Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A Gay Marriage Case Study: Whether It Hurts Someone Else Deciding Whether It Is Right

As I've listened to some of the reaction to the announcement of the United States Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage (I'm using the term "gay," not out of preference, but because I think it will allow filtered internet to get through), in almost every case, you hear the argument that it doesn't hurt anyone else.  The majority (5 for and 4 against) argued for gay marriage from "due process" and "equal protection" which the majority of justices found for gay marriage in the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the constitution.  The argument is that gays' constitutional right to due process and equal protection is prohibited without their having the right to marry.  They've got that now in the entire country, overturning every law and every state constitution in every state that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

I don't want to write about whether this was a right decision.  You can find multiple presentations all over the internet about that.  If you believe in original intent and strict construction, of course it was a horrible decision.  If you believe that we derive our rights from God -- natural rights -- a concept essential to and the understanding of the founding documents of the United States, then you don't believe that there is a right to something unnatural and not created by God.  Government doesn't give rights.  God does.  That truth is foundational to Americanism.  In one sense that is what I'm writing about, because redefining the nature of our rights will in both the short term and long run result in our natural rights not being protected, because we have ceded that authority to government.  We will lose our God-given rights.  That is almost a guarantee, and that does hurt people, but I'm not writing about that today.  I want to consider whether we can decide whether something is right based upon whether it hurts someone else, or even how we decide what does hurt someone else.

As this relates to gay marriage, the point we hear from supporters is, if it doesn't hurt you, why can't you just allow these people to be happy?  That is supposed to sort of clinch it for them.  It works like this -- even if you disagree with it and you don't like it, can't you just leave it alone because it's not hurting anyone else?  Just ignore it and you'll be fine.  Just let it go, act like it doesn't exist.  Why can't you do that?

I treat homosexuals as though they are made in the image of God.  I am kind to them.  As long as I don't bring up what I think of their lifestyle, we get along.  I've found that they like how I treat them as people.  However, I believe that saying nothing about their sin hurts them more in the long run than not telling them.  If they don't repent of their sin, they will be judged for it, and they won't be saved.

Many if not most think that letting things go is the key to the world being a better place.  Letting things go is another way of saying, tolerate things.  It's not harming you, so just tolerate it.  These people want to do this, and they're not hurting you, so just let it go.  I want to consider that.  I get the concept of letting things go.  A biblical term for letting things go might be "forbearance" and other terminology might be "turning the other cheek."  Every single day of living in the United States for me is forbearance and turning the other cheek.   I don't let the sun go down upon my wrath (Eph 4), even though everywhere around me I see violations of my belief and practice.  I let it go.

As an aside, my belief and practice are not tolerated to the same degree that gay marriage is now. You have a gay lifestyle course, even department, in state universities, but you couldn't have a biblical lifestyle course taught there.  I digress.

Years ago now (2003), when the Texas sodomy law (Lawrence v. Texas) was overturned, paving the way to legalization of gay marriage, a big part of the argument was that sodomy occurs between consenting adults in private.  The same justice who wrote the gay marriage opinion, Kennedy, equated liberty with the right to privacy.  "Since these two people aren't bothering anyone else, they should have the right to do that," the argument goes.  Liberty equals being able to do what you want as long as you aren't hurting anyone.

It is my opinion that a big reason for the poll numbers supporting gay marriage is this idea that it isn't hurting anyone else.  These people are not "supporting" gay marriage.  They are not advocates.  They are just saying that they don't care if the government allows it or not, and the major reason is because it isn't hurting them.  Why should they care if these people get married?  It is also my opinion that many of these who "support" it because it's not hurting anyone also "support" it because they think that if they do, those people will leave them alone.  They might be able to stop hearing about it if they get what they want -- a lot of people are this way about a lot of things.  I'm saying that both of these are my opinion, but I also think that you readers know this to be true.  I believe a true poll, precisely worded to get an accurate percentage of "support," would get a very small percentage of actual support.  On top of this, when people hear that a majority are supporting it, these same type of people just resign themselves to it.  Far more people value religious liberty than support gay marriage, and it is the former that is threatened by the latter.  The former is actually in the Constitution of the United States.

One point of this post has been, does gay marriage hurt anyone?  I write about that because I believe that is the fallacy that has yielded the faux support.  Closely related to this question is the argument itself, that is often used, that particular sins are not hurting anyone else, so they should be permitted.  You hear it all the time.

Often these practices do hurt other people.  An obvious harm is to children of same gender parents. Liberals themselves, including the president, argue for the involvement of fathers with sons being a vital component of parenting success, something lost when there aren't two parents (this comes along today to prove the point).  Surely, not having a mother inflicts children with a lack of nurturing, because men are not designed with necessary capability for that.  Justice Kennedy argued that validating gay marriage as marriage was necessary to dignify it as a contribution to the children of these couples.  Even if they were dignified to their greatest extent, they still lack one or the other of the abilities of a man or a woman for the children, so children are being harmed.

Marriage as defined from the beginning correlates to reproduction.  Same gender couples can't reproduce.  Sure, they can find someone else to contribute what one of them is missing, but especially with two men, neither can bear a child, to state the obvious.  If families are necessary for the propagation of the human race, gay marriage can't help with that.  I understand how that the last two paragraphs could seem to contradict.  Shouldn't I welcome the lack of reproduction, since it will harm the children anyway?  Gay marriage won't produce even less than normal or adjusted children.  That lack won't supply missing workers and social security contributors.  The rest of the country must shoulder that loss.

All of the above argues without the benefit of scripture.  The Bible is true and represents a correct view of the world.  This is the Father's world.  He designed it, created it, and sustained it.  When we rebel against what He designed or said, against His rules, we do worse.  We know from scripture that if we allow gay marriage, we have not just already brought His judgment, but worse is to come. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because things were allowed to go this far.  We forfeit certain favor from God when we forsake His ways.  Some relegate this to the mere theological, but it is a true view of the world, as scientific as any science, since this world smacks of God's design.  When we don't fulfill His purpose, we bring about our own destruction.  All of this harms everyone, so it is not true that gay marriage won't bother someone else.

You hear often that these two people "love" each other.  Love is a biblical concept.  It didn't come into American culture through a secular avenue.  It started in the Bible and entered culture from there. It's definition depends on the Bible.  Love is perverted by defining gay marriage as love.  The perversion of love harms many people.  If we can't know what love is or we corrupt it, God won't be loved and others won't be loved, hindering obedience to God's first and second great commandments. Love for God and others buttresses the entire Judeo-Christian ethic.  People don't know how to live without it.  Most people still know that treatment of others, including themselves, will deteriorate. They are hoping they'll be left alone, but deep down they know they won't.  They will in fact be bothered by someone else because of the degradation of values overall.

I'm sure there are more arguments, but this should at least get one started on what might have become the most important point in the gay marriage issue, that is, it's not hurting you or anyone else, so it should be supported.  If people would agree that isn't true, it would be a very small percentage who would support it.

Is, will it hurt us, the only argument that really matters?  Isn't that a narcissistic, self-centered and self-promoting, argument?  Does it bother God?  Is God offended?  Is it not beautiful?  Is it disorderly?  Is it a lie?  Can we support a lie that doesn't hurt anyone?  Or maybe a lie will be justified because it is argued that the lie is more helpful than the truth?  Can something be wrong that doesn't hurt anyone?  Should everything be allowed that doesn't bother someone else?  If something is wrong, could it help?  Do we really want something wrong to be considered not to be bothersome?

Part of the argument, it seems, is that if someone wants to destroy his own life, it shouldn't matter to us.  We should just leave him alone, leave him to his own devices.  If he wants to blow his brain on drugs, just let him, it goes.  This is an argument for assisted suicide.  This is an argument for lessening or lightening the drug laws.  The same type of argument brought about the repeal of prohibition of alcohol.  It does not arise from what will be a successful view of law or values.  It relates all law to relative value and removes it from an absolute value.  There are absolutes.  There is natural law.  It's an admission that we can't know anything beyond what relates to us and our own experience.  Whether someone is bothered becomes the final authority.  In the end, this will diminish all of society.  I assume that it will end in totalitarianism of some kind.  A small group of people, who won't want to be bothered by anything, will make sure that no one bothers them.

I believe we have a lot of practice that does not relate to whether it bothers someone else or not.  We can argue that gay marriage hurts other people, ones not involved in the marriage, but we shouldn't reduce arguments to accepting or supporting something as long as it doesn't hurt me.  I hire a roofer. I buy a particular brand of shingle but he puts a less expensive brand on the roof that is of equal quality.  It can be proven that it won't change anything for me in the long run.  In the end, I don't even know it, so it doesn't matter, because it hasn't bothered me?  That's just one illustration, but our country doesn't believe in that.  I could give you a hundred illustrations like that one, where no one got hurt, but it was still wrong.  We should not justify activity just because it didn't harm or bother someone else.


Doulos said...

I just finished reading Romans 1 again to make sure it was still there and that I hadn't imagined it. It's still there, and it's "hurtful". But it's the truth that sets us free. When will the Bible be "rightly" banned because it is full of "hurt".

How can people think these "legalized" sins will not bother or affect them. The more available or promoted, the more of a temptation or a numbing effect it has on us, our children. The negative consequences from the behavior can ultimately cause pain and danger to the rest of us. And in the end, once those are accepted, then "worse" behaviors are accepted.

It all goes back to your "two truth" post. Everyone has their own truth these days, and the majority now in America isn't based on Biblical truth.

What bothers me the most is that Christians ("Christians") don't just find our disagreement "hurtful", they find our lack of CELEBRATING to be hurtful. And they side with perversion to make a statement that denies that Romans 1 exists in the Bible. That is hurtful.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Very good observation that hurt might go the opposite way, or already has. The Bible hurts, so it must go, and gay marriage doesn't hurt, so it stays. Good observation.

I've preached on what is good and what is help. There is objective goodness and help, absolute goodness and help. God is our Helper and that might mean chastisement.