Why do we, as Christians, get so worked up about gay marriage, to the point of spending tens of millions of dollars to fight it in the courts and in ballot initiatives? Better yet, why don’t we get that worked up about divorce?
Before I answer that, let me list all the times Jesus talked about divorce:
Matthew 5:31-32 It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (NIV)
This passage was during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, during the “you have heard it said … but I say…” section, wherein Jesus ups the ante on the law-keepers, showing that a right heart was as important as outward righteousness.
In this same section, Jesus said that those who hate and curse others are guilty, just as those who kill are, and that those who look lustfully are guilty, just as adulterers are.
In Matthew 19:3-12, as in Mark 10: 2-12, Jesus is teaching and some pharisees and teachers come to talk to him. They ask him about the legality of divorce “for any reason,” a major controversy at that time.
Jesus’ response is similarly clear. Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of heart of the people, not because it was God’s will.
Luke 16:18 Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (NIV)
The passage in Luke is short and to the point. It’s right after Jesus says that no one can serve both God and wealth, and right before the story of Lazarus and the rich man.
NOW, let me list all the times Jesus mentioned homosexuality…
Well, that didn’t take long.
Don’t get me wrong, I know the Old Testament and the epistles mention various forms of same-sex contact. I don’t want to misrepresent what’s in the Bible. But neither do I want to ignore the gospels’ silence on this issue, and our silence on an issue that Jesus spoke up loudly about.
I know, I know, circumstances have changed. Women have jobs now, and don’t rely on men for their livelihood. Inability to divorce actually hurts women now, trapping them in abusive or miserable marriages.
Times have changed. Marriage is different now. The husband doesn’t own the wife. It’s two legally equal citizens entering voluntarily into a mutual relationship. Denying divorce hurts people.
But if “times have changed” is our only reason, we wouldn’t be spending tens of millions of dollars fighting gay marriage at the polls. After all, same-sex contact in the first century was master-slave, man-boy, or man-temple prostitute. There was always a profound power difference.
Times have changed. Same sex relationships are different now. The ‘master’ doesn’t own the boy/prostitute/slave. It’s two legally equal citizens entering voluntarily into a mutual relationship. Denying marriage hurts people.
No, that can’t be our only reason, or we wouldn’t be fighting so fiercely against the one and utterly ignoring the other. There’s another, uglier reason. One we don’t even realize, not consciously. One that sears our conscience in the name of our conformist culture. One that makes cowards of us all:
We fight tirelessly against legalizing gay marriage but ignore divorce because we aren’t gay, but we do get divorces. Fighting gay marriage gives us an other to feel superior to. Fighting divorce would tear our congregations apart.
Gay marriage is “us versus them.” Divorce is “us versus us.”