Indiana’s United Methodist bishop recently opined against Indiana’s proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of man and woman. As other United Methodist officials nearly always do, he omitted that the United Methodist Church officially declares, in its Social Principles: “We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” He also signed an ecumenical statement against the amendment whose only other signers were from declining liberal Protestant denominations that have redefined marriage to varying degrees. No orthodox or growing Christian entity signed the statement, except for the United Methodist bishop, who ignored his own denomination’s official stance.
More interestingly, the bishop seemingly advocates an ultra-libertarian perspective that would remove marriage from civil law altogether:
Perhaps most importantly, I do not want the State of Indiana or any other governmental unit to define the meaning of marriage for those of us who are Christians and United Methodists. We only want the state to defend the civil rights of all persons, and we don’t need the state to define marriage for us in its constitution. I prefer that the government stay out of the way and not interfere with our religious freedoms, definitions and practices.
This laissez-faire stance on marriage is more significant because it carries weight with some orthodox Christians, especially among evangelicals, who affirm traditional marriage but are unsure about how or whether the state should define marriage.
So why should Christians affirm, as the United Methodist Church does, laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman?
First, realistically, government will always legally codify marriage, as it has for millennia. No government can plausibly delete marriage as it deals with property, inheritance, taxes, criminal rights, entitlements, and, most importantly, child custody. The question is, whether government should adhere to natural marriage or redefine marriage to include same sex unions, polygamy, or other domestic arrangements.