Christianity v. marriage, same-sex and otherwise

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Orthodox betrothal depicted by Vasily Vladimirovich Pukirev, 1862.

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Orthodox betrothal depicted by Vasily Vladimirovich Pukirev, 1862.

Orthodox betrothal depicted by Vasily Vladimirovich Pukirev, 1862.

Orthodox betrothal depicted by Vasily Vladimirovich Pukirev, 1862.

Anyone who reads what Jesus says about marriage in Matthew 19 has got to conclude that he was no big fan of the institution. After he tells some inquiring Pharisees that a man who divorces his wife for reasons other than adultery and marries another commits adultery himself, the disciples say, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replies:

Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.

The Apostle Paul underscores this point of view in Corinthians I.7, famously writing that it is “better to marry than to burn.” The marital state is a concession so far as primitive Christianity is concerned; and as Jesus instructs in Luke 14:26; following his radical new way means hating your family — including your wife and children. The popularity and importance of monasticism in the Middle Ages bears witness to Christianity’s early preference for celibacy.

To be sure, marriage eventually came to be valorized. After a millennium, Roman Catholicism made it a sacrament, and the Protestant Reformation, in its enthusiasm for living the Christian life in the world, celebrated the family as a little church. Still, given the foundational texts of the faith, it’s a little surprising how much spiritual significance conservative Christians are according marriage these days.

Take, for example, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Last week he took to his blog to call on his folks to pray that the Supreme Court will allow states to legally define marriage as between one man and one woman “because marriage is not just another culture war issue.”

Marriage is about the common good and flourishing of society, but is also an icon of the union between Christ and his church, embedded in the creation (Eph. 5:22-31). Without a Christian vision of marriage, we have no Christian vision of the gospel.

The scriptural reference is to Ephesians, the Pauline letter that contemporary biblical scholarship now regards as having been written by someone else. Be that as it may, the verses in question do relate marriage to “the union between Christ and his church,” but not in the way Moore suggests.

Ephesians uses that union as the model for Christian marriage: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church,” etc. In other words, it’s without the Christian vision of the gospel that there’s no Christian vision of marriage (as the SBC understands it), not the other way around.

Moore’s point seems to be that if the Supreme Court declares a right to same-sex marriage, then the Christian vision of the gospel is at risk. But whatever the Court decides, the SBC’s understanding of the Christian vision of marriage — wives as subordinate to husbands — has long since ceased to be the law of the land.

  • Patriots

    Not seen theologians explore Matthew 19 for an in-depth study. In this passage Jesus provides profound wisdom as it relates to ‘relationships’, ‘marriage’, ‘celibacy’ and ‘divorce’. He also delves into other topics as He answers questions.
    A great passage for study.

  • Glenn Harrell

    Really Mark,

    “We got to conclude?”

    Or what then?

    And no Greek-Hebrew Syntax? I’m disappointed.

  • Ben in oakland

    If the supreme court declares that there really is such a thing as religious freedom, and that not everyone has to be a fundamentalist Christian, then the Christian vision of the gospel is at risk.

    THAT is exactly how stupid Russell Moore is.

  • opheliart

    The Christian vision of the gospel (according to catholic mindset) needs contesting. It is here that we see the false “prophets”, where man has placed stumbling blocks and what Christ envisions where it states:

    14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,

  • cken

    I think those who in all self righteousness refuse acceptance of or service to gay couples should be bound by the same standard to refuse acceptance of or service to any who have broken and/or continue to break any of the ten commandments. Could you imagine how that would reduce those eligible for communion or how it would reduce the customer base of some businesses.
    We may be forgiven, but how many of us can honestly say we go and sin no more; or for that matter effectively try to sin no more?

  • Glenn Harrell


    Not exactly certain how your comment fits with this post, (I relate it more to the bakery days) but I very much appreciate your message here.

  • Shawnie5

    “I think those who in all self righteousness refuse acceptance of or service to gay couples should be bound by the same standard to refuse acceptance of or service to any who have broken and/or continue to break any of the ten commandments.”

    Certainly–if said service involves actual participation in the breaking of those commandments. Otherwise, your remark is not on point.

  • Greg

    To me, the gay lobby should have been happy with the Civil Union thing. I don’t know anyone Christian would have made a big deal about that. But to go after Marriage? That was a bridge too far. As always those leftist lobbyists are not happy unless they have people fully polarized, and at war with each other. The Devil is working very hard through those who have an flashing VACANCY sign across their foreheads.

  • cken

    It seemed the underlying message in the article was that what we call sin or how we interpret the Bible can be somewhat ephemeral. I reference the last paragraph of the article. I would also reference the only abomination in Leviticus we care about is the one regarding homosexuality. I think for those who view marriage as a holy union it will remain so regardless of what the SCOTUS does.

  • cken

    I think had civil unions been widely recognized and given the same legal accord as marriage the gays would have been happy. Unfortunately civil unions in the very few states where they were accepted they were rarely given the same legal accord.

  • cken

    So in other words you only need take a stand if the “sin” is easily recognizable.

  • Doc Anthony

    “Anyone who reads what Jesus says about marriage in Matthew 19…”

    Such as:

    4 “Haven’t you read,” (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’

    5 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’?

    6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

    So Jesus definitely was — and is — NOT a Gay-Marriage supporter. He explained the origin, nature, and purpose of marriage as given by God, as male-and-female ONLY. No exceptions.

    On another issue, contemporary biblical scholars D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, in their textbook “An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd Edition”, (2005) provide just as many scholarly reasons for ACCEPTING Pauline authorship of Ephesians as to reject it, and point out some modern scholars who DO accept Pauline authorship, such as Markus Barth and others.

  • Glenn Harrell


    Well said.

    Would you care to re-write this post?

  • Shawnie5

    No. Like I said, if my involvement means participation in the sin itself.

  • Shawnie5

    Thanks, Doc. Referencing Wikipedia is rather a blunder in and of itself, but even Wikipedia doesn’t say that “contemporary biblical scholarship now regards [Ephesians] as having been written by someone else.”

  • cken

    I guess then you would have to define participation. Is selling a condom to an unmarried 19 year old any more less participation than baking a cake for a gay wedding. If a friend tells you he is having an affair and you keep that secret are you participating. If someone says i am going to lie to my boss about yesterday back me up is that participating. My point is participation can be or is a very grey and wavy line.

  • cken

    Just my two cents, but does it really matter who wrote any of the works collected in the Bible? The meaning, the teaching, the lesson doesn’t change based on who wrote it.

  • Shawnie5

    In many places a pharmacist can indeed refuse to participate in the sale of contraception in violation of religious beliefs. I personally have no problem with contraception in general, but I can not imagine asking a customer buying a condom how old he/she was or if he/she was unmarried or not, or who the condom was for. That is a situation where one can simply be silent and assume the best (much like the meat sacrificed to idols question in the early church). In the case of a gay wedding, however, this is not possible. There is no scenario in which it can be right and participation allowable.

    And no, I would not aid or abet an affair or other dishonesty. I think those who know me would know better than to expect such.

  • You guys are obviously free to discuss whatever you want, but why not respond to the point of the post, which is that ingrained in Christianity is a preferential option for forgoing marriage?

  • Larry

    If you are so overcome by self-righteousness as to not want to participate in the sins of others, then the best thing to do is not have a business open to the public. You would be forced by circumstances in potentially catering to the sins of anyone walking through the door and plunking money down on the counter.

    If your faith is so overwhelming as to override all sense of civility, sane business sense, common sense, and obligations to serve the general public, then you know what needs to be done. Rather than burden the public with your spiritual crisis and giving offense, you should do business through churches only, exclusive membership with groups you know are not awash with sin, and by word of mouth. Since there is far too much danger in the open commerce to be endorsing the sins of others, you should remove your business from the public.

    The rest of us don’t have to be hamstrung by your religious inspired mental handicaps.

  • Larry

    “In many places a pharmacist can indeed refuse to participate in the sale of contraception in violation of religious beliefs.”

    But the pharmacy itself can’t deny sale of the items. They have to find someone else in the store to procure it. Its one thing to accede to a personal request of a worker, its another to turn it into a company/storewide policy.

    There is always an alternative to discriminatory behavior in a business. Those who can’t think of one are too stupid to be in open commerce.

    So what keeps a “wedding business” vendor from farming out a request dealing with a gay wedding to another vendor more willing to perform the task? The answer is that “Christian” business owner doesn’t get the satisfaction of telling a gay couple, “Buzz off! We Christians don’t serve your kind”

  • opheliart

    I don’t know if anyone gives a hoot about Enoch, but a while ago I read the following, and said … oh, yes, makes sense.

    Chapter 7
    1. And all of them together went and took wives for themselves, each choosing one for himself, and they began to go in to them and to defile themselves with sex with them,

    Wives represents LIFE OPTIONS. Sex–a uniting without true love of the Divine. They defiled themselves in that they were not honest in their intent and life choices.
    Apply this to Matthew 19, but if anyone has read Gnostic Literature it really comes together and makes sense … and can be heard in the Spiritual Language it was intended. From my vantage point, God shows no favoritism, and since Jesus was intended for the Work of the Spirit (God is Spirit-John 4), He would be addressing our marriages to the institutions of Mankind, as well as the parenting within these.

  • Glenn Harrell

    That would be” ‘religiously’ inspired mental handicaps.”

    And, man, have you counted the number of religious zealots and different “holy” books that practice the same bigotry of these “Christians”?

    signed–Civil-less in Seatle

  • Shawnie5

    “So what keeps a “wedding business” vendor from farming out a request dealing with a gay wedding to another vendor more willing to perform the task?”

    That’s been tried, and it still isn’t good enough for these extremists. Their aim is to retaliate, not to secure the services.

  • Glenn Harrell

    Whose Christianity and Whose preference Mark?

    The preferential option for forgoing marriage has been in place at least since Dickey Betts wrote, “Lord, I Was Born a Ramblin Man.”

    If the marital act does not go the way of same sex marriage, then President Obama is a Republican. How is it that the military can go from Ben-Gay to No Gay to Shsss Gay to Proud Gay to Yippie-Eye-O-Gay.?

    Public demand, money, and law of the land will do it. The cover up is to make all this about “religion–Jesus and the Bible–much less the Quran and Book of Mormon. Posts like this one nurture these facts.

    I predict that within two years, the physical act of “adultery” will be in the news as “legalized” just as SSM today.

    After all, there are millions more men/women reckoning with this “sin” than the gay version. O the money to be made on the adultery gene. Lawyers paradise.

    Surely there is someone who will start the movement.
    Here’s our theme song: “Savin All My Love for…

  • Glenn Harrell

    You and You and You”

  • opheliart
  • opheliart

    😀 Yup.

    What—5-7 years?

  • Larry

    Not the same thing. If that were the case, it would not have run afoul of anti-discrimination laws in those situations that made the news.

    What has been tried is refusing the work entirely and shooing the customers away to another store. Farming work out is not the same as directing people elsewhere. One is accepting the job but subcontracting its performance, the other is refusal of business.

    If they had a legitimate “crisis of religious conscience” and not actively looking to discriminate against the customer, there are always courses of action to take. Failure to consider these mean either the desire is really to discriminate or the business owner is far too stupid to stay in business (as is their political supporters).

    The best real life answer to blitheringly stupid “Nazicakes” analogy is the Colorado case. The baker was willing to make the cake and let the customer make the message.

  • Larry

    How many of these other faiths are having success in getting their religious inspired mental infirmities through legislatures?

    How many of them have politicians who are successfully elected on such platforms?

    As much as other faiths share the same handicaps, only Christians are the ones wielding real political power to coerce the rest of the nation into complying with it through our laws.

  • Larry

    Dan Savage said it best:

    “…now that victory is assured—the pope is willing to maybe think about supporting some type of civil union scheme. I’ll say to the pope what I said to my evangelical Christian pal: that *****ng ship has *****ng sailed. What the pope is saying to gay people in 2014 is this: “Okay, now that you’re winning marriage, here’s an idea: give marriage back and we will give you civil unions… which we once opposed with the same intensity and in the same apocalyptic terms that we oppose marriage today. Is it a deal?”

    No deal, Francis.”

  • Shawnie5

    I would have no problem whatsoever with subcontracting. But the result is essentially the same:

    I’m gay and I want to hire someone to help put on a gay wedding for me. Do I go down the street to the gay-friendly business? Or do I deal with that same business through the “homophobe’s” business instead and put a cut of the profits into the homophobe’s pocket?

    Which one should I choose? Gee, I don’t know…

    If it is a question at all, then I am one of these things:

    A. Stupid
    B. Malicious

    Why are you guys knocking yourselves out over trivialities like this that make your side look completely ridiculous?

  • Jonathan J. Turner

    Mark –

    First off, you have constructed a limited, artificial reading of the scripture to provoke a response. Whose fault is it if the hard-core RNS lurkers just jump in any which way? Your “post” is irrelevant to them; but it’s about them anyway, isn’t it? The entire ludicrous folly is exposed when you beg them to get them to focus. LOL!

    To your “point”: the very first commandment is be fruitful and multiply (to all life!); the wise have oil for their lamps; the children are not forbidden; if Christ is the head of the man and the woman, the bed is undefiled. And on and on, as if you care.

  • Larry

    “I am one of these things:
    A. Stupid
    B. Malicious”

    Since your only response in these hypotheicals is discriminatory conduct, the answer will always be yes. 🙂

    No customer should ever have to worry whether X business discriminates against gays or Y business discriminates against Muslims.

    “Why are you guys knocking yourselves out over trivialities like this that make your side look completely ridiculous?”

    Why are you insulting our collective intelligence trying to make up fictions about “well intentioned discriminators”?