Balancing God and Government: Same-Sex Marriage

The following article is not a treatise on the morality of homosexuality; neither is the post about the biblical limitations/role of the Church upon State matters, per se. Both of these subjects receive brief discussion in Homosexuality and Hate and in The Kingdom of Heaven and its Keys, respectively.

I have friends (all Christians) on both sides of the political subject of same-sex marriage legalization. I hear from those who wish government would stop “playing with people’s lives” in matters of sexual orientation and marriage; since marriage and morality are religious matters, and therefore do not fall under State affairs. “Why is government controlling anything concerning marriage, let alone gay marriage?” my friends ask. Moreover, they believe that since morality cannot be legislated, we should at least (through legal means) minimize the hardship which comes to some because of their variance to social norms. Conversely, I have friends who contend that we have a constitutional democratic republic system. All members of U.S. society have a vote and representation in order to establish our country’s enforced mores and norms. Those who happen to deviate from society’s expressly established norms choose a hardship by default. This is the nature of society, government, etc. Federal and state laws are the result of accurate representation of the greater populace’s will. These are the arguments happening among Christians.

This article offers a consensus for Christians on approaching the political matter of same-sex marriage. Since we, as Christians, are all are citizens of both Heaven and of the United States of America and our respective states, then we must balance our duty to all. We are privileged to live in a country where such a conundrum can be weighed and affected by the people, for the people. Whenever Christians exercise their biblically informed conscience within their governmentally-given right to vote or petition their representation, then and only then does a Christian properly balance responsibility to God and Government. 

In such sensitive affairs, it is important to define one’s terms and classifications as well as state his presuppositions on ethical philosophy. Firstly, most biblical Christians hold to “graded absolutism” when confronted with moral conflicts. Graded absolutism essentially states that in exceptional cases when levels of responsibility or moral obligation conflict with levels of authority or another moral dilemma, one must always choose the “higher” level of responsibility, moral obligation, authority, etc.– (i.e. the “greater good”). Secondly, all biblical Christians recognize that in all moral and spiritual matters the Christian must defer to God above government. It is true that God instituted governments and that Christians are to submit to them (and even pray for them) in all things, whenever and however possible, so long as said governmental rule does not violate the mandates of Scripture (Rom. 13:42 Pet. 2:1017181 Tim. 2:1-3). These days, this kind of violation on moral matters is feared and felt by many business owners and citizens alike, not just on recognizing homosexuality but on providing contraceptives, etc.

With these foundations established, we move on to classification. Concerning Christian thought, Christianity agrees that since God is Creator of humanity (male and female), and since God instituted marriage from the beginning (i.e. one man and one woman); then, all matters sexual and marital are primarily under the nomenclature of the “religious.” No matter what others think or believe, a biblical Christian will agree that if proper use of physicality and sexuality falls under the rule of God, then everything considered an aberration of that physicality and sexuality also falls ultimately under the religious domain. When one chooses to exercise his sexuality in accordance to biblical codes of ethics and morality, then that one has exercised his religious freedom. Likewise, when one who is not Christian chooses to exercise his sexuality in discordance to biblical codes of ethics and morality; then that too is primarily an act of moral free will, and so, should receive classification as a religious matter. By this, it is concluded that both marriage (homosexual or heterosexual) and moral matters (sexual activity) are primarily religious matters–that is, they are matters primarily categorized under “church,” secondarily the State–from the biblical Christian perspective.

How the State properly enters into legislation of morals/religious beliefs in an unbiased, non-religious fashion will be discussed further down. For now, one should ask himself if he believes it is possible for the State to impartially and non-religiously enter in to legislation of moral and ethical matters. The answer for United States citizens is: it has and it can, because our systems of Government (Federal and State) provide for it exquisitely.

Next, consider the classification of our present government. It is true that government may or may not fall under the classification of a religious State, depending on its structure. HOWEVER, regardless of one’s theological paradigm (or lack thereof) by which he tints and shades his view of the U.S. Government, the United States of America is not a theocracy nor a theonomy in constitution and legal structure. Though the roots of our nation’s history spring from pursuits of religious freedom (pilgrims), the founders of our country did not inscribe a “Christian Nation” into the Constitution. Many of the nation’s founders were “(non)biblical” Deists and a few were genuine Christians.

Yet, no matter how much they may or may not have wished for the nation to be “Christian” in practice, the founders wisely did not create it as such in form. While it may be argued accurately that their design was for Judeo-Christian norms to bear out on the individual level of the populace, no shred of constitutional documentation makes the United States of America a “Christian Nation.” It is clear that they did constitute this nation based on Judeo-Christian ethics, norms, and mores. It also may be argued validly that the founders constitutionally allowed for each to vote his conscience. Selected quotes from the founders prove they hoped that the consciences of the people would be moored to Virtue; and that seemed to them sufficient. However, they designed the country to run structurally as a Democratic Republic which recognizes inalienable human rights and freedoms that should prove beneficial for a prosperous people, free of religious and civil tyranny. It is a government for the people by the people.

Inexorable to our Nation’s existence is the principle of separation of Church and State, and that follows to each state’s governmental level. Though “separation of Chruch and State” (a phrase penned by Jefferson elsewhere) is not explicitly written in the Consitution, freedom of religion is explicitly stated. That freedom has extended historically to tax exemption. When the founders could have incorporated a Federal Church or Church of the Republic, they expressly chose not to do it. Likewise, (in theory) each state could have done at their inceptions. Yet, the state governments and the Federal government have never collected tax money For distribution to religious institutions, because Church has always been separate from State in the U.S.A.

The founders established Separation of Church and State, because they learned from the historical wars of Europe, which were brought on by theologically-driven ideas such as Absolute Monarchy and the Divine Right of Rule, Holy Roman Empire and the Christian Utopia or City/State (ex. Vatican, Geneva under Calvin– an extension of Augustine’s City of God)… all products of Covenant Replacement Theology. Furthermore, their cry was not only religious freedom but also “no taxation without representation.” They rebelled against their monarchy because of its having gained without having provided proper governance and benefit. In a sense, they were independent already, and paying to be so. Some may argue that this throwing off of government was itself a sacrilege, but we cannot argue that now; what has been done is done, and the nation before us is established as a Constitutional Democratic Republic.

As it is, our Government must play by its own rules, if it is to be just and compliant with its own ratification. What we can see from the Constitution and Bill of Rights is that if our Government wishes to regard religion, then it must be with freedom of religion–not freedom from religion and not freedom to only some religions but universal freedom for all religion; and the way it accounts for this freedom is by allowing each person a vote based on that individual’s uninhibited moral/religious constitution and reason… but this is getting ahead of myself.

Again, the purpose of the following article is not a moral examination of the Gay Marriage agenda. That legitimate and needful debate belongs to a different set of arguments on the personal level (for the individual voters to decide) not the legislative, judicial, or even executive level of government apart from vote/election. Still, the question stands: “How can the State properly enter into legislation of morals/religious beliefs in an unbiased, non-religious fashion?” Answer: “By use of the constitutional democratic republic as designed.”

In our system, the voter must decide for himself what is morally sound and then vote his conscience and/or inform his elected officials of his opinion. The legislative branch of government observes and represents the expressed needs/rights of the citizens, so far as is constitutionally necessary and legitimate. Should an outcry of unconstitutional discrimination arise from a sector of the country’s citizens (whether based on sexual orientation or not), elected officials of the legislative branch take action in Congress (on the state and federal levels) to examine the claim of unconstitutionality; and if necessary, they draft bills/pass laws to eliminate said affront to the Constitution and the rights of the citizens it was meant to uphold. There is even a clause within the U.S. Constitution, which allows for additions or Amendments to the Bill of Rights should a proposition receive the prescribed approvals… and this follows to the state level.

Just so, this article is not a debate of what’s morally right or wrong but is an examination of “Gay Rights” as it may or may not pertain to citizen’s/civil rights according to the Constitution of the United States of America and local governments. According to our established system, the United States Government and its state governments are as involved in legislating moral matters (which bear religious overtones) as its people are involved. In effect, the people get what they express or what they do not express by their political involvement or their apathy. Put simply, we live in a system wherein we get what we ask for–where voices get heard.

A Matter of Equality

What stands before us in the legalization of same-sex marriage is nothing but how our society will define the term minority.

First and foremost, there is the foundational proposition within the Declaration of Independence that all mankind is created equal and therefore deserving of the unalienable individual, civil and national rights which equality should afford. True, the D.I. is not the Constitution. Yet, the principle of equality is in our nation’s foundation, and the gay agenda claims discrimination against gays by the U.S. Government contrary to gays’ rights as citizens. One of the chief reasons for these allegations is federal non-recognition of same-sex marriage as licensed and privileged. Since no legal marriage is allowed for gays federally, then other privileges (ex. “Next of kin” for partners, federal tax benefits – whatever that may be) are not awarded them.

Other cases of historical discriminations–such as inequities that women and African-Americans have suffered–enter into the deliberation equation, when gays wish to be legally acknowledged as a legitimate minority of U.S. citizens. But, whereas women’s rights was about gender, and whereas African-American rights was about race/color; Gay Rights hopes to be about “sexual orientation/preference,” and so, be protected and privileged under Federal Law (and State Law). Since minority status in the U.S. has been historically rewarded with anti-discrimination laws and government aids to minorities, then gays might be hopeful for things like government aid for medical care, military equality, a guaranteed percentage of gays in all levels of professional occupations, government grant monies for education, anti-hate crime laws, etc.

Why Now?

Then, we come to the question, “Why has same-sex marriage not been federally allowed until now?” As said above, these matters start with the people before going up to and through Congress and the Executive Office for approval into law. If the constitutionality of same-sex marriage has never been questioned before as it is these days, then one can safely say it has been due to the expressed will of the people and the will of their elected representatives. Conversely, if one asks why is same-sex marriage seemingly more constitutionally debated now than ever before, the answer can only be the will of the people and the will of their elected representatives. Simply put, the topic has never been at the forefront of society as it is today, and that is due to the organized efforts of gay citizens. While it is true that the majority often quiets voice of the few, sometimes the outcry of the minority is heard above the quiet majority when that minority gets organized and demands to be heard. The issue at hand is not the Church’s encroachment upon the State; neither is it the State’s encroachment upon Church matters. Neither one has overstepped its bounds. What we have is a properly working democratic republic. As a concerted group effort, the Gay Agenda has been efficiently organized and effectively crying out for many years now in ways to which our system of government is sympathetic. Like it or not, their influence has been growing along with their respective portion of the U.S. population. When the Gay Rights agenda receives resistance, it is not because the “Church” is infringing on the process, nor is it the result of “the State” encroaching on the “Church’s domain,” but it is the result a collection of individuals (with the opposite moral conscience) who are also effectively organized and efficiently crying out in ways to which our system of government is sympathetic. The current struggle reveals the climate of our populace’s morals, nothing more and nothing less.

A Right to Rights?

Does the gay agenda have a legitimate Constitutional claim of discrimination and therefore a right to rights? Are gays’ U.S. Constitutional rights being violated like women’s rights or African American rights have been?

Arguments from U.S. Constitutional History and from Form:

  1. Women’s Rights are obviously about gender discrimination. The discrimination associated with women has to do with form not function. That is, if women meet discrimination it is because they have been historically categorized according to their form—their physicality. The form is naturally unchangeable, or permanent.
  2. African American Rights [and any other ethnical minority’s rights] are obviously about race/color discrimination. The discrimination associated with African Americans has to do with form not function. That is, if African Americans meet discrimination it is because they have been historically categorized according to their form—their physicality. The form is naturally unchangeable or permanent.

Gender and race are what could be called primary descriptors of a person’s identity. I name them primary descriptors because of their being apparent to the observer of the individual and inherent to the individual at birth. [This speaks to the rule and not the exception of nature; ex. when one is born hermaphrodite, etc.]

Arguments from Situation:

Sexual orientation is not to be considered a primary descriptor of human identity, because:

  1. It is not something determinable by outward appearance (unless stereotypes prevail), and therefore, not readily identifiable to a government unless declared.
  2. It has to do with one’s personal application of his/her innate form or physicality—not with the form itself. [It can be and should be argued that function ought to befit form—according to the laws of nature, but that argument belongs in a debate on the morality of the subject.]
  3. It is factually provable to both develop and/or change according to the personal experience/preference of the individual (i.e. It cannot be treated as a permanent matter of identity). For every case that claims he/she was born homosexual, there presumably are also cases of homosexuals and heterosexuals whose sexual orientation changed. Where the brain is credited with sexual orientation, one may argue conditioning and/or said change as negations to the argument. Then there are the ramifications of bi-sexual orientation, which make classification of sexual orientation an effort of liquid irrationality.

Argument from Socio-economics:

It is in the best interest of a government that its society be productive and sustainable not only in resources and economy but also in population. The Constitution puts it this way: “We the people of the United States, in order to… promote the general welfare… to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” To be to the point, heterosexual orientation and marriage is the most reasonable, natural and expedient means for the proliferation of “posterity.” Homosexual orientation and marriage is not. It is not discrimination to say so; it is merely factual. Accordingly, the U.S. government currently recognizes heterosexual orientation and marriage within good reason.

Synthesis: 

For the above reasons, gays cannot be reasonably classified as a true minority against which discrimination is happening on the governmental or federal level. Discrimination may be occurring at the individual level by individuals to individuals. It may be occurring as much as racial discrimination or gender discrimination. Withstanding, “Domestic tranquility” in U.S. society may be considered threatened only if full-scale riots and wars were to break out between gays and non-gays. I’m not seeing that on the news.

Those who are gay currently fall under all other categories of protection and provision afforded to citizens of the United States whereas slaves and women did not in their respective days; … and given the arguments above, one has serious doubts whether specialized provision (marriage, minority status) and protection (anti-hate laws) are necessary or even reasonable on the federal level.

If Not a Minority, then What?

So, if one considers the observations and arguments made above, he should be asking himself how to classify the gay agenda. I think that can only be answered by asking what is the Gay Agenda after? Does it desire the recognition from the U.S. Government and/or state governments that gayness is indeed (and always has been/should have been) a legitimate course of human society—that the government of the people for the people has just been a little slow on the up-take?

In my opinion [not touching on the moral or spiritual], gayness is a (sub)culture, and it is not to be classified with ethnicities or genders. The issue becomes complex, because gay is intrinsically moral and relational. Nevertheless, the gay community is just that; it is a community within the greater American community. It is striving to no longer be seen as American sub-culture or American counter-culture. It wants to be mainstream. It is commonly understood as different but it wants to be considered a subset of human kind that somehow was victimized or brushed aside in recent-to-modern times. It wants that consideration, even if it has to legislate America into it. The gay community wants to be special but not. The gay community wants to be normal but not. That is an observation of irrationality, not a discrimination.

Conclusion:

Because the U.S. Government and its state governments were established as a constitutional democratic republic, it is entirely possible for the gay community to organize and cry out to their congress people for what they feel is a violation of their civil rights as citizens of our country. Consequently, the gay community has gained an audience socially and politically. The legalization of gay marriage is not a matter in which the State is overreaching its bounds into the Church’s (Religion’s) arena. Rather, because individual citizens have formed into groups on both sides of the moral issue; and because both sides bear out respective worldviews; and because both sides are communicating with their Congress people, then it seems like a religious/moral battle is being waged by our governmental leaders… when actually they are merely representing their voters. The system is working. You have only to get involved or to be apathetic.

From arguments of constitutional history, form vs. function logic and from situational and socio-economical reasoning, one can see that the gay agenda is not legislatively necessary. It isn’t even wise, really, seeing that establishment of “gay” as a minority goes hand-in-hand with gay marriage; and since, establishing gay as a minority would mean re-definition of minority based on non-primary descriptors of identity. No, Gay Rights as potentially allowed by federal and state law does not pertain to unalienable human or civil rights.

Yes, morality can be legislated, even enforced to some degree. A society cannot help but legislate some standard of justice. However, we must never forget that laws will always prove deficient to conscience. Government can never enforce what Virtue-loving consciences desire, and laws can never prevent offenses against them. “Enforced virtue is not worthy of the name,” George MacDonald stated. Let us have a revival of (and be ruled by) a liberty which comes from virtue; it is the measure of true freedom!

For Christians, let each pray and vote his conscience before God, not according to what others think and not even according to what is expedient or popular. Rather let us vote based upon the guidance of a conscience focused on biblical virtue. The wisdom of our nation’s founders and the exquisite impartiality of our democratic republic allows your freedom of religion, so that your voice can be heard on the legislative level which in turn affects the mores of society at large. What do you as a Christian want? Let that be known. Address your congress people on the federal and state levels, and let your voice be heard regarding the legislation open to you; and let the system work. As John Quincy Adams stated best, “Duty is ours; results are God’s.” This is the balance between God and Government.

……………………….

UPDATE:

As of the week, 11/18-11/25, 2014 local governments subpoenaed sermons of Christian pastors in Houston, TX. This is a clear violation of separation of Church and State and freedom of religion, if and only if these pastors’ sermons are free from legitimate criminal intent (ex. Intent to harm or violate property) or insighting/organizing others to do so, there is no excuse for this.

Eric Meyacas at CPAC 2013 (video) http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4389195/eric-metaxas-cpac-2013

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