In mid-June, the Supreme Court will announce their ruling on same-sex marriage. The following is my beliefs about how this potentially affects the Church (and churches).
I do not want Uncle Sam to come into my church and tell me what to preach or my friends what to believe. I don’t want Uncle Sam going into ANY church and doing those things. I do not want my conservative friends to be forced to do things that oppose their fundamental beliefs. I don’t want my friends in the SBC to be forced to officiate lgbtq marriages (not that this would ever be a concern). Marriage equality is not a “Christian” concern. It’s a political one and one that is quite divisive in this country. I want to make it clear that my argument is not against lgbtq inclusion in the church and full acceptance into the full body of the church. My argument is not that Christians (individually) should not care about marriage equality. I absolutely want all of my friends to be able to marry who they love.
My argument is that the church needs to get out of the politically sanctioned marriage business. The church has no business in the present day presiding over legal contracts between individuals. Jesus said “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” and in my reading of that command, it’s less about paying one’s taxes and more about followers of the Way removing themselves from the political process that makes them rely on the coin.
Romans 13, when read without criticism, tells us to be subservient to the authorities over us. But when we read the last section of that chapter (and the rest of Romans), we might find a little snark in Paul’s writings. Every time Paul calls Jesus “Lord”, he is effectively saying that Caesar is not. It’s a quiet rebellion but it’s a rebellion.
And I would argue that every time your church agonizes over some Supreme Court decision, they are effectively saying ‘Caesar is Lord and Jesus is not”. Whether or not you agree with marriage equality, every time you act as if this ruling has any bearing on what your church is going to do, you are effectively saying, “Uncle Sam has dominion over how my church lives out the call of God”.
If the members of your local congregation believe in the full inclusion of everyone, independent of their sexual identity, first of all prove it. I want to see LGBTQ folks on your staff, on your board, as your greeters. I don’t want folks to have to ask whether or not your church is LGBTQ inclusive. And if it is, do commitment ceremonies of committed lgbtq couples. Write your own liturgies for these beautiful ceremonies.
But, if you live in a place where the state recognizes these unions, don’t sign a marriage certificate. It’s time for the church to get out of the practice of presiding over legal contracts between individuals. This is our quiet rebellion to the Empire that is America. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.
We sing the song (or at least you have sung the song, I assume) that goes,“I’m just a pilgrim on a journey to the land of my joy My soul is longing for the Kingdom promised me by my Lord.” I wonder if we believe that enough to practice it.
If the members of your local congregation do not believe in the full inclusion of everyone, that’s your prerogative. Don’t expect me to come visit your church any time soon, but to each his own. But to you, I have the same call. Live out the call of God on your life and practice this same quiet rebellion to the Empire. Don’t sign a marriage certificate. You have no business presiding over legal contracts. It’s time for the Church to get out of the marriage business.