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Chic-fil-a and Homosexual Marriage

I’m probably a fool for wading into this issue. As a writer, I know putting my views out there can turn off people and make them decide not to buy my books. Yet, today, as the big push to get people to visit a Chic-fil-a restaurant to support the CEO’s views on the traditional understanding of marriage, I’ve seen people on both sides of the fence get things wrong, not really understand the other side, much less their own position as clearly as they should.

That is not surprising, really. We tend to deal with complex issues in black and white terms. Either/or lines drawn in the sand. Most often, we talk past one another. And it doesn’t help matters when it becomes the domain of political and media sound bites. People want wrong/right absolutes that are easy to grasp in a few seconds, not serious discussion of complex issues. Each side tends to look for key words and classify you in one camp or the other instead of really understanding where you are coming from, because it is intellectually easier to not have to think through what someone is saying in order to decide how to respond to them. And I know some will do this to me.

Such key words as “traditional family” which the CEO of Chic-fil-a was asked whether he believed in it, was turned into him being anti-gay. While apparently he has donated money to groups who fight for those “traditional family” values and “against gay’s rights,” in the actual interview which started this ruckus, the issue of homosexuality and what he thought about that never came up. It was all inferred by the media from his agreement that he supported “traditional family values.” He didn’t intentionally wade into the public discussion, he was responding to an interviewers question.

For whatever reason, which I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that politics and reelection distractions have more to do with this coming up at this time, this simple answer to a question that many have answered positively before has become the “last straw” it seems for the homosexual community, and the media and politicians that support those activist and rights. The firestorm it created on both sides of the fence have bubbled up all sorts of statements and views. So, for the next few paragraphs, I’m probably about to alienate folks on both sides of the fence. So hang on, and see where we’re at when we end this article.

First off, I’m all for equal rights for everyone, no matter their sexual orientation. A person is a person is a person, all made in God’s image, and as our founding papers relate, are equal in God’s eyes. God cares as much about what happens to the gay or lesbian person as he does me. No one has the right to discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation in civil rights that we all share in. Freedom of religion should mean the government can’t force churches to go against their beliefs, but a person, like the CEO of Chic-fil-a, who doesn’t believe in homosexual unions, cannot deny service to one or restrict their access or employment based only on sexual orientation. None of which the CEO is accused of doing.

But there’s the rub, isn’t it? The homosexual community sees straight people as having the “right” to get married, but not homosexuals. Therefore, they conclude, they are being discriminated against because the government grants a right to some that they withhold from the homosexual couple who love each other. Apparently, there are certain legal rights that a married partner have that a homosexual couple do not. The appearance of “civil unions” attempted to fix that, but some say it doesn’t go far enough.

Why is it not enough? After all, the intent of civil union laws is to grant to a homosexual couple the same legal benefits as a married person. One would think if it was merely a matter of civil rights, the crusade should be to get more states to adopt civil unions. I mean, think about it. Does it really matter what it is called? If it accomplishes the same thing, who cares what you call it? And how much easier would it be to do that, than to get the word “marriage” redefined after hundreds and thousands of years to include spouses who are of the same sex?

On the other side of the fence, it appears many Christians are concerned that allowing the legal definition of marriage to be redefined in the states to include same-sex couples will somehow change what marriage really is. But the truth is that legal issues have squat to do with defining what marriage is. All it can do is define what the legal definition of marriage is, and what legal rules, whether for the benefit or restrictions of the marriage, apply to that definition. Giving homosexual couples the same legal rights, whether one calls them civil unions or marriage, doesn’t change the reality of what marriage is. No church is required to believe differently about marriage because of state law.

“But, then the state can force us to marry homosexuals.” No it can’t. One, the Constitution prohibits the state from doing that. If they did, they would be singling out one belief system to persecute in favor of another. Two, if they ignored the Constitution and violated it, as is a possibility, it won’t be the first time Christians have stood up to the state for their beliefs and been persecuted for it. The point being, even if the state came in at gun point or fined a church for refusing to marry a homosexual couple, the Church wouldn’t have to give in an do it, but could protest. The government can make life a living hell, they can even kill you, but they can’t make you believe something you don’t want to. Thousands of martyrs down through the past 2000+ years can attest to that.

So the desire of homosexual couples to get “married” and the desire of Christians to prevent the “redefining of marriage” only shows the lack of understanding of what marriage is. It is the lack of that understanding that creates the problems in this discussion. Until we can agree on what marriage is, this divide will continue to grow. Or at least until we can come to an understanding of what each other really believes, can we come to respect each others views.

The secular understanding of marriage amounts to “because we love one another, want to commit ourselves solely to one another, and want to have sex that is accepted by everyone as okay.” The common idea is you find someone that you fall madly in love with, you want to be their one and only (or multiple in the case of open marriages) most intimate companion for the rest of your life (or until it is no longer desirable, at least).

It is strange that while the secular heterosexual community tends to move toward ignoring marriage by having sex with whoever and whenever regardless of marital status, that the homosexual community is trying to get it. For most secular people, there is little difference between living together and being married aside from the legal issues. Once you get that piece of paper from the state that says you’re married, you continue living as you have in the months before that day. So marriage for the secular person has become nothing more than a legal change of status, because nothing else changes. Not living arrangements, not sex, not emotional attachment. Only legal benefits and restrictions.

Which has led many to decide that marriage is outdated, not worth messing with. For in their understanding of marriage, and rightly so, there isn’t anything more marriage adds other than some visitation rights and tax advantages but also not being able to easily exit the relationship should you so decide to do so. If you perceive marriage as mainly a social permission to have sex with each other, and you do that anyway, then the idea of marriage loses its value. Its only value left is a culturally induced idea that two people who love each other enough to have sex, should get married because it shows each other how much they love one another to legally bind them together so it isn’t easy to just get up and leave. So it is ironic that as the secular society devalues marriage these days, where living together and premarital sex are the “normal” way of life instead of wrong, that homosexuals would feel it is valuable enough to fight for.

But why do Christians fight against the idea of homosexual marriage? In what way is it “redefining” marriage? Granted, most Christians do a horrible job of explaining their position on it. What it generally boils down to is the Bible is against it, labels homosexual acts as a sin, and therefore, marriage is out of the question (as if they could in some way be considered married under the Christian understanding). Instead of explaining the why, they resort to more soundbites like, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Such statements may point to a reality, but does little to enlighten anyone. Also, a lot of Christians don’t really understand they why of their position. They may be able to quote Bible verses, but they never get beyond that to explain why in the Christian view of marriage, that a homosexual marriage is an impossibility. Not because of rights or equal status before God, but because it is impossible the way God has created us. So let’s get to that, because it clarifies everything.

The definitive verses on what marriage is are Jesus’ own words: “But from the beginning of the creation, Male and female made he them. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh: so that they are no more two, but one flesh.” (Mar 10:6-8 ASV)

Yes, Jesus states that marriage is between a man and a woman because God made them male and female. But why is this important? Because, as He points out, the main point of marriage is a union between two people. And not just any union, but for the two to become “one flesh.”

On the surface, this union would appear to be very abstract and “spiritual.” After all, the two people still remain two people. They don’t get stuck together like co-joined twins, or merge into one person. How else could they become “one flesh”? And honestly, this is where most Christians get mixed up too. They do tend to see this as some sort of mushy-wushy, wiggly-wobbly abstract concept. They would tend to view the idea of one flesh as metaphorical to describe some spiritual reality. So when it comes to the “why” it won’t work for a homosexual couple, they don’t have much left to say other than “God said….”

However, there is a very literal fulfillment of the two shall become one. It is called children. The sexual act is designed to create children. Whether it ever does or not isn’t the issue. When a man and woman have sex, they share and mix their DNA together, in a literal way, and it has the potential to produce one flesh from the two. It is spiritual, but the spiritual is always founded in the concrete experience. Each person in the act gives of themselves to the other in a way that can create life. That reality unites them as one flesh, whether or not a child is ever realized or can be due to a physical handicap or disease.

This union is what forms the basis of the Christian understanding of marriage. Without it, you simply have no marriage. You cannot unite in that fashion unless the sexual union has that ability and potential. No matter how much you mix sperm or eggs in a homosexual act, you can never create life from that mixture or activity. It has to be a woman and a man together for that to become a real marital union. It is simply the way God designed it. And changing the law to allow for homosexual marriages will not make it a marriage.

At this point, I can hear folks bring up “what about love?” “What about the emotional bond?” Indeed, the martial union should include other types of union than merely physical. It should be an emotional union, a social union, a spiritual union, as well as a physical union. The social union is reflected in living together, getting legally married, having a public wedding either at a church or court house with witnesses. It involves a sharing of resources and time together.

There should also be an emotional union. There should be a self-sacrificing love for one another, rather than a selfish infatuation. There should be the type of love and emotional energy that wants to spend the rest of their life with that person. An emotional intimacy, where both people share their lives and meet each others emotional and romantic “I love you” needs is a key component of a healthy marriage.

That these should be there before a marriage is consummated in the physical union is the sinfulness of premarital sex. It is marrying someone before you’ve committed yourself to raising the children. In the Christian understanding, there is no such thing as premarital sex, because when you have sex, you are marrying that person, but to do so without having the emotional and social union in place is to treat the uniting of two people into one flesh as trivial and purely for one’s own enjoyment. It is an abuse of the meaning behind the sexual act just as much as adultery is once someone has married another. Indeed, unless you do marry the first person you have sex with, subsequent sexual unions with another is tantamount to adultery. So yes, those two aspects should be present in a marriage for it to be the fullness of marriage as God intended it to be.

However, without the sexual union, what you have if only the above is present, is really good friends. Maybe very intimate friends who love each other very much. But without the uniting the two into one flesh activity of sex between a man and a woman, that is all you have. Indeed, even society can call you married legally or socially, but without that union, you are not in reality married, no matter how intimate you may be with each other. Without participating in the activity that potentially creates life from the two, there is no marital union.

What about the spiritual? That is an act of God. And as Jesus said, the fulfillment of the two becoming one flesh is the spiritual union created by God. The go hand-in-hand. That is why after focusing on the union of “flesh,” Jesus then says “…what God has joined, let no man put asunder.” (Mark 10:9) Therefore, when you have sex with someone, you are not only marrying them physically, but also spiritually.

What about the sacrament of marriage in the Church? This doesn’t nullify that. It is a formal and concrete way with witnesses to bestow God’s blessing and union of the two people. It is a part of the social union, for sure, and in the Church, at least my group, God’s activity in making the two, one. However, the spiritual union isn’t finalized and “consummated” until the physical union happens. If the physical does not happen, the spiritual is a union of type, but not the fullness of the marital union as God lays out. But according to Jesus, God unites the two when they become “one flesh.” The spiritual union is fulfilled, and if there is no church service, the physical act still unites the two into one both physically and spiritually.

I will admit that there are Church groups who wouldn’t want to go as far as I have in that last statement. Either they want to retain the right that the sacrament fully creates a spiritual union, and indeed, is the primary point of union in a marriage, and it cannot be conferred merely by having sex with someone. Catholics would especially have a problem with that, because it would put in question their whole theology of annulments. Hard to say the marriage never really happened if spiritual union can be made active by a couple having sex. And others don’t want to admit that sex alone can marry a person. But this is what Jesus stated as the basis for marriage, and when God determines that He joins them together. When the two become one flesh, which happens with the sexual act that can create that one flesh, then God’s activity through that sacrament of marriage unites the two into one spiritual flesh as well.

To get a clearer picture of this, keep in mind the culture in which Jesus made these statements. The marriage ceremony in His day consisted of a week-long party that culminated by the couple going into a tent to have sex, at which point they were considered married. It was such a celebration that Jesus attended with His mother when He performed His first miracle, blessing the marriage as it was in that day not only with his presence, but with his miracle of wine. They didn’t have to get a certificate from the Romans. They didn’t have a marriage service in the synagogue. This was the case until some point in the Byzantine empire, when the state and the Church became involved in granting and blessing marriages. But before that, the only point at which people were declared married was when they had sex. Thus, God united them at that point, because that is the primary purpose of the sexual act: to unite the two into one flesh, and so join them together. What they created on earth was joined by God in heaven.

It should be clear that this type of union can never be achieved by a homosexual couple. They can be very united emotionally, socially, legally, but it is impossible, according to the way God designed marriage, for the sexual consummation to make all the other unions a full marital union. And that’s why, even if homosexuals get legal marital status, they can never be married in the full sense of the Christian understanding of marriage. Not because anyone is denying them a right to do so, but because it is biologically and spiritually impossible as God has defined it.

Of course, if you are not a Christian, none of this matters. Marriage isn’t a union between two people who could create babies, it’s just a union between two people who love each other. An emotional union, and that’s about it. Even though best friends and people who are very intimate with each other, minus the sex, are not considered married. If it is all about getting the same legal rights as married couples, I see nothing wrong with that. But I would suggest it is easier to accomplish that with civil unions than trying to redefine what marriage means. Which is what makes me think this is more than about civil rights, otherwise you’d be fighting for that, and not trying to redefine marriage. No, this appears to be more about acceptance of a lifestyle by the population.

But there’s the rub. While I would acknowledge that some people are born with a preference for certain things, like hot dogs, ice cream, or sex with the same gender, and that such people who have those preferences shouldn’t be discriminated against simply because they have these desires and preferences, the existence of those desires doesn’t make the activity okay. Anymore than my desire might be to have sex with a woman other than my wife makes that activity not sinful. Or any other sexual sin prohibited by God in the Scriptures. And because I probably have a propensity to desire crack, doesn’t mean it would be a good thing for me to use it. The presence of a desire does not mean it needs to be fulfilled.

So I do not believe those with homosexual propensities are sinful and it is wrong to have those feelings. I do believe it is damaging to fulfill those sexual desires. But doing so, doesn’t make you any more of a sinner than I am, or your sin any greater than one I’ve committed. That will be between you and God, not judged by me. But as St. Paul says, be careful what you approve of. Not everything is beneficial, and He has declared fulfilling those desires to not be beneficial.

This has nothing to do with hate or condemnation or discrimination, but with operating within God’s design specs. If you don’t believe in God, then at least you may have an understanding why it is impossible for Christians to redefine marriage within our theology to include homosexual unions. It is simply not theologically possible. To do so is to redefine one’s theology to ignore the core reason God said He created marriage: to unite the two into one flesh.

About R. L. Copple
R. L. Copple enjoys a good cup of coffee and a fun story. These two realities and inspiration from the likes of Lester Del Ray, J. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, among others, caused him to write his own science fiction and fantasy stories to increase the fun in the world and to share his fresh perspective.
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7 Responses to Chic-fil-a and Homosexual Marriage

  1. St. Ralph says:

    There’s another dimension to the Christian understanding of marriage that you haven’t even touched on: a marriage is a symbol or type of Christ’s relationship with the Church, with the man representing Christ and the woman representing the Church.

    We find the Bride/Bridegroom metaphor throughout the New Testament, but the classic Christian understanding is that it’s not just a metaphor. Obviously, this typology doesn’t allow for a relationship between two Christs or two Churches.

    • Rick says:

      Ralph, you are correct. I didn’t touch on that aspect and I agree with your comment. There is also several other aspects to marriage I didn’t discuss. But I wanted to remain focused on the key point that addressed the “why” there can be no such thing as a homosexual marriage in Christian theology. And while for many Christians, like Orthodoxy, that typology would be “proof,” for others, it isn’t as strong an argument. And I wanted to stay focused on the main point I was making. But it is a valid point to be made.

  2. Well said.

    It seems to me there’s a tie between the same sex marriage issue and the abortion issue. Many people who believe a baby in the womb is only a blob of cells, undeserving of protection are the same people who don’t equate procreation potential with marriage.

    • Rick says:

      Good point. I’m sure there is cross over on those beliefs, though I’d hesitate to make it a blanket statement. That said, I’m sure homosexuals obviously aren’t concerned with the abortion issue as it relates to this, as obviously they don’t tie having children as part of what marriage is about anyway, since they can’t, from that union, ever produce children. If marriage is merely a legal status, then the abortion issue doesn’t even factor into it. Because of that view, it is all about “civil rights” to redefine marriage.

      • Yeah, I suppose you’re right about homosexuals not needing to think about the abortion issue. I was mainly thinking of my very liberal friends who are pro-choice and also pro-gay marriage.

  3. Rick,
    Thanks for a serious and thoughtful article.

    Your basic approach is exactly what we need. The first question should be what is marriage, in popular culture, historically and in Scripture. Or we end up defending a slogan, a form of words, not a scriptural concept (and if you read church history you’ll find too many cases where the church has done just that).

    So here’s my 2 penniesworth:

    “Traditional Family” is usually taken to mean Mum, Dad and 2.4 children. That may be right or wrong, but it’s not traditional. Until my lifetime people commonly 3 or even 4 generations in a house, and Granny was available to baby-sit, and spare daughters-in-law would share cooking. That’s still true in many non-Western societies. I’m not saying that is the right way either, it’s got serious problems, especially when the younger women feel dominated by the matriarchs.
    We need to ask what is the best form of “family unit”. What works best elsewhere? How far does Scripture specify the “family”.

    It appears the interviewee was boobytrapped into attacking Gay Rights. That may not have been malicious. The other side are just as sloppy in their thinking. If we are speaking in public, then we’ve got to remember our words are heard through the filter of other people’s prejudices. Yes, that’s unfair, but that’s the way it is.

    The state should not get involved in Marriage. Yes, Yes, Yes. What has happened is that first the church, then the state decided, for the best possible reasons to give privileges to “married people”. Things like inheritance rights, parental rights, good reasons like that. They gave tax concessions to married couples, to encourage social stability. But as soon as you do that, you interfere in what marriage is, and that’s where it starts to unravel.

    Yes Rick, it ironic that when so many heterosexuals repudiate marriage the homosexual lobby should be demanding it. Anyway it goes beyond that. I had a elderly great-aunt. She was one of the generation of women who never got to marry because of the number of men killed in WW1. She ended up living with another elderly lady for decades. There is no suggestion of sexual involvement, but in many ways they were a “family” unit, yet there was no legal recognition of that. Personally I’d favour a suggestion from Stonewall (not normally one of my favourite organisations) that any two (or possibly more) people should be allowed to declare themselves a family unit, with mutual obligations. sexuality should not come into it any more than marriage. It should just be a legal recognition of mutuality. And keep the state out of Marriage.

    You say “But, then the state can force us to marry homosexuals.” No it can’t. One, the Constitution prohibits the state from doing that.”
    That’s only true in the USA. One fear in the UK is that if UK law is amended to allow homosexual marriage, then an case could be brought in an EU court to ban any organization, like a church, from refusing to carry out homosexual marriages. (Remember we are not talking about Christian Marriage, we are talking about the state’s legal concept of marriage.). The Gay Rights lobby say this fear is nonsense, the opposition simply don’t trust them, and point out that it’s a matter for the Brussels Court, and cannot be overruled by any national parliament.

    We looked at Marriage in our adult bible study recently. The bible does say anywhere what a “proper” marriage ceremony is. It just says A took B to wife. No mention of rabbi, priest, king, or anyone else.
    There’s a case from York in the 1300’s. John asked Mary for sex. She replied, only if you take me as your wife. He said, then I’ll take you as my wife. Then they had sex. Later on he tried to repudiate this. What neither of them knew was there was a Peeping Tom, who came forward as a witness. The Church Court ruling was that this was valid marriage. Two people agreed, and confirmed it sexually, that was all that was required.
    I was at a Catholic wedding recently. The priest made it quite clear. Marriage is a sacrament administered by bride and groom to each other. The priest is there as chief witness. It would have been valid in God’s eyes without the priest or any witness, the witnesses are there for a witness to man, not to God.

    In the UK at least (I cannot comment for the USA) the situation is even worse. Marriage is a thing you go for after you’ve lived together for a while, to bind you together “permanently” – ie until one of you gets bored with it. It’s a huge expensive party where every girl exercises her right to be a romantic bride, at huge cost, the star of a vast expensive party. In terms of commitment or of any religious or sexual meaning, it doesn’t really seem to have any meaning. In the worst case it’s what gormless young women go for when they fear their relationship is breaking down, and they want to have something that will “really bind the two of them together”, and it’s almost always a prelude to disaster.

    The critics of marriage point out that it is meaningless in terms of sexual relationship, it’s expensive in the most silly ways, and that it’s just a meaningless piece of paper.
    It’s no use arguing they are wrong, because they are right, in terms of what marriage has become. We need to argue for a better, more realistic, more biblical, marriage. Then maybe we might be heard.

    • Rick says:

      Thanks, Malcolm, for your thoughts on the topic. Some good points that deserve exploring. Two thoughts about what you said.

      Agreed, as far as our Constitution goes, it does provide for freedom of religion which has been interpreted to mean the state stays out of the business of favoring on religion over another. But there have been parts of the Constitution that have been ignored, and our current president has strengthened the executive branch to put into effect things that have either not been passed by the Congress or been struck down by the Supreme Court. If one gets enough power, that piece of paper won’t stop the establishment of a dictatorship. And I don’t think that is beyond the realm of possibilities. I hope it never comes to that, but possible.

      But of course, the second point in that is true for both of us. One can always resist. It may not be pleasant, but no government can force one to believe a certain way.

      The other is the Catholic position that the couple cause God to join them together in the ceremony. I think that would be a modern reading even in Catholicism, but I could be wrong on that. In the Orthodox Church, it is not seen that way at all. They hold that God is the one that joins them together, not the couple. That said, obviously the marriage is said to be consummated in the sexual union, and so finalizes God’s joining of them together. And like you pointed out, and I did, for years neither the Church, or synagogue were involved in marriage, though I’m sure a priest or bishop may have given a blessing or something.

      I suppose there is some necessity for the state to have some definition of family, for inheritance laws, and when divorce happens, common property has to be divided, and minor children provided for. Stuff like that. But people have grown accustom to the legal side of it, and have in the more secular field, as you note, see the state as conferring marriage on a couple, since here as probably there, you don’t have to go through the Church to get married, We can do so in a court house. Or in some states, like I mentioned for Texas, just present yourselves as married and it is legal.

      Anyway, it is true that the different views of marriage is at the heart of this dispute. And why the question of what constitutes marriage is so important. If we don’t understand that, we won’t understand why we are fighting for or against anything, or even if we need to.

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