Before we could convince you or anyone that justice requires you or anyone to “bestow” marriage on same-sex relationships, we would need to convince you that a reasonable and open-minded public conversation on the subject should be allowed – in Evangelical and even Southern Baptist settings. Such free and open conversation rarely if ever takes place in Evangelical and Southern Baptist settings.
He ends with this appeal:
Human to human conversation is what we need, as this college student wisely said. That’s what EME is asking for.
Allow me to reply with equal measures of friendliness to Brian.
Thanks for the note. “Human to human conversation” that’s “reasonable and open-minded” as you desire is, of course, welcome. Unfortunately, though, “conversation” as you often construe it, is simply a pretext and power play designed for endless speculation that never reaches an answer—unless it’s an answer that you find acceptable on your terms (which, more often than not, is an answer that rejects historic Christianity). Moreover, while “human to human conversation” is vital for fostering understanding and dialogue, it isn’t an argument that justifies redefining either a biblical or civil understanding of marriage—which is what this entire “conversation” is about.
To be entirely candid in the spirit of “human to human conversation,” I’m not convinced that you’re actually writing as an evangelical on matters such as these. You may think that you are, but the evidence you’ve provided in your many writings over the years lead me to believe that you have rejected what history has long considered orthodox Christianity. Now, I don’t say that joyfully; and I know you’ll reply in such a manner that subjects all aspects of “orthodoxy” to the unending regression of perspectivalism. You’re a terrific writer, but a writer whose views I couldn’t more strongly reject. So, admittedly, I’m reluctant to accept the scriptural presuppositions that you would use to make your argument.
But since we’re both interested in conversation and dialogue, I have a few concerns that I think those supporting the redefinition of marriage are obligated to interact with. Because ultimately, marriage—civilly and biblically—must be based on principle. The blunt application of “Equality” as the only principle ascribed to marriage is insufficient since “Equality” bypasses what the nature of marriage actually is (I made this point tangentially in my TIME piece). Laws make distinctions. What matters, however, is that they not make arbitrary distinctions.
An arbitrary distinction, for example, were the awful and racist anti-miscegenation laws that prevented different races from marrying one another marry. That debate was about who could marry, not what marriage is. As my friend and co-laborer in the defense of marriage Ryan Anderson states, “To know whether a law makes the right distinctions—whether the lines it draws are justified—one has to know the public purpose of the law and the nature of the good being advanced or protected.” From my vantage point, it isn’t an arbitrary distinction to observe that the union of a man and woman is qualitatively different than a same-sex relationship. It seems fair and just for laws to treat different things, well, differently. Opposite sex and same-sex relationships are different. This statement can be made without any reference to the morality of same-sex relationships. You’d admit this, I hope. When we protect “traditional marriage” or “biblical marriage,” we’re simply being deferential to the undeniable reality that children need mothers and fathers. Marriage connects men, women, and children. All of human history has recognized this truth, until it became politically unpopular in the West less than two decades ago. (For decrying Western colonization as you do, it seems odd that you’d kowtow to a position promoted and mainstreamed exclusively by Western countries.) When government and society decide to redefine marriage, it doesn’t just expand who can marry, it alters, fundamentally, what marriage is.
When marriage is no longer gendered, questions pop up that become very problematic.
If marriage is no longer complementary, why must it be permanent?
If marriage is no longer complementary, why must it be exclusive?
If marriage is no longer complementary, why restrict marriage to only two persons? Why is two the magic number? Why couldn’t any human relationship in whatever number be eligible for “marriage equality” if they deem their relationship marital?
Brian, advocates for same-sex marriage need to be in honest in telling children which of their parents aren’t needed. Which parent is dispensable? Because same-sex marriage denies, as a matter of social policy, that a child needs either a mother or a father. That’s an egregious and offensive overstep in our quest to overcome poverty, reduce inequality, help children prosper, and promote the fullest understanding of human flourishing. I feel that in these debates, arguments for same-sex marriage make marriage more about the emotional lives of adults, rather than the needs of children. Now, as Christians, marriage is about more than children, but it’s certainly not about less.
When we make marriage fungible, we make it unintelligible. We render its persuasiveness null and void, since any relationship can supposedly exhibit marital qualities. Ultimately, same-sex marriage advocates, in wanting to expand marriage, end up defining it down.
But, honestly, I’m not really sure you’re interested in “conversation,” since the organization you’re defending is Evangelicals For Marriage Equality. You’re making an argument in the affirmative. You’re forsomething, not just a neutral facilitator of an honest “human to human” conversation. You’re for the position that is against my position. Let’s just be honest about that. Because of this, I think it’s disingenuous when you write “If such a dialogue is warranted, people should not be silenced, excluded, condemned, or excommunicated simply for opening up this discussion.” I agree! The problem here, though, is that you cannot, in the same statement, ask for a conversation where no one is condemned, but also place a biblical view of marriage alongside practices like slavery. This “guilt by association” argument is merely subtle condemnation.
Moving forward, I’d suggest that Evangelicals for Marriage Equality make actual arguments, because principle is the fruit of honest debate and right now, the principles of EME are quite non-existent.
For the Kingdom,