I am a practising Christian, I have listened to the arguments for and against marriage equality mostly in silence, not wanting to express my opinion until it was completely formed. It has been a long time since I decided I was definitely for marriage equality. but it took me a while before I could properly articulate why. I have now done so, and have narrowed it down to six points. Six points of why I believe Christians should support marriage equality. This is not a theological debate on what the Bible says about homosexuality, I believe that whether homosexuality is a choice or a sin or whatever you believe is beside the point. What matters in this debate is how people with different beliefs should be treated.
1. Marriage is not exclusive to Christians
A marriage certificate isn’t a licence from God, it’s from the state. A marriage certificate is a legal document, not a religious one. The origin of the word itself can be traced back to latin, which means that it was used by the Pagan society of Ancient Rome. Marriage is something that occurs and has occurred in nearly every society in history, not just the Jewish or Christian ones. The Christian argument is that it originated with Adam and Eve and therefore is a Christian rite. I don’t remember the part in Genesis where God married Adam and Eve and gave them a certificate because it isn’t there, God considers them as one once they ‘knew’ each other. The institution of marriage has evolved over time. In the Old Testament marriage is indicative of the patriarchal society, it was a property transaction between the father of the woman and the husband allowing polygamy as long as the husband could afford another wife.
Now marriage is done on equal terms between partners, it is a vow between them and makes them family in the eyes of the state. This comes with certain tax laws and other privileges that have nothing to do with religion, which everyone deserves access to and are currently being denied to some people based on their sexuality. If two people want a God-ordained marriage that is between them and God. They have the right to a religious ceremony as long as they also sign a state certificate.
If marriage was a Christian-only institution then non-Christians would not want, or be allowed, to get married.
2. Life is all about choices
For argument’s sake lets say that homosexuality is a choice, despite the evidence to the contrary. So what? Do we as a society believe that people shouldn’t be allowed to make their own choices? That people should be discriminated against for their choices? I choose to be a vegetarian, does it follow that I should expect everyone not to eat meat? I would be a pretty self-righteous unbearable person if I did. Or to look at it another way should I be banned from restaurants because I choose not to eat meat?
I also choose to be a Christian, I choose to believe that there is God and I choose to attempt to live my life under the guidelines I interpret from the Bible. Why should I try to force others to live under those guidelines even though they have chosen not to?
In Australia we protect the rights of minorities. This means that when I choose to be a Christian, I don’t lose my rights. I don’t get fed to any lions for that choice.
Religious freedom is a beautiful thing, it means I can choose my own beliefs and adhere to them. I can listen to my own conscience without being in violation of state laws. Given the history of conflict even between different Christian denominations I am so grateful that I live in an era where I am not persecuted because of the way I interpret the Bible. I don’t think anyone could say that freedom of religion is a bad thing or an unnecessary human right. We fight for the freedom of Christians who live in some Islamic countries. Why are we opposing the religious freedom of people in our own nation?
3. Australia doesn’t have an official religion.
Australia is not a theocracy, it has no official religion. Christianity just happens to the most common at the moment. Why then do Christians expect the laws to reflect those outlined in the Bible? If we’re going to make laws based on religion why not invoke Sharia? What about all the Levitical laws which would mean cotton/wool blended fabrics would be against the law?
Australia doesn’t even legislate all the ten commandments, I’m pretty sure a blanket ban on coveting would be rather detrimental to capitalism, not to mention impossible to enforce. How do you legislate against a something that takes place internally? Those of the ten commandments that are in Australian law are those that infringe on the rights of others, like taking someone’s property or killing them. Marriage equality isn’t going to infringe on anyone else’s rights.
4. When religion and power meet bad things happen
Christians have enjoyed a position of power in western society for hundreds of years, now we need to learn how to get on with people of other beliefs. I hear a lot of Christians lament the loss of the family unit and express a wish to return to the 1950’s where everyone was a Christian or was an outcast. This drives me nuts; as far as I can tell western society in the fifties was repressive, racist and sexist. How can anyone, especially a Christian, wish to return to an era where a woman had no right to leave her spouse if she was being physically abused?
Historically the church has been the most corrupt and frankly un-Christian when it has been in a position of power. Crusades, exploiting the resources of other countries, the slave trade… a comprehensive list would take too long to compile.
I’m not saying that Christians haven’t done good things as well but generally they were done by Christian individuals rather than the institution at large. I don’t recall Jesus or Paul calling Christians to persecute people who believed differently. The early Christian church weren’t concerned with trying to make society fit their ideals. They didn’t go around destroying or protesting against the temples of other gods. They concentrated on their own behaviour. Maybe it’s time modern Christians admitted we’ve been terrible moral guardians of society, relinquished our high horses and started working on making ourselves better people.
5. What will preventing marriage equality achieve?
Hypothetically, if the Christian lobby groups do manage to prevent marriage equality what will happen? Will it stop people from being homosexual? Well they don’t have marriage equality now and they’re still homosexual, so I think definitely no.
Will it protect the ‘family unit’? No, there will still be children who have to grow up with a parent missing or, much worse, in abusive home environments. I would argue that the ‘family unit’ is a myth and never existed to begin with.
Will it ensure that ‘Christian values’ are upheld in society at large? No, the number of atheists is growing steadily and marriage equality has not been achieved.
Will it prevent Christians from having to explain to their children why they believe differently from society at large? First of all, that’s a really crappy reason to oppose the rights of someone else. Secondly, if you can’t explain to your children why you believe the way you do, then maybe you need examine your beliefs more carefully. And thirdly, there are things that are more central to being a Christian that are already counter cultural, like loving your enemies, so it won’t matter anyway.
So if it won’t achieve any of what some Christians believe it will, what will it achieve? It will ensure that a group of people will be forever marginalised and will have to live without rights such as the right to speak to doctors about their partners medical condition in emergencies.
6. We can legislate a conscience clause for ministers
The issue most Christians I talk to have with gay marriage is that Christian leaders might be forced to perform marriages that they believe are a sin. First of all, I can’t imagine anyone would go through the money and pain of the legal system just to have someone who thinks they’re an abomination perform their wedding ceremony. But this is such a small issue, let’s get some brilliant legal mind to write up a clause that allow Christian ministers to make their own call. In fact I suspect there is already something in there as non-Catholics aren’t allowed to be married in Catholic churches, and ministers currently appear to have the right to refuse to marry a couple. Problem solved. Or better yet, look at how other countries that have marriage equality deal with it. And we can finally give a large portion of society the equality they deserve.
What do you think? Do you agree with marriage equality? Do you think your religion should influence the way other people live their lives?
Jessica Chapman has written 14 posts.
The consummate introvert, Jessica Chapman has a Masters in Creative Writing, a biting wit and a strong sense of justice. A world traveller since she was 5 days old, Jessica spent 5 years living in Pakistan as a child. Add to the mix a bizarrely harmonious relationship with her incredibly supportive family, an unparalleled ability to get food on her face and a pet golden retriever who is afraid of garbage bins.