Gay marriage... but I'd rather talk about Jesus
23 April 2013
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.
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.
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.