Don’t Protest Marriage

Written by Joel on May 30th, 2009

ringsThe recent, and expected, decision by the California supreme court to uphold proposition 8 has intensified the gay marriage debate over the last few days. Scenes are reminiscent of civil-rights era protests, and just like in those days, pastors are joining in.

Not far from where I live, Rev. Art Cribbs has announced that “he will not perform any more wedding ceremonies in California until the state’s same-sex marriage ban is overturned.” The article goes on to say that Rev. Art believes prop 8 crosses a boundary between church and state. [source]

Pasadena Star News has a more in depth story with an extensive comment thread here.

Let me begin by saying this protest is ridiculous. But, sadly it is not unique. Fox News (I know, I know…and I apologize in advance but I couldn’t find anyone else covering this story, and they have a video segment) interviews Rev. Susan Parker in Winston-Salem NC on her refusal to sign marriage licenses until same-sex marriage is legal in her state. [source]

Her protest waffles a bit though: She will still “bless” marriages, but she will send the happy couple to the courthouse to have the license signed. There are plenty more examples of similar protests and I encourage you to add relevant links in the comments.

Back to the insanity…

Pastors: Why will you withhold a grace from your parishioners because something the state is doing? You are only punishing the people in your flock. Your impact will be very limited in society at large, but the impact will be profound on your local church community.

I thought protests were supposed to be active? If you believe gay-marriage is valid, then a more effective protest would be to start performing gay-marriages within the church – in mind of the state’s disapproval. That’s a real protest.

The secular world doesn’t understand marriage anyway (even between a man and a woman), maybe they never will. You are basically saying “I will refuse to administer the sacraments of the church until those outside the church understand them the way I do.” Or worse yet: “I will withhold grace to an even greater degree than it is already being withheld until x,y, or z goal of social justice is met.” You are only adding to the confusion and misunderstanding of marriage in our day.

This protest only emphasizes the legal aspect of marriage and steals from the sacramental/covenant aspect of marriage. You will not perform marriages until contract law is more fair? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Imagine if pastors refused to perform baptisms until drinking fountains are installed at the local park. Or if they refused to celebrate Eucharist until wheat farmers earned a better wage. This is just as ridiculous. The church ought to celebrate God’s graces despite all the injustices in the world.

You can’t let politics thwart the Church’s actions in the world. Render unto Caesar whats Caesars, but render unto God what is God’s.

Do not profane the sacraments of the church for the sake of the state.


3 Comments so far ↓

  1. eric says:

    But performing the ceremony without signing a piece of paper, should be acceptable. Having the clergy perform legal duties is at least weird and probably a moral and legal issue. Also marriage as any sacrament is an outward showing of inward grace. The grace is there lack of ceremony to the contrary notwithstanding.

    • Joel says:

      At least in the extreme California case the pastor is even refusing to perform the ceremony.

      Could you clarify your last sentence “The grace is there lack of ceremony to the contrary notwithstanding.”? I read it as you saying two people can be married without the marriage rite/ceremony/service. If that is the case (and please correct me), I believe that is incorrect. There is so much language in the rite which preforms the union. For example “With this ring I thee wed;” the vows and consent; “I pronounce you husband and wife.” Not to mention what good is consent and a vow to marry when it is not made public? I would argue that the rite is absolutely necessary to effect a marital union.

      The question of whether pastors should participate in the state at all (signing marriage licenses) is a good point to raise. But, at least these the two examples I cite they are only refusing because of a political protest. Co-operating with the state as Christian pastors isn’t always a bad thing. Jesus told us to pay taxes after all. I believe signing marriage licenses is in this realm.

      Thanks for your comment Eric. And its good to hear from you again!

  2. Joel, I think you make a good point. Marriage is a unique thing because it’s something that Christians claim, but it’s also a universal human institution, established by God. Thus, it’s a sacrament that rides the fence between sacred and secular worlds.

    Since secularists simply want a secular “marriage,” I say give it to them. Call it a “civil union.” Give them the tax breaks, whatever. People won’t stop being gay if they can’t get married. But for ministers of the Gospel to perform gay marriages, I consider that to diminish the sacredness of my marriage. When you take away the requirements and standards for something, it makes it less valuable and special.

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