WHY ARE MOST CHRISTIANS SO OPPOSED?
The why question is complex because Christians give different answers. I’ll not wax too philosophical here. But I think it important to keep in mind that Christians have different beliefs about a lot of things. Here’s a few common answers to the why question.
1. Genesis marriage answer. Most Christians refer to the creation narratives in the Hebrew Bible. Genesis describes God’s creation of the first couple—Adam and Eve—a male and a female. And Christians point out the blessing on sex to fill the earth—some think the purpose of sex is to have children. And they point out the importance of a male and female to reproduction. (Example: Catholic teaching on marriage.) Christians also point out there are no scriptures affirming same-sex relationships or marriages.
2. Sinful sex answer. Same-sex activity is explicitly banned in the Bible. Most don’t think about same-sex couples living together without having sex, although Christian sociologist, Tony Campolo, once mentioned the idea of celibacy in relationship. Same-sex activity was unlawful for Jews. And the apostle Paul also wrote about the sinfulness in a letter to the Romans (Chapter 1: 24-27). Christians vary in how much weight they give the laws of the ancient Jews but most give a lot of weight to the writings of the converted Jewish teacher—the Apostle Paul. So, the Romans text is a key to understanding why many Christians oppose same-sex marriage. There are other Bible verses Christians cite to show that same-sex activity is sinful.
On a more basic level, many Christians believe what’s in the Bible is the Word of God. This means that what Moses or Paul wrote is what God wanted them to write. If God says something is wrong, it is wrong. For many, there is hell to pay for going against God’s commandments.
See the Southern Baptist statement about homosexuality condemned by the Bible as sin.
See the LDS instructions to leaders on same-sex marriage dated 10 January 2014.
See the LDS instructions to leaders on same-sex marriage dated 10 January 2014.
I see articles and posts that offer reasons for Christians to oppose same-sex marriage. The points made illustrate various categories of moral reasoning, which I take from the research of Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues. Some categories do not appear in some articles. Some categories have features that overlap with other categories. An important point to make is that moral reasons often appear to be motivated by emotional reactions of fear, anger, and disgust rather than derived from cool and rationale analysis commonly found in philosophical works on ethics.
3. Same-sex marriage is harmful. The answers vary but usually focus on harm done to children and the structure of society. Christians argue that children need a mother and a father rather than parents of the same-sex. Traditionally, the nuclear family consisted of a mother, father, and children for thousands of years. Easy divorce was one factor destroying the family in the 20th Century. Christians now see same-sex marriages as an additional threat to the importance of family. The emotion of fear is aroused when people perceive a threat. Benne and McDermott argue that gay marriage harms the definition of marriage.
4. Same-sex marriage shows disrespect for authority. One way or another, Christians refer to the authority of the Bible and the long history of traditional beliefs about marriage. Obviously, if God is the author of the biblical texts then no reasonable Christian is going to win an argument against God. Of course, many reasonable Christians realize Christians often interpret the texts in different ways. But on matters of marriage, Church tradition has consistently supported a one man and one woman view of marriage.
Christians also argue based on traditional views of what constitutes a marriage in history, which does not include same-sex unions. Traditions can become authoritative when people accept the transmitted values and find additional reasons to support those long-held values. Arguments based on definitions of marriage reflect traditional ways societies have viewed marriage. (Example of argument from tradition.) Psychologically, people are motivated to support the socially recognized authority of their group, which overlaps with loyalty concerns. Anger often motivates leaders to enforce obedience and thereby show respect for authority.
5. Supporting same-sex marriage becomes an act of disloyalty. Arguments are not clearly made about matters of loyalty when it comes to same-sex issues but it is clear that people in religious organizations are required to be loyal to their policies and to the position papers of their church leaders. Clergy who are ordained by conservative groups can expect to lose their jobs if they are disloyal to the official position of their group. Loyalty is a virtue. And disloyalty is a moral issue. The powerful emotion of anger is stimulated when people betray their biological or social family. Disloyalty overlaps with respect for authority when the expectations of loyalty come from people in authority positions.
6. Same-sex marriage is linked to degradation. Christians argue that same-sex activity is unnatural and therefore degrading. The apostle Paul refers to moral arguments based on that which is natural (See example about hair 1 Corinthians 11:14). Philosophically, this argument appears akin to saying if something is a certain way then it ought to be that way.
Related to degradation are notions of deviance. Physicians did identify homosexuality as a disorder a few decades ago. Although this is no longer the case, Christians aware of the change in diagnosis sometimes argue that physicians bowed to cultural pressure. (Link to an APA Monitor article explaining the removal of homosexuality from the diagnostic manual published by the American Psychiatric Association.)
Psychologically, many people find things disgusting. A person’s face reacts when people perceive something disgusting. Culture is a factor but some sights and smells evoke close to universal disgust. For example, human waste, blood and other bodily fluids evoke disgust. The emotion of disgust may be fundamental to laws against some forms of sexual behavior. You can recognize the disgust factor in arguments linked to purity/impurity (Romans 1:24 is often cited regarding purity.), dishonor and degradation.
7. Same-sex marriage is a choice. The concept of choice is crucial to morality. How can you hold people responsible if they cannot choose to behave otherwise? At the root of the choice issue is a belief that sexual attraction is itself a choice. Educated Christians who use the choice argument point to research that fails to clearly establish that people are born with a same-sex attraction. The extended argument moves from the idea that since people are not born attracted to same-sex partners, then same-sex marriage is also a choice and therefore, people could choose to marry people of the opposite sex. (APA response to causes of sexual orientation and the idea of choice.)
8. Same-sex marriage laws violate freedom of religion and conscience. This argument focuses on the morality of freedom from oppression. The arguments here assume that people have certain rights, including freedom of religion and conscience. Many societies grant religious people the right to practice their faith in ways that violate the rules that govern many others in society. Some religious groups are exempted from military service because of their moral opposition to war. Most societies also set limits on freedom. Obviously, you cannot do anything you want to do regardless of what your religion says. Christians use the freedom of religion and conscience argument when they assert their faith teaches that same-sex marriage is immoral, against scripture, or a violation of their long-standing tradition of marriage. Psychologically, people have powerful desires to be free from restraint and are motivated to escape restrictions. (Example of freedom of religion argument by Djupe et al. related to same-sex marriage.)
9. Same-sex marriage is NOT about equality and fairness. This equality argument is a reversal of an issue presented by those who support same-sex marriage. Supporters argue that same-sex couples are discriminated against in matters of employment and government benefits, child custody, and other benefits that come with being married. Christians opposed to same-sex marriage argue that policies and laws against same-sex marriage are not unfair because governments and organizations ought to support that which benefits society. Marriage is a good thing for couples and their children. Sexual minorities are no more discriminated against than are single persons. (An example that same-sex marriage is not about discrimination.) Psychologically, people are quick to perceive that which is unfair or unjust. Young children are quick to identify playmates who violate the rules of a game. Fairness and equality are basic human motivations.
See the next post for reasons Christians give
in support of same-sex marriage.
Christian Leaders and Churches Opposing Same-Sex Marriage
Franklin Graham Evangelical leader and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Albert Mohler, President of the U.S. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Evangelical Leaders respond to SCOTUS Ruling
Council of Christian Colleges and Universities
Pew Research Report: Churches that do not support same-sex marriage
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
Roman Catholic Church
Southern Baptist Convention
United Methodist Church
See the article for details