Give Marriage Back to the Church


Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted an interesting link to an article by an Indiana University Senior. You can read the post HERE. I don’t want to waste your time or mine responding to this senior’s sophomoric claims – but he does raise a pertinent issue in our country that is worth addressing. My hope is to show why the government should…

Give Marriage Back to the Church

A battle is raging in the United States regarding marriage. Gay rights advocates continue to cite the inequality of rights afforded to homosexual citizens as opposed to heterosexual ones with regard to civilly supported matrimony. Conservative Christians though don’t want to legitimate marriages, under God, that they believe Scripture says are sinful. Any government legitimacy of this action seems to them a concession that will endanger their faith. With such a dilemma – how can this problem be solved?

I believe that at the heart of this issue is a failure to adequately separate issues of church and state and I have a proposal that would rectify the situation for all parties involved.

My suggestion is that the United States government STOP performing marriages. Now here me out… The complaint by various Civil Rights groups is that various groups are not being afforded equal treatment under the law. Logically this seems to be a legitimate complaint. Instead of marring people – all people should be allowed to be attributed to one another though a Civil Union by which they would qualify for the civil benefits that current married couples do with regard to taxes, property, contractual obligations, etc.

If, on the other hand, various Civil Rights organizations are upset because the government is not affirming anyone’s right to marriage under God – well then, in my opinion, that is a Scriptural and theological issue outside the function of Government.

I suspect, in order to make my suggestion an acceptable reality, the government would need to “grandfather in” all civil marriages to date. I think for religious communities this would be a welcomed compromise.

The actual rite of marriage would then be left to religious institutions. It would thus follow that say – in the Christian tradition for example, denomination’s would need to decide as to what types of marriage they would support based on their Scriptural and/or theological stands. For example, the United Church of Christ – I would expect based on their current theological stand – would be all for marrying homosexual couples whereas the Catholic Church would not be. These decisions could be made based on what each denomination holds to be their foundational tenets. Various groups could join the denomination of their choosing based on these decisions.

I would note that it is often portrayed as if more “fundamentalist” or “evangelical” churches are simply bigots or “homophobic” for opposing homosexual marriage – and while there are certainly extremist cases of this – for the most part, this is not a fair assessment of these churches actions. The issue at hand is a hermeneutical one, that is, the science of interpretation of the Scriptures by each respective party. To say that a certain group are bigots or homophobic simply because they refuse to do something that they see as being opposed to the teaching of God is simply not a fair critique (nor is it an effective manner of persuasion to one’s position). Exclusion from private institutions is not illegal nor, would I argue, necessarily immoral.

Obvious illustrations of such exclusion extend to all kinds of societal membership. Person’s views on any number of things – behaviors included – can preclude one from being able to be a member of a given individual organization.
An easy example of such logical exclusion with regard to the church is some denominations use (or lack thereof) of technology. Because I have a different hermeneutical view of what the Scriptures say about technology I am not permitted to become Amish, German Baptist or Mennonite. This in no way means that my exclusion somehow indicates a lack of faith on behalf of my Amish, German Baptist or Mennonite brothers and sisters, it just means that they believe that they are called to live under certain restrictions in order to be faithful to how God is commanding them to act. For me, this is just an obvious indication that I am not called by God to be Amish, German Baptist or Mennonite. Regardless though as a Christians, even though we disagree theologically on this issue (or any other) we are still called to Love one another in Christ.

The United States Government’s willingness to turn marriage solely over to the church would ensure equal civil rights to all through civil unions while allowing churches – either locally or denominationally to retain autonomy as to their specific theological and Scriptural beliefs. Everyone wins. The government goes back to dealing with civil rights and the church (or other religious institution) rightly attends to issues pertaining to God and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. And, if couples feel called to get married “under God” they could pursue that option in addition to their civil union as well.


7 thoughts on “Give Marriage Back to the Church

  1. Hey Chris, Greetings. Although what you propose sounds like, and in many ways is, a good idea I think that your analysis misses one very important point. The distinction that you are able to propose, between secular civil unions and church weddings, would not represent any sort of ‘taking back’ but rather would be a modern solution that could only exist in a separate church/state society. In the days when the Bible was written there was no separation between state, ‘church’, economy, and family property concerns. Marriage was mostly an economic decision having little to do with love or God or anything other than which families could benefit from the union of children. Now that we have a separation of church and state, and now that people don’t need marriage for economics (although married couples do tend to do better economically), we have turned marriage into something new; it’s about romantic love and some sort of religious bond of ‘soul mates’. In this environment the supposed ‘religious roots’ of marriage come to the fore but this is really an inaccurate assessment. The fight over who can get married becomes bogged down because we now have these two institutions that supposedly preside over marriage when originally there was only one. So at the end of the day your proposal is interesting and probably both viable and a good solution, but it’s really new, not old.

    1. Hi Dan,
      Thanks for the post. This same issue was brought up on my Facebook wall but you may have missed it there.
      To your point about my proposal being a new idea – not an old one- I can see that perspective. I am not personally hung up on the word “back”- if that is your hang-up with the post. I can see your viewpoint on this but I ultimately think that this too is a question of hermeneutics. If Gen 2:24 is one’s “biblical injunction” then one could say that God created marriage. In either interpretation though, as you aptly point out, it doesn’t change the crux of the argument or its validity.

  2. Hey Chris, yeah I missed this on FB. A couple of follow-ups:

    – I didn’t say that there aren’t religious roots to marriage, of course there are. Only that this wasn’t the principle root, given the intertwining nature of the institutions.

    – I actually think that the old vs new thing is non-trivial. In many of the arguments and discussions in our society, people in the church appeal to some time in the past where they claim that the church was more involved, or involved in a certain way, in their issue and they say we need to return to that original arrangement. This occurs in discussions about the institutional church, about the founding of America, about all sorts of things. The appeal to the past in this manner is done to add the weight of some sort of authority and is a projection onto the past of some sort of ‘good’ times which people claim has now vanished. However this projection and appeal is usually false and a distortion of the true nature of the past. This happens all the time in the appeal to ‘Biblical family values.’ If we really want to live Biblical family values then we need to bring back slavery and polygamy!

    Thus, I think that it’s important to realize that we are in a new era, with our institutions aligned in a new manner, and that we need to adjust what we do to match these new situations. This more accurate approach avoids the tendency to appeal to a false authority or the ‘we’re right because the founding fathers says so’ approach and allows all of us to be on the same footing as we seek the new thing that God is doing in our midst.

    Thanks for your reflections.

  3. Dan,

    I understand what you are saying regarding people’s “appeal to the past” – and in some instances I think that you are correct but, with regard to other instances, apparently I disagree with you. I have heard this argument several times that “If we really want to live Biblical family values then we need to bring back slavery and polygamy” and I think that that position is simply a misread of Scripture or a poor rhetorical device. I don’t remember anywhere in the Bible where people practicing slavery or polygamy were found to be in favor with God for those actions. Actually, Jesus seems pretty straightforward with what he says about these things and his words (in my reading – again with the hermeneutics) don’t seem to support either. I referenced Gen. 2:24 because that seems to be a time in which God does find favor with humans – seeing that God caused what happened at that time to be so.

    So it would seem that if God caused something to happen and then people turn from that way of being then the former would be “better” than the latter. I would also contend that is would be hard to say that the direct teaching of Christ are somehow “less important” than the current teachings of the church. So in some instances the appeal to the “original arrangement” may certainly be valid.

    Additionally it also seems to me that you just did what you are saying is the problem when you said: “Only that this wasn’t the principle root”… implying that somehow you know what the principle root is./? That’s exactly why I initially said that I think that this is a hermeneutical issue and I referenced Gen. 2:24

    All that being said, It still doesn’t seem like we disagree about the crux of my proposition even if we disagree about it’s origins. I also appreciate your willingness to civilly discuss this issue even if we might disagree on other points surrounding the issue. I think that this is a subject that people are tiptoeing around and I’m not sure exactly why. If we discuss issues in Love and respect then I believe that we grow together. That is, in my opinion, exactly what you were talking about – God doing that new thing in our midst.


  4. Excellent article. I have been discussing an idea like this with my friends for years now. It makes perfect sense. I realize Christians, or anyone of faith for that matter, will always be targets of the “bigot” label, but taking a step like this is a great way to lessen the “homophobe” stigma from the Christian church, which will allow for more open, honest discussions with non-believers about the issue. Spreading love is the key to reaching people, not blindly hating people because their sin is somehow different than yours.

  5. First of all, there is no constitutionally enshrined separation of church and state. That is a fabrication of the Left, a quote out of context from Thomas Jefferson’s letters. Secondly, the state has a compelling interest to keep marriage between one man and one woman. The society must have a single definition for something so fundamental to its own sustainability.

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