In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on same sex marriage, I’ve asked myself a lot of questions. Like how did we get here? I don’t think we arrived in the land of Sodom overnight. Our country has been sliding down the path of moral decay for several years. What was Martin Luther’s role in all of this, the leader of the Protesant Reformation? Since I’ve been in Protestant churches all my life, I can only speak from that standpoint. I think our problems do indeed go all the way back to the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago and their rejection of celibacy. Just think, one little misguided man – Martin Luther, who thought he had the gift of celibacy, is responsible for the misplaced theology of over 150,000,000 Protestants in the United States today. Was celibacy abused in the Catholic Church in 16th century Europe? No doubt it was. But that was no reason to completely abandon a biblical principle. I’m sure there were a lot of priests – and married people – who had inappropriate sexual relationships. Imagine if Apostle Paul’s followers came to him one day and said: “Hey, I thought you should know that some of the men in Corinth claiming to be eunuchs for the kingdom of God have been caught having sex with children.” Would Paul reply with something like: “Oh no. I guess the Big Man really got it wrong on this one. Tell you what, just go back and tell everybody that celibacy is really not possible. We’re all bent toward sexual sin. It was just a little miscommunication.” The reality is that not all Catholic priests have the gift of celibacy and not all people who have the gift of celibacy are Catholic priests.
I’ve always thought the world had two realities – man’s reality dictated by tradition, legalism, ceremonies, pride, greed, majority rule, comfort, and pleasure – and God’s reality dictated by the Ten Commandments, The Holy Bible, chastity, sacrifice, commitment, patience, and denial of self. The biggest thing that separates these two realities is language. Take the word marriage for example. Do you think it means the same thing today as it did when Jesus attended the marriage at Cana and turned the water into wine? I don’t think so. When Jesus returns as the ultimate judge of this world, do you think he’s going to stop by all the courthouses first to check the marriage records? I don’t think so. Do you think he will tell eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, “Sorry, but I can’t find where you ever signed up for the priesthood. Are you sure you got a package that was marked celibate gift?” Or would you expect him to say: “Geez, a 40 year old virgin? You mean you didn’t find the one I had picked out for you?” See what a fantasy world we live in? Even worse is the fantasyland churches live in. They don’t even talk about sex. It’s just too dirty. The only sexuality they know is “premarital sex,” “same sex,” and “can’t deny your husband sex.” It’s always something negative. Churches can readily identify for the world what they consider sexual sin, but they can never seem to identify their own sins. Worse yet, they can’t even model Christian lives of sexual integrity. They continue to assume that all single people are “fornicators who haven’t made things right yet.” As a matter of fact, that’s the only definition they know. If you die before you get married, well . . . you might have had the gift of celibacy. They can’t fathom celibacy as a positive response to God and a commitment equal to that of marriage. If anything, celibacy today is seen as disordered and sinful. If I find a Baptist guest envelop in the back of a pew with “eunuch” listed as a choice under marital status, I’ll let you know. In an article titled “Dismantling The Cross” in First Things, Patricia Snow recently made the following comments while reflecting on the life of St Francis:
“But once the struggle was over, and the miracles and answered prayers began to appear, the celibate in former times was reclaimed by the human family, because he had proven himself fertile after all. Resistance gave way to acceptance, and acceptance to passionate acclaim. Then everyone wanted a piece of the saint; everyone wanted access to his body and his prayers. Then the one once coldly spurned for choosing heavenly over earthly goods was joyfully embraced for bringing heavenly goods to earth.”
I’m certainly no saint. But I think the same kind of prejudice happens to celibates today. Isn’t it unfortunate they have to die first in order to be accepted? That’s one of the big reasons biblical marriage has dissolved into a quagmire of same sex marriage and decadence beyond comprehension. A society cannot have a healthy view of marriage without a healthy view of celibacy. If Christian sexual ethics are taken off the table for either one, both will fail. This is especially true in a society that has no distinction between married life and celibate life, other than clerical clothing. As John Chrysostom said, quoting CCC 1620: “Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.” In other words, if we consider the only good in marriage is to keep us from lust and fornication and other evils, then we appreciate only half of God’s intention in human sexuality. The good of marriage can never outweigh the bad of those evils. Only when we acknowledge that there is something better than sex waiting in eternity will we understand the true meaning of both marriage and celibacy. The only way to do that is by placing proper value on celibacy today, not in a cemetery tomorrow.
There’s a quaint little slogan going around that many churches have adopted: “Celibacy in singleness, fidelity in marriage.” On the surface, that may sound biblical, but it’s not because it’s not half the story. The Bible never defines something called “singleness.” Go to any local bar and you’ll see how the world defines it. Could it be that Paul had the worldview of today in mind when he specifically addressed marrieds, virgins, widows, and divorced? He did not define his gift of celibacy as a default state because he never found someone to marry. Did Paul ever lament not finding “the one” or “manning up” because he wasn’t attractive enough or smart enough? I don’t think so. But that’s how the world would define him today. He defined his unmarried state, or celibacy, as concern for the Lord’s affairs instead of the cares of this world. Before Eve was created, imagine what Adam would have said if you had asked him: “So Adam, how long do you plan on living in that celibate state?” What do you think he would consider the default state to be, celibacy or marriage? How could he even make a “covenant commitment” and marry without first being unmarried? The same thing is true today. How is it possible to have marriage without celibacy? It’s not. How is it possible for a society to put all their focus on the concerns of the world and forget about the concerns of God? It is only possible when man thinks he knows more than God. That’s where we are today. With condoms, contraception, abortion, and fornication, he has tried to completely disconnect sex from marriage and procreation. Can you imagine God saying: “Okay, you practiced safe sex and wore condoms. That’s good enough. Come right on in.” I don’t think so. Neither can I imagine him saying: “So, you had unnatural desires for the same sex? That’s okay. At least you lived in a committed relationship. Oh, wait a second! You lived in the United States after 2015? That means your committed relationship was actually a marriage. Come on in and have a seat. I’ve got a special table for you over in the rainbow room.”
So the Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriages grieves me just as much as any couple with a biblical marriage. It reinforces the strong belief, both by the world and by the church, that celibacy is not possible, and that marriage is the holy grail of adult life – in whatever arrangement you choose. And I’m sure Martin Luther would be very pleased. After all, he believed that to reject God’s gift of marriage, or to require celibacy for priest and monastics, was to court the sins and crimes of destructive lust. When you consider just how happy he would be, you get an idea of just how wrong Protestants continue to be.