Rights? Or Wrong?
Homosexuality and same-sex marriage are topics that have moved front and center in our cultural and political conversation—or perhaps more of a shouting match. Facilitated by generational shifts, this discussion has moved extremely fast. Even proponents of same-sex marriage admit that the attitude shift toward accepting and legalizing same-sex marriage over the last three decades has been rapid.
What’s more, from some perspectives our country considers this discussion closed, as it moves on to talk about a gender spectrum and a diversity of gender-related identities and relationships that might exist.
So why are some Christians being stuck-in-the-mud bigots and still opposing same-sex marriage?
Christians are not intentionally picking on same-sex marriage; every person has the right to get married—it’s just that our definition of marriage differs on several levels. For the majority of the last 2,000 years, the Christian perspective on marriage has been that:
- It’s between a man and a woman
- It’s a reflection of God’s relationship with humanity
- It’s a lifelong commitment
- It provides healthy boundaries for sex in a relationship
- It provides a sheltered place to have and raise kids
- It Involves a contract that provides a safety net for spouses and kids
- It’s a benefit to the community
The Christian view of marriage is anchored on it being a relationship between a male and a female. It’s part of the fabric of God’s original creation, it’s part of our belief system, and it defines some of our cultural boundaries.
So redefining marriage is not just about a civil ceremony or providing additional legal rights for those in long-term relationships; it’s a whole new way of thinking in opposition to our faith and our understanding of community.
In addition, the Bible is pretty clear about not condoning the act of homosexuality. Without going into significant detail, the New Testament section of the Bible (the part written by early Jesus-followers and in particular the apostle Paul), clarifies how the early Christians would have seen homosexuality: Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11.
Jesus himself never spoke specifically about homosexuality, but he grew up in a Jewish culture that had pretty much the same mindset as Paul. If Jesus had differed from the other Jewish religious leaders on this topic, we certainly would have read about it in early Christian church history, as it would have been a major shift from Jewish theology and tradition at the time. That said, the practice of homosexuality was seen in the same way as adultery, divorce, and sex outside of marriage. It was a sexual sin; there was no difference.
Some Christians have provided a different lens, or interpretation, of the Bible’s view on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but it requires some linguistic and contextual gymnastics to arrive at the conclusion that the Bible doesn’t condemn the practice of homosexuality—and therefore same-sex marriage. And here’s the central point of the discussion for a Christian. For centuries our faith has been secured to the belief that the Bible is written by men but inspired by God. Every word of the Bible is provided by God and therefore there aren’t mistakes or contradictions. So for us to accept same-sex marriage, it requires us to reject the authority of the Bible.
The only real way Christians can accept homosexuality and same sex marriage is to reject the authority of the Bible.
As you can imagine, this is no small thing. Once you make the decision as a Christian to reject the authority of the Bible (at any level), many aspects of your faith and your experiences need to be reexamined.
Of course we do believe that God, first and foremost, is LOVE, 1 John 4:8. In the Old Testament (the part of the Bible Christians share with Jewish tradition), David and Jonathan had an intense same-sex friendship; 1 Samuel 18:1-5. But the Bible doesn’t seem to suggest anything is permissible in the name of love—whether that’s sex prior to marriage, adultery, or the act of homosexuality.
Why do Christians think the Bible, and therefore God, opposes homosexuality?
We do know that neither gender nor marriage will define us in heaven (Galatians 3:28; Mark 12:25), so we can only assume that the directive is in place because homosexuality impacts us negatively as individuals, as well as our communities, here on earth. And honestly, there’s a variety of opinions among Christians about the impacts homosexuality and same-sex marriage have on the common good. An oversimplification of the primary arguments are:
- It goes against nature; we’re created male and female and intended to procreate
- It opens the door to a complete redefinition of marriage, which is a slippery slope that could include polygamy, incest, etc.
- It can cause destabilization in social order and undercuts social stability
- It pulls down healthy boundaries that help protect the children and provide family support units
- It falsely normalizes homosexual behavior which can create gender confusion in youth at an impressionable stage of their lives
- It allows personal desires/values to supersede the values of the common good—and the meaning of life becomes individual gratification
Whatever the reason, it isn’t the intention of Christians to deny the civil or human rights of anyone—and we recognize this is the allegation thrown at Christians who disagree with same-sex marriage. We believe that we are all made in the image of God, and we should certainly treat each other with respect and dignity because of this.
Isn’t this a civil issue, not a religious one?
There’s a religious side to it, and a civil side to it.
We’ve largely discussed the religious side up to this point. With a worldview grounded in Christianity, millions of American Christians believe same-sex marriage isn’t good for any society or any individual, because we were all created by the same God who didn’t design us for those things.
However, we don’t believe civil laws are going to make anyone Christian, or change anyone’s beliefs about homosexuality or same-sex marriage. We don’t think civil laws exist to cause people to buy into a particular moral code for their individual lives. We have more modest expectations for civil laws: that they exist to enforce an ‘outward morality’ that maintains a healthy society and keeps people from harming each other.
Therefore, we’re not suggesting legislation against homosexuality or homosexual acts. We don’t even think our laws need to defend the Christian version of marriage in and of itself, since a number of religious traditions have similar concepts of marriage as Christians, and we recognize these in our civil society. From a civil angle, the issue is whether the traditional societal description of marriage (that happens to align with Christian beliefs) is the version that should officially be used by our modern civil society.
What parameters of marriage (especially in terms of sex and gender), with what civil advantages attached to it, are most beneficial to the common good?
Are the typical Christian arguments about same-sex marriage’s negative effects on society—listed earlier—legitimate?
Questions like these arise any time we’re trying to decide what we promote as optimal behavior in our society. What activities in civil society do we encourage and reward—whether that be law and order or tax exemption for non-profits? What lines do we draw in our society for the benefit of the common good, without violating human rights or discriminating against our fellow human beings? And for sure, as Christians, we want to be engaged in that debate and promote our point of view as fellow citizens.
Being gay is not the sin.
Whatever direction society goes, a percentage of Christians will continue to believe same-sex marriage is not okay. Fortunately, society’s discussion on same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ issues is helping Christians wrestle with exactly when and what about non-mainstream sexual feelings and behavior their God has a problem with, instead of doling out blanket condemnation like Christians have tended to do in the past.
Many Christians are beginning to acknowledge that a homosexual orientation is not usually a choice. We do understand that a percentage of people have a genuine sexual attraction for the same gender. Is homosexuality a learned or born behavior? We don’t really know, but it’s probably both. We live in a world impacted by the fall. Christians believe that sin happened when Adam and Eve became self-centered, instead of being centered on God and his creation. The impact of sin has been devastating. All human beings are born into this world with a sinful nature and with unintended genetic traits. So being born homosexual is certainly possible, but that isn’t the sin; it’s acting on an inappropriate sexual desire that’s the sin.
Sexual sins have been an issue for humanity since the fall—especially for heterosexuals. In the eyes of God, sexual sin IS a big problem because of the significant impact sex has on the individual and the community. So acting on sexual desires that are not condoned (in this case same-sex), is a sin. The Bible explains that inappropriate sexual behavior, not being attracted to the same sex, is the sin. A sexual sin is a sexual sin—whether that’s homo- or hetero-sexual in nature.
Of course we accept that heterosexuals can express their condoned sexual desires in the context of marriage so it isn’t really fair. We’re not overlooking the loneliness this places on a gay person. Is there potential for someone who is homosexual to be ‘healed’ of their sexual tendencies? Well, we believe in a God that transcends our understanding, so we have to say yes it’s possible—but as a general rule, this does not seem the trend.
The Christian community is the place for homosexuals.
Not being able to experience a relationship with one individual that includes sexual intimacy, is a harsh and lonely reality for Christian homosexuals. But being in a Christian community and joining in the sacraments of the community should provide comfort, strength and support, not hate and alienation.
The Christian community was never meant to be the club for people who’ve made it spiritually; it’s definitely not nirvana (as many of you have found out). We don’t ignore and/or endorse sin, but we are re-learning the reality that we are all sinners and only renewed by the grace of God. We are devastated by the hurt the church has caused—intentionally or unintentionally. We are re-learning to love and accept all people in our community, just like Jesus.
As Christians, the reality that we’ve lost sight of is that addiction, abuse, abortion, infidelity, limited parental involvement and lack of commitment among heterosexuals (including Christians) has been far more devastating on marriage and the family than same-sex marriage. Are we condoning the re-definition of marriage to include same-sex marriage? No. But should we be prioritizing our focus on these bigger issues for the sake of our communities? Yes.
Confessions of a Christian:
- We have struggled to separate our beliefs from discrimination towards LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) people; we’re sorry.
- We have marginalized LGBT folks and disparaged their individual identity causing untold pain and even suicide; we’re sorry.
- Our personal feelings toward homosexuality has clouded our love for LGBT people—yes, we are homophobic; we’re sorry.
- We have not carried the burden of loneliness with homosexual folks who decide not to act on their sexual desires; we’re sorry.
- We have not treated LGBT people like we would our own children or family; we’re sorry.
- Our lifestyle as Christians has been inconsistent with what Jesus called us to; we’re sorry.
Other voices in this conversation: