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Should the church continue to object to gay marriage?

June 1st, 2012 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

That was the question that Leadership Journal asked me to write about, so write about it I did.

At its core, the question of gay marriage is not simply one of tax benefits or social prestige: it is a question about how our society will organize itself and whether we can recognize permanent gay unions without marginalizing people who disagree. As Christians, we have no need to fear marginalization. It is simply what we can expect as long as we follow Jesus. But as Christians living in a participatory democracy, we are given a seat at the table and allowed to chime in on deliberations. Which means having the freedom to not run after stigmatization, either.

Perhaps the most important reason to continue to organize our society around defending and promoting tradition marriage is that, well, it’s true. We may take it as true on special revelation, but what’s true there is true from general revelation as well. The effects of sin may make secular reasoning less persuasive, but that is not a new problem and, by and large, it has not stopped Christians from playing in public in the past. In fact, one of the most successful social reform movements in American history—the Civil Rights movement—used a combination of secular and religious arguments the way traditional marriage defenders are trying to do now.

None of this means that traditional marriage proponents can or should continue with the sort of strategies they have employed in the past. But cheerfully, winsomely, and steadfastly stating the truth is what we are called to do. That message will be harder to hear if our dominant institutions—like our government—are set up in such a way as to oppose it.

I’m intrigued by the comment that even a Christian understanding of marriage “doesn’t matter” to the wider culture.  On one level, I understand the response, given how the media narrative plays up the inevitability meme.  On another level, I am surprised at how willing we seem to be to relinquish the power of special revelation to be efficacious even in a sinful and broken world.  The tacit fatalism of the remark seems to suggest an astonishing privileging of the power of sin, a privileging that I’m not even sure Calvin would go for.

Update:  So, I wrote the above while chatting with a friend at 3:30 AM CST after a long day of travel.  Which means, you know, I shouldn’t have hit publish.  But I did and woke up this morning and realized that the title was the exact opposite of what it should be.  So, um, that’s fixed. 


Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.