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Six reasons to vote yes if you hold to a classical Christian view of marriage

Friday, 18 August 2017  | Susan Adams




I hold to what’s called a ‘classical Christian view of marriage’[1]. It’s the idea that marriage as given by God is one man, one woman, monogamous and for life, that this is God’s design for human flourishing, as well as pointing us to larger mysteries of who God is. It might seem logical, then, that I would vote ‘no’ on legalising same-sex marriage in the upcoming plebiscite. However, here I want to give a case for why a Christian who holds such a view of marriage might vote ‘yes’.

This is not an article defending the classical Christian view of marriage, either from progressive Christians or those who are not Christians. It’s also not an article arguing that such a view of marriage ought to be dispensed with by Christians. It’s an article aiming to persuade conservative Christians, holding the aforementioned ‘classical Christian view of marriage’, that they should vote to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia. These views are my own and do not represent the views of any organisation.

The first three reasons address common Christian objections to same-sex marriage, and the last three are my constructive, positive case:

1. Nomenclature. I am not concerned about a redefinition of the word ‘marriage’. Language evolves over time. The word ‘marriage’ exists in multiple cultures, with various meanings. Many countries make a distinction between state and religious marriages. Even in Australian society, churches regularly differentiate between what we see as our society’s view of marriage and our own.

2. Acknowledgement. Same-sex relationships were legalised decades ago in Australia. Same-sex couples can adopt children, form families and so on. If there was damage to be done at a societal level (and I am yet to be persuaded of that), the ship has sailed. Opposing the legalisation of same-sex marriage does not stop members of LGBTQI communities from being parents, if that is your concern. What we are talking about in the case of legalising same-sex marriage is a recognition or acknowledgement of a situation that already exists. In that sense, it’s a modest move, but one that means a great deal to these neighbours.

3. Church and state. It’s not the church’s place in Australia to be guardians of policy or morality. Where once we may have held that position (rightly or wrongly), it is no longer one that we occupy, possibly because of the erosion of trust brought about by our own sins. But Australia was never a theocracy, so any authority we had was a privilege, not a right. In a democracy, we get a say, like anyone else, but we must learn how to take our place at the table rather than expecting Christian beliefs to be legislated. I do believe that Christian freedoms ought to be legislated for along with those of other religions, but again, that is not on view here. As I understand it, only the most ungenerous reading of the agenda of the ‘yes’ case could see it as about forcing pastors to marry same-sex couples against their convictions, especially since the draft legislation on view carries religious exemptions. But, if that is your concern, campaign on protecting the rights of Christians, not on denying same-sex marriage, unless the Christian ‘right’ you’re actually campaigning for is to say who gets married and who doesn’t.

4. Safety. We know that LGBTQI kids attempt suicide at a far higher rate than their peers, whether from shame or fear or bullying. This ought to grieve all members of society, including Christians - especially Christians in fact, because we are committed to care of the vulnerable as we seek to be like the Lord, the gracious and compassionate One. LGBTQI communities are telling us that opposing same-sex marriage, however nicely, damages their youth. They say it communicates to them that they are excluded, or less than others. Christians have tried to argue that you can affirm someone’s personhood and also deny the right to marry, and I do think that sexuality has been unhelpfully conflated with personhood in our society. But, for better or worse, the two are joined in people’s minds, and though we may want to tear them asunder, there is a more urgent issue at hand. This is not moral relativism, or a sense that anything goes and ought to be legalised. I am arguing for the preservation of human life, a deeply Christian concern. If legalising same-sex marriage will contribute to that, let us do it.

5. Our mission. Ask an Aussie what Christians care about, and they will likely say abortion and same-sex marriage. Of course, the Lordship of Christ has implications for ethical issues, but they are for those who accept his Lordship, that is, Christians. To ask those who are not Christians to live by Christian ethical standards is to put the cart before the horse. Our message to them ought not to be about the goodness of traditional marriage, but about the goodness, beauty, freedom, truth and comfort of the person of Jesus.

6. Witness. I see the legalisation of same-sex marriage as largely inevitable, so a question for me is how our witness will proceed after same-sex marriage is legalised, whenever that happens. I don’t want us to come out the other side having been so consumed by the fight against it that we have no idea how to be hospitable to LGBTQI people who might walk through the door of a church. But honestly, I’m most worried that we’ll have burned our bridges so completely that they would never even consider doing so.

I understand that a Christian ‘no’ case is built on a desire to see God’s plan for greatest human flourishing enacted in our society. Perhaps the critique of my case is that it sacrifices this greater vision for immediate, pragmatic concerns. However, I cannot see how a ‘no’ vote actually achieves this in reality, neither does the Bible lead us to compel people to follow God’s ways. However, the injunctions to care for the vulnerable and to make Jesus known are critical, and move me towards a ‘yes’ vote.

Susan Adams holds qualifications in English literature, education, theology, and intercultural studies.



[1] Other terms used for this view are ‘traditional Christian’ or ‘conservative’.


Comments

Ethos editor
August 18, 2017, 11:00AM
Thank you everyone for your comments. Comments on this article have been closed since 1st September.
Fr Mike Nixon
August 18, 2017, 11:37AM
Yes! The situation for LBGTQI folk is already recognised by law - they have children, share life and wealth, care and live each other. The only thing missing is a piece of paper! Fancy paying $120,000,000 for that change!
Peter C
August 18, 2017, 3:36PM
'This is not moral relativism, or a sense that anything goes and ought to be legalised.' ...

'I understand that a Christian "no" case is built on a desire to see God’s plan for greatest human flourishing enacted in our society. Perhaps the critique of my case is that it sacrifices this greater vision for immediate, pragmatic concerns. However, I cannot see how a ‘no’ vote actually achieves this in reality, neither does the Bible lead us to compel people to follow God’s ways. However, the injunctions to care for the vulnerable and to make Jesus known are critical, and move me towards a "yes" vote.'....

Let me say up front that I do share your compassion for the lives of hurting people, but unfortunately I cannot agree with your premise.

I am sorry, but just because you say in your well-crafted arguments that this is not moral relativism does not in my view make it so. Just reading your two quotes above destroys your fallacy of just that. Your arguments are part of a continuous storm, battering away at the safe harbour of what is really best for society, even if it does not recognise it.

You talk on one hand about 'God’s plan for greatest human flourishing', but you are happy to promote what helps steal and destroy it. Ultimately this appears to come from what I believe is a false understanding of God's view of unrighteousness. 'Has God really said....?'
Paul Arnott
August 18, 2017, 6:06PM
Susan Adams suggests that she believes 'Christian freedoms ought to be legislated for along with those of other religions'.

However, former Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, himself gay, has publicly said that 'the safeguards for dissenting religious voices in the corporate world, and for faith organisations in general, are woefully inadequate in Australia. And that the likely introduction of same sex marriage will test this inadequacy'.(https://stephenmcalpine.com/2017/08/12/this-is-not-about-the-postal-vote/). This is, in my opinion, a good enough reason to vote 'no' in the forthcoming plebiscite/survey.
Ian Abbott
August 18, 2017, 6:44PM
Susan, thanks for that. I am a Christian too, and hold the classical view. I can't help thinking that this is a case of Genesis 3, where Satan says: 'Did God really say [insert:... marriage is between a man and a woman]?'

In your point 2 you write re: '...damage to be done at a societal level (and I am yet to be persuaded of that)...'. Take a look at the following resources for the ACTUAL impact in countries where SSM has been legalised: http://australianmarriage.org/fact-check-sex-marriage-wont-affect-anyone/

Also, the views of Sydney Anglicans and Australian Catholics are instructive:
1: Download the booklet from http://sydneyanglicans.net/marriage.
2: https://www.catholic.org.au/marriage/don-t-mess-with-marriage.
Rhys Taylor
August 18, 2017, 8:05PM
You forgot to mention the central and only reason that someone with an actual legitimate classical christian belief system would say yes: You understand that the complete moral degradation of society is required for the apocalypse and are trying to speed that process up,
Mark
August 18, 2017, 9:36PM
Even if we accept the soundness of all your six reasons (which I'm not wholly convinced of), why does this necessitate that we each vote 'yes'?

Surely the aim of the postal plebiscite is to gauge the collective mind of the Australian voting population on this matter and we are being asked what our views are. If everyone thought like you, it could turn out that (say) an overwhelming majority want to retain the classical definition of marriage, and yet, the 'yes' vote is inflated to falsely indicate a widespread belief that marriage is other than between a man and woman.

If you feel strongly about your witness, why not abstain from campaigning and exerting pressure on others to vote, but vote 'no' yourself in private?

Besides, evidence from other countries has shown that suicide rates remain high among the LGBT population even after same-sex marriage has been legalised. We save lives by tackling the problem at its true cause, rather than at the assumed causes.
Tim Zylstra
August 18, 2017, 10:44PM
Susan, you refer to 'acknowledgement', and point out that same-sex relationships were already legalised decades ago. I completely agree. This push for SSM is indeed all about acknowledgement. It's not about the right to sin as I please - you're quite right to point out that people have got that already. It is about calling that sin, good.

And that is the strongest reason why Christians can and should vote no without getting all wound up about what the ramifications are for the future of our society, our witness or anything else. It's actually supremely simple. We're not to call sin good.
Joanna B
August 18, 2017, 11:12PM
Absolutely agree with Susan. As Christians in a secular country, we have no right to impose on all Australians what some conservative Christians see as Christian ethical imperatives.

Contrary to what has been said above, our anti-discrimination laws already protect religious freedom and nothing will impose any obligation on a priest or minister to carry out a same sex marriage if they feel that to be against their 'doctrines, beliefs or principles of their religion'.

 As a Christian called to love your neighbour, I absolutely support same sex marriage. Given how many heterosexual marriages fail and/or whose participants engage in all manner of ethically wrong or questionable behaviours, it is well and truly time to stop throwing stones and to leave the judgements up to God. The God I follow rejoices in genuine love between two people.
Jennie Gilliver
August 19, 2017, 8:24AM
For goodness' sake. By voting yes you will not change anything that is already legal and can happen now. Same sex relationships can already legally enjoy the same rights and legal arguments that heterosexual people take for granted. Why then would people not want to allow that extra bit of paper to be signed by people of same sex to say that,  in the eyes of the law and in their hearts. they too can hold their head up proudly and declare they are married?

I am not religious. Nor am I gay. But if I was I would be clutching on and embracing anything that allows people to share and state love and commitment to each other.

There have been so much hideous behaviour throughout the churches that has gone on throughout the years that so-called religious people have turned a blind eye to. How on earth can this issue be rated as a religious argument for the no vote?

There are too many people having a say on things they know nothing about. It is not up to heterosexuals to say whether or not people who have been born with the same sex 'gene' can declare their love of someone else.
Love is a good thing, people. Why don't you get that?

I would think that children of same sex marriage possibly have a far greater percentage chance of being raised with no abuse due to the pains their parents must have gone through to have their children.

Instead, we should be debating the rights of children who are being 'held' - yes held - in so called 'normal' marriages ad who are subjected to daily abuse and mental trauma.

Who is saying no to the marriages of these people ,as they are not living up to the wedding vows that they swore to make?

Instead, everyone should be furious that the leaders of our country are wasting this hideous amount of our money - yes we are the ones who go to work to pay for this huge amount of money.

Think about how much good that money would be in the health system, or in domestic violence situations. People living in a car or on a doorstep. Is that what your God would be arguing for? Think hard on your vote. Make sure you do vote and allow love to happen openly, instead of hate.

That is my rant.
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