C. S. Lewis defends same sex marriage

Mark Silk draws us to this passage in Mere Christianity that shows C. S. Lewis would oppose state prohibition of same sex marriage:

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question — how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.

Silk observes,

A great many American Christians seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to forbid same-sex marriage for every one. Lewis, were he alive, would not think that. … [Ironically,] [f]ew books have influenced conservative Christianity in America more over the past half century than Mere Christianity, the little volume by C.S. Lewis that consists of a series of lecgtures he gave on the BBC during World War II. Its enunciation of a generic Christian faith and practice has held special appeal for evangelicals: Five years ago Christianity Today ranked it as the third most important book in shaping evangelicalism since the war.

Read it all.

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8 Comments
  1. Julie7

    James Redden

    The title of this post is misleading. Nowhere in Mere Christianity or in any of his other works does C.S. Lewis defend same sex marriage from a Christian standpoint. He actually makes quite clear in the link you provide to the rest of the passage that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. What he is arguing against is that Christians should force their views of marriage (between a man and a woman and for life) on a society that no longer accepts such views.

    Julie7 – please sign your name next time you post. Thanks ~ed.

  2. John B. Chilton

    I rest my case.

  3. The passage from Lewis argues against the entire social agenda of the Republican Party. Laws passed to enforce “morality” tend to be very divisive unless the views they seek to embody in law are nearly universally accepted (e.g., the aversion to murder).

  4. tobias haller

    It is interesting, however, also to note Lewis’ “defense” of same-sex behavior, relatively speaking, in his autobiography. He held it out, in the world of the public school system, as perhaps “the only foothold or cranny left for certain good things…” (p 109)

    I do not know where Lewis would have stood on civil marriage equality, but I think he would have been for it. He clearly has a negative view of the criminalization of homosexuality, as laid out in his memoir, and cites the criminalization as the chief reason for public opprobrium.

  5. Actually what Lewis is advocating is separation of church and state, not same-sex marriage. I suspect Lewis would say “let the state do what it will and let the church do what it will, without one imposing its will on the other.”

  6. John B. Chilton

    Let’s look at the whole passage. Lewis is arguing about what a Christian ought to do in the political realm. That’s different from separation of church and state. He’s saying a Christian ought not be forcing others to live according to the rules he believes Christians ought to live by. As his example he gives prohibition against divorce which he says should not be imposed on the whole of society.

    So, what would Lewis say about Christians who say government should be used to redistribute income? As a Christian it’s my duty to aid the poor. Is it my duty to force others to do so?

  7. Michael Russell

    @John Chilton

    Modern ideas of the state and public order are based on a social contract that balances the interests of the rich and poor in such a way as to aid public well being.

    So although being a generous giver and helping the marginalized is a value of the peoples of the Book, there is a completely secular justification for preventing the rich from preying upon the poor and or amassing obscene amounts of wealth without making sure that everyone lives at some level of well being.

    The present AynRandian juggernaut does not recognize any such social contract, indeed her rabid anti-collectivist point of view (based on the communist takeover of Russia, so understandable to a degree) is foreign to the foundational theories of State and Democracy.

    If totally plundered the poor, who are many, will simply rise up and destroy the rich, who are few. If that is the future people want for our society, then so be it. The rich are taxed in excess because they have more that needs protecting. The poor have nothing to protect and nothing to lose.

    Rand’s Ethic of Selfishness while appearing to be like our rugged individualism, is actually a recipe for disaster.

  8. tgflux

    Frankly, I think discussions of what so-and-so “would have” supported/opposed are silly.

    If a long-deceased person has said something that inspires you towards your cause, all well and good.

    But that’s personal inspiration, not a direct case what someone “would have” done re your issue.

    We’ll find out where Jack stands {*}, when we get to heaven.

    JC Fisher

    {*} Or, where he dances, in the Great Eternal LGBT/Straight Ally Disco-in-the-Sky! 0;-)

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