October 19, 2011
Would You Attend a Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony? (Revisited)
Al Mohler clarifies his views on attending same-sex weddings, but more questions arise.
Last week I wrote a brief report about Al Mohler's dissatisfaction with Joel Osteen's answers during his CNN interview with Piers Morgan. Osteen said that while he would not officiate a same-sex marriage ceremony, he was open to attending one if it involved close friends. Dr. Mohler said Osteen's position was "beyond mere incoherence. It is moral and theological nonsense. More than that, it is a massive statement of ministerial malpractice."
On this blog I asked whether Mohler's objection to attending a same-sex marriage ceremony was held by other Urbanites. And what about other marriage ceremonies that didn't mesh with sound Christian doctrine, like Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist weddings? Could a Christian attend those events?
It seems that Dr. Mohler caught wind of our conversation here on Out of Ur and has written another column to clarify his thinking. But it raises even more questions about what a Christian leader who does not theologically agree with same-sex marriage is allowed or obligated to do about it.
(First of all, in Dr. Mohler's column he mistakenly calls me Uri (U-R-I) Scaramanga rather than Url (U-R-L). A common and innocent mistake, but Uri is my younger brother who stayed in the family circus business while I left the trapeze for seminary. But I digress.)
Mohler clarifies that he does not believe attending a same-sex marriage ceremony is the same as officiating one. However, he does believe it is inconsistent. Why? He appeals to the history and tradition of the Christian marriage ceremony. Essentially, according to Mohler, attending the ceremony is the same as affirming and blessing the marriage. He writes:
The traditional Christian ceremony, as reflected in The Book of Common Prayer, asks if anyone present knows of any reason why the couple should not be joined in holy matrimony. That is not intended as a hypothetical question. It is intended to ensure that no one present knows of any reason that the union should not be solemnized, recognized, and celebrated.... To remain silent at that point is to abdicate theological and biblical responsibility. Even if the question is not formally asked in the ceremony, the issue remains. We cannot celebrate what we know to be wrong.
This argument raises a number of questions for me. First, what if the same-sex marriage ceremony isn't a Christian service? What if it's a civil ceremony not rooted in any Biblical tradition or liturgy?
Second, does this logic mean that every time we are invited to attend a wedding we must investigate the moral and spiritual histories of the couple being married to ensure that we can indeed celebrate their union? Personally, I've been to a few weddings of couples who I felt shouldn't be getting married, or at least who didn't have a good chance of making the marriage last. Was I wrong to attend? Certainly being the same gender isn't the only thing to disqualify a couple from Christian marriage, is it?
Third, does Mohler's reasoning apply to Christians interacting with same-sex couples in other settings? For example, should a Christian tax attorney refuse to help a same-sex couple file a joint return? And should we refuse to work for corporations that offer benefits to same-sex couples because it passively affirms the union?
Finally, what about same-sex divorce? With more states legalizing these marriages, it's only a matter of time before some of them are dissolved. Is that something Christians should celebrate--the correcting of a theological error? Or is it a case of two wrongs not making things right?
Al Mohler ends his column with a statement I'm guessing we can all affirm: "Given time, no church, no family, and no individual Christian will escape this question. This will lead, unquestionably, to hard decisions and awkward situations. The time to think about this question is now."
Indeed, we do need to think about how to appropriately respond to shifting cultural mores and values. And if a consistent, uncompromising non-affirmation of same-sex marriage is what Mohler advocates, are we ready to fight that everyday on every front: church, business, government, schools, entertainment, and family? Apart from attending a ceremony, what else could be interpreted as affirming or celebrating a same-sex union? Talk about a slippery slope!
Logic may mandate consistency as Dr. Mohler argues. But wisdom may lead us to choose the battles worth fighting.