While the debate over Proposition 8 has included a variety of topics – from youth education to civil rights – many conservative Christian pastors around California have made it loud and clear that marriage is above all else a moral issue.
Influential pastor Rick Warren, who leads the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, has urged his flock to support Prop. 8, which would amend the California Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
“For 5,000 years, every culture and every religion – not just Christianity – has defined marriage as a contract between men and women,” wrote Warren in his News & Views e-mail last week. “There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2% of our population.”
In 2000, more than 61 percent of voters in California approved Prop. 22 to define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, the California Supreme Court decision overturned the will of the people this past May, ruling that same-sex couples could marry in the state. The approval of Prop. 8 would reverse the Court's ruling and preserve the traditional definition of marriage in the state's Constitution.
"This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue about which God has spoken clearly," Warren, author of the best-selling Purpose-Driven Life, stated in the e-mail. “There is no doubt where we should stand on this issue.”
Warren is joined by other California church pastors who have preached without compromise when it comes to the biblical definition marriage.
Among them is the Rev. Jim Garlow, whose Skyline Church in San Diego County hosted a rally in support of Prop. 8 last week. The event was broadcasted to over 170 churches across the Golden State.
During the simulcast event, Garlow urged Christians to fast and pray for the measure. He said people compromise their beliefs when their desire to be respected by others outweighs their reverent fear of God.
"We must fear God more than man – whatever it costs us," he said.
Garlow told The Associated Press that he found the issue to be "very spiritual" rather than "political" in nature.
The rally held at Garlow's church was the last of three church-oriented simulcast events in support of Prop. 8. The first broadcast took place on Thursday, Sept., 25 and the second on Wednesday, Oct. 1.
At the second rally, Miles McPherson, senior pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego, addressed the issue of love head-on, saying that love is matter of obedience to God and not just emotions.
"You do that (love) by obeying God. You do that by obeying according to His Word and not your emotion, not political correctness, not your feelings,” he told thousands of Christian youth at the event, which was presented over the internet to over 160 churches.
But not all pastors who affiliate themselves with the Christian faith are supporters of Prop. 8, despite what some may think.
Pastors opposing the measure, who usually hold more liberal viewpoints when it comes to biblical issues, see marriage as more of an issue of civil rights and civil contracts and say churches should not impose their religious views of marriage on the state's Constitution.
"Clergy, especially Baptist clergy, have no business acting as agents of the state, whether in making wedding proclamations on the state's behalf or in signing wedding licenses," the Rev. Rick Mixon, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, shared with The San Jose Mercury News.
Mixon was among a smaller group of clergy who spoke against the measure on behalf of the Santa Clara County Council of Churches. The six most senior Episcopal bishops in California also oppose the marriage amendment.
Unlike their conservative counterparts, who cite Scripture that explicitly defines marriage as between a man and a woman or biblical verses that describe homosexuality as a sin, liberal pastors often reduce the Bible's message down to love.
"I just said, 'Where would Jesus be on this?'" said Mixon, according to the Mercury News. "It's pretty clear to me where he'd be. He'd be in support of anybody who was trying to create loving, caring, compassionate relationships."
"We believe that the important thing about a marriage are the values that make up a marriage, not the gender of the people involved," said the Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, according to Whittier Daily News.
Among Christians who back Prop. 8, however, what the Bible says about the God-ordained institution of marriage remains the primary reason behind their support.
Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, cited moral reasons for the group's $500,000 donation to the "Yes on 8" campaign.
"We believe in the Bible, and the Bible teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman," he said, according to The Los Angeles Times. "That is how the human race continues."
Minority Christian groups, including dozens of African-American ministers in Los Angeles and thousands of Chinese Christians from Bay Area churches, have also rallied in support of the biblical definition of marriage amid statistics revealing their ethnicity’s lean against Prop. 8.
And to hundreds of churches across the nation which are participating in a 40-day fast before the Election, the California marriage amendment is also a religious and moral issue.
On Saturday, Nov. 1, an expected crowd of 100,000 Christians will gather at the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego to mark the end of their fast with a massive prayer rally dubbed "TheCall California." The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.