C.S. Lewis and Same-Sex Marriage

June 18, 2011 — 2 Comments

As I write this, our RI State Senate is readying to vote on a Civil Unions bill, the state legislature having chosen to give up for now on a Same-sex Marriage bill.  I’d like to weigh in with two helpful articles that help to put the issue at stake in perspective.

Some advocates of SSM have quoted C. S. Lewis (from Mere Christianity) where he says there should be a distinction between secular marriage governed by the state and sacramental marriage governed by the church.  His context is divorce and not SSM as is pointed out by this blogpost on Mere Orthodoxy. (see also the following post in that series).

I came across another Lewis comment from one of his letters that I believe speaks more directly.  It is in a book of his letters on ‘spiritual direction’ called Yours Jack.  Sheldon Vanauken (writer of A Severe Mercy) had asked Lewis how to counsel Christian homosexuals he and his wife were trying to help.  Notice the biblical, cross-centered tone in this May 14, 1954 letter. It would not pass political correctness tests, but it is beautifully honest and compassionate.

I will discuss your letter with those whom I think wise in Christ.  This is only an interim report.

First, to map out the boundaries within which all discussion must go on, I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin.  This leaves the homosexual no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying.  Second, our speculations on the cause of the abnormality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance.  The disciples were not told why (in terms of efficient cause) the man was born blind (John 9:1-3):  only the final cause, that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

This suggests that in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest: i.e. that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will ‘turn the necessity to glorious gain.’ Of course, the first step must be to accept any privations which, if so disabled, we can’t lawfully get.  The homosexual has to accept sexual abstinence just as the poor man has to forego otherwise lawful pleasures because he would be unjust to his wife and children if he took them.  That is merely a negative condition.

What should the positive life of the homosexual be? …Perhaps any homosexual who humbly accepts his cross and puts himself under divine guidance will, however, be shown the way.  I am sure that any attempt to evade it (e.g. by mock- or quasi-marriage with a member of one’s own sex even if this does not lead to any carnal act) is the wrong way.

…I wish I could be more definite.  All I have really said is that, like all other tribulations, it must be offered to God and His guidance how to use it must be sought.  (p. 241-2)

[On another note, I heard Bishop Kallistos Ware of England say recently he believed that a neglected emphasis – at least in the Christian context – is the possibility for committed friends of the same sex to live together in long-term relationships while remaining sexually chaste.]

Another important article defending the need for civil discourse without discriminating against the traditional viewpoint is by Matthew  J. Franck called  Religion, Reason, and Same-Sex Marriage: Faulty reasoning behind the claim that opposition to gay marriage is an irrational prejudice.


2 responses to C.S. Lewis and Same-Sex Marriage

    Donna Mattson July 8, 2011 at 2:03 am

    Lewis was honest and compassionate, considering he was writing in 1954. However, he didn’t have the advantage of the knowledge we have in 2011. The times, they are a-changin’.


    This doesn’t change what he said in Mere Christianity, though. His point was that whatever you believe as a Christian should be separated from what the government mandates. If someone doesn’t share the belief, the law doesn’t have the right to mandate it, plain and simple. His reasoning was that he wouldn’t enjoy being on the receiving end of that if the power/majority were in favor of a belief system he didn’t hold.

    The excerpt you posted reflects his beliefs about homosexuality- he did not believe it was of God or positive for any person. He didn’t approve of divorce either. That doesn’t change the wisdom of his logic about forcing people to be “holy” against their will.

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