Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Is this the start of a separation of marriage and the state? Let's hope so.

On more than a couple of occasions (like here) I have opined that it is high time to undo the unequal yoking of the church and the state in the matters of marriage. Being a tolerated agent of the state for purposes of administering marriage in the same capacity as a civil magistrate, an Elvis impersonator in Vegas and a ship's captain has been an unmitigated disaster. The church never should have gotten herself into this position and we need to undo that perverse relationship now. Let the state worry about issues of tax treatment and who gets Social Security survivor benefits. The church should be concerned with covenant making in marriage and then nurturing that marriage by equipping husband and wife for their God ordained roles as complementary image bearers and normally as parents. There is no reason Christian couples who are married cannot subsequently seek legal recognition from the state but it should be separate and distinct to any and all from marriage. Now it seems that a prominent religious publication has published a call from clergy to do the same thing. In First Things  there is a page with The Marriage Pledge that says:

Therefore, in our roles as Christian ministers, we, the undersigned, commit ourselves to disengaging civil and Christian marriage in the performance of our pastoral duties. We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles ­articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life.

Interesting. I could do without the part at the end:

"Laymen are welcome to sign to express support for pastors making this pledge.  –Ed."

Well gee, thanks! We get to express our support for what these clergy are doing. Not that our pledge matters since we are mere "laymen" and get an italicized acknowledgement at the bottom. Anyway.

Like I said this is something I called for some time ago and am ever more convinced. Trying to meld Christian marriage with secular civil unions, and that is exactly what our system provides, has been disastrous for marriage, especially in the church, and disastrous for our public witness as the church. I don't really recognize any of the names of the signatories other than Peter Leithart but hopefully it will start to catch on.

I actually came to this post by way of Doug Wilson, who is usually about 50/50, giving equal time to piercingly accurate analysis and just out from left field notions so devoid of Scriptural basis as to boggle the mind. Doug Wilson is someone I read in the same way I listen to NPR, I know a lot of what I am getting is dumb or divorced from reality or both but still worth the time to sort through. Here is his coup de grace on why this is a bad idea:

In short, church weddings detached from the civil sphere are worthless unless the church is being given the contracted legal authority to adjudicate the divorce — property, custody, the works. Anything less than that is a sham and a farce.

What?! We need to maintain our servitude to Caesar in return for the pat on the hand and crumbs from Caesar's table in the form of tax breaks because we need to have a say in the divorce process? In case you were wondering that is not in the "piercingly accurate analysis" half of his offerings.

So Doug Wilson's theological leg gnawing aside, this is a positive move by people in the church and others that are thinking about getting back to what marriage is supposed to mean rather than tilting at culture war windmills.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Divorce is never approved of any way and Church leaders and brethren should be there to keep things together and strong not to hold open the gate for the flock to run away through,,,