Once upon a time, I relished the thoughts of studying with C.S. Lewis. The more I read of him, however, the less I think he and I would get along very well.
Lewis, you see, had a very 1950s view of marriage. Well, he had a very 1950s view of just about everything. I can’t blame the man for living in his era anymore than I can blame myself for being a child of the 1980s. Nor could I expect that philosophy, theology, and science of the mid-20th century would support what they do now.
But there are still truths to his view of marriage, and though I have never been married, I hope to enjoy it someday—as a fully reconciled and reconciling homosexual. The truths Lewis puts forth have some application to homosexuals who are engaging in both civil and ecclesiastical marriage, and I think it worth our time to give them some consideration.
The ultimate question that occupies us is this: Is there really anything different between same-gendered couples being married and heterosexuals being married? There are the obvious physical differences, yes, but apart from these, what separates the one from the other in matters of faith, justice, trust, and commitment?
Not a thing, if you were to consider it closely. Before I get to the heart of it, let me address some rather antiquated notions Lewis brings up which bear on homosexual marriage.
Now Lewis is under the impression that Christ advocates for submission of the wife to the husband, and then goes on to point out contextually-bound, time-sensitive examples in his own day to prove the point. The problem is not that Lewis is unobservant, but simply that he uses life as is to justify itself. Where he goes wrong is in the history and context of the exhortation. Why would Paul have written about subservience of the wife in the first place? And how did his reasons in nascent Christianity differ from what we might proffer today? Lewis falls short of the mark. As a scholar, I’m a bit disappointed that context and history passed him by.
Perhaps it’s problematic in the homosexual context, but perhaps not. The ideal, Lewis says, is equality in relationship. But there are bound to be disagreements and there must be someone who puts his or her foot down and sets the rule. Historically, that has been the male. But when there are two males? What then? Or two females? It forces us to reconsider the assumption. The solution is not a deference to gender but a concentration on things like greater good, a consciousness of personal weakness, a willingness to be both deferent and dependent, etc. These are characteristics anyone of any gender not only can, but should, from time to time, display. In the context of an argument where there is an impasse, we should look to the circumstances and to ourselves for the way out, albeit, with the help of God. Gender has nothing to do with it.
But that is a somewhat more peripheral issue. To the meat of it: Vows may be taken between same-gendered individuals as readily as heterosexuals, and I see no theology or philosophy which would reasonably decry it. The simple fact is, there are a good many homosexual couples already living with commitments of justice, faith, and trust. I agree heartily with Lewis’s description of “being in love” and loving; there is something to be said for a couple that appreciates the excitement of falling in love, but seeks out a more permanent love which lasts. That is a love which endures both good and bad, ill and well, profit and loss.
Now, heterosexuals have historically been bound up in marriage as one incentive for maintaining the bond between man and woman, for ensuring that despite bumps in the marital road, they will work things out. But homosexuals have not had this until very recently, and so have, to some extent, built an awful habit of “falling in love” and then simply falling away. There is no sacramental or civil bond which urges (or requires) them to remain both committed and monogamous in the face of adversity. The homosexual community, I fear, has earned a reputation of being whimsical when it comes to relationships. They are far better known for their fondness of sex—a societal assumption that is off the mark, if rooted a bit in reality.
Now I have no argument against the church when it says homosexuals cannot procreate. That is a biological given. But to say there is no possible sexual intimacy for homosexuals is quite wrong. Where the church decided that procreation is necessary for wholesome sexuality I do not know, but it is very naive. I submit, as will any homosexual, that with sexual intimacy between a man and a man or a woman and a woman there is very much the potential for spiritual and emotional bonding. I am not convinced at all that procreation is necessary for a “full” sexual experience. As I have seen and experienced it, it is ignorant to think otherwise. Moreover, it is hetero-normative, and persists in maintaining damaging social structures which condemn one group of us while extolling the virtues of another.
To the point, I think marriage is both a necessity and an eminent possibility for homosexuals. And I don’t mean marriage in the civil sense—which simply protects the weak and ensures fairness and equality. This should never have had a heterosexual bias, but our society is one only sometimes in support of true equality. The church, I submit, is the place where homosexual marriage should not only be allowed, but welcomed with open arms. It is simply the physical aspect which upsets us; and what has Christ said of the physical? It is part and parcel of our humanity, first, and who would say homosexuality is a choice? Second, it is a temporary thing: ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We embrace it as part of our whole selves while it lasts, but when, as all material things will, it passes away, we are bound only by the love which we share. And I challenge anyone to honestly, genuinely argue that homosexuals are not capable of true and lasting romantic love.