protection under the law should apply to all, gays included.
    Man :-) + Woman :-) = :-) Marriage

  16. Sorry for the typos above, I should have said: Amazing, there is no ordinance in Scripture for marriage. No ceremonial words, no water, no oil; only the injunction that those who God has joined together (physical and thus natural) no man should dissolute. At best it is a covenanted relationship dictated by custom and therefore binding. The Puritans considered it as such, and, therefore left it up to the civil authorities to sanction the covenant; however, the union was sacrosanct once consummated. Personally, in my opinion, whether the government sanctions gay marriages in a civil ceremony or whatever will not change the Biblical standard of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. We Christians do not have an exclusive right to determine the use of the word marriage, and to argue such is not logical or convenient. We do, however, have an obligation to insist on a Biblical standard for those within the circle of our fellowship. The bottom line is, however, under the Constitution equal rights and equal protection under the law should apply to all, gays included. We do not live under a theocracy, nor do I advocate one!

  17. The founders of the American republic would not have given tax credits for marriage or buying a home or installing solar panels or any other such thing. It isn’t the government’s place to promote marriage or fatherhood or abstinence from certain substances or the use of public transportation, etc. Alexander Tytler rightly said that the end of the republic would come when people figured out they could vote themselves money from the public treasury.

    I’m not saying gay marriage should be legalized (which means the government is giving its permission), I’m saying marriage is none of the government’s business and permission isn’t the government’s to give or deny.

  18. Some of our “Reformed” friends might want to check-out what Calvin believed about the/a Judeo-Christian biblical-theological world-view here! In his Institutes Vol. 2 (Book 4) he has: The External Means or Aims by Which God Invites Us Into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein… The True Church with Which as Mother of All the Godly We Must Keep Unity. Means of Grace: Holy Catholic Church, etc. Indeed Marriage is covenantal in God In Christ, and always for both man and woman, together! And quite obviously only for man and woman.

  19. To my mind and belief, the Church “catholic & orthodox” certainly MUST stand alone for marriage in some sacramental sense (not A “sacrament”), but surely sacramental…as ‘In Christ’! This is Pauline and Apostolic, (Eph. 5), and certainly Creational! (Gen. 1: 27-28) As Paul seems to say in Romans 1 (see too 1 Cor. 15), we as Christians simply must confront the culture of the day, or this world and age, this is always the essence of the Gospel itself! (Rom. 1:14-19, etc.)

  20. It is possible I might agree with my long lost cousin ‘The Chancellor’ in many respects here, but of course all proclamations as to just what is and what is not “the government’s business” fall into the realm of “one citizen’s opinion” unless a more sustained argument can be set forth. I don’t pretend to see clearly where the hard line is drawn between things the gov. should do for our safety and well being, on the one hand, and things the gov. should not do because they are “not its business”, on the other. But let’s not be so hasty in our libertarian zeal that we pretend that there is a glorious and pristine neutrality.

    The state is comprised of people, after all, fellow-citizens holding certain powers and responsibilities. To not promote X is in some cases to promote (albeit implicitly) Y. Maybe money need not be spent on it, but at least I want a gov. with enough moral sense to conduct its affairs with some basic shared and agreed upon presuppositions operating in the minds of those conducting them (such as, family is important, etc.).

  21. Myself as a Irish conservative Brit living in America for the last several years, I must confess to just not seeing the lasting worth of the so-called American idea of libertarianism? The real “libertarian” is of course ‘In Christ’, Who by His own power and gospel sets people free from sin, all else is a mere shadow! And just what is a true Federalist, but a union of the states, in a central or centralized government. States literally going to war with States, seems more like a negation of any real Federalist reality! Somebody help out an old Irish Brit?

  22. And btw, Marriage will always be in the domain of Christ’s Church Catholic & Universal. Where Christ is both Head & Body of HIS Church. The absolutes of the essence of both creation and salvation are connected!

  23. In other words (and listen carefully), the government cannot define what a church is. So if you say you are a church, then you’re a church! (at least from the government’s standpoint). The government is not in the church-defining business, and am I glad about that!

    While it is true that the tax code does not include a definition of “church” and the Supreme Court has been reluctant to supply one in a tax context*, it is not really the case that “the government cannot define what a church is.”

    Treasury regulations define “church” for limited purposes in Treas. Reg. § 1.511-2(a)(3)(ii)); federal courts have tackled the question before in De La Salle Institute v. U.S. and Foundation of Human Understanding v. U.S., and the Tax Court has addressed the issue a number of times.

    Moreover–and this is important–just because the tax code and regulations don’t define “church” for § 170 or § 501(c) purposes doesn’t mean that the IRS won’t take a position on the matter and act accordingly until told to do otherwise.

    *But SCOTUS has dealt with the issue of what is or is not a church or religion in a number of first amendment (i.e. not tax) cases like Wisconsin v. Yoder, regarding whether the Amish have to send their kids to public school, and U.S. v. Seeger, a Vietnam-era conscientious objector case.

    • What exactly is the definition of a church mandated by the government?

      Also, according to the mandates here (neither an gov or a institutional authority!) the blog rules say only one comment at a time. If you keep posting one after the other, we will not define you as a commenter and we will enforce a penalty. :-)

  24. Evan @2,

    While I agree with the conceptual argument the fear is that once the government defines it, it becomes a protected class, where the government states you have to recognize it.

    Honestly, this is a fear that comes from not understanding how the 14th Amendment, Equal Protection and “protected classes” work.

  25. And btw, how can Marriage not be part of the Government, especially of any Judeo-Christian government & nation, as it seems with Romans 13? Again, note how close almost all of the top-tier Reformers were to Church & State! Indeed for the Christian community, the Lordship of God In Christ must reign, the Lordship of God over all things! In reality the Christian has but one real kingdom, though he lives in the midst of a fallen and evil age, i.e. that eschatological tension, Rom. 8: 22, etc.

  26. Of course whether the government recognizes gay marriage or not affects you. And every citizen in this country. Aside from what the Bible says about it.

    One man, one woman marriage, is the ideal for society.

    For children, and for sustaining our numbers.

    We will real a whirlwind for our willfulness with respect to affirming and supporting homosexual marriage. In more ways than one.

  27. Erico L. Rempel @16,

    Besides tax exemption, I think there are other aspects that motivate Christians to be politically involved in this subject, like children adoption, for instance. If the government accetps homossexual families, then gay couples must have the same right to adopt children as have heter couples. I think we, as Christians, should fight that.

    But you already don’t have to be married to adopt children.

  28. theoldadam @29

    One man, one woman marriage, is the ideal for society.

    For children, and for sustaining our numbers.

    Um, gay couples aren’t going to reproduce anyway. Whether you let them legally marry won’t change that.

  29. Amen there TOA! But, getting the 20-30 crowd, even so-called Christians, to see this is not easy in the midst of modernity & postmodernity! Again we must see both the soteriological (salvation) and the creational reality here.

  30. Concerning the adoption of children by gay couples. I understand the problem. However, at this point I am slightly inclined to say that the government should not be in the adoption business either. After all, they can stay out of the hospital business (the key word being CAN) and the private sector regulates it. Why would we think they MUST be in the adoption business, regulating it either hands-on or through a law on whether or not gay people can adopt.

    I don’t think that we have to be pragmatists here and say that if we make this one law (which is about morality more than protection) then there will be no gay couples with children and the world will be a better place. That very well may be. But the end does not justify the means. And I do think that we will be better witnesses if we quit trying to use the government to shape our country’s morality.

  31. Michael, the government defines adoption for the same reasons it defines other family relationships: it is frequently called upon to adjudicate them. Just ask any family lawyer.

    But setting that aside, one of the big reasons for the government’s role in defining family relationships (including both marriage and parent-child) is that family relationships largely determine property rights (martial property and inheritance immediately spring to mind). This is not some recent expansive government-meddling-in-our-personal-lives either; this goes back more than a thousand years to the earliest roots of the Anglo-American legal system.

    • Kullervo,

      I understand why the government is in the business of taxes and how this relates to family law. But that does not mean that the government defines these areas. How could they? They can recognize the relationships they recognize. This is necessary for them to make such tax decisions. But their recognition does not affect the culture at larges definition and creates no mandates for the people to do so. Again, it is like non-trinity churches. The government recognizes them but over two hundred million traditional Protestants in the US don’t. Giving benefits and recognizing certain institutions by the gov does not translate into laws of cultural recognition.

  32. I appreciate the attempt at thinking more clearly about the matter, but I don’t think that is what has happened here. Michael writes,

    “The government should not be in the church defining business. And they are not. And I am ecstatic about this.”

    This is on the one hand, true in a spiritual, small-c catholic sense, but in another sense it is not true at all. The moment a self-defined church gets tax money from the government, one has chosen to be defined in some way by the government. But it is incorrect in an even more essential and pernicious way. Let me explain.

    Would a bunch of guys selling bullets, and making a million dollars a month doing it, be able to get 503 status? Why not? Because there are somethings that do not have anything close to an objective form associated commonly with “church”. The second one says “that couldn’t be a church” one is in the church defining business , or that person is stuck saying that anything that defines itself as a church becomes a church in reality, no matter the form or function.

    • Actually, the issue of who would want to be a church regulates this. It is a not for profit venture. So if someone is selling and making a million dollars, the last thing they want is to be a not for profit, much less a church.

  33. And as a demonstration of having missed this core issue, Michael, you wrote the following.

    “Whether the government does or does not, does not affect me.”

    I cannot imagine what could cause you to think this. There is no way to square this reality, one doesn’t even need to engage a slippery slope argument. The second that another form is preferred by the government, then you have to acquiesce in the matter within the bounds of your own business. The government may not be in the marriage defining business in a cosmic sense, but the government has always been and will always be in the certifying-what-society-defines-as-marriage business. This is already happening. And if the Lockean, de Tocquevillian reasoning behind preferring a traditional form of Christian assumptions in civil life is abandoned – even if one is not religious – then another form must take its place. This is absolutely unavoidable, unless, of course, the government asserts that every imaginable form is a church. Again, let me say it clearly, this does not have to be a Christian discussion, but it is an eminently logical one. The government cannot certify any and every form for “church”. There HAS TO be a definition, otherwise the word and category have no meaning at all. How do you give 503 tax benefits to everyone? If you say that this is absurd, then on what basis would you restrict the form? As soon as you do that, your entire argument disassembles, because “the government [is] not in the church defining business” is shown to be absolutely and self-evidently incorrect from a civic standpoint.

    • Jason, you are acting like we have to accept what ever the government becomes. But our constitution protects us from this not only in law making, courts, states, but in the entire idea of Lex Rex. But more importantly, if the government conflicts with biblical principles, are we not to follow the government or the Lord?

      Either way, this is not the issue. The issue on the table is recognition, not an added mandate to recognize what the government recognizes. Going back to the issue of the church. The government recognizes many churches that I am under no obligation to recognize.

  34. Forgive my poor use of HTML commands, I haven’t commented in quite a while.

    • No prob Jason. Appreciate your contribution. Tomorrow there will be a response posted on this blog by a very able representative of what seems to be you position.

      But please read the rules of this blog. There is to be only one comment a time. Otherwise the comment length limit is worthless.

  35. When you go on to write,

    “We don’t want anyone creating enforceable laws that define a church, require certain doctrines, or tell us how the Bible must be interpreted. We have been there, done that, “
    …you are missing the fact there are limits in all laws and in all tax classifications, and someone’s morality will always and forever inform every law that has ever been written and will ever be written. That the government chooses to stay out of doctrine, or has no say in what God deems a church or a marriage, does not, in any way logically result in the government needing to stay out of all classifications. If they do, then the government, literally, ceases to exist.

    Lastly you have written,

    “Let the government recognize same-sex marriage if it wants, but we should never recognize the government as the definer of marriage.”

    I am flabbergasted at the incredibly uncharacteristically bad thinking here. Michael, they exist separately in God’s economy, but they will never, ever exist separately in the public square. You seem to think these two categories exist in bubbles, sealed off from each other, but they don’t, just as you are mistaken with regards to church classifications and tax brackets. The varieties are not limitless, at some point “non-profit” is no longer so, and demonstrably no longer so.

  36. The second you, at Credo House, don’t hire a self-defining homosexual, they shut you down, because you have acquiesced to the idea that says, “To each his own,” when, in fact, this cannot be ad infinitum in the public square. You have undermined your own misapprehended right to self-classification by arguing against the idea that there is such a thing as a meaningful classification at the governmental level. You have kneecapped yourself with your own argument. Each society needs babies and it needs those babies to be self-regulating citizens, and there is one way in which this is most effectively procured. This is a common grace, general revelation logical outcome.

    • Again, this would be the government overstepping its bounds. Therefore it makes contribution that I know of except a slippery slope that would be and is a different battle of mandated acceptance of what the goverent accepts. I agree we could get there, but this would seem to be a compromise in principle for the sake of pragmatism. If you believe the government is the definer of marriage, that is your right and you can fight for it, bit the concessions you make in doings so are, at the very least, at odds, in my option, with what this particular country is or should be about.

  37. “Why would we think they MUST be in the adoption business, regulating it either hands-on or through a law on whether or not gay people can adopt.”

    Should the government protect children from abusive situations? Should the government prevent the buying and selling of human beings? I don’t understand how you’re not following your own logic here, Michael.

    • Jason,

      Physical protection of people and their rights IS a job of the government. Human trafficking, slavery, and the like are not like marriage or homosexuality at all. As well, I don’t think we can put proper parenting and adoption in their hands. Competence is not the issue, just job description. The government, left to its own will always attempt to add to it job description to the degree that one lets them. The question is do you want them to expand into these sectors, why, and is it the idea of America?

  38. For everyone speaking for the founders, consider the fact that Locke believed that adultery could and should be a criminal offense. Why do we think that would be?

  39. James-the-lesser wrote,

    “We Christians do not have an exclusive right to determine the use of the word marriage, and to argue such is not logical or convenient. We do, however, have an obligation to insist on a Biblical standard for those within the circle of our fellowship. Equal rights and equal protection under the law should apply to all, gays included.”

    No one is saying that Christians have an exclusive right to anything, but the word has to mean something, and someone is going to determine what that word means, and that meaning is going to be foisted upon everyone in the public square, about this there is no debate.

    But the second that the word means something, then one is unavoidably setting a particular boundary and, thereby, excluding some form from the representative meaning. The idea of “equal rights” in this case is an utterly incoherent notion, because unless one is willing to say that the word actually means nothing, apart from how each individual defines oneself, then one has to exclude someone, thereby nullifying this untethered, meaningless notion of “rights”.

  40. I’m from Texas, so I sympathize with Chancellor’s libertarian ideals. But we fought a bloody civil war over the Fed’s involvement in states domain and the libertarian side lost. I think reality is that the Fed Gov does have authority to grant bonuses and assess penalties based on utilitarian value to society.

    As early as 1790 (1yr after constitution ratification) Alex Hamilton and GW enacted a whiskey tax. It was a sin tax which is sort of the opposite of giving tax credits for beneficial behavior (marriage, solar power + public transport).

    During the colonial period land grants from the Crown were a common incentive for immigrants to move to the NewWorld. These continued under USA constitution to encourage Westward expansion. There are many other examples, but the point is that government has always from the beginning been using its tax power to shape our behavior.

    If it was legitimate then under the founding fathers, it seems to be an acceptable model today.

    Maybe we let them get married, but we impose a gay tax.

  41. Yes, indeed the British model and the American model of democratic democracy are very different, i.e. the parliamentary. But it is interesting that the British did not have a civil war over slavery, but indeed over the King. It does appear that Americans do have a president that wants to be King however! ;)

  42. Btw, allow me to share this site, as a British conservative. (Who is right now living in the USA). :)

    http://www.chivalrynow.net/articles2/burke.htm

  43. And here’s another nice American site!

    http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/biographies/edmund-burke/

    *Thanks CMP, I will stop, but “conservatism” is close to my heart!

  44. On the adoption issue. My wife and I were foster parents for several years. From that, we have 3 kids who are adopted and one where the courts have named us permanent guardians. We also decided to have a biological child along the way. My observation has been that both Christians and homosexuals talk a bigger game about adoption than actually happens. We didn’t become foster parents to adopt but rather to help kids. It organically developed into adoption. I share Michael Patton’s views on homosexual marriage. I would not object to homosexuals fostering or adopting. It does happen even when it is not supposed to. We kid ourselves if we think that only a sanctified segment of the population fosters and adopts. I don’t see the sin of homosexuality being a necessary disqualification to help when so few are willing to help.

    I do, however, think the taking of children from biological families and placing them permanently into other families should remain a function of the government. I am thinking of Romans 13:4 here. The government bears the sword and makes these tough decisions. Past that legal part and what immediately surrounds it, I think the private sectors and charity can play the largest role. I would hope that churches would be a major player here, and not just churches looking to capitalize on a state-dollars financial opportunity.

    I suspect that you were referring to cases of adoption where a parent voluntarily surrenders a child. Even here, I would still want the government to “bear the sword” but much of the process could be done in the private sector.

  45. Indeed in a fallen world God has ordained that the State or Government should bear the sword, and thus many of the legal problems themselves. This was surely St. Paul’s practice and position itself, as a Roman Citizen.. he gave even his situation to the emperor. The Church is not here to mediate the world’s problems, but to preach and teach the Gospel of Christ!

    In our generation we (the Church) will not solve the homosexual problems, though it is surely a grave sin, in of itself. But God is sovereign over sin itself, and makes it serve His purpose in grace & glory!

  46. Margaret’s post is a little disturbing, as she represents a segment of Christianity which has opted to define God as they see fit, as opposed to honoring the revealed God. I do agree with Michael’s position. Our struggle isn’t with the government, but with churches and Christians who are led astray by the world.

  47. Jason, the protection of rights, yes. The conferring of rights, no. Rights don’t come from the government, they exist naturally and are inalienable.

    Clint Roberts, Chancellor is my first name. I don’t have a title.

    The federal government is restricted to exactly and only those things specifically enumerated (named, numbered, listed, etc.) in the Constitution (as amended). James Madison (the “father” of the Constitution) said “The powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.” He also said, “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.”

    Thomas Jefferson said “I hope our courts will never countenance the sweeping pretensions which have been set up under the words ‘general defence and public welfare.’ These words only express the motives which induced the Convention to give to the ordinary legislature certain specified powers which they enumerate, and which they thought might be trusted to the ordinary legislature, and not to give them the unspecified also; or why any specifications? They could not be so awkward in language as to mean, as we say, ‘all and some.’ And should this construction prevail, all limits to the federal government are done away.” He also said, “Our tenet ever was…that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated.”

    James Madison again, “With respect to the words ‘general welfare’, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them.”

    Jason Ruzek, I don’t have a problem with states having laws against adultery, just not the federal government.

  48. Couple of questions or points:

    I’m not a tax expert, but I thought we had a problem with older people living together and not getting married because of the tax/benefit penalties? I think the issue is more recognition of marital rights.

    Also, you list a series of possible marriage combinations and say that these should be that individual’s or those individuals’ personal decision, not interrupted by government. I noticed you left out any combination that involved a minor. Is this an area that you feel government should step in on?

  49. Btw, when your Supreme Court stepped into the area of the defense of gay marriage, it stepped into being an arbitrator of morals and religion. The Brit’s have sadly too already done this! This is the way of the “world” now. But the historical Church Catholic must stand for the moral and spiritual truth of God, always! But ‘in the world but not of it’!

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  1. Thoughts on Homosexual Marriage, Libertarian Government, and Christian Duty | Parchment and Pen - October 8, 2013

    […] Seminary, founder of Redemptive Heart Ministries, and author of Redemptive Divorce wrote to my post on Homosexual Marriage. It is very well thought out and provides a helpful perspective that, while we may disagree, is […]

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