Marriage, Sex, and Procreation

It seems that everywhere I turn, folks are responding in some way to the North Carolina amendment 1, which solidifies NC’s legal ban on gay marriage and also forbids the state from recognizing civil unions of both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

Today I want to respond to one way that my evangelical Christian friends have stood in opposition to gay marriage. This is particularly pertinent to evangelicals, though there are some ramifications for Catholics as well. Here’s the argument from The Gospel Coalition website:

Marriage is more than a union of hearts and minds. It involves a union of bodies–and not bodies in any old way we please, as if giving your cousin a wet willy in the ear makes you married. Marriage, to quote one set of scholars, is a” comprehensive union of two sexually complementary persons who seal (consummate or complete) their relationship by the generative act—by the kind of activity that is by its nature fulfilled by the conception of a child. So marriage itself is oriented to and fulfilled by the bearing, rearing, and education of children.”

Evangelicals have no ground to argue on such a basis because we have embraced birth control.

You cannot simultaneously say that marriage is thus tied to sex-which-produces-children and then turn around and support the use of contraception which inhibits the production of said young ‘uns.

But then, what about other people who cannot make babies through their sex? Should the church refuse to marry any woman who has gone through menopause? Does entering mid-life without a partner mean that you should consider yourself doomed to die without a partner, even if you at long last discover a true companion? Do we refuse marriage to everyone over the age of 50something?

What if a couple in your church wants to marry, but the woman had a tumor as a child that has rendered her incapable of having children? Should the fact that their sex life will not be able to fulfill the telos of marriage as rearing children render her unmarriagable in the sight of the church?

And if this great and grand vision of marriage-for-raising-children fails? What do we do with infertility? It would seem that the stipulations laid out here would make infertility a viable cause for divorce. If violating the one-flesh union through infidelity is grounds for divorce, why not impeding the Great Purpose of child-rearing through inability to reproduce?

It is convenient for evangelicals to grab onto arguments about reproduction when we want to argue against something that we already oppose on other grounds. But I doubt that very many of us actually want to embrace the ramifications of such arguments as they come into the everyday lives we live ourselves.

This is an argument we have to leave aside. At least, most of us do. Because it strikes at the heart of what too many of us consider normal, and what none of us is willing to change.

The problem is, we’re too busy getting the speck of this argument out of our neighbor’s eye to notice that in so doing we’re clobbering him with the plank in our own.

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