I get it.
You’re sick of seeing articles about Same-Sex Marriage (whether for or against) as you scroll through your Facebook feed. You’re over it already. I know.
My wife Sarah was telling me recently how she and many of her Christian friends are just sick of seeing SSM related articles on Facebook.
A fatigue seems to be creeping in.
If you’re a Christian, you might be thinking: we’ve lost the debate – why bother with it any more? Or perhaps: what’s the big deal – who are Christians to enforce their sexual morality onto the rest of society? Or maybe you’re thinking, it doesn’t directly affect me …so it’s probably easier for us to shut up about it.
Why We Need To Engage.
I want to suggest, however, that SSM is actually a very big deal. In fact, it’s an issue that Christians need to engage with, out of love for the most vulnerable and voiceless in our society: namely children.
Now I realise I’ll need to work hard to convince you of this. But that’s what I intend to do, as I engage with this issue over the next few weeks.
Where We Need To Begin.
And so let’s begin by asking a very basic question: why bother worrying about (traditional) marriage in the first place?
1) A Healthy Marriage Culture Is Fundamental To Human Well-being.
When traditional marriage is weak or absent from a culture, then disaster follows.
Just ask President Obama.
Speaking about the high number of children born in African American communities to single mother families, he says:
We know the statistics: that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.
But notice what he did not say: he didn’t say that single mothers don’t love their children, or don’t work hard as parents.
On the contrary: they do love their kids, enormously. And they work incredibly hard. I know this from friends who are single parents. And I know this from personal experience: I’m a single parent whenever my wife goes away on a trip!
(We should also urgently point out that many single parents raise wonderful kids: Obama’s talking about averages, not about every child raised by single parents!).
Nevertheless, the point is that family structure matters to children.
Secular social commentator Bettina Arndt has this to say about the impact of family structure on children’s wellbeing:
[There is] overwhelming evidence that girls living in non-traditional families are sexually abused by ”stepfathers” – partners of their single, remarried or repartnered mothers – at many times the rate of abuse by biological fathers. One such study…found that children whose single parent had a partner in the home were 20 times more likely to be sexually abused than those in a two-biological-parent family. [Emphasis added].
She continues, quoting researcher Jeremy Sammut:
[It is a] fiction that the traditional family is just one amongst many equal worthy family forms.
(Again, we’re talking averages: not every step dad is a child abuser. Many do a wonderful job of raising step kids. But on average, non-traditional family structures often create serious challenges for families and children).
And so, here’s the bottom line: if you care about social justice, then you need to care about marriage. If you care about reducing crime, child poverty, and child abuse, then you need to care about marriage.
Marriage is that important to human well-being.
Which is why Christians, of all people, need to care.
And this leads on to my second point:
2) Marriage Is A Public Issue, Not Just A Private Issue.
I hear it all the time: marriage is just a private decision, between two individuals who love each other. It’s nobody else’s business.
The problem is, however, people’s marriage decisions affect the rest of us (for good or ill).
As Obama indicates in the quote above, we all feel this impact: such as through our tax dollars, when our government has to step in to address the fallout of broken marriages (e.g. increased welfare spending, or increased police numbers).
Society as a whole is affected by our marriages, for good or ill.
This means marriage is a public issue, not just a private one.
And so, like with any public issue, we need to have a public conversation about it, and about any proposed changes (e.g. to our marriage law). As a society, we need to understand what the proposed changes are, and what impact they’ll have on marriages, children, and on society, for good or for ill.
So what will the impact be of redefining marriage, on people’s understanding of marriage? And on people’s practice of marriage?
What impact will it have on children’s rights to a mother and father, where possible?
These are questions that we urgently need to discuss, as a society, because one way or another, all of us will be affected. Especially the most vulnerable and voiceless among us: children.
Which is why Christians, of all people, need to engage in this discussion.
Easier Said Than Done, Right?
But as we all know, it’s hard to have this public discussion in our current environment. Sure, there’s a lot of push-back from many supporters of SSM: that’s obvious enough.
But there’s another important reason why it’s so hard to have this conversation.
And it’s got to do with Icebergs.
I’ll explain all in my next post.