Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The "Redefining" Of Gay Marriage

I was reading the other day a blog from Pastor Gregory Lee in Georgia, and it got me to thinking. What is the significance of a word and why do we as the gay community want to be able to use the word marriage? I think that when we answer this question, we will develop a greater understanding of what marriage is and why we want it. This post will not be aimed at understanding why we want marriage, but instead it will be a response to what Pastor Lee's post was about, the essence of the definition of the word. So therefore please read Pastors Lee's post on his blog.

http://onlyimagine.blogspot.com/2010/07/vidalia-onions-gay-marriage-and-other.html

Pastor Lee starts out with a pretty good explanation of why words and definitions of words matter, yet in his discussion he veers off course and actually bolsters the claim of those who want to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.

Before I explain why, I would like to elaborate on what I just stated on "redefining" marriage. The LGBT community has tried to claim that we are not redefining marriage, but instead are opening up marriage; we are not claiming to increase the amount of people in a marriage, only the genders. This my friends, looks to me as if we are splitting hairs. Marriage, no matter its purpose, has "historically" been one man one woman. Now. the reality of marriage - ex. womens property status, racial laws etc. -  have clouded our discussion when we talk about the definition itself. When the definition is discussed, we are not talking about the reality, we are talking about what it has been "historically" understood as over the past few centuries. Thus, by opening marriage to same gender individuals, we are "changing" or "redefining" the definition, because it has been mostly been between one man and one woman.

That being said, let us look at Pastor Lee's argument.

Pastor Lee starts his discussion with Vidalia Onions then moves onto (what I presume to be) the Mormon version of Jesus. You see, it is in this discussion that Lee trips himself (albeit unintentionally) up. Lee claims that there is one definition that is true - his definition of Jesus, as understood by mainstream Christianity - and that the Mormons are advocating a different definition. By doing so, the Mormons are able to deceive others in the community because they twist the "understood" definition of Jesus. Yet, Pastor Lee, having a correct definition, knows that their definition is false. This my friends is the contradiction. You see, Lee assumes that once marriage is "redefined" to include gay couples, that the traditional understanding of marriage will disappear. This could be farther from the truth!! Though some within society will have a redefined view of marriage, those who cling to a more traditional understanding of the Bible will stay with their traditional views. By redefining marriage in the public sphere, we are not redefining it in the private. By extending the right of civil marriage ( a redefining of the term marriage itself) we are not in any way redefining private religious traditional marriage.

Even in his defense, Pastor Lee bolsters my own argument, by using his own understanding of marriage from a Christian perspective - an understanding that, its interesting to note, many people within the U.S. don't ascribe too. He states,

When we use the term "marriage," we are referring to a God-given institution that was defined as one man and one woman whose lives, including their sexual lives, are experienced solely through that union. They leave their mothers and fathers, they cleave together, and they become one flesh.


No longer will marriage be defined through the religious communities that originally recognized it as a gift from God for men and women meant to reflect our relationship with God Himself. No longer will marriage be defined as one man and one woman living in a committed monogamous relationship for life. 


But Pastor Lee fall short here, for marriage is no longer an institution that is "defined" by the Church. The Church may have started such an institution - that itself is up for debate - but the Church eliminated its "public" defining capacity when it allowed the government to be involved with civil marriage. Pastors Lee's own argument flounders in todays society, though it might be good argument for use in the Church. The Government does not recognize that marriage is a gift from God, or that it was even defined by God; the Government cannot admit such, for to do so would make illegitimate all civil marriages not performed in the Church, for they are not "blessed" by God. 


So is Pastor Lee's argument truly viable in our society? Not really. Though I enjoyed his piece, I believe he made some significant flaws in his reasoning. Though words matter, we all are allowed to "define" it by our religious beliefs. Just like I will show in a few days when I discuss the definition of freedom, words do mean things overall, but our understanding of these meanings will differ based on what world-view we come from. 

3 comments:

  1. This all makes sense, however you did not ansewr your own question. Why do homosexuals want to use the word marriage? Better yet, why do homosexuals want to get married?

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  2. Gays and Lesbians want to use the word marriage for two reasons, at least in my opinion.
    1. Societal - Society gives a larger validation and precedence to the concept of marriage. The idea of marriage communicates love, affection, and social status. Marriage conveys to others a much greater level of intimacy and commitment than do domestic partnerships or civil unions. Thus gays want to get married to show the world that they are in a loving committed relationship with each other.

    2. Though it will be argued by some that Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships are fine, as they can have all the "legal" equality of marriage, this conveys a standing of separate but equal. Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships apart from marriage evoke an idea that gay couples are somehow "inferior" to heterosexual couples.

    So that is why gay couples want to use the word marriage, and get married.

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  3. KyleJL -- Thanks for taking time to read and comment on my post! My goal was to generate conversation and understanding, and that's exactly what I hope has happened.

    I understood going in that subjects like this are very divisive and very emotional, and my purpose was not to try to sway anyone committed to other stances on marriage, but to at least put in writing why a lot of people in the Christian community are opposed to same-sex marriages. I am afraid that, in a lot of cases, the conservative Christian response has come across as bigoted and judgmental and out of keeping with the character of Christ Himself, and for that, I apologize and ask forgiveness from the homosexual community.

    You make some excellent points about marriage and the institution of marriage and, really, we are not that far off in our understanding. I agree that the church abdicated its responsibility and allowed the secularization of marriage(We've done exactly that on many other issues, but that's another post for another day!)

    In my opinion, the focus of the church should be on cleaning its own house in regards to marriage first before it concerns itself with others. Divorce rates among Christians are comparable to non-Christians. Incidents of family abuse, infidelity, and dysfunction are similar to non-Christians. Christians living together out of wedlock are just as common as they are among non-Christians (in fact, out of all the couples I married over the last 10 years, 90% of them were living together before marriage). These are all issues that need to be confronted in the church before we can honestly have a voice in the whole marriage debate. For that reason, I joke among my gay friends and ask them why they want the right to marry when hetersexuals and the church have made such a mess of it!

    But, even with the mess that we have made of marriage, I still stand by my argument that the word "marriage" has merit and meaning within the Christian community and that the redefining of it will have implications that will ripple throughout society (which, I understand, is part of the goal of those advocating the legalization of same-sex marriage), making it even harder to restore the word and the institution back to its original God-given state.

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