IDEMA: Why this Christian is for marriage equality

We once had in this country laws which prohibited a black man from marrying a white woman, and vice versa. When those laws gave way to marriage equality between the races, many were shocked at such equality.
Apr 10, 2013


In our own time, many view the marriage between gay men and between lesbians with the same kind of horror that some Americans once viewed interracial marriage (and probably some still do). 

I am sure that in biblical times, when marriage evolved from polygamy to monogamy, many were equally shocked.

The institution of marriage has been evolving for centuries, and the marriage of gay people to each other is simply another stage in this evolution, one having to do with equal rights and equal protection under the law. This is crucial when considering visitation rights during an illness, inheritance, health care benefits, and custody issues when children are involved.

What the states and courts are debating today is not the institution of marriage as it exists in religious institutions. I once thought it would be better to call marriages performed by the state "civil unions" and those civil unions blessed by religious institutions would be called "marriages." In fact, I still wish that all marriage legal contracts would be performed by the state, and the religious institutions would simply bless these civil unions, thus making them marriages in a religious sense by sacramental rites. 

Clergy should not be instruments of the state. But that is not the current debate, which is not about church rituals but rather legal status in the eyes of the state, whether we are going to have equal legal status for gay couples and straight couples.

I  believe that clergy should be able to bless as marriages some unions where no legal contract is going to be made. That would be appropriate for older people where financial considerations (Social Security benefits, pensions, etc.) come into play. That in my opinion will be the next step in the evolution of the institution of marriage. Such an idea, however, will be an argument for another day. 

Obviously, if a couple planned on having children, the legal contract would be necessary for their protection. As things stand now, clergy, at least in the Episcopal Church, do not perform marriages without first having in hand a marriage license — issued by the state — which the clergyperson as an instrument of the state then signs after the wedding.

The word "marriage" is in a tug of war, obviously, and it is probably too clever by half to think that only religious institutions have a claim on its use. Thus, I have come to terms with the state performing what we are now calling in some states "legal marriages" for gay people, and calling such unions a marriage. The role of religious institutions is providing the sacramental basis for such a marriage; e.g., providing God's blessing on a couple — gay or straight — or an entire family if children are involved (either from previous marriages, adopted or born to the couple before marriage).

To sum up, it is a clear case of discrimination — arising out of prejudice — for states not to offer same-gender marriages. To argue that we call gay unions "civil unions" and straight unions "marriages" is discrimination. That is where I have evolved. But I am in good company, with President Obama and Sen. Rob Portman, to name just two.

I believe the Supreme Court will one day offer a ruling on same-gender marriages in order to to unify the concept of marriage for 50 states, but I do not think that will emerge in the near future. I hope I am wrong.

If a state offers same-gender marriages, this does not affect religious institutions. No one is forcing churches or other religious institutions to perform same-gender marriages. That will be up to each denomination, and then within each denomination it will be up to each parish.

If I were still in active ministry within a congregation, I would begin a conversation within the parish on whether it would support the clergy performing same-gender marriages. Clergy and parishioners should be in conversation about this issue if they are not already doing so. Clergy are there to serve their congregations, not the other way around, so they better learn fast how the body of Christ feels about this issue.

It will be only a matter of time before Michigan approves same-gender marriages on the state level. How does your clergyperson feel about this? How do you? 

For me, Jesus stands for inclusion, affirming love between persons, and combating prejudice in all its forms. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and for those with eyes to see, the Holy Spirit seems to be working to broaden the definition of marriage. 

Now about 60 percent of Americans support same-gender marriages, and perhaps —  knowingly or unknowingly — such people are letting the Holy Spirit work in their lives.

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune religion columnist



I said it's not natures way.

Who gets to determine what is crimminal? Who gets to determine if pedophilia is crimminal?

Careful what you are assuming is my position on the gay marriage topic.


Just asking...part of civil discourse....


My isn't this topic a slippery slope!


I'm against homosexual marriage but holding out for the next level which will be polygamy. That's the paradigm shift we need to ease the financial burden on households.


Some households will have two headaches! You can insert which gender will have the headaches.


I'm going to go ahead and use your conservative logic. Where do we draw the line with gun control? Do we allow citizens to arm themselves with bazookas and rpgs? Next thing you know we will all have nuclear war heads in our homes. Now you see how ridiculous you sound?


Go for it if you can afford it.

We are not talking about a constitionally spelled out right on this topic now are we.


The missing info in this article is that we, as a society, have to have a beacon to be drawn to in keeping us in check regarding right or wrong. The Word is that source. It also clearly predicts false prophets, such as Idema.

"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Isaiah 5:20

Idema seems to like stirring up Christian controversy for self gain. You can bet your last dollar that he is thrilled at the number of responses he's getting and it's boosting his writing ego. Sad part is that he's selling his soul in order to gain popularity.

Idema, if you can't represent Christ correctly as a Christian, I suggest you re-name your beliefs....possible call yourself an Idemian, perhaps. Your viewpoint here is not based on Christianity, but on your own resolve.


I like my constitution to protect rights, not prohibit certain people from having them. That is the slippery slope my friends.
Gay couples want to take on a commitment to each other as faithful partners in a family unit. I wish them better luck than the 50% of good heterosexual people who get married and are not able to uphold that commitment and maintain the "defense of marriage". Instead our state GOP chair might have to adjust his stereotypes spread on his social media accounts of gays as immoral sex addicts trying to turn the world..
If it is an issue of the majority keeping a religiously offensive idea from scarring society, then what have we been doing in the middle east for the last 12 years? I thought we as a nation stood behind the ideas of freedom. And no, this does not mean an absence of laws, but social order while maintaining individual rights.


Ha ha! I always tell my gay friends that they should have every right to go through a nasty divorce like I did-


gay and lesbian has been there for hundreds of years, do what you need to do, but i will stick to the basic rule, the marriage between a man and a women, its the only way, its the darn lawyers looking to line there pockets with cash,

deuce liti

It is the world's standards that have changed, not God's.

Jesus said that his followers are no part of the world.

Done and done.


Amen and Amen.


I have a problem with a divorced former minister of a church telling me what he feels Christians should do.


His personal life has no bearing on his knowledge and dedication to his life's work. And he is semi retired from the church he spent a majority of his career at - not a "former" minister . He is still somewhat active in the ministry. I happen to know him personally and he is one of the most wise, knowledgable, open minded people I know as well as a dedicated father who raised two children. He writes these columns to raise awareness and offer a different viewpoint to the readers. Obviously there will be opposers to his opinions and he accepts that. Personal attacks are not needed.


Unbelievably stupid and bigoted ideas have been expressed here. I truly don't get it I am a straight female, and gay marriage will affect me in ABSOLUTELY NO WAY WHATSOEVER. Those of you trying to stretch gay to pedophilia and incest, get your sick mind out of the gutter! I have gay friends, both male and female. They deserve every right I have. One of my straight friends is on husband #3-is she a stellar example of marriage?

The Jolly Thinker

For those of you pleading the "It's God's word, we can't disobey it" line - take a good hard look at how your life lines up with the laws laid down in the Bible. Do you eat pork or shellfish? Do you wear garments of mixed fibers? Men, do you shave your beards? Have you had any contact with a woman during her time of the month? ALL of these things are as abominable to God as "laying with a man as one does a woman," according to his word. So why do you ignore those laws and fixate obsessively on homosexuality, as if it were somehow the most important law in the Bible? Nowhere in the Bible does it say that one of these sins are worse than others, and yet you've decided to ignore many of these laws. Why? What gives you the right to interpret which laws apply and which don't? And if you have that right, why doesn't a leader like Rev. Idema?
Truly, if the Bible has a "short list" of the worst sins, that would be the Ten Commandments, wouldn't it? And nowhere in the big 10 is homosexuality mentioned. So don't tell us you can't "disobey God's word" to accept same sex marriage when you've already disobeyed it to enjoy bacon and cotton-spandex shorts.
And for those of you claiming that it would be okay for pedophiles to marry their victims, and men to marry gerbils or trucks - you MUST have more intelligence than these ridiculous assertions show. Truly, you must have heard of a concept called consent? People cannot marry children because children cannot consent to such a an adult concept like marriage. People cannot marry gerbils and trucks because these things, too, are incapable of consent. They cannot willingly enter into a contract with another human, so this line of "reasoning" is entirely foolish. Frankly, it makes you look an imbecile.
And those of you who bring up pedophilia and other criminal behaviors, again - do you not see that these acts involve VICTIMS? That someone is unwillingly made a victim of another's will and suffers for it?
Same sex marriage is a legal contract between two consenting, non-related adults. There are no victims, and as another poster said, same sex marriage would affect you, personally, this much = 0.


I guess this ends the abortion debate as unborn children cannot give consent!

The Jolly Thinker

You don't do yourself or your side any favors in attempting to derail the conversation. Just respond to the content of the comment. I've been waiting a long time for Christians to tell me why they are free to pick and choose which of the Bible's laws they'll follow and which they may ignore, and how they know they're choosing the right ones. I would love to hear your thoughts on this!


I don't care if gays marry! I'm pointing out the inconsistencies in your arguement. That's the whole problem. Why is it you can wander off topic to make a point and when I follow your conversation and point out the inconsistency in your arguement you say I derail the conversation? That's my point, its a slippery slope when we start changing the definitions. Your asking the state to sanction against many citizens belief systems. Call it a civil union, why do you insist on calling it marriage?

Christian don't answer to you, they have to answer to god. If they don't follow the law of the bible it =0 to you!


Well let's be clear here. Christians answer to their god.

I can not believe this is even a conversation anymore.
Our Constitution and Bill of Rights require that we allow marriage for all US Citizens. If your religion / church does not wish to participate then so be it.

If your not happy with it, move to the middle east. They will be more than happy to enforce every single rule in their bible. They wont pick and choose. ;)


Jolly Thinker - You make many good points. It seems to me to boil down to fear - fear of losing control, and fear of forces that can control. All the major social issues today - women's right to choose and make their own reproductive choices, gun control, same sex marriage - all emotional issues that revolve around control, the lack thereof, or the need to internally make sense of it by having control over it.

These arguments against, especially when based on religion, become black and white, devoid of nuance or context. People get uncomfortable, paranoid, and contradictory. Fear can be a powerful motivator, and a fierce destroyer.

The Jolly Thinker

Thank you, and you make many good points as well. Talking like this would be so much more satisfying if all participants were equally able to contribute considerate, logical, well-reasoned comments, wouldn't it?


Agreed! But I suppose there is value in any communication - it helps me, anyway, in trying to understand how others think. I give Rev Idema a lot of credit for presenting his thoughts on these controversial issues, giving us an opportunity to speak our minds, in whatever manner it is expressed.


So very well said!


This article is an abomination! Christians should NEVER support same-sex marriages. God's Word is explicit in that same-sex sexuality and marriage is prohibited! God will see to it you'll NEVER have a congregation to corrupt. As for your comment "If a state offers same-gender marriages, this does not affect religious institutions. No one is forcing churches or other religious institutions to perform same-gender marriages." How blind are you?? The legal system waits in the wings to sue the first Church that turns down a same-sex marriage. Church's cannot afford litigation! Whether they win or loose the lawsuit, Church's like corporations will be forced to give in to this evil in our land!! You call yourself a "Reverend" but your post betrays you. You'll know Christians by obedience to God's Word. "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." John 14:23


Deuteronomy 22:22–27

22 e“If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. dSo you shall purge the evil from Israel.

23 “If there is a fbetrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. dSo you shall purge the evil from your midst.

25 “But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, 27 because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.

Make sure you adhere to ALL of the rules set forth in the good book there Gordo...


Hey, CapnHomophobic-read ALL of Leviticus, please, and you will see how much has been "excepted". People have "excepted"almost all of Leviticus. Why not this? BTW, did you know that King James, for whom the Bible was amassed, was gay? Do research on it-my history degree knows it.


if idema says it it is probably rong.


And I'm sure you are the wisest of them all considering how well you spell.



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