Is marriage ready for a gay makeover?
Talk show hosts like to fawn over what’s newsy and hot. The “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno hypes that gay guys from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” on Bravo Cable network are working on poor Jay. He looks frumpier than he should. On Bravo, five gay men find some doughty straight fellow who rivals a Neanderthal when it comes to what’s hip in fashion. Gays straighten out crooked straight guys by spiffing them up, introducing them to cuisine only the ancient gods cooked up, and replacing Bud beers with artistic appreciation. Classy gays offer good taste to straights who grossly lack it.
Leno gets a makeover from these cultural pacesetters. Five gay men take an interest in him, as they do other fellows culturally down on their luck. Who doesn’t like a makeover? Each of us is skittish about our flaws. We don’t want to be caught in public embarrassing ourselves. Amid life’s hangnails, we desire manicured lives. Gay experts advise Leno on stylish fashion, debonair grooming, elegant food and artistic delights, turning Leno from a boor into a Rembrandt. The sincerity and humor of their advisers touch straight clods made over by gay style experts.
With makeovers enjoying soaring popularity, as gays guide straights to life’s finer graces, can same-sex marriage be far behind? Pundits assert that marriage is a legal contract made when two people pledge their commitment to each other. Cultural shifts toward legalizing gay marriages are running at a rapid pace. From “Will and Grace” on NBC to “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” on Bravo, gay relationships out in the open are celebrated and depicted as another slice of life that has gained American legitimacy.
In Massachusetts, a court seems ready to relax the law declaring marriage is reserved for a husband and a wife. The Supreme Court on June 26 struck down a Texas sodomy law, along with others akin to it in other states. No longer wanting to ban homosexual sex acts, by a 6-3 majority five of the six justices in the majority, ruled that sodomy laws contradict the 14th Amendment. What straight or gay couples do in their bedrooms is private. The state must stay out of any legislation that invades this private domain.
In a Gallup poll conducted by “USA Today” and CNN, taken shortly after the High Court’s decision against sodomy, reservations against gay marriages seem to be caving in. When Americans were asked how they viewed same-sex marriages, the majority still opposed them, but convictions are eroding which deem such unions immoral. Young adults show the greatest support for same-sex marriages. Pollsters report that only 55 percent of respondents nix gay marriage, quite far down from 68 percent in 1996. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they approved of gays to marry.
Some Christian clergy help shape this cultural shift towards gay marriages, too. They offer rites within churches that recognize domestic partnerships in lieu of marriage. When the rites these clergy use are scrutinized, they emphasize commitment, fidelity lasting till death parts the couple, plus keeping a monogamous relationship. These rites foreshadow marriage without calling it such.
Using such slippery language to conduct marriages for gays in churches, without calling them as such, got the goat of Christian novelist Flannery O’Connor. She described in “Habits of Being” how American liberal Protestant clergy are sucking dry historic Christian faith, leaving it lifeless. “One of the effects of modern liberal Protestantism has been gradually to turn religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend upon feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so and that religion is our own sweet invention.”
When marriage is made over to include gay nuptials, is that our society’s “own sweet invention?” Or, is it right and proper that the State does not deny marriage to gays because they are citizens who have rights and longings for stable commitments recognized by society, the same as straights? Should only religious communities define marriage as a covenant between man and woman? Or, is this a truth that leaps beyond religious boundaries and must be maintained in the body politic, too?
Certainly, the Torah and the Christian scriptures that have influenced Western legal tradition agree that marriage is between a husband and a wife. Jesus piggybacked on Jewish tradition, repeating what Genesis clearly defines as marriage, both within sacred precincts and in secular corridors. “From the beginning of creation,” Jesus reminded his followers, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'” (Mark 10:6-9, Genesis 1:27, 2:24).
Christian ethicist, Lewis Smedes, wrote about the nature of marriage. Those married in church sign the State’s contract as they receive God’s blessing. They “become sexual partners in a life-long union that embraces their total commitment. The single ingredient that stamps a sexual partnership as a marriage is fidelity, or what we use to call troth.” Do Sandy and Sandy share that troth, whether they be boy/girl, boy/boy or girl/girl?
Such fidelity is best expressed between husband and wife. It is most natural, in concert with the rhythms of creation. Murder, for instance, is wrong because it defies life’s natural order. Why don’t we bless sexual unions between mothers and daughters or fathers with their sons? Why do both Church and State frown on marriages between first cousins? Ethicists maintain that such relationships are corrupt and deviant because they are out of harmony with how God desires the created order to flourish. Natural laws are built into the design of creation. Woven into the pattern of creation, they make for a society that is moral and helpful. For centuries, both Church and secular governments agreed that marriages featuring unions of same-sex partners were out of synch with the design God intends for wedded life. Same-sex marriages cannot be made over into what God desired when He ordained marriage between a man and a woman.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister serving with MAJESTY, featuring creative music for worship. MAJESTY can be reached at P.O. Box 8100, Avon, CO 81620. Web site: http://www.majestyministries.org. Van Ens’s book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes” is available in local bookstores for $7.95.