News that Charles Stanley is declining an award from the Jewish National Fund prompted me to wonder if U.S. support for Israel would wane if the State of Israel legalized gay marriage. First the news about Stanley:
Megachurch pastor Charles Stanley has turned down an award from a pro-Israel Jewish group, citing controversy over his views about homosexuality.
The Atlanta-based chapter of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) had planned to honor Stanley this week with its prestigious Tree of Life Award for his long support of the state of Israel. But a number of local rabbis and other Jewish leaders had protested the decision.
At issue are Stanley’s past statements that homosexual sex is immoral and a comment he made to a newspaper in 1986 that AIDS was a sign of God’s judgment.
But on closer inspection, it doesn’t look like gay marriage is an option in Israel:
In Israel, all valid marriages conducted abroad are recognized by the state, and foreign same-sex marriages are recorded for statistical purposes. That means a gay couple that weds in, say, the Netherlands remains wed in Israel. But that doesn’t mean a gay couple in Tel Aviv can walk down to city hall and procure a marriage license. Marriage is an exclusively religious institution in Israel, with separate religious authorities for Jews and Muslims, Christians and Druze. For Israeli Jews, marriage policy is dictated by the Chief Rabbinate, which is under the exclusive control of the Orthodox—and firmly opposed to gay marriage. Since the country has no civil marriage, gay couples seeking to marry within the borders of Israel are out of luck (as are any Jewish Israelis seeking a non-Orthodox marriage ceremony).
This arrangement—whereby marriage is in the control of the Orthodox rabbinate—is part of what Israelis call the status quo: an understanding between secular and religious Jews regarding the balance between religion and state. The status quo affects not only marriage, but also the education system, family law, supervision of kosher restaurants, and the opening of shops and public transportation on shabbat.
So for now, evangelical Protestants don’t need to worry about gay marriage undermining their support for Israel, though it would be curious to see how American Protestants who support a Jewish state would sort that ethical dilemma out. But could it be that Israel has the solution to U.S. marriage debates? Make marriage exclusively a religious institution and eliminate civil marriage.
As odd as that may sound, not so long ago, in 1930 when H. L. Mencken was married to Sara Haardt, the couple needed to find an Episcopal priest because Maryland did not provide civil marriages.