In the July 19 Sunday Forum “Bible and same-sex marriage,” five of the seven letters focused on “biblical marriage” as if Christian theology has anything at all to do with civil marriage.
Civil marriage is, by definition, without religious content and is carried out by a government institution in accordance with the marriage laws of the jurisdiction. It creates legal rights and obligations for the couple.
In America we allow clergy to function as de facto government representatives. When a clergyperson signs a marriage certificate issued by the state, he or she is attesting only to the fact that all of the legal requirements for a marriage have been met. He or she is free to use the religious rites of the faith community to bless the couple’s civil marriage in a religious ceremony.
Because of constitutional protections, a clergyperson may not be compelled to violate his or her deeply held religious beliefs while officiating in a sacred marriage ceremony. Magistrates, by contrast, are legally required to perform only civil marriage ceremonies, which should not be confused with sacred ones.
To paraphrase Jesus (Matthew 22:21): Civil marriage belongs to Caesar; sacred marriage to God.
Conservative Christians need to stop confusing the two.
W. Robert Chapman