By Robin Dugall:
Ok - this is bound to be a bit "controversial" for some of you. For others, it will be a no-brainer. I believe it is time to separate the civil and "religious" ceremonies of marriage. In light of the conversations, issues of civil rights and cultural discourse that has surrounded the issue of marriage for "centuries" (believe me, for you students of history, we are not the only people who have struggled with what marriage means - monogamous, man/woman, polygamy, etc. throughout history), it is time to revisit what some countries already practice - first, have EVERY couple seek a marriage license and a state marriage validation through the civil processes. Get the Justices of the Peace busy with every wedding sought by people within whatever civil definition prevails. Secondly, for those couples who would like to have a marriage "blessing" from the church (note that I used the small "c" because there is not even unanimity in opinions about the definition of marriage even among relgious communities), have them seek that wedding blessing from within the definition and faith/belief system to which they adhere. That way, for those faith communities who believe that marriage IS defined by one woman/one man, these communities can continue to abide by their faith/doctrinal systems and embrace their definition of marraige from within the protection of religious liberty. In this way, NO MORALITY is imposed on the culture in any manner. In this way, faith communities can continue to practice what many of us feel is an issue that is non-negotiable, that being, a biblical worldview perspective, a biblical narrative/story perspective on the institution of marriage. For some of my pals this might be seen as a bit dualistic. I'm NOT trying to imply a separation of the spiritual and material realms. I still believe we live in a God-soaked world in which there is NO separtion between the secular and sacred. God's presence in reality as Ultimate reality implies that there is NO SUCH THING as secular space or pure secular living. What this DOES DO is give followers of Jesus an opportunity to practice our faith and celebrate our "culture's" adherance, commitments and obedience to our hermeneutic and application of the biblical story (in regards to human relationships, our understanding of family, marriage, etc.). I don't think there was EVER an expectation within the biblical story that the faith community would be in agreement with cultural norms. In fact, there are very clear perspectives throughout holy writ that imply that there WILL BE a differentiation with culture. So, I think it is time to do this with marriage. In actuality, I think I'm going to begin some discussions with my friends, faith community and fellow scholars about how this idea may take shape in creative action in the days to come. In this way as well people of faith can support civil rights and NOT get bogged down by accusations of bigotry or hatred due to the legality of ONE issue. I have compassion and humility with this issue...I also have strong feelings and long-held beliefs about what Christ followers are supposed to uphold when it comes to sexual and relational ethics. By splitting the two "realities," we live in the best of both worlds. So, push back anyone?