Recently I attended "Can We Talk? An Open and Civil Conversation about Marriage,” an informal Referendum 74 discussion group that was held at Indaba Coffee. The group gathered with the intent to discuss and debate the issue of gay marriage and the upcoming vote on would will legalize gay marriage or repeal it in Washington State.
The group was predominantly progressive and pro-74 and overwhelmingly articulated the civil right position of the debate, but in the posture of Christian love and equality.
As a Christian, politically active and vocal citizen and pastor, I've spent a fair amount of my time engaging the issue, studying the debate and working out my own response and position on the matters connected to the issue of gay marriage, both from a secular and sacred position.
Below, in section A, are my thoughts on how I think Christians should attempt to engage, discuss and debate these marriage matters. In section B I share my research and response from opposition to Referendum 74 and some of the matters discussed in the "Can We Talk" meet up.
I am open to further development or change on these points depending on the convincing nature of the rebuttals.
-Support full equality for all, in matters of civil law, as is fitting in a secular, democratic republic.(For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority — whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king." 1 Peter 2:13-17).
-Support the expansion of home and parent possibilities for all children. Since gay marriage isn't a procreation possible social institution, it should be provided equal opportunity to fulfill society responsibilities to raise healthy children.
"Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows," Isaiah 1:17.
-Strengthen the sacred understanding of marriage in Bible teaching homes and churches. Faith communities need to do better at raising religiously educated followers of Jesus that can articulate, discuss and debate matters of biblical and moral importance related to human relationships, procreation, social and moral responsibility.
"Your heart should be holy and set apart for the Lord God. Always be ready to tell everyone who asks you why you believe as you do. Be gentle as you speak and show respect," 1 Peter 3:15.
-Support an aggressive campaign for religious people and pro-family faith communities to eliminate the foster care overload of children in Washington State. If a biblically inspired faith calls for the care of the orphan, there should be no children in need of a safe and loving home in our city or state.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world," James 1:27.
-Maintain equal accountability and judgment for all aberrant biblical standards for sexuality, marriage and divorce.
"But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors," James 2:9.
-Move away from mandating and meddling in other people's private lives based on one religious group's principles.
"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you," 1 Thessalonians 4:11.
Here is my review of the opposition responses to Ref. 74 advocates and some of the points discussed at our gathering and in the Pro-74 material provided:
Arguments Against Changing the Definition of Marriage:
-Marriage is about Children
Marriage serves a vital and universal societal purpose - to channel biological drive and sexual passion that might otherwise become socially destructive into enduring family units that have the best opportunity to ensure the care and education of any children produced by that biological drive and sexual passion. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has said that marriage is, "fundamental to the very existence and survival of the [human] race."
"Fundamentally, same-sex marriage advocates propose to shift the marriage paradigm away from what definition of marriage is best for society - especially for children - and squarely onto the desires of the individual adults. Under Referendum 74s genderless definition of marriage, the interests of children - and therefore society's intrinsic interest in marriage - is eliminated entirely. Only the wishes of the two adults in question matter."
"Such a paradigm shift says to children that mothers and fathers don't matter (especially fathers) - any two 'parents' will do. It proclaims the false notion that a man can be a mother and a woman can be a father - that men and women are exactly the same in rearing children. And it undermines the marriage culture by making marriage a meaningless political gesture, rather than a child-affirming social construct," according to Preserve Marriage Washington.
- Gay Couples Already Have Full Civil Legal Rights.
"Furthermore, the redefinition of marriage does not bestow any new legal rights on couples of the same-sex in Washington State. In 2009 a law was passed that granted to registered domestic partners every legal benefit enjoyed by couples in traditional marriages," from MARRIAGE AND THE GOOD OF SOCIETY "A Pastoral statement regarding Referendum 74".
Speaking of Power & Money Matters, follow the Dollars.
"We need to match our opponents dollar for dollar to win and that means we need your donation today" -Washington United For Marriage, Pro Referendum 74 Pamphlet
"Financially, Washington’s traditional marriage effort currently lags behind its opponents by more than a 12-to-1 ratio, with Washington United for Marriage garnering over $6 million so far."
Actual Law VS. Misleading Reporting on Legal Policy Matters.
"There is no question that, at a minimum, a church may allow a Preserve Marriage Washington volunteer or volunteers (who may be deacons, elders, lay-leaders, ushers, the speaker making the weekly announcements, or any other individual(s) in the church) to distribute material related to Referendum 74, including envelopes for donations; collect the envelopes with the donations and required contributor information; and work with Preserve Marriage Washington to send the same to Preserve Marriage Washington at PO Box 13350, Mill Creek, WA 98082.10 If these procedures are followed, a church is not transmitting contributions in violation of Washington law," according to the Act Right Legal Foundation.
"Under the Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3), churches are only prohibited from expending more than an “insubstantial” part of their overall budget and activities on lobbying matters such as the promotion of the marriage referendum. This legal standard has been interpreted by the federal courts to mean that a church cannot expend more than 5 to 15 percent of its overall budget and activities on supporting or opposing legislation," according to the Alliance Defense Fund.
The Bible Shouldn't or Doesn't Speak About These Matters:
Jesus on Marriage:
"Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate, " Jesus said in Matthew 19:4-6.
In summation, to be really honest, I think the opposition's positions to Referendum 74 are very weak and fail to do the work of convincing intelligent, democratic citizens with or without faith commitments or backgrounds. There is much more sociological, theological and philosophical work to be done to adequately inform the voter to repeal referendum 74. If it is accomplished I feel it will rely on primarily on "fear and feeling" instead of clear biblical or biological conviction and logical conclusion.