This morning CNN.com ran an article about polyamorous couples, or couples with more than two intimate partners. It is a pretty broad term and seems to include all sorts of relationships, two couples in a semi-permanent relationship with another couple, a couple "plus one" and a dizzying and potentially endless array of permutations. It is interesting to note the tentative "coming out"of the individuals involved in polyamory parallels and sounds an awful lot like the tentative coming out of more garden variety homosexuals. So what does this new love that dare not speak its name mean for the church? It is not outside of the realm of possibility, and is in fact completely plausible, that polygamy/polyamory will be extended the same legal recognition as same sex and traditional marriage.
I would like to propose once again that it is high time that the church get out of the legal marriage business entirely.
The largely political struggle to preserve the traditional definition of marriage in a secular society has been an unmitigated disaster for the church. Not only did "our side" lose, we lost a lot of credibility in the meanwhile and expended enormous effort and resources that could have and should have been used to advance Kingdom causes rather than paying for court costs and supporting Republican candidates. We have alienated the very people we are supposed to be reaching, i.e. lost sinners, and have nothing to show for it. Now that doesn't mean that same sex "marriage" is more legitimate because it carries tax preferred status in certain states. It isn't and is a perversion of the meaning of marriage as a picture of the created order for man and woman and the imagery of the church united in Christ. It is an unhealthy and deviant lifestyle seeking official sanction and approval, so two men or two women or three men and six women or whatever declaring themselves married doesn't make it a marriage in the eyes of God. What I am saying is that if Caesar wants to bless certain relationships with tax breaks and beneficiary benefits that has little to do with the church other than our continued insistence on being Caesar's agent in officiating marriages.
My proposal is this. The church should oversee covenantal marriages between believing couples. The church should decline to serve as an officiating agent for non-believers and should likewise decline to administer legal civil unions for purposes of governmental recognition even among believers.
So what would that look like? Other than removing the "by the power vested in me..." part, probably a lot like what it looks like today. The church would have a ceremony for the believing couple in whatever form that takes based on their tradition. If couples want the legal recognition from Caesar for tax and benefit purposes they ought to go to the Justice of the Peace or whatever legally recognized means people can avail themselves of. It takes just a few minutes to do. The church would sever a link between the government and one aspect the visible Body of Christ. Caesar would have no say over what we do and we would have little interest in what Caesar does.
When the church is entangled with Caesar, Caesar doesn't become more holy. What possible benefit to the church is there in being an agent of the state and letting the state dictate the rules for marriage? Marriage is the sole domain of God and should remain distinct from the interference or cooperation of Caesar. Marriage among Christians should be a picture of the church and Christ and a witness to the world, not a political issue that leads to the church being unequally yoked with the Republican party. Let's get out of the business of acting as Caesar's agent in civil unions and keep marriage where it belongs, in the church