A basic Christian argument for affirming gay marriage (Part two)

Ted Grimsrud—May 21, 2012

In the first part of this post, I suggested that Christian churches should be disposed toward affirming gay marriage. Two key factors that support this disposition are (1) the sense we have that marriage is a good thing that should be encouraged and supported in the churches and (2) the emphasis the Bible places on hospitality, especially toward vulnerable people, as a central calling of faith communities.

Both of these points speak to a general disposition, that we should be inclined toward affirmation unless there are clear reasons to override this disposition. It would be possible to draw negative conclusions about gay marriage even if one affirms the disposition toward affirmation. We could do so if we were convinced that there is something inherently immoral about the same-sexness of the partnership.

The argument in favor of affirming gay marriage, though, is at its heart an argument in favor of rigorous moral expectations concerning intimate relationships. It is an argument that same-sex couples should be expected to adhere to the moral standards that govern heterosexual marriage. It is not an argument for relaxing those standards or applying different standards to same-sex couples than apply to heterosexual couples.

The challenge for those who would not affirm gay marriage, then, is to show that there is something inherently wrong simply in the partners being of the same sex. I identified three reasons that are often given by those who do withhold affirmation. The relationships are seen to be immoral: (1) if the relationship is harmful to the people involved; or (2) if the relationship undermines the sanctity of marriage; or (3) if the Bible tells us that, even so, this relationship violates God’s will for human beings.

I use the case of the relationship between “Ilse” and “Jennifer” (based on actual people I know) to present the most positive scenario possible on behalf of affirming gay marriage. To withhold such affirmation, one would need to show why this relationship is immoral (and overcome the benefit of the doubt in favor of affirmation based on the positive value we see in marriage and the biblical call for hospitality toward vulnerable people). Continue reading “A basic Christian argument for affirming gay marriage (Part two)”

A basic Christian argument for affirming gay marriage (Part one)

Ted Grimsrud—May 20, 2012

Over the past fifteen years or so, I have given numerous talks and papers in various settings explaining why I believe that Christian churches should take a welcoming or inclusive stance in relation to homosexuality. These talks have evolved over time. The most recent presentation came when I was a guest speaker in a seminary sexual ethics class.

Because it does not seem that this discussion is going to end any time soon (witness the recent juxtaposition of North Carolina’s vote against gay marriage and President Obama’s statement of support for gay marriage), I find it necessary to keep thinking about how to articulate my views. Here, I will offer an expansion of the remarks I made in my seminary class presentation.

Point one: Marriage is a good thing

My first starting point is the belief that marriage is a good thing. Christians should work in their communities to offer support for married people—to help couples in their struggles, to celebrate the beauty of these relationships, to encourage people entering into healthy and life-enhancing covenant relationships. In our contemporary American society, marriage is a difficult undertaking; the odds are tragically high that couples will face major crises and have a strong likelihood of moving into divorce territory. Couples need the resources offered by supportive faith communities.

Now, I recognize that this is all quite complicated. Some marriages are not life-enhancing. People who do go through divorces also need the support of faith communities. And, absolutely, people who are single need support as well. Singleness should not be seen as an inferior state, and churches often have a lot of work to do to become redemptive places for single people. Nonetheless, we do recognize the potential for beauty and life in the context of marriage and believe that the churches should bless and encourage people who choose marriage.

The issue then becomes whether the churches have moral bases for withholding such blessing and support for people in same-sex covenanted partnerships (and now, in many places around the world, actual marriage). Continue reading “A basic Christian argument for affirming gay marriage (Part one)”