The issue of gay marriage has come up a lot since the Massachusetts court decision. Tell me what you think about it. Why do evangelicals care so much about this in particular?
Evangelicals care about gay marriage because they care about Christian marriage. The tradition of Christian marriage has been uniform throughout the history of the church. It is a monogamous and permanent union between one man and one woman. That’s the way that it has always been. Anything other than that has been seen as deficient, at best.
For instance, there are cases in which Jesus authorizes divorce, but he thinks of divorce as always a tragedy, as always something that is deeply regrettable. Then other deviations from that norm, that standard, are typically presented as being sinful.
Evangelical Christians care about Christian marriage, therefore they care about marriage as it is understood by the state. My own view is more a non-view than it is a view. I feel that the church is so confused about what sexuality is and is so confused about what marriage is that … all of my energies have been devoted to trying to increase the church’s understanding of what sexuality is, and what the biblical and historically Christian picture of marriage is. I haven’t had any time left over to worry about what the state thinks that marriage is.
But you’re speaking about your church, right? The Episcopalian Church?
Well, I think there is obviously a crisis right now in the Episcopal Church over what are the appropriate expressions of human sexuality and what Christian marriage is or should be. But that just happens to be the denomination that’s at the center of the controversy right now.
I think throughout the church, and including even in evangelical churches, there is a lot of confusion and a limited understanding of what the biblical picture of sexuality and marriage is. So I focus my interest on that. Perhaps I should be more interested in what the state thinks that marriage is. But that seems to me to be very much secondary for a Christian to the question of what the church thinks that marriage is.
Interviews – Alan Jacobs | The Jesus Factor | FRONTLINE | PBS. I gave that interview — the questioner is my friend Wen Stephenson, by the way — in 2003, and honestly, things haven’t changed much for me since then. I note this because I’ve been feeling guilty for asking other people’s views on SSM without offering my own.
I read Andrew Sullivan’s conservative case for gay marriage when it came out in 1989 and thought, This makes a lot of sense to me. Is there some principled reason that I should disagree? And after some reflection I decided that any serious answer would depend on what the state thinks marriage is, and is for. However, I could never find any general agreement on that point, and still can’t. Justice Kennedy’s words yesterday about how marriage “embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” are self-consciously noble, but don’t address that question except to suggest that the state somehow has an interest in specifically erotic commitments. (I’m not sure why lifelong friends who live together would be excluded from the state’s approbation just because they don’t have sex with each other.)
Perhaps I am soft on sin, or otherwise deficient in serious Christian formation — actually, it’s certain that I am — but in any case I could not help being moved by many of the scenes yesterday of gay people getting married, even right here in Texas. I hope that many American gays and lesbians choose marriage over promiscuity, and I hope those who marry stay married, and flourish.
Beyond that, I still have no clear idea what the American political order thinks marriage is, and I do not expect to receive any clarity about that. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll now go back to thinking about what marriage is in the eyes of the Church — and of how to sustain religious liberty in the new dispensation.