After listening to yesterday’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage (SSM), I am now an unabashed political libertarian. It’s a political philosophy that I’ve been leaning towards for years, but the SSM debate has now sealed the deal for me.
Have my views regarding the morality and wisdom of SSM changed? No. If anything, I am more convinced than ever that SSM is an oxymoron, that it will be detrimental to society as well as many individuals, that homosexuality is a warped expression of human sexuality, and that homosexual acts are sins.
I believe that the same can be said about premarital sex, adultery, about most instances of divorce, as well as a whole host of other actions and attitudes involving not only human sexuality but all of our relationships with one another and the rest of God’s creation. I hold these convictions because I embrace what most Christian churches have taught over most of the last 2000 years regarding these matters. Those churches have arrived at those teachings as they have sought to interpret the teachings of Jesus and the apostles as preserved in the New Testament scriptures.
Those of us who seek to follow Jesus as Lord make a critical error if we believe that the governments of this world are somehow partners with God’s people in ushering in the kingdom of God. Governments are indeed ordained by God and necessary for civilization. But governments, no matter the form, are comprised of sinful human beings. And, governments always possess and utilize the power of coercion. Every government, no matter how well-structured its forms and well-intentioned its participants, will eventually fail and fall. To think otherwise is to set up an idol that will compete with the one Lord who has promised that He and He alone ultimately will bring peace and justice.
Therefore, the God-ordained roles for government are few in number and narrow in scope. Enforcing contracts? Yes. Building infrastructure for the common good, for example roads? Yes. Protecting its citizens against any who would deprive them of life, liberty, or their property? Yes. Protecting the helpless against imminent danger? Yes.
Defining and sanctioning “marriage”? No. Government should enforce contracts. If adults want to enter into a contract with the property rights and responsibilities that we have traditionally associated with marriage, then, as far as the government is concerned that should be allowed – not because it is good, but because adult citizens should be free to associate and enter into legally enforceable agreements with one another, as long as those agreements do not deprive others of their life, liberty, or property.
Justice Alito asked the lawyer arguing for SSM this question: why should we deny marriage to two women and two men who want to get married? Read the transcripts, if you wish. I’ll just say that I found her answers unpersuasive – and, ironically one of those answers sounded strangely similar to the “tradition” argument used by SSM opponents.
Once the Supreme Court declares that there is a constitutional right to SSM, which it will almost certainly do, then there is no logical reason that the government should deny marriage rights and responsibilities to any group of consenting adults who choose to enter into that contract.
Meanwhile, religious communities – including churches – who hold to the traditional definition of marriage should act in accordance with our teachings. That means not performing weddings or recognizing arrangements that we do not consider marriage, even if they are allowed by the state.
Most of us Christians need to wake up and take a lesson from our Anabaptist brethren: “Christian nations” do not exist. Governments, whether they be democracies, monarchies, or oligarchies, can claim that they are. They can even fake it for extended periods of time. But all governments ultimately depend on power and coercion for their existence. That’s not the way of Christ. So, how can they possibly be “Christian”?
Christians in the United States should work to make our democracy a libertarian democracy. This means that we will be surrounded by institutions and activities that we believe are wrong and that, in the long run, are harmful to human beings and our societies. (News flash: that is going to be the case until Jesus returns no matter what form of government we have and no matter who’s in charge of it.) But, it is also the best way to create an environment where Christians, no matter how despised we may be for our beliefs, can live out and act on those beliefs; and, most importantly, have the freedom to speak the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins, is risen from the dead, and will return to set all things right.