The Gospel Coalition published an article today by Kevin DeYoung in which he made yet another case for why Christians should oppose Gay Marriage. His main points were relatively predictable: Marriage has historically be recognized as one man and one woman; State Recognition of Gay Marriage will result in religious oppression against Christians who dissent. He did, however, say some interesting things that I thought were worth highlighting and interacting with.
DeYoung clarifies very well what is actually going on in the political movement regarding Gay Marriage.
There’s a lot of confusion in this world, and among those things is the confusion that the Libertarian position on marriage is connected to the LGBT movement. This is false. Now the Libertarian world is a bit disjointed, so I’ll grant that that may be a correct diagnosis of SOME Libertarians. But just as there are some Libertarians who are Pro Choice, the position of the Reformed Libertarian must not be confused with them.
Whatever our belief on the correct definition of marriage, and whether gay marriage should be allowed, DeYoung does a good job of clarifying what is the real goal of the LGBT movement.
we need to be sure we are talking about the same thing. Let’s think about what is not at stake in the debate over gay marriage.
○ The state is not threatening to criminalize homosexual behavior. Since the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), same-sex intimacy has been legal in all fifty states.
○ The state is not going to prohibit gays and lesbians from committing themselves to each other in public ceremonies or religious celebrations.
○ The state is not going to legislate whether two adults can live together, profess love for one another, or express their commitment in erotic ways.
The issue is not about controlling “what people can do in their bedrooms” or “who they can love.” The issue is about what sort of union the state will recognize as marriage.
Then later down, he gets even clearer:
…They want public recognition…
We must not be naïve. The legitimization of same-sex marriage will mean the de-legitimization of those who dare to disagree. The sexual revolution has been no great respecter of civil and religious liberties. Sadly, we may discover that there is nothing quite so intolerant as tolerance.
Indeed, true Libertarians who are consistent with their own principles will be opposed to the LGBT efforts in this area, not because they seek true equality and freedom, but they seek the coercion of those who hold differing opinions. True Libertarians (thin Libertarians) stand on the side of the bakers refusing to bake cakes and against the gay couple seeking to force them to bake them. Even though we believe the gay couple should have the equal right to have such a ceremony, we do not believe this confers upon them the right to coerce others
The LGBT community does want to coerce others. They want to police thoughts and opinions and to outlaw all that they consider to be an expression of intolerance. If they have their way, this will mean the State mandating that Christian churches perform weddings and other such things. Libertarians agree that such an outcome is unjust.
DeYoung makes a strong case for why marriage works best and society is benefited when it is done according to God’s plan.
DeYoung does a good job of arguing from a social standpoint why marriage works best when done the way God designs it. Of course, that is not the source of moral authority on the matter. All moral authority comes from the Word of God. But it is also good to observe, as Solomon often does in the proverbs, just how things go better when wisdom grown out of the fear of the Lord is followed.
Says DeYoung (emphasis added):
We must consider why the state has bothered to recognize marriage in the first place. What’s the big deal about marriage? Why not let people have whatever relationships they choose and call them whatever they want? Why go to the trouble of sanctioning a specific relationship and giving it a unique legal standing? The reason is that the state has an interest in promoting the familial arrangement whereby a mother and a father raise the children which came from their union. The state has been in the marriage business for the common good and for the well-being of the society it is supposed to protect. Kids do better with a mom and a dad. Communities do better when husbands and wives stay together. Hundreds of studies confirm both of these statements (though we all can think of individual exceptions, I’m sure). Gay marriage assumes that marriage is re-definable and the moving parts replaceable.
Now we want to be careful that we don’t overstate this argument. I don’t like his hand-waving claim of “Hundreds of studies.” That’s way to vague to interact with. What parameters is he exactly referring to here? For at least one set of those parameters, this clam is demonstrably false.
But with the overall point, I do agree. It is true that God created the family for a reason, and that life goes better when it is lived according to God’s plan.
Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a reproach to any people.
– Proverbs 14:34
So Christians should be interested in promoting traditional marriage. I do not dispute this. But there’s an implied question there isn’t there. Keep reading.
DeYoung totally misunderstands the Christian Libertarian position because he completely misses what the real problem is.
I’ve hinted a couple times at the real Libertarian position on Gay Marriage, and it is the crux of this issue. DeYoung has a certain understanding of that position:
It is a sad irony that those who support gay marriage on libertarian grounds are actually ceding to the state a vast amount of heretofore unknown power. No longer is marriage treated as a pre-political entity which exists independent of the state. Now the state defines marriage and authorizes its existence. Does the state have the right, let alone the competency, to construct and define our most essential relationships?
Now I must grant, again, that this is the position of some who call themselves Libertarians. It may be so as a means of compromise, or because they are inconsistent. As I said before, Libertarianism is a broad umbrella.
But Christian, Reformed Libertarians are clear on this point. Our position is not that the government ought to recognize gay marriage. It is that government ought to recognize no marriage.
Here is the official Libertarian Party platform (emphasis added):
Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.
And Laurence Vance:
Same-sex couples should certainly have the right to form any kind of legal arrangement they choose whereby medical and financial decisions by one party on behalf of another could be made. But this right has nothing to do with them being a same-sex couple. It is only because any couple – gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, transgendered, or undecided – or any group of people should have the right to form any kind of legal arrangement they choose. If they want to call their arrangement a marriage, have a ceremony, and go on a honeymoon – fine. They have the freedom to do so just like they have the freedom to replace their Chevy emblems with Ford emblems and call their Camaro a Mustang. They just shouldn’t expect or demand everyone else to violate nature, language, tradition, and history and do likewise.
And Norman Horn:
Libertarians in general should not think marriage “licensing” is any better than occupation licenses, and are not within the purview of governmental power. If government has any purpose at all in this arena of life, it is to be a storehouse for consensually agreed upon contracts, of which Christian marriage or other arrangements such as those between homosexuals could be included. However, it is not up to the state to decide how to regulate such contracts.
Christian marriage is an institution of the church, not that of the government. Therefore, the government should have no power to tell churches what they can and cannot do regarding Christian marriage.
And C.Jay Engel (emphasis added):
No one has any authority to define marriage contrary to Scripture, which declares that marriage is a legal and spiritual union whereby one man and one woman become one flesh through means of a covenant.
Marriage is neither a state institution nor a church ordinance. Marriage is a common (though divine) institution and is not unique to the kingdom of Christ (which has been given the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper). […]
It is an agreement between two people. Though the terms and conditions are much more solemn, a marriage agreement is not altogether different than any other kind of legally binding agreement between two parties. Just as the state does not issue a license for every agreement people enter into, neither should they nor need they issue a marriage license. […]
Individuals in a free society are at liberty to honor or reject another party’s marriage. Christians are under no obligation to honor an unbiblical marriage (homosexual or otherwise) but neither may they restrict two parties from voluntarily entering into an agreement.
So to sum up, our position is that government should not be in the business of issuing marriage licenses at all – not even to straight couples.
Because there’s another issue that he has almost completely overlooked. Well, no, that’s not quite right. He hasn’t completely overlooked it, he’s just not recognized it for what it is.
He almost gets it! He says at one point.
the state is engaging in (or at least codifying) a massive re-engineering of our social life.
Of course if that’s true, then there must be something inherent in what the State does in response to marriage. There must be something inherent in what a State issued marriage license is that this would be the obvious, natural impact of it.
A State issued marriage license is a writ of coercion. With it, you may use the implied threat of government force against various people in various ways in order to get what you want from them. You may coerce insurance companies into giving you favorable policies, for example. We reject all forms of coercion, and do not believe that the world becomes a more peaceful or just place by an increase of coercion, but a decrease.
The bottom line is that the State, in “recognizing marriages” and “promoting the familial arrangement whereby a mother and a father raise the children which came from their union,” does so with the only tool in its bag: The Sword.
Yes, the LGBT community wants to take that Sword and wield it against us, and to this we are absolutely opposed. But must we take that same sword and wield it back at them?
Why can’t we instead work towards a society in which there is no coercive aggression committed against anyone who has not himself initiated coercive aggression?
Ostensibly it’s “for the children.” Going back to his argument that traditional marriage is better, he said:
The reason is that the state has an interest in promoting the familial arrangement whereby a mother and a father raise the children which came from their union. The state has been in the marriage business for the common good and for the well-being of the society it is supposed to protect. Kids do better with a mom and a dad. Communities do better when husbands and wives stay together.
Yet what he fails to demonstrate is why the State is necessary to these ends! He fails to demonstrate how these would be threatened by a society without marriage licenses. Like if we didn’t have a legal means to coerce others, then there would be no way to raise kids in a nuclear family. Though to be fair, he did not have this in mind as the Libertarian view he was rebutting, so I don’t know that he realized he would need to.
Earlier in the Article, he said:
Any legal system which distinguishes marriage from other kinds of relationships and associations will inevitably exclude many kinds of unions in its definition.
This again begs the question of whether they should be distinguishing marriage from other kinds of relationships at all. There is no need for them to.
In short, DeYoung issues this cry of alarm:
if and when same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land—the integrity of the family will be weakened and the freedom of the church will be threatened.
While I don’t disagree with the second proposition, as has been discussed, that first one leaves a lot to be desired. The integrity of the family will be weakened? Not my family. I don’t need the State telling other people how to live in order for my family to follow the Lord.