There is an interesting piece in the New York Times on the quiet discussion evangelicals are having about homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Thanks to Caleb Kaltenbach (Twitter: @calebwilds) for the link. Some quick thoughts based only on the article and not any other statements or writings by the participants:
- One argument for same-sex marriage presented here is that biblically marriage is more than just about procreation, but about long-term, self-sacrificial commitment. Thus same-sex marriage is valid biblically because it embodies the latter. This argument is invalid both exegetically and logically. The foundational passage about marriage, Gen 1–2, includes what people often call the creation mandate: multiplication of the human race through procreation. Thus from a biblical and logical standpoint procreation and commitment are part of what marriage is about. They are both necessary components. The latter cannot exclude the former without altering what we are talking about.
- Another argument presented here is that infertility must mean that marriage is more than procreation. Thus if we accept the validity of marriages that cannot produce children, we should accept the validity of same-sex marriages, which without outside intervention won't produce children either. Infertility is indeed a burden which appears to push back against this procreation argument, but one response is that infertile couples are the exception that prove the rule. Infertility shows that one fundamental purpose of marriage, indeed a beautiful and fulfilling one, is to produce children; when a man and woman unite in marriage and cannot readily have children, they experience intense pain and longing because the hope of that good, loving function of marriage remains unfulfilled. Same-sex marriage is an entirely different story. Homosexual marriages will never produce children on their own. There is no sense in which the purpose or goal of their marriage remains unfulfilled because it could never be fulfilled in the first place. (This discussion should take place as well within the larger discussion of a theology of disability.)
- Frankly, I think Christians have shot ourselves in the foot on this issue by ignoring the procreation argument. It's much more trendy to discuss marriage in terms of loving commitment or in terms of sexual pleasure, but the Bible has a lot to say about marriage relative to procreation as well. To be biblically sound we have to develop a theology of marriage that includes that aspect. This isn't easy. I am uncomfortable with biblical texts that imply lacking children means something is wrong. But they are there, and we have to digest them hermeneutically as part of this larger question.