Gay Marriage and Why Christians Shouldn’t Care
This essay isn’t intended to convince you to support gay marriage so much as to realign your perspective on the role of the Church and of Christians in America. In doing so I will attempt to refute typically “Christian” and “Conservative” arguments against legalizing gay marriage.
First – a foundational point – this is not, in any way, shape, or form, a Christian theological essay positing that homosexual behavior is “okay;” it is very clearly and plainly described as sinful in Romans Chapter 1. An aside to Christians – don’t ever reference Leviticus or anything else in the Old Testament for moral arguments; in doing so you have started your argument by shooting yourself in the knee. The catholic (by which I mean universal) Christian Church cannot sanction homosexual behavior; this includes holding homosexual marriage ceremonies (more on this later). I imagine there are other religions that would also agree on this point, but I am a Christian and so I will address what I know.
Secondly – if you are a non-Christian reading this article, I ask that you please respect my religious beliefs even if they conflict with your moral system, your sexuality, your lifestyle, your worldview, etc. I am going to discuss my ideas based on my religious faith. If you want to argue theology with me, that is fine, but you will lose. For me to say that my religious moral system declares homosexual behavior to be sinful does not fit the definition of bigotry. It is not hatred, it is not intolerance. It is my religion, and I try my best to adhere to it while maintaining a respectful, loving, and gentle attitude toward others. Please, do the same.
So, with that foundation in place – that homosexual behavior is indeed sinful and cannot be treated as acceptable within the Christian Church – we move forward with the purpose of this essay: why Christians shouldn’t be involved in the legal battle against gay marriage on any level.
The “Moral Sanctioning” Argument
One argument is that, of course, homosexuality is a sin so we can’t sanction it by legalizing gay marriage. In order to address this argument, we must first break it down. Is homosexuality a sin? If you mean homosexual behavior, then the answer is yes – that has been established. If you mean the state of being a homosexual – a person who confesses to feel a natural attraction to people of the same gender – then I would say that you are not in opposition to God by having those feelings.
Allow me to expand: one immediate retort will be that no one is born “gay,” “God wouldn’t do that,” “how could God make someone gay when homosexual behavior is sinful?” This line of reasoning is incorrect on many levels. I won’t deal with any neuroscience right now, but suffice it to say that science says yes, indeed you can be born with a natural attraction to the same gender. Aside from that, though, as I know many of my Christian brethren are science-averse, there are many other reasons that we can believe that homosexuals are born that way.
The first is simple: if someone comes to you and tells you that they have felt a natural homosexual attraction for their entire life, how on Earth can you tell them that they are wrong? You cannot reach into their mind and pull out evidence to prove that they are lying, can you? No, you cannot; and so we must carry on the conversation within the boundaries they have set. That would be like me telling you that you aren’t a Christian when you confess your faith to me. How am I to know (other than by relationship) whether or not you are telling the truth? Is it even my role to discern the sincerity of your convictions? I don’t think so.
Okay, you’re a homosexual. You’re born that way. Is that what the Bible describes in Romans 1 as sinful? As far as I read it, no. It describes homosexual activity as sinful. It doesn’t describe wanting homosexual activity as sinful. Let me illustrate this point with heterosexuality.
I was born a heterosexual. This has included – for my entire life – a natural desire to fornicate with beautiful women. Not just one. As many as I see, I desire to have. I don’t choose to have these desires, it is simply my nature. Am I sinning by having those desires, or what you could justifiably call temptations? No, I am not. I am condemned for entertaining these desires – for acting on them. Before you attempt to rebuke me with a quotation of Christ from Matthew 5 – “But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (v28, HCSB) – yes, I know that verse also. It does not apply to this situation either – when I say “entertaining” these desires, I am even referencing sexual thoughts. If I am married and I fantasize sexually about another woman, I am committing adultery in my heart. Every married Christian man is attracted to beautiful women other than his wife, so are they all adulterers? Absolutely not, unless they give in to those temptations – even on the mental level.
So if you were born with a natural homosexual attraction, you are not immediately living in sin unless you entertain those desires, an action over which you have total control.
Once a person engages in homosexual behavior “sin” has entered the equation, according to Romans 1. If that is the case, what “sinful” argument can anyone make against gay marriage? Homosexual couples are engaging in the sins described in the scriptures whether they are married or not. The marriage isn’t the sin, it is the behavior – which is already legal. And just because homosexual behavior is legal doesn’t mean we, the Christian Church, are seen as condoning that sin as acceptable within our moral structure. It is clear that we do not. We live in a secular society, rife with sin and corruption, and we always will.
The “Social Acceptance/Christian Nation” Argument
The next argument is that once gay marriage is legalized, it will become more socially acceptable and thus more prevalent – like abortion did after Roe v. Wade. This is probably true, but there is an assumption within this argument that breaks it. It is also deeply tied to another argument against gay marriage – possibly the most absurd argument – that America was founded as a “Christian” nation.
As far as the social acceptance of gay marriage or homosexuality goes: I would say that ship has sailed. Turn on any television show, read any book, browse any news site – the homosexual 3% of our population is pretty well represented in our culture & media. Most Millennials grew up with gay friends, or had friends with gay parents, or watched TV shows with gay characters. Homosexuality is, or is quickly becoming, a societal norm. Are there small towns that still shun homosexuals? Sure. But there are also small towns that still shun black people. There are always outliers.
The question for Christians is whether or not social acceptance really hinders our mission as believers. Doesn’t society already accept divorce? Sex outside of marriage? Greed? There are a lot of sins accepted by our society as “normal” or “okay” but that hasn’t damaged the Church. If anything, it helps us as we strive to become the Salt of the Earth. Lest we forget, we are a part of a society of sinners and as such sin is going to be the norm.
There is also this assumption that our society should morally reflect Christianity, or we should at least strive to make our society reflect Christian morality. There are numerous problems with this concept. First, no where in the Gospels does Christ encourage us to “go and Christianize culture and society.” He tells us to make disciples of the nations, and if we follow His example we will do that by love and relationship.
To declare the USA to have been “founded as a Christian nation” is probably the most small-minded, ridiculous manipulation of American History that anyone could make. Was our nation founded on a generally Judeo-Christian moral structure? Yes, I don’t think that’s a far reach. However, as a “Christian” nation? Many of the founding fathers were not exactly paragons of Christian faith. I am not going to delve into the minutia of quotations, examples, and other facts to support this argument. That is beyond the scope of this article.
Let me instead ask this question – even if the founding fathers were all faithful Christians and did not found the United States with freedom of religion as a core principal after fleeing religious persecution in England, even if they did intend for this country to be “Christian,” would we want that? Look at every other historical example of the intertwining of Church and State. How well does it work out? The Catholic Church was guilty for a myriad of atrocities during the hundreds of years where it enjoyed governing powers in Europe. John Calvin’s Geneva was far from a bastion of freedom. There are dozens of other examples of corruption, violence, and sin performed in the name of Jesus by Christian theocracies. A Christian government will not result in a Christian society or a Christian populace. It will accomplish the exact opposite.
Furthermore, it is not at all the example that Jesus set when He came to Earth, God Incarnate. Jews of Christ’s time expected the Messiah to arrive and ascend to the throne, conquering Rome and subjugating all other peoples beneath his Holy theocracy. They expected a Davidic warrior-king. What they got was the sacrificial servant, the Pascal lamb. And what a glorious victory that unexpected Messiah brought about in defeating death and delivering salvation to the world! However, we must note that, had He wanted, Christ could have easily been that Davidic warrior-king the Jews wanted to see. But He did not do that. He chose another route, and we see the brilliant beauty of God’s plan in that decision. Because He did not fulfill their expectations, the Jews crucified Christ as a blasphemer.
It is prudent to ask: were Christ to arrive now and not two thousand years ago, would he be running for President? Would we expect Him to? What would his ministry look like today?
The Degradation of the Family Unit Argument
The next argument is that legalizing homosexual marriage would irreparably degrade the “traditional” nuclear family unit. When we present this argument, Christians are essentially insulting homosexuals by saying that every heterosexual degradation of the family unit has been fine with us, but theirs is unacceptable. Where has the national outcry been about our culture of divorce? Adultery? Rampant pornography? It has been minimal or totally non-existent. I am not going to posit a theory as to why we have zeroed in on homosexuality as the sin we don’t like, but we have, and it is entirely inconsistent.
How can we preach about the family unit when so many Christians readily embrace divorce? I read an article in USA Today a year or so ago about how people have been lied to about the Christian divorce rate when they are told that it is roughly the same as for non-Christians. After explaining methodology for the surveys that coughed up those statistics, the sociologist that was the subject of the article concluded that while people who identified as evangelicals but never attended church had a 60% divorce rate, those who regularly attended only had a 38% divorce rate.
Wow! What a statistical victory! By comparison to 60%, 38% looks like an improvement, but shouldn’t we be comparing it to 0%, or at least something in the single digits? If adultery is the only permissible criteria for divorce, do you really think that 38% of Christians that regularly attend church committed adultery? Sure, some of them did, but I sincerely doubt it was a majority.
And if it was a majority, if 38% of evangelicals who regularly attend church commit adultery that results in divorce, don’t we still have a huge problem? Either we have a church culture of flippant divorce or we have a church culture of marital infidelity, both of which are terminal cancers upon the very heart of what we would consider the traditional family unit.
Why are we spending so much energy fighting secular legislation concerned with a secular group of people when our own community is rotting from the inside? How can we possibly expect to be taken seriously in our moral posturing when our filth is so clearly visible?
The truth is that we aren’t really concerned with the family unit at all. If we are, we’re doing an absolutely abysmal job of putting our money where our mouth is. It’s hard to claim the moral high ground when straight people are ceding it faster than you can say “pre-nup.”
The Definition of Marriage Argument
The next argument is that the government is attempting to change the definition of marriage. It is true, our secular government is trying to change the legal definition of marriage.
The government cannot reach into our Bibles and change the text to suit society. If homosexual marriage is legalized, homosexual behavior will still be sinful according to the scriptures and homosexual marriages will still be thus prohibited. The government can’t change our definition of marriage.
And to get a little Libertarian for a moment, what is the government doing in the business of marriage in the first place? Isn’t marriage a religious institution, be it Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or whatever? I realize that there are certain legal and tax reasons for the government to issue marriage licenses, but shouldn’t they all just be civil union licenses? If our government is truly secular, it should only be able to grant civil unions for any couple, not just gay couples. Call it a marriage if you want, what difference does it really make?
As a Christian, if I go down to the courthouse with my fiancée and get legally married, we both know that the process isn’t finished for us. We wouldn’t really be “married” even though the government said we were. We would need our religious ceremony to be truly united in a covenant before the Lord. So what is the government’s role? Paperwork. That’s okay, but let’s all recognize that’s all it is – paperwork. The real significance for the religious happens in the place of worship, and even if the government tries (and many governments do) they can’t change that.
And Finally – The Persecution Argument
The final argument I’ll address is the argument that if homosexual marriage does get legalized, it will result in wanton and rampant persecution of the Christian Church via litigation and, assumedly, within the media and culture at large. I first heard this argument presented by the brilliant and hilarious Eric Metaxas.
I must say, within the context of the precarious situation in which private companies like Hobby Lobby have been placed by the HHS Contraception Mandate, I find this to be a somewhat realistic scenario.
I don’t know if litigation against churches that choose not to perform homosexual weddings will ever find success in the courts, but I do think it likely that the term “bigot” will quickly become much more commonly associated with Christians and other adherents to religions that prohibit homosexual behavior.
Again, though, I must ask – so what? Where in the scriptures does Christ encourage his followers to avoid persecution at all costs, even by legislative and legal measures? Doesn’t Christ say that we should expect persecution? Shouldn’t we be more concerned with our current status of complacency than with the prospect of suffering in the name of our Lord and Savior?
To that argument some have said “yes, but we shouldn’t seek out persecution.” I dispute that on two levels – first that it is a non-sequitur. If we do not spend millions of dollars, millions of hours, and untold emotional energy to push to make a sinful behavior illegal we are not seeking out persecution. Is it more likely? Sure, but we aren’t really seeking it out, we are just welcoming it as a possibility. Why is that unChristian? Matthew 5:10-12 leads me to believe that it is quite the opposite.
Secondly – even if it was seeking out persecution, why would that be a bad thing? Do you think that the organizers of underground churches in China are seeking out persecution? I would say that they are boldly building up the Bride of Christ in a dark and terrible place. Praise God for the bravery with which He has blessed them through the Spirit! Right?
So if they are brave… what are we?
We Are Not Called to Judge Outside of the Church
Matthew 7 quite clearly states that we are not called to judge others. Paul goes on to elaborate when speaking about church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5. He exhorts the Church at Corinth “not to associate with sexually immoral people.” (1 Cor 5 v9, HCSB). The next verses in which he clarifies his point are the foundation of my entire argument, as quoted from the HCSB, emphasis mine:
1 Corinthians 5 V10-13
10 I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. 11 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 12 For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? 13 But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves.
And therein lies the crux of my entire thesis. Why would we be concerned with the morality of the secular world? That is not for us to judge. Let us examine the giant planks in the eye of the body of Christ and work about removing those instead.
Even if the person is a homosexual that claims to be a Christian, that is still a matter of the Church and not a matter of the State. There is no reason for legislation, but instead church discipline, theological enforcement, and, if necessary, expulsion from the body of believers.
Christ could have ascended to the highest levels of government when He came to Earth, establishing his Kingdom and law over all the land. Instead He came to Earth, washed the feet of sinners, built loving relationships with the lowliest of lows, and died a wretched, vulgar death to save the lives of all people. I believe His example should be the cornerstone of our approach to those outside the Church.
I am not saying that Christians should not be involved in politics (in writing this I would be a hypocrite, wouldn’t I?) or that Christians shouldn’t be concerned with political matters. I am saying, however, that people will not be converted by a legislated Gospel. They will be converted by looking in your eyes, hearing your voice, and seeing the sincerity of your faith in your every day life. They will feel the radiance of the spirit as you walk with them through their lives – the good, the bad, and the boring. That is how we will transform our culture and society.
I don’t think that the real object of concern in any of these arguments is actually Christ, the Church, or even anything religious. I think we are concerned that our comfortable, ichthys-decal culture may be crumbling around us. Homosexual marriage will not change the truth of the Gospel, it will not destroy the Church, and it will not hinder our mission as believers. It will, however, make us very uncomfortable, and I’d say that may be just exactly what we need.