The current moral panic over same sex marriage replaces what could be a great theological depth on the part of the supporters of traditional marriage. Their appeal is mostly to emotion: Who would even dare? (what one Orthodox priest in Chicago called the “Ick Factor”) Or else on emotional abstractions, What about the children? Both of these classes of objections are easily answered: the majority of people do not object in the first way any more and the second one leads to an infinite regress about childless couples and the elderly. In other words the emotional objections lead to emotional responses. Which ever emotion you support in this world is up to you: just don’t bring me down, man.
The problem, of course, is that the real, well-reasoned and deeply theological response is not a sound-bite. It’s more a book-length issue, hardly well-presented even in a long form essay, let alone a blog post. It needs foot notes and or hyperlinks and theological training to understand and digest. It also needs faith.
There is an Orthodox hymn from the Byzantine rite that says the Angels did not understand the Incarnation and the Resurrection was hidden from the soldiers guarding Our Lord’s tomb because “Both of these truths were from those who questioned them: but they are revealed to those who worship the mystery in faith.”
The correct Christian response to Same-Sex marriage is not emotional, nor is it a mere appeal to authority (God said it, so don’t do that!) In a fallen creation it does not do to appeal to history or nature, for both are filled with opposing examples. We must abandon the idea that our response is culturally relevant (it is not) but a response we must have: “A good reply for the faith that is in you”.
I do not mean that those who are spilling both digital and analogue ink over this topic have not, themselves, theological depth: but rather that they are not using it. The appeal to emotion and authority assume that either or both will be recognized as valuable. In that they are a shared value, they are preaching to the choir to stir up a moral panic. They are not strengthening their own arguments. They are not winning coverts (the primary goal of any Christian assay into the world) nor are they preparing any Christian for his final witness (the primary goal of any internal Christian education). These are the only two acceptable purposes of Christian writing: to present our case and to train our martyrs. I have a few ideas about what “stirring up emotions” is for, which will come up later: but stirred emotions never get anyone saved.
I don’t think anyone writing ins support of SSM has engaged any depth either. There is no writing from the Fathers or Saints that can be used to support SSM. Indeed, writers in support of Gay rights (including myself at points on my journey) have only had a semblance of depth whereby we take the clear words of scripture or the saints and show how they “really don’t mean what we’re doing now.” “Culturally, Paul knew nothing of monogamous, loving, same-sex relationships” is 100% true, 100% beside the point, and about as deep as the dew on the lawn.
To that end, this is the first in a series of blogposts attempting to lay out a theological response. I suspect it will be meaningless to a majority of my friends and readers who support SSM, and, ultimately, it is not intended for them except as an attempt to lay out the Christian argument beyond “Cuz. God. Said. No.” This is intended for the two goals stated above: state our cases and to edify the faithful.
By way of outline, I hope to cover Salvation, Sex, and Marriage; there will be side excursions on individualism, nature, Caesaropapism, secular morality, and liturgy. It may require several posts in each topic, but I hope to not over-tax my readers’ attention spans.
To make following along easier, these will all be tagged as “Theological Response.”