Why Christians Opened the Door to Gay Marriage

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As a Catholic, I oppose gay marriage with my whole being. But I also believe we lost the battle against it long before Massachusetts began issuing same-sex marriage licenses in 2004. Why? Because the real architects of gay marriage aren’t gay and lesbian activists, but Christians themselves.

Gay marriage actually began, ironically enough, with a call to sexual abstinence: in 1798, British (Anglican) clergyman Thomas Malthus wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population, the first work to advocate abstinence for population control. Forty years later, Charles Goodyear accidentally discovered how to vulcanize rubber and our old friend the condom was born. By the 1860s, Malthusians had officially dropped abstinence and promoted condoms for birth control.

Across the pond, Protestant Anthony Comstock saw the writing on the bedroom wall and successfully lobbied Congress to ban the sale and distribution of “obscene” material, including contraceptives. The Anglican bishops had their say, too—in 1908 and again in 1920, they emphatically reaffirmed the traditional Christian teaching against contraception.

Enter American birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, who worked with like-minded progressives in England to pressure public health officials and church leaders to accept contraception. Their lobbying worked and at the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the Anglican bishops caved and decided contraception was licit. The Episcopal Church of the United States joined them just a year later.

The response from the rest of the Protestant denominations, however, was fast and furious. Lutheran theologian Dr. Walter A. Maier called contraception “one of the most repugnant of modern aberrations,” and Methodist bishop Warren Chandler insisted that the “disgusting” contraception movement assumed the worst about man’s ability to control his sexual urges. The Presbyterian Church joined the chorus, openly calling for withdrawal of all interdenominational support for the Episcopal Church in the United States. But like all firestorms, this one burned out quickly. By the 1960s, every Protestant denomination—Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, even the Baptists—had abandoned its opposition to contraception.

Most view the moral prohibition against contraception as one of those “Catholic things” that isn’t relevant to Protestant Christians, much less to non-Christians. For Protestants, at least, this not only ignores Christian tradition, but basic biblical morality. In the first two chapters of Genesis, God’s plan for marriage is laid out plainly, with God bringing man and woman together in marriage for two purposes: companionship (unity) and to grow the human family (procreation). This is why Protestants who oppose gay marriage because “God created them male and female” only have it half right. For God did not stop there; he joined the two together for specific purposes. In short, for bonding and for babies.

From the beginning of Christianity, what constituted a valid marriage was clear: a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life. But by 1960, contraception is okay and babies are optional. So now marriage is a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life.

Officially, the Catholic Church  is the only Christian faith to have retained the traditional teaching against contraception. Unofficially, however, dissent–both institutional and among the laity–has been rampant. (Even today, the best litmus test I have for gauging the orthodoxy of a priest is his reaction to finding out I’m a natural family planning instructor.) While the official teaching of the Church remains unchanged, it was discarded by the majority of Catholics, who decided that the Church was wrong about contraception (but right about social justice and the rest of the teachings they agreed with). Even today, Catholics contracept and sterilize at the same rate as the rest of society. 

Then came the push for no-fault divorce laws in the 1970s. And within a short time, couples that would have previously had to prove fault and undergo an arduous and agonizing court procedure to dissolve their marriage could now separate relatively easily, legally speaking. What had once been a last resort–divorce–was now considered a legitimate solution to the “problems” of marriage. And not surprisingly, the once-serious problems that had justified divorce in the past, such as abuse and infidelity, gave way to immature and self-centered reasons such as “I fell out of love with him” and “She no longer makes me happy.” Today, no one blinks an eye if someone wants to get married “for life” three, four, or more times.

Marriage, then, changed again: a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life.

Gay couples then, seeing that heterosexual marriage has become nothing more than a temporary legal contract between consenting adults, rightly asked why they couldn’t have their unions recognized, too. I sometimes cringe when I hear Christians talk about defending “traditional marriage.” Traditional marriage was open to children and until death. I can just hear the gay marriage advocates now: “So in the past 60 years, you’ve lopped off 2/3 of ‘traditional’ marriage, and now you want to claim it’s a sacred, unchangeable institution?”

They have a point, folks.

Logically, if heterosexuals–Christians, at that–have led the charge to so radically alter what makes a marriage a marriage, then what basis do we have for saying marriage must be reserved for just a man and a woman? We were the ones, after all, who fought to take procreation and permanence out of the equation. What’s left of traditional marriage is barely worth legally defending, which is why gay marriage has made so many inroads.

Polyamorist gay marriage: coming soon to a state near you. (June 14, 2006 issue of The Advocate, featuring an article about gay polygamists who expressed a desire to be legally married.)

After we’ve lost the battle for gay marriage, we’ll lose the battle for polygamy, too. Because if marriage is no longer a man and a woman, bonded for life, whose union is in service to new human life, but a temporary legal union of two adults, then why shouldn’t polygamists get their shot at the brass ring, too? Why should marriage be limited to just two people? What if three–or six–people want to get “married”? What reason could Christians–contracepting, divorcing, and remarrying Christians–possibly have to deny “polyamorists” the right to redefine marriage once again? We did, after all. Plenty of times.

My own faith is solid; I know what God intends marriage to be and I live that out with my husband. We’re open to life and prepared to stick it out until the bitter end. We teach these truths to our children, both through catechesis and example. But legally and socially, I believe we’ve already lost the battle against gay marriage, polygamy, and every other kind of “union” our crazy world comes up with for the government to ratify (“bestial marriage,” anyone?). With even most heterosexual marriages in this country being a mere shadow of what God intends this glorious institution to be, all we can do is hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and pray without ceasing that our own children will find the narrow gate to life.



24 Replies to “Why Christians Opened the Door to Gay Marriage”

  1. Great article!! So much truth. It’s sad how far contemporary society has strayed from what “traditional marriage” really is. The concept is so foreign to us today tat we have a hard time defending it. I didn’t realize that it went as far back as it did!! Thank you for the background. Very eye opening.

  2. Thank you! This is one of the best, if not THE BEST article I’ve read thus far, concerning this topic. You gave the proper traditional history of the “modern” Christian’s “walk of shame”, and its natural out-come! Without our firm foundation, the world is in for an avalanche of failure and pain. Prayer, and trust in God is our only hope.

  3. What a simple, concise summary of the breakdown of the true definition of marriage. This will be required reading among the teens in my household. Thank you, Misty!

  4. While I certainly agree on most of your conclusions, I think there’s a huge factor that’s missing here. I’m not sure we as Christians have sufficiently addressed it. Time-wise, right along with the explosion in contraceptive acceptance, there was also an explosion in health care. (the good kind) All sorts of diseases that people used to die from were cured. Death during childbirth is now a rarity. All those factors lead to a massive growth in world population that we can’t sustain.

    I believe that idea is every bit as much behind the “contraceptive mentality” as the “I can do what I want without consequences” attitude. There are people who honestly think we’re irresponsible for having more than 1-2 children. (Margaret Sanger was among those) and it was the initial concern of Malthus, as you mentioned.

    Until we as a Christian community can provide a reasonable response to the fact that world population has absolutely exploded since 1950, we’re going to be in a very difficult position trying to justify the immorality of contraceptives, etc. even though we recognize they’re intrinsically evil.

    Personally the best I’ve heard is that as women become more educated, they tend to marry later and have fewer, healthier children. I’m not sure that does it justice, but we must find ways to talk about the realities Balthus and Sanger were concerned about and show that as Christians, we have better answers.

  5. Thank you for helping me see this issue more clearly. I struggle in my heart with being nice & accepting and reconciling that with my faith and church teachings. This made me see it from a whole different perspective and made it so much simpler for me to understand.

  6. Spot on, Misty. Totally agree, even down to the part about shuddering at Christians defending “traditional marriage”. By that point it is practically bigotry (meaning once children are optional and divorce is no-fault and free flowing).

  7. Matt B (above), Christians know that each and every soul created was done so purposely by the decision of our Creator. He created the new soul, He created all of the souls currently embodied on Earth, and He created the Earth. HE knows exactly how many embodied souls our planet can hold, and thus, He makes no mistakes. So, to argue that we’re accidentally overpopulating the planet is really to argue that God is over populating the planet. Is that really the trust Christians are to place in God? Certainly not. He knows better than we do. And we mustn’t fool ourselves into thinking that we’re the deciders of new children. That, too, is the birth control mentality (when one believes that he has full control over whether a new human is or is not created).

    Perhaps “birth control” methods only work because God sees how completely against His plan a couple is such that He decides to withhold His fruits of children from that disobedient couple. Now, not all couples choose to abstain due to disobedient reasons, there do exist grave reasons to do so. However, one must evaluate whether “birth control” works because Man trumped God or because God is withholding his gifts due to disobedience.

  8. Great, succinct history of the ongoing ‘defining down’ of marriage. My sister-in-law is marrying her female partner this year, and honestly what she’s doing isn’t any different than the many heterosexual, secular couples getting married on a beach (especially the Child-Free ones).

    I think in the future we’ll have to specify “sacramental marriage” vs. “legal marriage” because they have become such different things.

  9. “…having fewer, healthier children” is just a polite way to say contracept and abort.

    The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacrament, a mystery of the natural and the supernatural. There is always more room for another soul in heaven; there is always more room for another baby in the basinet (healthy or not).

  10. I agree with most everything you wrote, but I don’t agree that we Christians are the “architects” of the demise of marriage and the family. That came from from outside the Church where the push for the changes came from, although certainly Protestantism’s acceptance of contraceptives played a huge part in it’s initial advance. In addition the failure of the Church to properly catechise the faithful has led to the Catholic acceptance of many popular worldviews. As we are witnessing today, it will also lead to the acceptance of socialism, godlessness, and our slide into tyranny and slavery. At what point God decides to intercede on our behalf is the question. All we can do is to remain faithful, trust that He loves us, and pray that His will be done.

  11. catholiccanuck, Thank you for the article. It’s good to see people trying to address that myth. It’s just been my experience that’s what I most often hear people hurling at some of my friends with larger families. (8+ kids) I also have a number of married friends who specifically chose to contracept and adopt because they think it’s “irresponsible to contribute to population growth.” I don’t like their line of reasoning, but it can sometimes be difficult to respond to well.

  12. This post is fantastic! I’m always looking for good explanations of why we, as Catholics, believe about marriage what we believe. This explains it so well!

    Just to clarify…aren’t Orthodox Christians opposed to contraception, too? Not positive, but just wanted to make sure our Eastern brothers and sisters aren’t forgotten if they, too, have taken that courageous stand!

  13. MattB, if you do research on food production today compared with 50-100 years ago, you will find that there are more calories of food produced PER PERSON than ever before. There are more people in the world suffering from obesity than there are starving from hunger. And most starvation comes from corrupt governments manipulating and controlling food supplies rather than from a lack of food.

  14. Excellent,

    I will be upsetting some of my Catholic friends with this article. They need to know the truth and you lay it out so well.


  15. Excelent article. I hadn’t seen anyone hit this topic so right and so precise. Congratulations Misty.

  16. Loved this article, this letter of truth to us all. It is especially valid now.

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