Saturday, August 01, 2009

Evangelical individualists

Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today magazine, wrote an excellent article in the July issue called "Is the Gay Marriage Debate Over?" You can read it here.

Galli first establishes the point that what makes gay marriage wrong, aside from Biblical directives, is that it's based on the wrong premise.
"The thrust of the pro-gay-marriage argument rests on the assumption that the happiness of the individual is paramount, and that the state's responsibility is to protect the rights of individuals to pursue whatever they think will make them happy, as long as no one gets hurt."
Galli answers this argument by saying that marriage "is inescapably connected to children and thus family, and family is inescapably connected to society." In other words, to argue for gay marriage (or any marriage, for that matter) on the basis of individual happiness is to deny the very meaning and purpose of marriage.

But then Galli goes further. He says that if we evangelicals are going to fight gay marriage, we'd better repent of our own radical individualism.

Where does our individualism show up? Galli cites several examples:
  • Our use of birth control. Galli says that our "easy acceptance of artificial contraception" shows that we believe "sex is first and foremost a fulfilling psychological and physical experience" rather than part of our responsibility to God, neighbor, and community. (By the way, I do not believe the use of birth control is necessarily a sin. However, I do believe God intends that married couples try to have children. It is part of our creation mandate to fill the earth and subdue it to the glory of God.)
  • Our high divorce rate. Why do Christians divorce? Often it's for the same reasons non-Christians get divorced: "We grew apart." "We no longer met each other's needs." "Irreconcilable differences."
  • Our "penchant for changing churches" and "our need to test every church and pastor against our personal reading of the Bible." Galli points out that we Protestants have managed to turn two medieval churches (Orthodox and Catholic) into 30,000 denominations! Why? Because "we are, of all Christian traditions, the most individualistic."
  • Our avoidance of accountability and church discipline
  • Our evaluation of a worship service on the basis of "the personal experience of the worshiper" rather than what God thinks of it
Galli then adds these convicting words:

"We [evangelicals] cannot very well argue for the sanctity of marriage as a crucial social institution while we blithely go about divorcing and approving of remarriage at a rate that destabilizes marriage. We cannot say that an institution, like the state, has a perfect right to insist on certain values and behavior from its citizens while we refuse to submit to denominational or local church authority. We cannot tell gay couples that marriage is about something much larger than self-fulfillment when we, like the rest of heterosexual culture, delay marriage until we can experience life, and delay having children until we can enjoy each other for a few years.

"In short, we have been perfect hypocrites on [the gay marriage] issue. Until we admit that, and take steps to amend our ways, our cries of alarm about gay marriage will echo off into oblivion."

Very challenging but needed words.


Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

Hard words indeed, but good, godly counsel. My question is, since marriage in America is about the individual, does the state have a cause to limit it to "generative families," particularly when same-sex couples can adopt, artificially inseminate, do IVF (which is a whole nother controversy), or whatever? Honestly I don't know.

On a related note, I just read this Newsweek article on polyamory, which same-sex advocates distance themselves from lest their position seem like a slippery slope.

Mike said...

Thanks for sharing that Newsweek article. "Children can do well in poly families" - give me a break.