Political Theology Today A Forum for inter-disciplinary and inter-religious dialogue among clergy, scholars, students, and activists

Reformation through Gay Marriage

gay-adoption
Share Button

The time for debating the morality of gay marriage is gone. With the increasing approval in many denominations, the question is not about morality anymore, but as to how to incorporate this institution into the church body. Hence, we must begin to assess it’s social and philosophical contribution to the church and its theological implications. Seen through a social lens, the inclusion of married LGBTQ people in the church may in fact help to rid us of some of the pernicious aspects of marriage in the modern west.

Many conservative Christians argue against homosexual marriage on the basis that the couples are unable to procreate. However, the inability for gay couples to biologically produce children might be a positive contribution for a few reasons. First, the inclusion of children of gay parents might challenge the strange semiotic division between childbirth and child rearing. In reaction to arguments about abortion, many Christians have emphasized the sexual creative capacity over and against the creative act of parenting. Both are acts of producing subjectivity, yet a prioritization of the former has led to crisis of parenting we have today, which can be viewed in the ubiquity of child abuse as well the behemoth of a foster care system. By including children of both heterosexual and gay couples, we can move beyond the prioritization of sexual act and begin to see the creation process as continual and constant.

Incorporating married gays into the church might help to subvert oppressive gender roles. Females performing traditional male roles and males performing traditional female roles might functionally challenge the exclusiveness of the categories and this might liberate partners in marriage relationships to enact their own identity within the marriage. In the oppressive culture of Wild at Heart [link to Wild at Heart?] and the degrading small group material for women, we need a challenge to the dominant binary categories. Against the classic liberal reading, Galatians 3:28 seems to relate more to the unity of all subjects not the equality of all subjects. Mixed small groups with both types of couples might help us to liberate ourselves from gender restrictiveness and begin to open space for all subjectivities in order that they might learn to perform Christianity.

Gay marriage can also help to subvert one of the oppressive tendencies of marriage, which is to locate sex or sexuality within the male and female genitalia  Sexuality centered in the vaginal intercourse works to perpetuate the power of labor as well as creating the laborer. At the basic level, intercourse creates more laborers for the system to insure production. In this way, vaginal intercourse is necessary for the continued functioning of capitalism. In addition, by centering sexuality in vaginal intercourse, the rest of the body is free for labor. In religion and law from an early point, all other forms of sexual interaction are labelled as perversions: anal sex, fellatio, homosexual sexual relations, fetishes of different parts of the body, etc. Sexual uses of these parts of the body, unlike coitus, have no functional value aside from pleasure or sex for sex’s sake. By effectively legally outlawing or labeling these acts as moral, it follows then that sex becomes an instrumental act. More than that, by de-sexualizing all but the genitals, the body then can more fully become a tool to be used in abstract labor. Starting from this point then, we can see that the introduction and inclusion of gay marriage in the church might create dialogue about the sexualization of the body. Most protestant denominations and Roman Catholics have progressed past the notion that sex is merely for procreation, but the exclusion of gay married couples perpetuates the capitalism tendency to instrumentalize sexuality. The dialogue about sex after the inclusion of married gays might challenge heterosexual couples particular understanding of marriage and, in this way, help to expand the understanding of sexuality as gift from God, not as an instrument to create a labor force. Some might argue that the proliferation of birth effectively ended this fight. However, I would argue that birth control did more to insure the stability of the instrumental function of marriage than anything else. Before the advent of the rubbers and the pills, reproduction was more difficult to control. Now, however, couples have the ability to control when and if they reproduce. Birth control has just made marriage more tolerable, insuring the marriage remains relevant to modern society. Moreover, the portrayal of marriage in mass media and culture continues to be centered on children and family life. Thus, while contraception does create gaps in ideology to create new forms of marriage, gay marriage offers a further challenge.

The promise that “all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (Eph. 1:10)” and the similar promise that “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new! (Rev. 21:5)’” motion toward broken institutions, like marriage, which when brought into the church can be transformed into good things. Paul was not particularly excited about marriage as something Christians should be concerned with, but he didn’t preclude married couples from the church. Instead, he assessed marriage’s value based on what it might contribute to the vitality of the church body. He even requested that those married to non-Christians should stay in the marriage in order to potentially bring those unbelievers to Christ. In the same way, we should use this Pauline logic and assess the value of gay marriage not through a moral lens, but how it can be transformed and how its inclusion can aid the development of the church body.

 

 

Share Button