AS AN EVANGELICAL pastor with conservative views on most political issues, I might be expected to attend today's expected Defend Maryland Marriage Rally in Annapolis. But I'll skip it, and here's why:
This rally misses the point about marriage.
I share with rally organizers a concern for the state of marriage in our society. As a pastor, I am intimately familiar with the tragedies that are involved in once-healthy marriages that are threatened and dying, and I have counseled people through the pain of infidelity and divorce. I am very aware of the responsibility I bear when I unite a couple in marriage.
But I am not convinced that same-sex marriages are the primary threat to marriage today. Far more dangerous are the many pseudo-marital arrangements that allow people to experience "marriage lite" without entering into the serious commitment involved in marriage. The recognition of "domestic partnerships" and "civil unions" among homosexual couples can necessitate the same recognition for heterosexual couples. This phenomenon is well advanced in Scandinavia, where marriage has become the exception rather than the rule even for families with children.
It is the commitment involved in marriage that makes it so fulfilling when it is pursued faithfully. It seems ironic that at a time when marriage is threatened by the lack of commitment, those who want to uphold marriage are seeking vigorously to oppose those who pay this noble institution the honor of participating in it.
This rally misses the point about sexuality.
I share with my colleagues a conviction that same-sex behaviors are not faithful to the way God wired human beings to relate to one another sexually. I hold this view because Scripture and the tradition of our faith have clearly taught that the gift of human sexuality is to be expressed in a monogamous marital relationship.
Yet just as marriage is more threatened by "marriage lite" than by committed homosexual unions, sexual purity is more threatened by nonmarital heterosexuality than by marriage-like homosexual practices. Promiscuity, adultery, cohabitation, serial monogamy and the "friends with benefits" phenomenon all present alternative arrangements that promise physical and emotional gratification without being tied down to a spouse.
Condemning homosexual arrangements is easy for people who have no interest in homosexual behavior, much easier than addressing inappropriate heterosexual behavior. It's been my experience that it's a lot easier to fall into immoral behavior when one's attention is directed at somebody else's immoral behavior rather than at one's own faults.
This rally misses the point about religion.
The Bible has much to teach us about how God has wired us as human beings and the kind of life that brings pleasure to Him, joy to ourselves and peace with others. But I do not believe that it directs the church to call the state to make illegal those things it condemns as immoral.
Twice in our nation's history, people of faith mobilized to support amendments to our Constitution. The first time was in the cause of abolition of slavery, and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments began a movement to eradicate legal discrimination that again benefited from the vigorous work of the churches in the civil rights movement of the 20th century. The second instance was Prohibition, which produced both the only amendment to be repealed and a massive backlash against people seeking to impose their views of right and wrong on their neighbors by force of law.
I would submit that in this free society, it is the duty of God's people to uphold the cause of justice for the oppressed, the voiceless, the people not treated as people - which is why many religious leaders, including myself, advocate for the protection of unborn life. But in matters of private morality, we are better citizens when we seek to influence behavior by persuasion and example rather than by legislation.
The Rev. Jason Poling is the pastor of New Hope Community Church in Owings Mills.