New Zealand became the 12th country in the world to legalize gay marriage on 17 April with a vote of 77 to 44. Rhode Island just became the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage today (2 May) with a vote of 56-15. The march of “rights” continues in strides and seems unstoppable. While we Bible-believing Christians watch on, seemingly helpless, I wonder if there is a silver lining? I believe there is… on two fronts.
First the Church is being called to confront head-on its unscriptural and failing doctrine of rights, which is nothing more than glorified flesh and selfishness. We are called by Christ to total surrender, not to fight for our own rights. Using rights to fight rights (like Christian right versus Muslim right or heterosexual right versus homosexual right) is like fighting fire with oil. The more we use the language of “my rights”, the more the world will win, and the less the world will hear the true message of Christ, the Savior who gave up all His rights, even His divine rights. Mimicking the world’s fight for rights and cloaking it in Christian language is a self-defeating endeavour. The evidence is mounting as we watch one state and country after another pass laws for gay rights.
Am I saying that gay marriage is inevitable all over the world? Not at all! I believe most non-Western nations will never legislate gay rights. Notice among the 12 countries with legal gay marriage (Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden), not one of them is in Asia. Why the stark contrast?
What if you are living in a Westernized culture, what is the solution to this march of rights? There has to be a switch from an unquestionable culture of rights to a better culture of responsibility. This is the main difference which still separates East from West, though the divide is narrowing due to the Internet and entertainment industry churned out by Hollywood. The West has one message it exports through irresponsible celebrities and politicians: human rights. But not everyone in the world agrees with this emphasis. The East is still more inclined to teaching and promoting human responsibilities. Whereas the West exalts children’s rights, for example, Asia focuses on children’s responsibilities – respect, honour, obedience, diligence, good education. This explains why Asian students are known to be high academic achievers when living in Western countries. This is just one example of why many parts of the world will never listen to or agree with the West’s colonial push for so-called human rights. (I will blog about this East-West divide later so my Western readers can further understand. The belief in rights is so deeply ingrained it goes without question even among Christians.)
One other silver lining. While I strongly disagree with homosexual marriage on the basis of moral and medical evidence (which shows the homosexual lifestyle puts one at unusually high risk of disease), I agree with any move which increases freedom in a way that doesn’t harm others. Humans are terrible at making laws to control other people, and every new law increases the potential corruption of the state. We all know that homosexuals represent only 1% of the human population, yet politicians pushes the propaganda that homosexuality is normal and equal to heterosexuality. What is the real motivation behind the pretence of standing up for “rights”? Politicians are rarely motivated by the greater good. They are motivated primarily by 2 things: votes and money. By pushing for homosexual marriage, they are securing both to themselves.
The only way to control this political cancer is to limit the power of government. George Washington understood this when the 13 colonies offered to crown him “King George.” He was a military hero with popular support and could have easily taken on the title. He declined their offer. Why? He knew the danger of concentrated power, even when it’s “legal”. Washington knew the danger was the government itself. How many politicians today would decline an opportunity for more power or money?
Christians need to be reminded of the limits of political power. The more laws are passed, the less freedom we have, and the more control politicians have. This is why the founding fathers of America continually drew the line of distinction between what is legal and natural. Something may be legal but unnatural. Something may be natural but illegal. We should favour what is natural over legal. In the revolutionaries’ minds, natural law could not be added to arbitrarily because they are fixed by God in the Bible. President Calvin Coolidge, a Christian and immensely restrained leader, once told Massachusetts state senators: “Men do not make laws. They do but discover them.” To such leaders, “Biblical” and “Godly” equaled “natural”. When we pushed God out of political thinking, we replaced Him with endless commandments of men.
Do I agree with gay marriage? No. Do I think it increases freedom? Yes. The freedom of two adults to do what they like without harming others should be protected, even if we disagree with their action. I do believe evidence shows that children are harmed by being deprived of their mother and father. Gays should have their freedom but not subject innocent children to their unproven social experiment of raising kids without both male and female guardians which God and Nature clearly intended. The other potential harm of gay legislation is that unfortunately it aims at freedom from the wrong angle, by passing more law to counteract another older law. All these human laws cost money to debate, write and enforce, and generally result in more conflicts among citizens and authority.
The best solution to the marriage debate is not adding another law, but revoking the Government’s right to intrude into our personal lives and defining marriage. Whereas it is now assumed that marriage does not exist unless a state representative legally approves it, this was not always the case. “Legally married” is a relatively new invention. The first statutory legislation in England and Wales requiring a formal ceremony of marriage came into effect in 1754. What happened prior to that? Marriage relationships existed by mutual consent for thousands of years in societies all over the world without any legal sanction. In ancient Greece, no civil ceremony was required for the creation of marriage, only mutual agreement. In England it was called “common law marriage”, which was abolished in 1754.
Isn’t it better for the state to write laws formalizing marriage? It may be, if the state wrote one simple law and stopped there. But once the state started intruding, the floodgate was opened. Endless legislations ensued which attempted to regulate inter-faith marriage (Catholics couldn’t marry Protestants), inter-racial marriages (whites couldn’t marry blacks), intra-family marriages. Examples are too long to list, but here is a brief sample. The Marriage of Lunatics Acts 1811, which prevented the marriage of lunatics and the mentally challenged. (I wonder who defines mental capacity and how many people today would be excluded from marriage?) The Greek Marriages Acts 1884, which ‘allowed’ exceptions for certain marriages performed in some Greek Churches to be considered legally valid. The Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act 1907, which allowed a man to marry his dead wife’s sister. It is via this uncontrolled legal intrusion that we have arrived at the legalization of “civil partnerships” between homosexuals in the UK since 2005 and of “same sex marriage” in New Zealand since April 2013. Law begets law, not freedom.
Laws, like taxes, tend to increase and rarely (if ever) decrease. Christians who do not study history do not realize that the only way to maintain freedom is to restrict the power of human government and reject any Pharisaical and authoritarian intrusion of laws into private lives. Yes, we Christians do not agree with homosexuality, but we should not seek to codify heterosexuality nor homosexuality. This is not the business of Government nor the Church! It should remain, in free society, a matter of choice, for which each person must answer to God on the Day of Judgment. Our Christian duty is to preach the Gospel which travels best in a free, non-legalistic society.
For the first 300 years of Christianity, marriage was assumed to be a private matter with no uniform religious or legal ceremony required. Catholic bishops introduced the idea that a marriage was not recognized by God unless approved by a bishop. But the tide did not turn right away. Until 1545 most Christian marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, with no state representative, priest or witnesses required.
Now it is assumed that we need politicians to regulate everything or else there will be fear of disorder and pandaemonium. Marriage law is a relatively new idea that came into most countries after Western colonial influence: Hong Kong’s Marriage Ordinance passed in 1875, China’s New Marriage Act in 1950, Australia’s Marriage Act in 1961 (prior to that the national government considered it an issue for each state to decide), South Africa’s Marriage Act in 1961. Did the Native American Indians need European laws to know what a family is? No. Why? God created marriage, not government.
God also prohibited homosexuality, not government. Neither kings nor politicians have any business in revoking God. In the Bible, we see homosexuality existed in Abraham’s and Lot’s day, up to Jesus’ day and Paul’s day. There is no mention of believers fighting for or against secular legislation concerning marriage or homosexuality. Lot and Paul did not start a march against homosexuality, but were called to preach the Gospel to homosexuals. Apparently there was a lot of freedom in social relationships among ancient societies, believers were not so concerned about changing laws as changing hearts, and in the end whoever abused their freedom got judged by God, not by us. I like it the Bible way.
Before I conclude, let me address an argument raised by some Christians who say laws are needed for the unsaved and Christ’s teaching on freedom from law is only meant for the saved. That may be true in the area of salvation, but not in the area of politics. First of all, Jesus’ teaching against legalism was directed mostly at the Pharisees. Pharisees were unsaved people writing volumes of man-made laws for unsaved people. “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:4)
I agree that the saved, regenerated, born again Christian should be held to a higher standard, because he alone has the supernatural ability to fulfill all the requirements of the law. By that logic, there should be more laws for Christians who can keep them and less laws for non-Christians who have no hope of keeping all of them. Of course, this is not a Biblical argument at all. Over-bearing Pharisaical laws are bad for everybody – saved and unsaved.
Secondly, I would say from experience that the difference between Christians and non-Christians has little bearing on earthly law. Christians are saved by the Blood of Jesus Christ, not on their own merits, and that means some Christians act with very little merit. Some who go to Heaven (by faith through grace) act far more wickedly than non-Christians. It is not valid that Christians are better at governing others, making laws, or keeping laws. European governments run by Christian legalists have been historically among the most corrupt, no better than the communist regimes of today. I would argue that in this present age, the difference between governments is not whether they are run by saved or unsaved politicians; the principal difference is whether they are run by those who love laws (and the bureaucracy that inevitably comes with them) or by those who believe in limiting political power. More laws do not make unsaved people less corrupt. If they did, the Chinese government, which makes corruption a capital crime, should be among the least corrupt governments in the world. It is quite the opposite! More laws do not make unsaved people better.
Laws should be simple and few, like God’s 10 Commandments. In civil society only 3 laws are absolutely necessary: honor God, parents and leaders; do all you say you will; and do not aggress on other people and their property.
I will blog more examples of the tension between law and freedom. If you don’t understand my argument then please refrain from writing a rebuttal. First understand my entire argument. I am for godly laws and I am for freedom. I am for each person behaving responsibly rather than demanding their own rights. I pray Christians become more known for what we stand FOR, rather than what we are AGAINST.
Here are the unemotional facts about homosexuality in favor of Biblical marriage (we have both English and Thai versions on CD and DVD): http://discover.org.au/bookshop/product/search&keyword=homosexual
What if Christians were known for our stance for freedom rather than legalism ~ what effect do you think that might have on evangelism and discipleship?
What if Christians refrain from judging people and simply share the Gospel to anyone? …Do you?
How should Christians deal with homosexuality? Should Christians focus on law or freedom ~ why do you think so?