Some thoughts on “marriage equality” and such…

[The following is a series of somewhat fragmented thoughts… I’m sure I’ll offend a few people out there, and make a few people mad, and I’m sure there’s a lot I need to learn, but honestly, I’m just trying to “wrestle through the issue” (I realize how ridiculously cliche that sounds these days, but nevertheless, that’s what I’m doing.)]

I feel conflicted.

I am for traditional marriage.  I realize that not everyone sees it as being as obvious as I see it in the Scriptures, but for me it’s as plain as day.  There is a design of the Creator (appealed to not insignificantly by Jesus in Matt 19) that serves as the “norming norm” against which all sexual expressions are measured and judged.  It is highly significant to me that for the most part, at least as far as I can tell, among Christians it is 1st world Protestants who are having a hard time with this.  Gay marriage it appears to me (I realize I’m broadbrushing here, and I’m sure there are exceptions) is a 1st world problem compounded by a theology that pays little heed to Tradition.  But I digress.

I sincerely love gay and lesbian folks, and am aware that there are many in our congregation, Bloom.  (There are many in yours too, despite how “traditional” or even “conservative” you think you are.)  I’ve tried not to make “public pronouncements” about this stuff, preferring a more relational path, since I think that the church has bigger fish to fry than getting lost in cultural crusades.  I want everyone to know that they are loved and cherished as they are, and that no one – NO ONE – is an “issue.”  They are people with names and faces and stories.  It’s for that reason that we’ve never published a “public stance” on the LGBTQ issue at Bloom.  For us it seems inherently divisive.  Whatever your public stance winds up being, you’ll attract those that agree with you.  And groupthink continues unabated.

Nevertheless, our faith is a public faith, and it has bearing on public life.  Which is why I’m conflicted about all of this business about so-called “marriage equality.”  On the one hand, it seems to me that if the government is going to be officially agnostic when it comes to the Christian meaning of marriage (lifelong monogamous fidelity between two partners of opposite sex, taking place within the creational and sacramental theology of the church), preferring instead to see marriage as a “no-fault” legal arrangement between two consenting adults, then denying that arrangement to gays and lesbians seems hopelessly irrational and unfair.  If “marriage” is simply a companionable arrangement that confers legal benefits, it is, I say, ridiculous to deny this anyone.  It is a social justice issue.

So that makes me think, why should these arrangements be called “marriages” at all?  “Marriage”, it seems to me, is a religious word.  Perhaps all of these arrangements should be called “civil unions”, whether they are gay or straight, and we just leave it at that.  If churches want to, according to their convictions, bless and sanction certain of these arrangements, bestowing upon them the honorific and theologically loaded word “marriage”, let them do so, according to the sphere of sovereignty assigned to them.  But leave the government’s hands off of sacred words, and sacred institutions.

But another voice inside my head nags at me.  Having a “public faith” and being a responsible citizen, in my understanding, means participating in public life in ways that promote the common good.  There is a growing widespread sentiment in our society that the move to “marriage equality” is part of the inevitable march of progress.  “Progress”, of course, is a talisman that nearly everyone attaches to whatever it is they want to do already, conferring it legitimacy in a nearly quasi-religious way, and usually has no empirical basis.  Who’s against progress?  But then, what actually counts as progress?  Tearing down rain forests in the name of industrialization seemed like “progress” at the time, but now we know that it has had disastrous consequences.  The mass commercialization of farming seemed like progress at the time, but the price often was local economies and quality of food–a step backwards in many cases.  Nuclear energy seemed like “progress” at the time, and then we had Chernobyl.

Each of us could multiply examples in nearly every realm of human society.  The point is that “progress” is a notoriously slippery word when it comes to introducing (I use the word broadly here) “technologies” into society.  As beneficial as they seem in the moment, it’s typically unwise to label them as bits of “progress” until every conceivable effect they can have is had upon society.  And when it comes to something like community and social life, at the heart of which is sex, with all its perils and possibilities, which binds generations together, I personally don’t know that we’ll know whether any innovation in the area of our sexuality counts as “progress” until several generations into the future, when the effects are fully appreciated.  A decade (even two) is not a sufficient sample size here.  There is an “ecology of community” at work here, built up over generations.  New inputs and/or drastic changes to the system will take generations to take full effect.

It’s for those reasons (and some others) that I find myself feeling cautious personally to jump on the “marriage equality” bandwagon.  Gay marriage is not marriage at all, as far as I can see (that is a theological conviction).  And while I feel the tug of justice on my heart with respect to the “civil unions” conversation, I also find myself pulled on by my sensibilities about the myth of progress and the ecology of community, at the heart of which, as I said, is sexual life.

I would love your thoughts on the subject.  I will just say that I am well aware that not everyone will agree with me here.  That’s fine.  I just ask that you speak respectfully AND keep the conversation on-topic.  I’ll be moderating comments, so if you use this to sound off, rant, or insult people, you’re gettin’ deleted baby.

Grace and peace.


40 thoughts on “Some thoughts on “marriage equality” and such…

  1. I find this to be the best reasoning for support for traditional marriage. I was upset to read conservative Christians bum rushing to biology to be against gay marriage yet most don’t acknowledge climate change/evolution/stem cells, etc.

    You made your case in an articulate, well written piece. This acknowledges the complex realities with biblical convictions. If people complain, that’s their issue.

  2. I find this to be the best reasoning for support for traditional marriage. I was upset to read conservative Christians bum rushing to biology to be against gay marriage yet most don’t acknowledge climate change/evolution/stem cells, etc. And a Gospel Coalition piece I read yesterday was unloving.

    You made your case in an articulate, well written piece. This acknowledges the complex realities of society with biblical convictions. If people complain, that’s their issue. Admire your thoughts, Andrew!

    From your second favorite Oklahoman Packers fan living in Denver!

  3. Well said Andrew…was a little nervous about you broaching this subject but I think you left a very difficult “Church” topic open to discussion. Because of that…my thoughts.

    While I agree that Marriage is an inherently religious word, I think we have to understand it for what it is in our society. It is a word that the State has License to (the Marriage License at home in my file) and it does not discriminate against those who are Non-Religious such as my happily married atheist friends. While some might think perfection is the ideal of life, I would argue that we are better off just doing the best with what we have and resting in our imperfection. As far as this word “Marriage” is concerned, I would rather have to deal with a Religious word co-opted by our government than to have one more day of committed, loving LBGQT folks, religious or otherwise, who are denied the basic rights of other committed partners.


  4. I hesitate to comment because I sooooo don’t want to argue with anyone. It is so exhausting and the conversation almost never gets anywhere. But I must say I am so glad you wrote this. I have a very similar internal conflict to yours and it nags at me. A few thoughts, though… As long as we (I mean humankind here) are conferring the title of marriage on institutions that do not fit your description of Christian marriage (polygamy, forced marriages, etc.), how can we deny it to the gay community? The fact is things already ARE called marriage that were never intended to be. And for that matter, if it is a Christian term and/or sacrament, why would we recognize the marriage of Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim or atheist couples? I absolutely believe in the sacredness of marriage, but the fact of the matter is that it IS something the government regulates, whether we like it or not. And the government doesn’t get to legislate morality. And WE, as the church, do not get to legislate morality to those outside the Church. For those gay couples inside the church who wish to marry, that is probably a different conversation for a different day. But as for the church getting so riled up about marriage equality, etc., I think we are doing a huge disservice both to ourselves and to the gay community. Our primary goal should be bringing people into the kingdom, showing them the love of God. Fighting fervently against gay marriage rights does the opposite of that. And if the aforementioned is NOT our primary goal, then what are we doing??? I just know that preaching about sin, perversion, a matter of “choice,” abominations before The Lord, etc., does absolutely nothing to show people the love of Jesus… And I’m not interested in participating in anything that provides yet another barrier between people and the Cross. This is a government issue and I think gay marriage will be legalized across the board. But the fact is that it shouldn’t MATTER to us so much. It doesn’t affect us. Legal gay marriage doesn’t make me less married or less Christian or my marriage less holy. And there are so many more things worthy of getting riled up about. Poverty, hunger, modern day slavery… There are orphans and widows to care for, sick to heal. These are battles the church can and should be fighting. This gay marriage issue is just a distraction from the all the good we could be doing with our time. I say let the government handle it and let us focus on something we can actually do something about. But I also say that freedom to marry is a basic human right. Reeeeally didn’t mean to write this much….

  5. I understand and relate to your wrestling. Marriage equality is something I want to support but share the same struggles. Maybe Civil union is the way forward as the reality for many is that marriage bears no relevance to any faith or theological thinking.
    My question would be can the Church then bless these civil unions? I have two friends who are gay and have adopted a child who my son plays with. He is lovely and loved by two great guys who care for him like I care for my kids. They have been together for years. How do we support that union within main stream theological thinking. I do not have a great grasp on Theology but read a bible where Jesus loved everyone and didn’t exclude people. Steve Chalk wrote a great article about it recently
    Love the graceful open way you have written this and think we need to remain open in the struggle to understand this.

    • Hey Dave. I suppose if we went the “civil union” way, churches would have to decide based on their convictions whether to “bless” the relationship, recognize it as legitimate, etc etc. Like I’ve tried to say, that’s not something I would do. My convictions run in another direction.

      • Well done Andrew. Enjoyed this read.

        Just a few things that I would say…I would not put to much importance on how other people use the word “marriage” but more importance on how you act out your marriage. If they want to change the meaning, it doesn’t change your meaning of your marriage. I think it’s because to them marriage is the normal and they want to be in the normal. No harm to what I think.
        I am not against gay-marriage being recognized by the government, but I am against it being recognized by the church. Also against divorce, premarital sex and anything else considered sexual-immorality.
        I love all of my friends gay, straight, believers or non-believers. But I hold my brothers and sisters in Christ to a different standard than I do other friends. My closest friends will call me out as I will call them out.
        I do hate how many Christians have been protesting. I need to have more patience with them than I do what they are protesting.

  6. Andrew,

    Thank you so much for this post. I appreciate the respect and love that you put into the post and into your life. I hope you know how much I admire and am inspired by you.

    I completely agree that it is uncomfortable for me to have the government marrying anyone because I believe that marriage is holy thing, a union and covenant between God and his children. But it sounds like your opposition to same sex marriage in particular is based on your personal convictions from scripture and your trepidation of the idea as “progress”.

    Can you on, those two things, honestly say the Government, since it’s marrying people, ought to prevent our LGBT brothers and sisters from marrying?

    On progress: I would caution you from comparing loving, same-sex relationships to “technologies” that could cause destruction such as nuclear bombs or deforestation. I think one of the traps we can get into when we, as Christians, have this discussion is the objectification LGBT brothers and sisters into something less than human, or at least less than “normal”. We are all on equal footing here.

    All that to say, I can’t buy the argument that preventing people from marrying (as long as the government is still in the business) is at all in the interest of the common good.

    I’m reminded of the fall of 2008 When proposition 8 passed, there were marches in the streets full of people who said, rightly, “the Church has convinced the government that we are evil people, and we don’t deserve to pursue happiness.” They marched in the streets, full of anger, naming Christ and the Church their enemy, while the whole time, in churches everywhere, some pastors claimed this as a victory for God.

    I believe that God is drawing all people to himself, making all things new, through love not power. So I cannot see anyway for that to be a “victory”.

    Similarly, since, as you thoughtfully prefaced your post with, there are many Christians who don’t share the same scriptural convictions about the issue as you do, so do you really see a way that the United States serves the common good by maintaining DOMA?

    I don’t see it.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Love you, brother

    • Chad – much love to you too! Good to hear from you.

      I certainly didn’t mean to objectify PEOPLE with my comparison, but I did want to think about what the adoption of a new social convention may do. The fact is that we don’t know. My gut tells me that a society that starts blessing any and every sexual arrangement will probably not be served well over time, but that’s just a hunch. Needless to say, I’m cautious.

  7. Hey Andrew,
    I appreciate the fact that you’re engaging this dialogue. I’d like to add my own voice and inner-dialog here. I respect where you’re coming from on the “marriage”/ “civil union” thing, and I also really liked that you mentioned that “marriage” is a religious/theological word. I think that’s true, but I’ve never really thought of it that way. Thank you.

    I have at least three very close Christian gay/lesbian friends, one of whom is currently the pastor at a church I attend. From what I understand, their desire seems to, in fact, “marry” in the religious sense of the word. They want the government AND the church to recognize the validity of their marriage under God. Under our current laws, no one (gay or straight alike) has the ability to acknowledge theologically and put into practice acknowledging a “marriage” between two people of the same sex. Therefore, I feel this debate is, in fact, at the core, a theological one.

    I hear that you feel like things are “clear” from the Bible. That might be. However, what if there’s a small chance that you are wrong about that clarity? What if the metaphor in Genesis is emphasizing how we can be in relationship with one another, and not so much the man/woman part? Or, what if the person who wrote Genesis was from a very patriarchal society (there’s a good chance ;), and made assumptions that we no longer need to today? What if Paul had no conceptual framework for a committed same-sex relationship when he said the things he did in the NT, or, more, what if he did not know as much about neurobiology and psychology as we do today, just as the poets in the OT didn’t know that the earth revolved around the sun? What if we are subjecting a huge group in our society to feeling shame and feeling “wrong” about the way they feel, when God doesn’t care so much about the gender of person with whom they chose to be as much as HOW they are in relation with that person?

    These are HUGE “what ifs” that have really big implications. Because of this, it seems better to me for our legal system to let individuals and churches interpret God’s heart and the Bible’s intent. I’m not a universalist who believes that God is okay with whatever we believe. I happen to believe very strongly that God IS okay with same-sex marriage and that children can be reared well in such situations, so, ultimately, I disagree with you. However, I acknowledge and respect your right to think differently than me. In short, I don’t think that individuals or the church at large should take such a firm theological and legal stance on something that is, in fact, ambiguous since God has not decided to clothe him/herself in flesh once again to make a public announcement regarding His/Her feelings on CNN. 🙂 I think that the more “relational” response from Christians is to realize that keeping same-sex marriage illegal is like holding a power card over others, which does not allow real, authentic one-on-one dialogue with others who think differently than us.

    Just some thoughts for the dialogue. I’m looking forward to further conversation! 🙂

    Becky Eller

    • Becky – this reminds me of good conversation at Perkins back in the day. I absolutely love your thoughtfulness and candor.

      There’s a chance I’m wrong about all of that, like there’s a chance I’m wrong about everything I believe. Ultimately, you make a gamble with your beliefs and go with it. Your justification is by “faith”. Later on, you may find that you’re justified because your beliefs “worked.” (That’s for my Lutheran sistah 😉 )

      Your last paragraph, and the comments of others, are where my “conflict” lies. I’m not sure at what level this is a productive fight for Christians, particularly those of my persuasion. That doesn’t mean it’s not. Just that I’m not sure. Hence the blog 🙂

      Big love to you.


  8. Those in leadership positions who are torn on a subject, all to often do the political thing and stay quiet. It takes guts to say you don’t know the answer. For those who look to you for leadership, this means much more than silence.

    Since much of the LGBT community are religious, I imagine they’d still be fighting to redefine what mariage means culturally even if marriage was swapped out for civil unions in our legal system. When anyone, gay or straight, gets up and reads vows and says I do, they call it a wedding, and they call it getting married. It’s hard to imagine arguing it’s religious origin and original meaning would be a fruitful conversation. That said, we should fight for what we believe is right, and I am with you, the Bible is clear on this one.

  9. Wow, so well said. My hat’s off to you. After our discussion on this topic yesterday I sat down to write my own blog on the matter and couldn’t find the right groove. Thought I would give it a day and try again. Then you go and write this brilliant piece. Now what am I suppose to do? You took everything I was going to say, said it better, and then posted it before my brain came off vacation. You’re very insensitive after all, Andrew. 🙂

    Love it, thanks.

  10. A real world story…My brother is gay, in a committed loving relationship of 3 years, with Kurt, a scientist from Belgium, doing research at the Medical School where my brother is in his third year. They would love to be married and of course they could, in New York or another Gay Marriage friendly State. However in less than a year Kurt’s visa expires and he will have to return to Belgium…marriage or not. I know this is not exactly what we are arguing here but it helped me to realize that this cannot be a States Rights issue. The way it stands, my brother does not have the same rights as I simply because he is gay.

    …hopefully just another small piece in a civilized discussion. Thanks for your spirit Andrew. I suspect I know where it comes from.

    Charity and Chad…very well said.

  11. In the current discussion, it is deemed oppression of LGBT rights to deny same-sex marriage by many people. By some, it is considered hatred. While many blog posts and responses (not on this site, thankfully) may support this point, that may not be a fair accusation for all who would advocate for the retention of the traditional definition of marriage.

    If a family is the fundamental social building block of a society, then marriage is a very important issue. In this case, what has marriage always been throughout history? It has been the demonstration of sexual and social compatibility between men and women. It is within this traditionally defined family structure that children receive the benefit of observing and receiving the nurture of a mother and a father.

    Throughout history, whenever sex has been removed from the context of a committed life-long relationship between heterosexual partners problems have ensued. And these relational problems don’t just affect the couple or their children. They impact society. One recent example might be the sexual revolution in the ’60’s. At that time, individual freedoms propelled sexuality outside of marriage to a point of normalcy. There have been many negative consequences to this movement in our country. The explosion of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, unwed mothers, and children lacking solid homes with a mother and a father to raise them. Many sociologists point to fatherlessness as a plague in our society today. In fact, studies show how the lack of a father in the home results in an increased risk of crime, poverty, school dropout rates, emotional and behavioral unhealth, risky sexual activity and teenage pregnancy. By contrast, children who are raised within the context of a stable home where mom and dad stay together tend to fare much better in these areas.

    I am saddened by the state of marriage in our country today. So many marriages end in divorce. As a professional who works with teenagers, I see first hand how devastating the breakdown of marriage is to young people that I work with every day. I fear that taking any steps toward redefining marriage does not solve the problem, rather it further compounds an issue that is already devastating our culture. The answer, in my humble opinion, is not to redefine an institution that succeeds when it works as it should. It is to draw attention to something that works well when it is working well, and bolster it.

    Now, as for the rights denied to LGBT people, it seems to me that there could and should be a third option to guarantee certain rights to them. Rather than having to redefine marriage or refuse them rights, what might that be? Because I feel that there are social benefits to retaining the traditional definition of marriage – and imploring people in our country to acknowledge and bolster marriages – yet our country does provide freedom for individuals to live as they choose, it seems to me that there should be a third option. Perhaps civil unions could be an answer. But, I am uncertain that would solve all the issues that have been introduced by the fine people responding to this well-written and respectful post.

    • Andrew, many of my thoughts flowed as a result of your ideas about “progress”. This is what got me thinking about the results of the sexual revolution of the ’60’s. I really think you’re onto something worthy of a great deal of consideration.

      • Thanks Mark. The sociological argument you put forth holds a lot of weight with me. The only problem is that heterosexual marriage is NOT working well, which is part of the historical reason (from my perspective) we’re in the state we’re in. Politics follows culture, and our culture has been destroying marriage for decades now… the only solution it seems to me to THAT problem is not governmental but communal – for me, that’s the church. We need to embody a different and compelling vision for human sexuality.

      • Andrew, I totally agree. “We need to embody a different and compelling vision for human sexuality.” I agree 100%. I would say that the best remedy for poor marriages is great ones.
        I guess where I would take issue is over the idea that “heterosexual marriage is not working well”. I would say that divorce isn’t working well, and that the breakdown of the family isn’t working well. But, marriage as a commitment of one man & one woman through thick and thin ’til death do us part still works. The problem isn’t that marriage isn’t working. The problem is that fidelity to the institution of marriage has been undermined which allows for the family breakdown. And that is what is not working in our culture.
        Having that said, I come back around to agree that instead of being a reflection of our culture’s values, the church must demonstrate an authentic, alternative way of life. Sadly, marriages within the church have a dropout rate that is alarmingly similar to the rest of culture. This may very well be where the church has damages its credibility the most – especially regarding this particular conversation.
        Thanks for your blog and your response. It has sharpened my thinking and I have needed that!

  12. Bishop Arndt,

    Well said brother. I am equally perplexed by Christians that are vocally in the YES or NO camp on this one. Love prevents me from being in either column.

    To protest against equality in marriage vests too much authority in the state. It also says to my gay brothers and sisters that I believe them to be lesser citizens, which isn’t true. To protest against also seems to project the idea that homosexuality is a special sin that makes God more angry than all the other sins. I think that misses the mark on so many levels that I can’t even express it.

    However, to come out as actively for equality in marriage I believe also sends wrong messages. It is a sort of endorsement of the lifestyle itself. It projects the idea that “homosexual” is the true identity of these people and it is as inescapable as having dark skin or brown eyes. I can’t believe that based on what I read in scripture and my own personal convictions.

    I don’t think that God will judge our country based on the laws that we do or do not keep on the books. God judges hearts and His judgement is for the purpose of greater LIFE. I believe that all sin (gluttony, laziness, sexual sin, etc.) are diseases limiting life from its greatest abundance. That is what Christ came to give us: freedom, life, resurrection. So it is because of my love for my homosexual brothers and sisters that I cannot come out in favor of gay marriage per se. I fear it would further cement them in a situation that I hope they are eventually freed from as they advance in their walk with Christ.

    I have lots of my own hangups that Christ is gradually freeing me from. I don’t want my brothers in Christ to come out in public support telling me that I don’t need to be freed from these things. I want them to continue to love me out of them.

    It is interesting that this discussion should be had during Holy Week. I imagine that many of Christ’s followers in Jerusalem during this week were gearing up for Christ’s big political solution to all of their problems. After all He rode in on a colt, cleared the temple, confronted the religious power structure. He was clearly making the statement that he’d been slow to make until then, that He was the one prophesied about in scripture.

    I imagine so many assumed that the next step was that he would assume a position of power and begin righting all of the wrongs through the existing power structure. How freaking awesome is it that He did an about face and took a path of weakness that would subvert every power structure in the world for the next 2,000 years.

    To take a position on this would be to distract from the actual question for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike: What do you do with this man Jesus? Have we taken our crosses in hand today and followed? It probably won’t look like you think it will. It didn’t then and it probably won’t now.

    Thanks for saying this so well. Sorry for the long response. I think like many, I didn’t know I would say this much when I started typing. Miss you guys and love you.


  13. Extremely well said, balanced, and thought out. Thank you for making space for civil conversation and heart wrestling. I think the distinctions you have made are well stated, and define the boundaries well.

  14. This is an important conversation. I think the reason there are so many disagreements and debates amidst the Christian circles is because people are relying solely on their own personal convictions instead of the Word of God. The Spirit is the Word and the Spirit is Truth, according to I John 5, therefore the Word is Truth. Truth is absolute, therefore there can be only one Truth, otherwise it would not exist as an absolute.

    In I Corinthians 6:9-11, the Word of Truth says: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

    According to the NIV translation the term “men who have sex with men” refers to “passive and active participants in homosexual acts.”

    The problem occurs when we try to legislate righteousness. Nobody attempts to ban cohabitation, but there’s Scripture about that, too (the KJV calls it “chambering” and it’s another one of Paul’s “list items” that are characteristic of fallen man). Why don’t we fight to ban adultery and fornication? The right wing conservatives don’t hate on people who have sex outside of marriage.

    It’s the same thing.

    While “Christians” fight on political fronts against homosexual marriages and unions, the real work is done through the Spirit of God that is, in addition to Truth, Love. We must be truthful if we abide in the Spirit (and I Corinthians 6 says our bodies are the Temple of this Spirit), so we cannot hide the Truth of God’s Word from people. However, we must always present it through Agape – a true caring for another person above our own interests.

    Another problem is that people accept the wrong definition of “Open Mindedness.” Typically, if one person disagrees with another, this is being close-minded. True Open Mindedness is an openness and seeking of the Truth. See, our personal convictions mean nothing if they are in error. Therefore, we must be open minded and willing to change our own lives to match that with the Spirit of Truth states as Truth. Is God a man that He should lie?

    Judgement is the other part of this. We are told in Scripture (I Corinthians 3) not to judge those without, but that those within must be held accountable to the Word, to Jesus, to Truth. However, it’s all through Agape. Anyone, whether in sexual sin or other apparent sin, should be considered above one’s own self.

    We need to stop looking for allowance and start seeking the heart of God. We must be open minded to Truth and Love, through which we minister honesty and care to all, not judging those without but making sure those within are strong in the True Word, Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for the outlet, Andrew. These thoughts have been weighing heavily on my mind.

  15. Andrew, this is mark dawson using Rosemary’s facebook. I don’t have one my self. I think your thoughts are well constructed. I think the solution to this issue is to legalize gay unions, calling them civil unions. this would give them all the rights and privileges of marriage without calling it marriage. This is not just an issue of terminology. I have read that there are anywhere from 80-120 million Jews, Christians, and Muslims in this country who see marriage as that which has been established by God as a lifelong commitment between a man and woman. Our recognition that we live in a pluralistic society must go both ways. Several states in this country will allow a Muslim female to take a photo ID with their berka completely covering their face for no other reason than to respect their faith(and it could be argued that it could be potentially dangerous). Yet there appears to be a double standard. Already Supreme Court Justice Kagan has asked the question, who does it hurt? when discussing the overturn of California proposition 8. It would suggest that respecting faith is highly selective. The idea of a legalized civil union seems give what gay people are looking for and to acknowledge that a very significant number of people in this country see marriage as it is laid out in their respective faiths.
    I am hoping that this distinction would help to prevent some of the fallout feared by christians(and Jews who I talk with); that of lawsuits that religious institutions(such as Notre Dame, Liberty university etc.) must provide for homosexual married housing; or even that a minister refusing to perform a marriage for a homosexual couple be prosecuted for discrimination. One might say that I am being overly dramatic. I am not. Ministers in Canada have already been prosecuted for hate crimes when they have taught from the Bible that the practice of homosexuality is sin. I believe our current president would jump at the chance of removing the tax free status of a church that taught that the practice of homosexuality was sin or refused to perform gay marriage.

    • Mr Dawson! Thanks for weighing in… Two things:

      1) Agreed on civil unions, except the more I’m learning, it seems that part of the point at issue is that “civil unions” as they are currently set up in some states DO NOT actually confer all the legal benefits afforded to heterosexual marriages. Am I wrong here? What do you know?

      2) Agreed on the potential fallout. I’d love to see further “separation of church and state” here.

  16. I appreciate your bravery in spilling out your thoughts. Tenuous times are these. The love of Christ will identify the Body.

  17. We used to see Black people as merely work horses, we called them barbaric, godless, ignorant, savage, diseased. We built separate toilets, drinking fountains, schools and segregated them on buses…. Today we see them as equals. They have the right to marry white people, Asian people, Latin people etc. We go to the same bathrooms, eat at the same restaurants and we are haunted forever by our past relationships with the black community. We are and they are haunted by our enslavement of their people, our whips and chains were real then. When we beat these human beings, blood was spilled. When we segregated them, more blood was spilled both literally and figuratively. We are all haunted by our simple ignorance. People are people. Put the big book aside and look at God for what he stands for. Not so much the disciples interpretation and belief of what they think they heard and understood, but rather Gods true message of LOVE. Universal all encompassing love. If we can look upon all people with LOVE, and give everyone free expression of that love, call it marriage, civil union, equal rights, whatever…. No one is ruining the sanctity of anything, anymore than our black brothers and sisters were infecting a drinking fountain. It’s silliness. And it is time to look at GODS great message and put away the antiquated ideals of the past. Time to accept that, that was then… And today is different, but the message of love and acceptance is the same. Best of luck to you and your congregation.

    • Thank you Willow. Respectfully I disagree. Race is sacred, as I understand it according to Scripture. Our sexuality is a thing that needs to be ordered in certain ways to both protect it and us. And therefore it needs a criteria to order it. From where I stand, simple “acceptance” is not a rigorous enough criteria to do the work. Shall we simply “accept” polygamy? Incest? Serial divorce and remarriage? We react as we do to perceived disorders in our sexuality because we understand deep down that something crucial is at stake. To call the homosexuality conversation “off limits” is an irrational bias, in my opinion.



  18. I think the difficulty here is whether you understand homosexuality to be a “Sexual” problem like pornography or serial adultery, or whether you see it as how one was created. The problem that I see with making judgements about it is that we do not know the answer to this question…one might think they know but “woe to you religious teachers” if those beliefs cause us to treat the least among us in some other way than Jesus would.

  19. Pingback: On Gay Marriage | Trevor Lee

  20. Andrew, I’ve really enjoyed reading what you and others have to say on this topic, especially because it’s rare to find such thoughtful discussion. I am also conflicted, because it seems that there are so many inconsistencies when comparing the message of Jesus to some of the messages of the Church. I’ve had a “gut feeling” about my stance on this for a while now, but I haven’t quite figured out how to articulate all of my thoughts. Actually, I think I have more questions than thoughts. Becky did a great job of expanding my biggest question – “what if we’re wrong?” I can understand how at one time people thought that the scriptures pointed to the sun revolving around the earth, but being on this side of history lets us know the truth about that area, and now it seems a bit ridiculous that people who first embraced the idea of our earth not being the center of the universe were considered heretics. The Church has gotten some pretty big stuff wrong throughout history, so I don’t want to be arrogant and assume that everything I’ve been taught by the church is “right” without having some solid scriptural support. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there’s a time in the future where people will look back to the church’s traditional views on homosexuality and shake their heads at how wrong we’ve been for so long, just like we can do today with the issue of slavery.

    All that to say, one of your recent posts raised another question for me: how important is cultural context? You said, “Our sexuality… needs a criteria to order it.” You went on to mention polygamy and incest – but at certain times in Biblical history, these practices weren’t considered immoral. It’s always been explained to me that men in the Old Testament could have multiple wives, or marry cousins or siblings, because it was appropriate to the culture of the day. Jacob had multiple wives. And wasn’t Sarai Abram’s half-sister? And Abraham slept with Hagar because Sarah was barren and it was her idea to let him father a child with her servant, and this was culturally acceptable at the time, but today that situation would seem ridiculous. I assume your criteria for ordering our sexuality is scripture, but there’s no way John and I would ever follow Abraham & Sarah’s example if I couldn’t have kids (I know that the decision to have a child with Hagar had its consequences, but God promised to bless Ishmael & his descendants, so even though His promises were intended to be fulfilled thru Isaac, it doesn’t seem that Abraham did something explicitly wrong here). This may not be the best example, but I’m just asking a question, not making an argument, so I’m more concerned about the idea of using “cultural context” as justification than with having my specific example rebuffed.

    Here’s another question, one that I know the answer to in broad terms, but not so much in the specifics of this discussion: what is the point of the law? My understanding is that it serves the purpose of pointing people toward their need for God. Maybe the question I’m really asking is “why do we have rules?” and as it pertains to the issue at hand, why are/were there rules about homosexuality in the Bible? There are lots of rules that I’m sure made absolutely no sense to the Israelites, but we can look back and see that God put regulations in place to protect and teach them – rules about sanitation, quarantines from disease, and all kinds of other stuff. From the viewpoint of a parent, rules serve a purpose – I don’t put rules in place just to see if my son will obey me; all of my rules are either to protect or teach him, or a combination of the two. I think that most of the “law” and the rules we adhere to as Christians today serve these same purposes. Looking at OT prohibitions against homosexuality, what if God was simply trying to protect the world from AIDS or other STDs? I don’t think God has any pointless rules, and maybe this wasn’t the point of that rule at all, but what if it was, and what if the need for that protection isn’t necessary in today’s world where we can understand how to prevent such diseases from spreading and killing us off? (I know that we can’t possibly know all of the “why” answers, but this is the line of logic I follow when thinking about this subject).

    • Julie – fantastic thoughts.

      You bring up a lot of stuff here worth pondering, but I’ll just say that IMO it has been because of the vision for human sexuality presented within the Judeo-Christian tradition that we HAVE left so much ignorance and barbarism behind when it comes to our sexuality in Western civilization. My own take is that that vision is set forth in Genesis (one man, one woman, in perfect mutuality, reflecting the divine Image, standing in a posture of fundamental openness to new life, which comes straight from the hand of the creator), is reasserted by Jesus as the norm for sexuality (Matthew 19 and other places), and is thus the standard against which all other forms of sexuality are weighed in the scales and found wanting. Jesus, it seems to me, thinks that every supposed “innovation” in the area of our sexuality is a systematic deviation from the Creator’s intent (he even criticizes some of Torah’s permissions as institutionalized deviations, making Torah actually sound rather “liberal” on this point!). We get a consistency of perspective from Jesus to the Epistles, and throughout the early Church…

      This perpective has powerfully preserved and shaped sexuality in Western Civilization… that is, it has WORKED… and it’s only been in the last 50 years or so, upon its general cultural abandonment, that we start seeing the perversity and insanity of sexuality (I’m not talking about homosexuality specifically here) resurface.

      In my opinion, the way forward is not normalizing homosexuality, or any other deviation, but calling people to a fullness of life within the will of the Creator. I think that rather than abandoning the brilliance of the ancient vision, there needs to be a resourcement of it and a full exploration of how it gets fleshed out in community and family… who knows? We may recover our sanity yet.

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