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Tony on Christians, Marriage and the "Defense of Marriage" Act

Excerpts from the Other Journal interview with Tony Campolo. Good stuff:

"TOJ: How are we as Christians to responsibly enter into the current debate over homosexuality in the Church?

TC: It's a very interesting thing, and here is my response to it. I don't believe that the government should be involved in establishing marriages for gay and lesbian people. Let me just say, I don't think they ought to be establishing marriages for heterosexual people. All relationships established by the state should be civil unions. In Europe, you get married twice. You go down to the city hall, and you have a civil union in the court. That's the government's responsibility. Then if you're a Christian you go down to the church and have it blessed and have the spiritual ceremony. That's a marriage, and what you do in the city hall is a civil union. All marriages should be civil unions. Marriages should only take place in churches.

The reality is that when I perform a wedding, I have to end it, according to law, with these words, listen to the words: “By the authority invested in me by the state of Pennsylvania, I declare you husband and wife.” What right does a minister have to give up the authority of God and the authority of the church and become a civil servant at such a sacred event? Marriage is a sacred event, and I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but it should take place in a church and the government should only establish civil unions for both homosexuals and heterosexuals so that homosexuals and heterosexuals have the identical rights.

I don't know that there are many Evangelicals who are denying gay couples their basic human rights, but they don't want the word “marriage” tied to it, and I agree with that. I don't think the government should be giving the title “marriage” to unions. That is the responsibility of the church. Let the government perform civil unions for both homosexual couples and heterosexual couples, and let the church perform marriages, and we'll get out of this bind that we're in.

TOJ: So do you think that President Bush is doing the wrong thing by trying to amend the constitution?

TC: Well, I think that what he called the “Defense of Marriage Act” is ridiculous because I've got news for you-- it's not the gays that are getting divorced, it's the heterosexuals.

If you want a defense of marriage bill, you will begin to put some restrictions on who can get divorces and how they get divorces. The problem with American families right now is not that the homosexuals want to get married, it's that the heterosexuals are getting divorced. It's about time that we faced up to the facts.

It's a superficial, pious hypocrisy when the heterosexual divorced people in churches stand up and say, “We don't want gays to get married.” I don't want them to get married either, but I've got to tell you, the Bible doesn't say anything about homosexual marriages...well, I shouldn't say that. Jesus doesn't say anything about homosexual marriages. He does say some very specific things about people that are divorced and who get remarried. I want to know why we can be so hard on people who are coming into relationships that Jesus never even mentions and so kind to people that are in marital relationships that Jesus specifically condemns.

Let me just say, if you want to put together a defense of marriage act, then let it be a defense of marriage act. But you're not defending marriage by going after 1% of the population, which is what the homosexual community consists of. You defend marriage by going after the 50% of marriages that take place in this country that end in divorce.

What are we doing to protect the institution of marriage? Answer: nothing. And to say that this bill is going to protect marriage is the ultimate hypocrisy. Why don't you call it what it is? Say, “We want a bill that puts homosexuals into a box.” Say a “confining homosexual bill.” Don't call it defense of marriage; that's a euphemism because if we were defending marriage, we would go after divorce and separation."

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