Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Christian Argument for Marriage Equality

There is a way to engage to Christians on the subject of marriage equality from the perspective of Christianity, even from the perspective of Christian fundamentalists (Christianists), though I never hear anyone discuss this.

So much intellectual energy is spent by marriage equality proponents arguing the justice of civil marriage in a secular democratic polity (which is as it should be); but those lines of argument are never going to resonate with a fundamentalist Christian mentality in which secular civil rights arguments regarding marriage equality simply don’t matter and are always trumped by theological arguments.

So, in a way, I think constantly making secular arguments for marriage equality, as persuasive as they are to a mind oriented towards the virtues of secular civil democracy, to a mind that understands the virtue of the foundational church-state separation idea, is barking up the wrong tree if the goal is to persuade Christianists to rethink their position.

To persuade Christianists of the justice of marriage equality requires making an argument for marriage equality within the theological framework that Christianists value and embrace. I think there is a way to do this.

I am a Catholic, and in my faith tradition, marriage is a sacrament, imbued with a particular and special grace. Catholics (and all Christians, I believe) would hold to the idea that the sacramental grace of marriage is a gift from God available to all of God's human creation. It strikes me that the theological dimensions of Christianist opposition to marriage equality requires an active embrace of the idea of permanently denying gay individuals access to this grace, access to the fullness of God. I believe having to face this idea would make even the most ardent Christianist with an honest conscience a bit squeamish. In essence, if forces Christianists to believe that the theological implication of their stance against marriage equality is not only to drive a wedge between God and his gay son or daughter, but also even to accept their advocacy of keeping the fullness of God away from his children. Fallible and sinful Christianists have to accept the presumption of themselves as the policers of God’s grace. And what God-fearing Christianist would ever presume to be the policer of God’s grace? In fact, presuming as much flies in the face of the entire Christian ethos of forgiveness, redemption, and salvation.

One could develop this line of thinking even more fully and eloquently than I’ve done; but I’ve always thought that this line of argument from within the Christian theological tradition of marriage-as-sacrament would go a long, long way towards changing how Christianists think of the marriage equality debate. In the end, Christianists don’t pay attention to secular, civil rights arguments for marriage equality because marriage, for them, is wrapped up exclusively in theology.  So to persuade them, one has to speak to them in the language of the theological milieu through which they understand the issue.

The debate regarding the secular civil justice of marriage equality is over.  Marriage equality advocates have won that debate. Now it's time to win the Christian theological argument for marriage equality.