Sunday, August 19, 2012

Expanding Marriage

Today a couple who celebrated 50 years of marriage stood before the church (with their original witnesses!) & received a nuptial blessing from the priest. He blessed the wife & the husband separately & then as one, citing the mystery of Christ & the church as its reflected in the complementary marriage of man & woman. Just as the two become one flesh, so I am called to become one with Christ.

It suddenly became clear to me why the definition of marriage can't possibly be extended to include LGBT etc. The issue of “gay” marriage is not so much based on who deserves what because it's fair... In the secular, "civil" world, I agree that gay marriage seems good, feasible & even necessary. There's a growing, yet marginalized culture of people who identify with alternative sexual orientation(s) out there. Why can't 2 consenting adults live together with the same rights & privileges that a heterosexual couple enjoy? Why can't they raise children & receive assistance, credits & other benefits within a civilly recognized marriage like heterosexuals have? Why are the marginalized being punished for who they are?

Logically & anatomically, gay marriage goes against what God intended for 2 people. When it comes down to sex, our parts “fit” & function a certain way for a reason. Its been suggested that one doesn't need “hetero” sex to be married. Sex is sex, whether the parts fit or not. All that matters is that something works for each partner to benefit. So why can't 2 women tie the knot or two men profess their love for one another? If sex is sex no matter how you do it, why can't gay marriage be just as valid as any other marriage? But the “how” of sex is not the real issue here... its the “why” that we seem to be missing. And that “why” is for procreation, for being fruitful & multiplying & expressing love to one another. While the mutual pleasure of both partners is also of paramount importance, one shouldn't get married just to have sex... there is a responsibility in marriage beyond physical pleasure. No, it may not always involve having children, but it goes way beyond the fun stuff. It would seem the LGBT etc. communities are ready & willing to take on that responsibility. Of course they understand its not just about what happens in the bedroom. Its about love & respect & sharing the highs & lows of life with a partner (without being lambasted for it). Its about giving your lives to one another “til death do you part". And its also about equality... getting to share the same basic human rights & traditions heterosexuals have enjoyed for centuries. 

Almost everyone has heard the argument that homosexuality has been observed among various species of wild animals. Obviously they don't choose to be “gay', they're just responding to their instincts. So why can't the same be said for humans? Well for one, we aren't animals. We may share many genetic qualities with them, but humanity is distinctly different in that we have been given the capacity to think, to reason & to choose over & above our “natural” instincts. Beyond this, perhaps it would be helpful to remember that according to the Bible, creation is subject to the same curse we are. The animals can't help it. But we can. Or can we?

If one woman feels more comfortable being intimate with another woman or if a man is disgusted at the thought of being intimate with the opposite sex, is that proof positive they were simply made that way? Why would anyone CHOOSE to be contrary to the accepted views of society when it invites such ridicule & shame? Doesn't it stand to reason that they should look for a way & have the right to improvise & find happiness with an alternative to “the norm”- say, a homosexual relationship / marriage? Why would anyone want to deny another human being the right to be happy, stable & fulfilled in life? Why would anyone want to keep another human being from feeling accepted & loved? Why can't the LGBT etc. community have what heterosexuals have?

Here it comes: because God said so.

I really do loathe that answer, but I find myself defaulting to it all the time. As a Christian, I can't help but approach this issue from a religious slant. I'm all for people being accepted & happy, but I can't get past the idea that gay marriage & “active” LGBT etc. relationships are morally wrong. I suppose I should tell you that nine years ago, I also struggled with the issue of homosexuality on a deeply personal level. But I chose to leave it behind.

Impossible”. “You were born this way”. 'You can never really be 'straight'”. “You can call yourself hetero, but in your heart, you will always be gay”. “You will never really be happy as a hetero because you're denying your true self”. “You can be gay AND a Christian. God is love afterall”. “You were never really gay to begin with. If you were, you would understand you were born this way. Choice isn't an option”.

I've heard it all. But I really do think my ability to choose was (& remains) a gift from God. It may be that some are indeed naturally oriented & maybe some really have been given the ability to make a definitive choice.  I can't understand why one would have to suffer with their orientation & another could have the grace to choose, but I also don't understand the mind of God.  Jesus tells us that marriage isn't for everyone- some aren't born for it & some are (at that time, marriage was the only legal & acceptable context for people to engage in sex, so when He says marriage, He means between a man & a woman). And when He says some aren't born for it, I don't think He means only those who are disfigured or dysfunctional (some translations denote a certain population as "eunuchs"). Its my opinion that He might also be addressing those who were born with an alternative sexual orientation. Some aren't made for marriage in the context God ordained, period. Its a hard thing to hear & accept, but the truth isn't always easy. Matthew 19:12  That doesn't mean we're allowed to forge our own way to happiness either. I've heard that if we have the desire to get married, gay or straight, God is the one Who put that desire there & He wills for us to be happy. But I don't recall hearing anything about that in Word or tradition. We're not on this earth so God can fulfill our desires & make us happy. That can certainly be a fruit of living our lives for Him, but ultimately, we're here to glorify Him, to be transformed into the image of His Son & to share the good news of the Gospel: that all can be saved.

As far as I was concerned, I knew walking away might mean I would never “be” with someone again. I knew despite my resolve, I might not be able to allow myself to love a man or marry. Worse yet, I might be alone for the rest of my life. But I also knew that if I continued to pursue my desires, my conscience would not allow me to serve God as well. It was either / or for me and I chose God. But don't think I'm flaunting my amazing powers over this. It really is a grace I lay claim to by no strength of my own beyond a simple, continuous "yes" to God.  I don't know how actively “gay christians” do it. I was absolutely torn up & tortured inside, convinced that acting on my desires drove me further & further away from Him. I tried to reconcile my actions to God... I tried to see them as desires for & expressions of pure love that would please Him. But it all just felt horrible.

I don't feel I have the right to dictate my own sense of morality when God seems pretty clear about His expectations via not only the Bible, but tradition as well. In these last 9 years, God has indeed changed my heart & my desires. I still have moments, but I can't help but remember the pain during that time in my life. I'm open to traditional marriage if God should allow it & I'm open to living my life set apart for Him if that's what He wants. None of it sounds easy. But it really is a small sacrifice to make in light of impending eternity. Please know I'm not trying to diminish the struggle of gay Christians or the LGBT etc. communities. I understand why they want what they want... but I also get why God says no, at least for me. 

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