Day 45: Why should the church care about marriage?

I never really thought about what my wedding would be like til I came Out. Then of course I spent all kinds of time trying to make it work in my head. Once when I described a particularly dramatic vision version to my parents. Their response was, “We love you. How we feel about who you marry will never be about their sex….and we’re not coming if you’re going to wear baptismal gowns while holding the ceremony in the water. No. Really not…stop being hysterical.”

That’s not an exact quote, but it certainly catches the flavor of their feelings.

I really wanted to catch the drama of one of those gorgeous gowns without wearing one (because there was never a question about who would be the “bride”). I really wanted what the straight people had access to.

I think that’s a problem. In “The Trouble with Normal”, Michael Warner uses an acidic tone to challenge the Gay marriage movement. Actually what he challenges is the whole cultural obsession with marriage. Opening the privileges of marriage to same sex couples effectively reinforces the current expectation of a Married Class who have access to a host of privileges merely for making a religious covenant into a legal contract. Opening the benefits of legal marriage to same sex couples creates a new inner circle of “normal” where Queer culture and any expressions of sexuality that aren’t based on the privacy/shame paradigm can be conveniently exiled.

And as ministers we participate in that privileging, in fact we endorse it, when we, as Agents of the State and Federal Governments, sign the contract and thereby make it a binding legal document. That contract has nothing to do with the scripture or church history courses we took. The divorce rate demonstrates that it has little to do with pastoral care. You don’t need an MDiv. to sign it, just get online. We all know that.

This relationship of beings agents of the State is perhaps more obvious here in Ohio where there is a form and a fee, along with a copy of one’s ordination form, required to have the privilege of doing the government’s work.

And scripturally weddings and marriages, much less their definitions are dicey at best. Queer, living outside whatever the contextual “norm” (on the Fringe, if you will), on the other hand has ALL kinds of scriptural precedent.

While I’d not bother trying to argue that Christ and Paul were homosexual, you have to admit they, and all our Prophets and scripture heroes, were incredibly Queer. Look at how many lived out their lives chaste, unmarried, unfaithful, bigamous, dirty, sometimes really gross, drunk, and or some combination thereof. Jesus lives communally and against both Jewish and Roman norms. “These are my mother and my brothers.”, “Let the little ones come to me.”, “let he who is without sin”, “the Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath”, and all of the “You have heard it said…”‘s.

Paul doesn’t just remain unmarried and childless, he talks about sexual desire with disdain and calls marriage a prophylactic to sin and damnation (condom-nation…anybody?…just me? Ok). Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

My point is, glorifying and privileging legal marriage ultimately serves one force beyond all others. Hint: it’s not the Body of Christ. I would echo others and argue it is in the service of the “Empire”. Be it Roman or United States(-ian?), maintaining a status quo and privileged classes makes it easier to govern and tax. Maintaining a normalized dream keeps people in line and serves as a “carrot” to distract us.

AND the church MUST participate in this conversation.

“But Seth, you wacka-diddily-dodo, didn’t you just spend an inordinate amount of time arguing the opposite?! Le. Sigh.”

Fair point. But when we say “the church” that means us and the folks we serve. I don’t want to be an unwilling (and unpaid) government employee, but I DO want to celebrate the covenants that beautiful friends like Audrey are committing to. The commitment matters. She and her wife matter.

And frankly if we absent ourselves from the conversation, you KNOW someone else will take our places, speak for us, God, the Bible, and “every true Christian” with words that will bind us more painfully than hemp and more surely that cuffs.

We have to participate and make it clear, “MARRIAGE, a covenant that involves vows to a diety, is the purview of religion. CONTRACTS that bind people to consequences enforced by the State belong to human created government. Stop acting like they’re the same thing.” Let us give back to Caesar what is Ceasar, and dedicate to God what is God’s.

And, more importantly, we have to participate because both as ministers and as Christians we have all made vows to serve Who we worship by taking care of each other. If we are to emulate Christ, then being silent because it is rude, inconvenient, uncomfortable, or even dangerous to speak is not an option.

For crying out loud, Christ went to Gulgotha rather than be silent or separated from us. How can we face the risen Christ if we abandon each other?

Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?