How’s that for a provocative title? Well, hear me out. I’m probably not quite going where you think I am.
So this topic was brought to mind by the fact that a court in Japan has spoken out against gay marriage. Gay marriage, of course, being defined as a legal and/or spiritual union between two men or two women that is in every way equivalent to a marriage between a man and a woman. I’m not talking about civil unions or other legal fictions that are designed to give gay people the same legal rights as married people, but isn’t marriage. I’m only talking about marriage.
In order to get to my point, I have to make another point I’ve mentioned in other posts that one of my favorite books of the Bible (again, stay with me, I’m going somewhere, and not where you’ll be expecting) is the book of Ecclesiastes. In this book, the author (known as The Teacher) makes the point that no matter what kind of success you have in life, no matter what earthly riches or knowledge or any such thing, it is eventually all for nothing. One translation of the opening verse is “Meaningless, meaningless, says the Teacher. All is meaningless.” You die no matter what, and you can’t take it with you. So… one could then make the extrapolation that everything you do in this world is serving death. Which the author of Ecclesiastes does quite thoroughly in the 21 or so chapters of his book.
So, let’s get back to the main topic and look at marriage. Marriage is, and always has been, an institution that is solely created so that children have the best chance of surviving and becoming productive members of society. Put another way, there are different degrees of serving death. The first degree, of course, is what happens within your lifespan. The second degree has to do with your heritage – building families or institutions that survive you. In other words, while you will die, you’re doing your part to ensure humanity doesn’t. This is, of course, still serving death because everything ultimately dies, but it’s a different degree. You’re doing your part to give humanity that little boost to do whatever it is that it’s here for before it, ultimately, meets its inevitable end as well.
So institutions such as marriage and government are designed to transcend the first degree of serving death and, instead, reach the second degree of serving death.
So here’s the problem with gay marriage: It doesn’t do that.
There is nothing about the institution of gay marriage that isn’t selfish, in that sense.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t really mind selfishness in general. I’m a pretty selfish person, actually. I’m not married, I have no children, and I don’t want to get married or have children. By my own categories, I’m serving death in the exact same way gay marriage is. So far be it from me to be overly critical of that kind of selfishness. But it’s not critical to just call it what it is. Gay marriage does not serve humanity in the same way as traditional marriage, and it very clearly doesn’t do so. And, worse, the fact that these two things are conflated does, indeed, muddy the waters. By which I mean that by equating gay and traditional marriage, it demeans the purpose that traditional marriage has – to encourage the flourishing of humanity past the death of the individual.
So for this reason, I’m not particularly a fan. Because it confuses the flourishing of humanity with selfish motives, and in doing so, degrades having children within marriage to a simple lifestyle choice. It is. But it’s also much more than that, in a way that gay marriage isn’t and can’t be.
I’m not sure what Japan’s motivation for not sanctioning gay marriage is. They are most certainly not seeing it from a Christian point of view, but they do seem to recognize that there is a purpose for marriage that is impossible to achieve within gay marriage (and yes, you can point to adoption, but that’s just skirting the issue). So, by and large, I applaud Japan’s continuing adherence to tradition. In that sense, anyway.
I may write another post on this, but here’s one thought to leave you with. In the US, Roe vs. Wade is on the cusp of being overturned or very much curtailed. Gay marriage came into being in the same way as Roe vs. Wade, and can be taken away just as easily. There is a danger to legislating morality, and doubly so if you’ve legislated it from the bench. Food for thought.