Gay marriage... but I'd rather talk about Jesus

There are few issues that cause more debate and disagreement, hatred and misunderstanding. For this reason I’ve kept out of this debate for a long time. Below is my attempt to explain and clarify my own position for the benefit of others. I’m hoping that this is helpful and gets people thinking rather than adding to the bile of nasty commentary that pervades the Internet.

Before we get started
Many nasty things have been said and done to gay people by Christians in the past. This is something that Christians must bear in mind before entering the debate. They must also be prepared to express sorrow, regret, empathy and compassion for actions done to gay people in the name of Jesus over the years. The Church and Christians have done a poor job at articulating why they are opposed to gay marriage and homosexuality. There are smug, nasty, hateful people on both sides of this debate. Christians who claim to live by their ethos should be ashamed of this. They should know better. More needs to be done in our society to recognise gay and lesbian people and their fight against discrimination.

Christians have the right to express their views in a democracy, just as those who are in favour of gay marriage also have the right to express their views. Christians have the right to campaign for their views in a democracy, just as those who are in favour of gay marriage have the right to campaign for their views.

Saying Homosexuality is wrong is not hate. No doubt there are people who use it as an excuse to hate. However just because something is used (abused) for wrong purposes, doesn’t mean it’s bad in and of itself. You can express disagreement with a person’s lifestyle choice, or understanding of sexuality, in a kind way while still maintaining love and friendship. Real tolerance isn’t fudging differences but looking them in the face and getting along anyway. I have friends who are gay (perhaps who are reading this)  I care deeply about them. I’m not scared of them. I may disagree with them profoundly. I certainly don’t hate them.

My Position
Firstly it’s my conviction that it is inconsistent with Christianity to be a practising homosexual. Over the years I’ve read the Bible a fair bit. It’s hard to read it and come to any other conclusion. There doesn’t seem to be much disagreement on this issue among orthodox Christians who take the Bible seriously.

But can Christians actively campaign against gay marriage in a secular society? Yes. We live in a free and democratic society that permits freedom of speech. This means that Christians have the right to lobby for their views just as those in favour of gay marriage have the right to lobby for theirs. I should point out that Christians should feel free to follow their conscious. For many Christians this is an important issue and one they feel strongly about.

Should Christians actively campaign against gay marriage in a secular society?
This is a slightly different question. Just because you can do something doesn’t always mean that you should. There is also an important but subtle distinction between expressing a view and actively lobbying for it. Regardless of which camp you’re in I want you to consider more deeply the wisdom of your approach for the following reasons.

First I’m not convinced Christians have earned the right to have their views admitted to the public square on this issue. Speaking to society on an issue which has caused hurt and pain for many people, requires great sensitivity and wisdom, something that is sadly lacking in many of the engagements I have seen. When Christians speak against gay marriage, it should take place within the context of having earned trust and respect from the people they are speaking to. Have Christians done this?

Second, the Christian world view has some very significant presuppositions which are rarely acknowledged. Seeking to share a Christian view of marriage divorced from the accompanying framework will always cause misunderstanding, offense and expose Christians to ridicule. Christians also run the risk of speaking to the world of a morality divorced from the gospel.... which in the end is merely religious conservatism. Something Jesus had some very strong things to say about.

Third, it’s very difficult to hold to the Christian view of marriage using purely secular arguments. “Marriage is for the flourishing of society” is probably the best one I’ve heard. Christians fail when they argue against gay marriage like this...

  • It’s about children having both parents male and female... what about divorced and single parents, adopted children etc.
  • It will result in people marrying dogs... an appeal to the ridiculous and not what is currently proposed.
  • It’s about the “Institution of Marriage”... Marriage as an institution is trashed and has been for sometime, one only needs to look at the divorce statistics to see that.
Worst of all, others less savvy resort to “thus says the Bible” arguments...  which in a secular post modern society make no sense. While there are comebacks to each of the arguments I listed, I think in the end they are all pretty weak.

Fourth, I’m generally not fan of lobbying as it often results in voices being excluded from consideration or individuals having a disproportionate say in how our government runs things. I’m similarly unconvinced that some forms of lobbying achieve much at all. It’s more likely they drive people deeper into already intrenched beliefs. I’d like to see Christians be more thoughtful in how they choose to engage or lobby for what they believe in.

Finally the question of whether Christians should be engaged in lobbying for their views (which are in a minority) to be imposed on a secular majority also needs to be considered. Is there a Biblical mandate that says Christian values should be impressed upon a secular society and actively campaigned for? This is almost always assumed, and questions are never asked.

If you’re a Christian who likes to lobby, I don’t want to gag you. I don’t want to stop you expressing your views. I certainly don’t want you to go against your conscience... but I do want you to think about your views more deeply. If Christians choose to engage in this debate they must be careful that their views are articulated in the context of the gospel and not divorced from it. They must also bear in mind that there is a great hurt and anger around this issue.

Christians must always be in the business of speaking and acting in way that is gracious, loving, and respectful toward others. Unfortunately when I look around at what is said by Christians about gay marriage very often I see neither grace, love... or Jesus.



Claire :) said... 4/24/2013 12:05 pm  

Thank you Mike, this is really well thought out and well written. It is so important to stop and think, and proceed with care.

Jeremy said... 4/30/2013 4:23 pm  

You fail to address the key issue, which is the difference between expressing the opinion "Because of my religion I believe gay marriage is wrong" and "Because of my religion, I believe that people who don't follow my religion should be legally prevented from behaviour my religion deems to be wrong."

Nobody denies the right of Christians to follow their own religious beliefs, but what they do argue is that attempting to influence democratic governments in order to force the outcome of those religious beliefs onto other people is inherently immoral.

Jacco said... 5/01/2013 9:07 am  

Good post your criteria it seems that no-one would be able to speak up in the public arena, given that you first need to "earn the trust and respect" of those you are speaking to. By that criteria I don't think anyone could speak up (for or against gay marriage), as there will always be lots of people who will not trust/respect you, precisely because of the views you hold.

Likewise if Christians shouldn't argue from their presuppositions, then why should a secularist/atheist/whoever?

Lobbying is not about "imposing" the view of a minority on the majority. It is about being salt and light. We may not stop legislation, but we can possibly temper it.

I'm not one for slippery slope arguments, but here's a link to (imho) a very well argued slippery slope scenario (by the theologion John Milbank)

C said... 5/01/2013 11:56 am  

This is a well thought out statement however I think you are portraying the idea that ALL Christians are opposed to same-sex marriage. This is incorrect. Although denominations may not include same-sex marriage as a sacrament, some individual churches already hold blessings for same-sex couples. Similarly, not all Christians oppose same-sex marriage at the state level.
One might ask how is a same-sex marriage any different from a secular marriage?

mike said... 5/02/2013 4:34 pm  

Hey Jacco thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Firstly let me say I completely agree that Christians are called to be salt and light in the world. I think where we will disagree, is what this actually looks like in action.

Secondly I'm of the view that presuppositions should be acknowledged in discussion before being argued from. The fact that others don't do it is precisely the reason I and other Christians should do it. Christians should set an example by being transparent and honest. In doing so we will talk more about Jesus.

Finally let me clarify by saying there is a place for Christians to speak out in the public arena. The problem Christians have is that they don't have much social capital. In the past we've spoken out on small number of issues in such a way that we are now no longer listened to on any issue. Opinions are consequently polarised and opportunity for discussion is lost. Instead I see people yelling slogans at others across the divide. The solution is not to yell louder but to be winsome, nuanced, thoughtful in approach and tone, and talk about Jesus more. If we did this maybe, just maybe we'd be respected.

Rocky2 said... 5/22/2013 8:40 am  

/Hi Mike. Spotted this on the net./

USA - from Puritans to Impure-itans

Is there a connection between beautiful New England and entire American cities turned into smoking rubble? There is.
Take same-sex marriage. I would have guessed that a "sin" city (San Francisco? Las Vegas?) would have been the first to legalize it.
Oddly it's been the place where America started that's wanted to be the first place to help bring about the end of America and its values! It's been a Nor'easter of Perversion (helping to fulfill the end time "days of Lot" predicted in Luke 17) that began in (you guessed it) Boston in 2004.
New England has gone from the Mayflower Compact to the Gay Power Impact, from Providence to decadence, from Bible thumpers to God dumpers, from university to diversity to perversity, and from the land of the Great Awakening to God's Future Shakening that will make the Boston bombings look like Walden Pond ripples by comparison!
The same Nor'easter has been spreading south and as far west as Washington State where, after swelling up with pride, Mt. Rainier may wish to celebrate shame-sex marriage by having a blast that Seaddlepated folks can share in lava-land!
The same Luke 17 prediction is tied to the Book of Revelation which speaks of the cities that God will flatten because of same-sexism - including American cities - a scenario I'll have to accept since I can't create my own universe and decree rules for it.
I've just been analyzing the world's terminal "religion" that has its "god," its accessories, its "rites," and even a flag. It's an obsession that the infected converts are willing to live for, fight for - and even die for!
Want more facts? Google "God to Same-Sexers: Hurry Up" and "Government-Approved Illegals."

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