Monday, October 1, 2012

Minnesota Amendment 1 - Why I'm Voting "NO"

Update 11/7/2012: The Amendment failed. Also see update to note 5 below regarding this issue and the courts.

I admit for the longest time I wasn’t sure how I would vote. I thought maybe that I wouldn’t make up my mind until I got into the booth. But some serious discussions, and some serious introspection, have led me to the conclusion that, to stay true to myself as well as my faith, on this issue, in this context, I have to vote “no”.

Some who know me (mostly the afore-mentioned family and friends), will be baffled that this is even a question to be pondered. To them, a “yes” vote is a no brainer, and they would expect that I would concur(1). Many others who know me just as well will not be surprised at all that I am voting “no”. In particular, my younger daughter will applaud this decision (having voted similarly on the California proposition) and consider it to be an encouraging turning point in my Libertarian development. Neither side, I suspect, will appreciate the deliberation I went through to get to this point. So in order to avoid disownment (or misplaced praise), and hopefully provide a little enlightenment, I offer this post.

This will be a long post so I will summarize first. You can slog through the arguments at your leisure. 

Biblical marriage and civil marriage are not the same institutions. Since the government has decided to regulate certain civil unions, including bestowing certain privileges and imposing certain obligations on the participants, they should do so without prejudice. The fact that government has decided to use the term “marriage” to describe these licensed, contractual arrangements is irrelevant (or maybe, unfortunate), and certainly does not justify limiting those arrangements on a gender basis any more than it would justify limiting them on a racial or religious basis. Regardless, it has no bearing on the biblical institution for which religious people use the same term and therefore is of no consequence to our citizenship in God’s Kingdom. Never-the-less, as Christians we are sent into this world to witness even though we are not “of the world”, and part of that witness is upholding the laws of the world, often in spite of our personal opinion on their worthiness.

Some background information for those who aren’t familiar with the amendment or me:

Minnesota already has a law that defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. The purpose for enshrining this into the MN Constitution is to avoid what happened in Iowa a couple of years ago, where the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the similar Iowa statute. Minnesota conservatives want to make sure that “the courts” do not circumvent “the will of the people” of Minnesota. I don’t disagree with this course of action on a fundamental, constitutional basis. 

As for me personally, it should be clear from many posts on this blog that I actually do consider marriage, at least in the biblical sense of the word, to be strictly between one man and one woman. In fact, as far as the bible is concerned, “gay marriage” is an oxymoron at the very least, if not a completely nonsensical term, and the “one man/one woman” structure of marriage is a simple, unalterable fact. As a Christian, my personal position on marriage unwaveringly reflects the text of the proposed amendment. With that in mind, here are my reasons for voting “no”.

In this world but not of it

When Jesus was praying to the Father for his followers, he described his disciples as being sent into the world but not being of the world (John 17:14-17). This is understood as the “dual citizenship” of the Christian. We simultaneously exist as citizens of secular society (Minnesota-America-Earth) and of God’s kingdom. We are to keep these citizenship spheres distinct from each other, and as long as they don’t conflict, we are to maintain a balance between the two. Only when society imposes upon us rules that violate our faith are we allowed to disobey.

As citizens of these two worlds, we have two primary guides to inform our behavior. As a citizen of the world, I have the law, and specifically in America, the Constitution. As a citizen of God’s kingdom, I have the Bible. And while the law has very little to say about the Bible (thankfully), the Bible has plenty to say about the law. Paul and Peter make it very clear that, as citizens residing in this world, we are to obey all of the laws and the authorities. Jesus is truly our model for this behavior, as he obeyed the law of the land (Roman law at that!) even while being falsely accused and sentenced to death. None of the New Testament writers ever called upon the Church to write the law or even make any effort to change the law, regardless of how good or bad, moral or evil, the law was. Significantly, neither did Jesus. Indeed, this indifference to affecting the law is what we see in the early church. Only after Constantine did the church and the state become intertwined, to everyone’s detriment.

Sometimes, society and the Christian disagree on principal. That is alright as long as neither tries to impose their will on the other. I am perfectly comfortable with society defining marriage differently than I do, as long as they don’t require me to believe their definition. As long as the Church is not being required by law to marry gay people, it is of no concern to us as citizens of God’s kingdom. We may be required to extend certain civil rights to those married gay people, but that is part of our societal citizenship and we are obligated not only by law but by scripture to comply.

As a society, America provides the best possible environment for us to exercise our dual citizenship. Nowhere on earth is it as permissible for me to outwardly disagree with the law (note - disagree does not mean disobey) than here. Society cannot legislate my faith. But, that freedom from intrusion by society into my godly citizenship is a two way street, because my faith also cannot legislate society. In our free society, if I am free to believe what I believe about marriage, then others are as free to believe something else about marriage. This is the blessing and curse of liberty. As long as the law doesn’t dictate either of our beliefs, and neither of our beliefs tramples on the rights of the other’s, liberty is preserved. 

As Christians, we need to face two facts: society has decided to involve itself in the marriage business, and gay people have marriage-like relationships. To be fair, as far as our marriages are concerned, the first fact doesn’t much impact us as our definition of marriage is inherently part of the regulatory scheme. What we need to decide is whether or not other civil marital arrangements harm us in either citizenship realm. If they harm us societally, then the scales of justice are tipped and the law is unconstitutional. If they harm us spiritually, then society is intruding on our godly citizenship and we are allowed to disobey. If we are not harmed in either way then, like it or not we are compelled to obey the law. 

Frankly, I don’t see how gay marriage impacts me at all, either positively or negatively. Some Christians will argue that it corrupts society(2). Maybe so, but what is that to us? We are not of this world! We should expect corruption in society. We are to be the antidote for that corruption (how are we doing BTW, hmmm). That is why Jesus sends us into the world. Moreover, and this is crucial to understand, our calling is NOT to overturn the worldly law, even if it allows actions we consider corrupt, or even that we simply disagree with, as long as it doesn’t corrupt US. I repeat – Jesus NEVER directed us to change worldly law. To attempt to do so in the name of Jesus…well…I won’t say more other than to say there is no justification in scripture for such activity(3). We are required to obey laws (or lack of laws) that may lead to societal corruption as long as they do not corrupt US.  Frankly, if there were no corruption, there would not be much point in us remaining here to show the world a better way.

More to the point, what possible impact can the attachment of a word to a relationship have on any corruption that relationship may bring? If you view two gay people in a relationship as a corrupting influence on society, does it matter what you call their relationship? Does the word alter the relationship’s impact on society in any way? As Christians we are sent into this world to be salt and light with the full expectation that we will be living amongst people who conduct their lives in ways that we abhor. Who gives a rip what words are used?

Others worry that allowing gay marriage in society will start us down a slippery slope where eventually, we will be forced to perform and recognize gay marriages in our churches (although some already do). I don’t fear this slippery slope as long as the Constitution remains in place. I also see no evidence that gay rights activists want to strip the Church of its right to define marriage its own way. But let’s say that we do plummet down that slippery slope. What that fundamentally would mean is that the Constitution’s protection of religious liberty has been removed. If that ever happens, all bets are off(4).

All of the above might lead me to simply not vote at all on the amendment (equivalent to a “no” vote), but I have to consider one more issue. As Americans who are compelled by Scripture to obey the law, what is our duty to that law? Let’s not forget, in America we live in a society which believes in liberty and equal protection under the law for all people. If this society is going to regulate certain civil relationships with certain obligations and privileges, it needs to do so without prejudice. We need to support that principle. How can we claim liberty for ourselves but deny it for others? What is “Christian” about that? We may believe that there is no such thing as “gay marriage” in the biblical sense, but we are blind if we believe there are no such things as gay unions. People in those civil unions deserve the same legal rights as people in parallel civil unions. That includes the right to use the same terminology(5,6). If Christians should be mad at anything, they should be mad that government co-opted the term “marriage” for heterosexual civil unions in the first place. This would all be a moot point if all such contracts were called “civil unions” from the beginning. But they aren’t. We need to let it go.

One last word about that pivotal word: “marriage”. Very few Christians are aware of an obscure biblical fact. The word “marriage” does not exist in the Old Testament, and doesn’t really occur in the context we are using it here even in the New Testament(7). Simply put, the word we are making such a fuss over is actually never used in Scripture. Oh, to be sure, the relationship to which we attach the word is abundantly present in the Bible. But we have done the attaching; it isn’t a native biblical term. It should be neither shocking nor concerning to us that other people use the word for other relationships. In fact, the term “marriage” is used figuratively for many kinds of paired relationships outside of the intimate human context. Christians, (or more correctly, religious people), do not own this word, nor is it particularly religious in its breadth of meaning. And to reiterate, it isn’t even biblical.


(1)    I have heard many of my fellow brothers and sisters recount interactions they have had or witnessed with “no” voters. In those recollections, they shared some of the arguments given by the opponents of the amendments – arguments that, to me, seem rather sound and at least worthy of consideration. But my friends summarily dismissed those arguments without, seemingly, giving them a fair hearing at all. Truly, to many conservative Christians, this is a no brainer.

(2)    This is often aggravated by the “homosexuality”=”super sin” mentality of many in the Church. I would argue that divorce and fornication (both legal) are equally if not more corrupting on society yet the Church has a disturbing tolerance for those two activities, probably because of the rampant practice of them within the Body.

(3)    Those who want to legislate Christian morality need to be careful what they wish for. Ask yourself first which Christian sect gets to make the rules. If it is the Catholics, birth control would be banned. If it is the Baptists, dancing might be prohibited and prohibition returned. Even more conservative denominations may try to outlaw even more activities most of us consider amoral, or impose activities to which we object. If it is the Mormons (I know, not Christians), coffee and coke are off the menu. And what if another religion takes the reins? Want to live under Sharia law? God tried a Theocracy once and humans made a horrible mess of the whole thing. We are ultimately too fallen to agree on a universal moral code. Some people think that the legal system in America is based on biblical principles and morality. They are wrong. The legal system in America is based on a balancing of rights. It is secular, and should remain so. If you don’t believe that, ask the Danbury Baptists and Thomas Jefferson.

(4)    Of course, we Christians know that this persecution against the Church will come someday, but we also know that gay marriage is not going to be the cause. Besides, the persecution is unavoidable, regardless of how anyone votes on this cosmically trivial amendment.

(5)    UPDATE 12/7/2012: The SCOTUS has indeed agreed to hear both gay marriage cases this term. The docket numbers are 12-144 and 12-307. TTatOT will be paying close attention as this makes it way to the court.

UPDATE 6/10/2013: Oral arguments on the cases were heard March 26th.
The Supreme Court will eventually deal with this issue and I firmly believe that they will affirm the use of “marriage” as a legal term of art for gay civil unions, thereby striking down state gay marriage bans, just as in the past they struck down laws banning inter-racial marriage and laws refusing to recognize marriages of couples from non-Judeo-Christian faiths. It could come up as soon as this next judicial term with the California Proposition 8 case.

UPDATE 4/28/2015: The beginning of the end.
The Supreme Court hears argument today on four consolidated cases brought by states asking the court to uphold traditional marriage. Virtually all commentators expect the court to, instead, uphold gay marriage on 14th amendment grounds, thereby making it the law of the land and striking down any state laws and constitutional amendments which define marriage as only a heterosexual union.

(6)    To be fair, I also do not buy the outrageous outrage on the part of gay marriage advocates over not being able to use the word “marriage”. It is equally as silly. They claim that using separate terms for gay vs. heterosexual unions is tantamount to the “separate but equal” policies of racial segregation. I find little merit in that argument.

(7)    Some translations will use the English word “marriage” for certain Hebrew and Greek words, but further word study reveals that these translations are presumptuous paraphrases. The relationships described might be marriages, but the actual Hebrew and Greek words used are not those languages’ equivalents of the English word “marriage”. In fact, the creation of a particular equivalent of “marriage” in the source languages may be a post biblical event.


  1. Well Divorce is nit sinful for go made a law in Deut.

  2. "For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel, "and him who covers his garment with wrong," says the LORD of hosts. "So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously." Malachi 2:16

    They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?" Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

    While you can rightfully claim that some divorces are not sinful, it is simply unbiblical to assert that NO divorce is sinful, as you have here. And God hates every one of them, even if he allows them. Moreover, I know of no commenter in the Christian Church who has ever claimed that divorce is not a problem for the church. In fact, I would argue it is the number one social problem within the Church today. Frankly, it is a cancer eating away at the very foundation of human relationship established by God and used by figuratively by God to describe both His relationship with his people and Christ's relationship with the Church.

    To put it in terms that any Christian should understand, divorce is a huge redwood tree in the eye of the church. Why we ignore that in order to spend tremendous amounts of time, energy, wailing and gnashing of teeth on the speck of gay marriage in society's eye is beyond my understanding. When we clean up our own house, maybe then we will have some legitimacy in the eyes of the world to address the ills outside our own walls.

  3. one it's put away not divorce. Look at the talmund. Send her away is that the husband kicks his wife out. The husband must write and give the divorce to his wife.


  5. I don't understand your point.

  6. You are pretty cool more people should read ur blog!! Also people who write comments should proof them cuz wow English fail lol how do u understand what people mean?? Lolololol