Recently, in an interview with beliefnet.com, Rick Warren answered some questions about a variety of issues facing evangelicals today (HT: Justin Taylor). Here’s a portion of their exchange:
Which do you think is a greater threat to the American family – divorce or gay marriage?
[laughs] That’s a no brainer. Divorce. There’s no doubt about it.
Here’s an interesting thing. The divorce statistics are quite bandied around. People say half the marriages end in divorce. That’s just not true. 40% of first time marriages end in divorce. About 61% of second time marriages end in divorce and 75% of third time marriages end in divorce. So the odds get worse and what’s balancing this out…when you hear 50% end in divorce, that’s just not true. The majority of marriages do last….
So why do we hear so much more – especially from religious conservatives – about gay marriage than about divorce?
Oh we always love to talk about other sins more than ours. Why do we hear more about drug use than about being overweight? Why do we hear more about anything else than about wasting time or gossip? We want to point that my sins are perfectly acceptable. Your sins are hideous and evil.
I think Warren is right on two counts and wrong on one. First, divorce is probably a greater threat to the traditional family than gay marriage for the simple reason that the breakdown of the traditional family begins with the breakdown of the traditional family and not in the knock-offs that rise to take its place. Fidelity in legitimate marriages is a great bulwark against the rise of illegitimate non-marriages (whether of the homosexual or polygamous varieties).
Second, one of the reasons that we hear more about the push for “gay marriage” than about the divorce culture is that we all have to deal with the little Pharisee on our left shoulder, reminding us of the importance of gnat-straining while gulping down two-humped Bactrians. Many evangelical churches are far too comfortable with easy-peasey divorce and remarriage. And if Christians can’t seem to understand “What God has joined together, let man not separate,” then we shouldn’t be surprised if the world reads the passage, scratches its head, dismisses the Bible as antiquated and out of date, and heads down to the courthouse to opt out of marriage number 2, 3, or 4.
Having said that, it seems to me that Warren fails to mention the fact that one of the main reasons for evangelical opposition to “gay marriage” is that its proponents are trying to ram it down our throats. And Americans don’t like pushy people. Imagine if the serpent had come off like a bad used-car salesman in the garden, pestering Eve to eat the fruit and berating her for any hesitation and then picketing out in front of her tree-house for weeks on end after she rejects his offer. Human beings don’t like to get shoved into rebellion. We prefer to slide or drift into it. Easier to blame shift that way.
“I was just standing here, trying to figure out why the snake was talking, and next thing I know, the woman you gave me is eating this fruit and handing me a piece and, all of a sudden I’m munching away, wondering why I feel so exposed.”
In all seriousness, I think there is something to Warren’s reasoning, but it is certainly not the whole story. Many evangelicals are defending traditional marriage against the homosexual lobby because that’s who’s assailing it right now. If the Muslims were publicly and unapologetically seeking to legitimize polygamy, I would imagine that evangelicals might have something to say about that.
In the end, the chief threat to marriage is unbelief. Our spirituality affects our sexuality. Or, to put it more poignantly, worship affects whoopee.
If the universe is the product of time and chance whereby one thing evolves into everything else (as in Darwinian naturalism), or some sort of spiritual energy has reorganized itself into differentiated individuals (as in various Eastern religions and modern paganism), then playing mix and match with the genders isn’t such a big deal. What else would we expect in a world like that?
On the other hand, if the living God has created the world in order to get a bride for his Son, and we know that said bride is actually a bride and not another groom, then our sexuality and marriages and families must reflect that. You might even call it a remanation.