Sometimes I'm dubbed an expert on this or that topic, a hazard of the journalist's profession. I'm at best a bystander, observing experiences of others and lessons learned in the battles of life. But I will claim to be an expert on this, especially while others are doing so: marriage. This month with my husband (not WORLD founder Joel Belz, as many assume, but his younger brother) I will celebrate 30 years of marriage. And we are a happy pair who have endured-as most have by this season of life-our portion of sadness and struggle.
Sexuality is a gift of God designed to exist between one man and one woman in marriage as long as one or the other shall live. God meant this union to be unique because it alone would have sex in it! The Scriptures demonstrate this, plus the spiritual reality reflected in the physical union.
The Scriptures also demonstrate that from Adam onward, men and women have gotten it wrong, deviating in thought, word, or deed (or all of the above) from God's plain design. A marriage under God's design-of a year's or 30 years' duration-is a privilege and a mercy, not a right. Whether we acknowledge its perils and privileges or not, we all-left, right, gay, straight, or bi-are tethered to that design.
Where we split apart is over what protection civil society should grant to marriage, and which marriages governments should recognize and protect. Here the historical record is unambiguous: Until 2001, when the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to legalize gay marriage, government entities around the world solely recognized marriages between one man and one woman-for tax benefits, lawful protection of children, government services, and other legal entitlements. This did not reflect that such marriages are somehow innately virtuous, but that they emerge flawed and therefore require legal protection.
Vermont in 2000 became the first state to recognize gay marriages, and today six states in the United States have legalized same-sex marriage, while 31 carry statutes that outlaw it. My home state of North Carolina is the latest to tackle marriage, adopting on May 8 a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between "one man and one woman" and outlaws other "domestic legal unions." From this front-row seat I've seen the propaganda used against traditional marriage (see "Carolina blues," May 19)-and at some point my 30 years' journey feels under attack.
The confusion over marriage is most notable among the church itself, where Christian teaching is clear yet only about half of Americans, if the polls are right, believe gay marriage is wrong. "Political strategy and tactics alone don't explain such a pronounced shift in public sentiment, especially among younger generations of Americans," writes Collin Hansen, editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. And he's right to point out that the problem isn't simply a misunderstanding of Scripture but a misunderstanding of God: "We're not satisfied with a God who calls us sinners. Who calls on us to deny ourselves." That-plus the happy busyness that's kept many families homeschooling or volunteering in Christian schools, making meals and meeting carpools, actually being countercultural when it comes to changing views of marriage-has left too many Christians AWOL on a vital cultural issue.
Lacking engagement now, the confusion will spread with President Obama's "evolution," which includes using Christian teaching to first underpin his hesitancy to support gay marriage and now to bolster it.
Obama also isn't clear on states' rights. Having said that marriage laws should be handled by states, through a White House spokesman on May 9 he said he was "disappointed" by the North Carolina vote and thought it discriminatory. With Mitt Romney standing with the traditional marriage crowd, Obama 2012 quickly rolled out a web video portraying Romney as "backward" on marriage for saying "3,000 years of human history shouldn't be discarded so quickly." The tag will raise Obama millions among the gay rights' vanguard though it's a straw man: Newness in a trend is no guarantee that it's progressive. Just ask my Big Mouth Billy Bass that someone gave me about the time gay marriage started to catch on.