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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Should Christians Support Gay Marriage?

What appears to be a simple question, see the title, with a slam dunk answer is full of nuance. And it is an important question in the light of President Obama's recent statements on the subject. But more than that, this is one of the most emotionally charged questions that many Fundamentalists try to answer.

Whether Christians should support gay marriage  depends on location, location,  location. Location here, does not refer to a geographical place but to a sphere. So we need to clarify the question and ask whether Christians are being asked to support gay marriage in the church, in society, or in both.

Those who adhere to the whole Bible must firmly and gently say no to gay marriage in the church. Though Jesus never mentioned the subject, some of his predecessors and followers did and did so unambiguously. The basic gist of the Biblical objections to gay marriage is that it is contrary to  God's creation. Here, we are talking about His creation before the fall. He created men and women to be in physical union with one another other rather than with those of the same sex. That doesn't mean that we should not celebrate the love any 2 people have for each other since there is simply not enough love in the world to do that. But, if we are to remain faithful to all of God's Word, we cannot agree with any love that includes the physical union of two people of the same gender.

Because God's Word tells us that homosexual relations are wrong, and since God's Word should be the rule for the church, it is logical to say that Christians should not support gay marriages in the Church. Christians should challenge the practice of some denominations that support gay marriages in the church or recognize gay church officers. But they should only do so after they have first learned why those denominations lend such support for gays. Denominations that support gay marriages and ordain gay officers often do so to stand in solidarity with those who are being oppressed and for equality. Certainly such churches are going too far in their standing with others; but they are Biblically correct in standing in solidarity with gays who are not treated as equals.

But what about supporting gay marriage in society? Should Christians do so? Here, the question must be clarified. Does support here mean encouraging or does it mean defending the right to do so? Though the church should not encourage what goes against the God's Word, the church must defend the right of gays to marry in society and have equal rights.

Many of my fellow fundamentalist Christians struggle with making such a distinction. According to them, right is right and wrong is wrong and you cannot defend the practice of doing what is wrong. However, if we use that same logic for all other practices including our faith, we would end up merging Biblical law with civil law and every personal sin could be punished by both the state and the church. For example, having a different faith would make one a criminal and thus eligible for a prison sentence. Also, history, more than strongly, suggests that such a merging is extremely tragic for both the church and its victims.

The real question for the Church regarding gay marriage is whether or not the church will take a legal or evangelical approach to addressing it. If we take the former approach, we move towards making God's law the law of the land. Here, not only will we go beyond what the New Testament prescribes, but we will reveal something disturbing about ourselves. We will unveil a deep desire to control those who are different. To justify this control, some of us will overstate our case and even demonize homosexuals. And in so doing, we have forgotten that Romans 2:1 follows Romans 1:26-27--the verses that condemn homosexuality. For Romans 2:1 tells us that those who judge are as guilty as those whom they judge because all sin. In other words, heterosexuals and homosexuals are equals in that they all sin.

Those who wish to control others have cut the words equal and equality out of both their dictionaries and, if they are fundamentalist, Bibles. Those who desire to rule over others must make the case, and that will almost always be both overstated and unsubstantiated, that they are superior to those they wish to rule over. And, such people are either unaware of or apathetic to the past atrocities committed by the church as previously hinted to.

Those who rely on evangelism alone trust in the Gospel and respect the listener. When a disagreement remains, they part as equals and one cannot part as equals while not defending the rights of the other. This is not enough for those who want to control. For they want both guaranteed results, and to look down on others.

I can't join my fellow fundamentalists who choose to rely on control rather than evangelism. I cannot join them for Biblical reasons. And I cannot follow them because I have gay friends some of whom have made very important contributions to my life. And despite the fact that I cannot agree with these friends on homosexuality, I know that each of them has strengths that I don't have and I have weaknesses that they don't have.  I am not the only fundamentalist who can say this. And despite our disagreements, I believe they must have all of the rights heterosexuals have. I can't condone using the law to control their behavior.

I'm also afraid for many of my fellow fundamentalists. That is because while Obama's latest statements on same sex marriage will inspire them to reacquire homosexuality and gay marriage as targets, pride and hatred will fly under their radar to conduct their insidious attacks. For pride is described as being the antithesis to faith (Romans 3:27) and one cannot both love God and hate those made in the image of God (James 3:9ff; I John 4:20).

And though I applaud how the liberal churches stand in solidarity with gays who have been ostracized and abused and how they defend their rights, I cannot join them in saying that involvement in gay relations is acceptable before God.

The above points to a common error committed by both conservative and liberal Christians regarding sensitive issues like gay rights. The error is the belief that agreement and support go hand in hand. Conservative Christians find it difficult to support equal rights for gays because they cannot agree with their behaviors and lifestyles. Liberal Christians struggle with expressing disagreement with gay relations because they realize the moral imperative of standing in solidarity with gays when they are not treated as equals. However, just as Jesus' real test for love was when it was for someone who did not belong to one's own group, the real test for belief in equality is found in whether we defend the rights of those with whom we disagree.

All of this points to the need of making careful statements and well-thoughtout distinctions regarding issues like gay rights. It is important to be precise as to where we agree and disagree with others. It is also vital to understand how we could sin against those with whom we disagree particularly when we call our desire to control and rule over them "concern" or "love." This desire to control, whether it is out of ambition or fear, is a major cause for much of the suffering and violence we see today.

15 comments:

RightsForAll said...

I found this piece refreshing after the many opinion pieces that I've read where the writer attempts to condemn homosexuals rather than following the teachings of the bible that tell us we should love and care for all humans and not judge as it is not our place or right to judge another. I fully support same sex marriage myself but this has given me another point of view, although it does not support marriage in the church it does support equality in society and I think that is something that people tend to miss in this debate. The church should not enforce it's laws onto the wider society. Thank you for sharing this with everyone.

Curt Day said...

RightsForAll,
Thank you for the kind words. I wish there would be instances where people could discuss controversial and divisive issues. And there can be when more and more people realize that we are equals regardless of how right or wrong we are on any given subject.

Unfortunately, my fellow fundamentalists do not feel that way often enough.

Hannah Goff said...

This is exactly how I feel, though i have never been able to describe it so eloquently and understandably. Thank You for writing it.

Curt Day said...

Thank you Hannah. I just wish more Conservative Christians would be willing to make the distinctions that you instinctively see and are expressed in the post.

It seems like in today's world, people tend to favor a 1 rule fits all rigidity rather than being willing to make distinctions.

Stephanie A. said...

Sir, thank you for so clearly articulating my exact feelings toward this issue. Now I can be more effective in explaining them myself!

E.B. said...

I really appreciate your thoughtful post.

Ben said...

I just came across this post only recently (months after the original posting and comments dates). It concerns me because it seems to express a view that I don't come across often, but what my non-Christian friends have best described as contradictory and schizophrenic.

Granted, I don't follow your writings, I don't have the time right now to get to know your background and beliefs better, but hopefully this comment won't be thrown into a box it doesn't belong either.

I agree that churches cannot biblically support gay marriage. But when it comes to society, the question for me isn't a matter of "equal rights". That word choice seems an incorrect assumption that those wishing to marry someone of the opposite gender is forbidden from something that a brother and sister not looking to procreate could equally claim a lack of a right. Or less harsh sounding, how about first cousins, that up until only a hundred or two years ago were perfectly acceptable to marry, but are currently forbidden. Or what about organizations such as NAMBLA.org that, not unlike societies in the past that accepted homosexual relations, wish to see society also accept consensual relationships between grown men and boys? What about those that wish to marry more than one person? Whether polygamous or of the plural marriage camp? I don't mean to sound facetious in listing these examples, but rather to emphasize the point that "equality" is hardly the issue, at least for Bible-believing Christians such as myself (I know there are those, but again, hopefully you won't automatically box me in with them).

All this to say, I completely agree that targeting homosexuals as anything worse of a sinner than myself or any Christian is wrong and unbiblical as well, but by the reasoning listed in this post, why would you deny the same "right" for any 2 (or more) people that wish to marry, while making it legal for 2 of the same gender? No, I do not believe the government's responsibility is to be Christian because this country is not a theocracy. But I also believe that the current cultural shift and trend will soon affect your church, namely, if it's accepted as an issue of discrimination and a civil rights issue, then churches will soon be sued (they already are) for not marrying two men together, or two women together.

Respectfully,
Ben Y.

Curt Day said...

Ben,
Thank you for the thought-provoking note.

For me, the slippery slope argument doesn't hold. Marriage within families is biologically bad in terms of reproduction but there is no group of people who feel cheated out of this opportunity. And the NAMBLA comparison doesn't hold since marriage is defined as between consenting adults.

One of the reasons I wrote this is that if we don't want to be persecuted for disagreeing with homosexuality, then we must distinguish that disagreement from persecution. The anger we hear is more about not treating homosexuals as equal than disagreeing with the practice.

But I also wrote this post because I believe that a society based on equality and respect needs to treat its members as equals even if it is in practices we disagree with. This is true as long as the practices treat others as equals and do not violate the rights of others.

Finally, I wrote this post because when the Church uses society as an auxiliary disciplinary arm, the Church has become abusive and has even committed atrocities.

I have friends who are gay and some of them are in same-sex marriages. From my Christian views I believe it is wrong. But I want society to respect their rights and wishes. And I want people to realize the contributions that gays have made to each of us.
Gays are people and we need to treat them as equals and with respect. And it is only when we do that that we should preach the Gospel to them. And if they disagree, we part as equals.

Curt Day said...

E.B.,
Thank you very much for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

What of a minority group within LGBIT? The transgender,transsexual and intersexuals are hermaphroditic to varying degrees.Gender identity is not sexual preferance . These people are persecuted for being biologically different. Intersexed often want to remain ambiguous ,while the transsexual desire to and in fact do change their image in the world. It is awful to live as a male with a femine appearance or a women with a masculine appearance. many gays and lesbians have acted in a mean spirted way and discriminated against Bi,trans and intersexed. Transgender variation people TGV are another minority of crossdressers who do not wish or try to pass.I'm trying to give a fair assesment of the reality. I myself am transsexual,and intersexed having gone from M to F

Curt Day said...

To Anonymous,
I couldn't address everything here but I did want to distinguish between disagreement and respect. And part of respect is treating those who are different as equals. Another way we show respect is in how we don't express our disagreement. That is in disagreement, we don't hyperbole to distance ourselves from those we disagree with.

At this point and with the purpose of the article, that is what I can think of right now. Did that answer your concerns?

Tate said...

For me, I think the biggest question is whether the State should be involved in marriage at all. Taking the approach that marriage is none of the State's business and should be fully private allows Christians to both preserve the sanctity of marriage and not trample on the freedoms of gay people.

Curt Day said...

Tate,
Why should that be a question at all. Marriage is a public contract between two people that has social implications. Property ownership after marriage as well as the social implications brings the gov't into it.The gov't would be arbitrator because it, regardless of how it functions, represents the people.

Our problem is that we have no reaction to how poorly the gov't represents us.

Natalia Borkowska said...

Great article! I am still trying to shape my views on this and I really do believe in equality but I am having some trouble when thinking about it. Let's say abortion or pre-marital sex( how would they enforce that ha!) was illegal and people were trying to legalize it. Although we know it is wrong, should we defend their rights or should we try to stop the laws from passing? That is the reason I am having confusion. I did read the man's comments above about incest but I believe this is more relevant and similar since it is more accepted. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Thank you,
Natalia

Curt Day said...

Natalia,
Thank you for reading the post and your comment. Regarding which rights should we defend and which ones should we control through legislation, we have to ask whether the right being considered allows the beneficiary to infringe on the rights on others. Neither practicing pre-marital sex nor engaging in homosexuality infringes on the rights or welfare of others. Promiscuity can pose a health threat but neither pre-marital sex nor homosexuality provides a threat. Along with the NT idea of society being the place where those who cannot be in good standing, we should be very reluctant to control the exercise of those rights through legislation.

When it comes to abortion, now we are balancing the rights of two distinct human beings. It's at that point, we need to consider using legislation to control the exercise of their rights. That is because the freedom of choice of one party costs the right live for the other.