On two occasions I have written about abortion (An Inflammatory Issue: Abortion & Speaking for the Victims of Progress). For each of those postings I took great care to control my emotions and also the language that I used. It is too easy to slip into a righteous rant, and I wanted my thoughts to shine clearly. I bring this up because I am now about to dive into another volatile topic: gay marriage. Truthfully, I have avoided this issue because of how challenging it is to discuss. This is the hot button issue of our day, exposing our deepest beliefs regarding freedom, morality, religion, family, society, sexuality, and love. Like abortion, it is an issue that often defines a political position. And, also like abortion, it defies many attempts to discuss with a cool head. Though I can’t promise that I won’t offend, I can promise a most sincere effort to proceed with clarity and compassion. Here we go.
I’m interested in what is behind an opinion, or a value, or a belief. What is the primary force inside of you and me that shapes our characters and the nature of our thoughts and wills? To tackle the topic of gay marriage, I think it is most helpful to try to identify the primary forces at work in both parties, for and against. You may think I am being too ambitious or resorting to too much personal opinion, and perhaps that is the case. All I ask is that you consider what’s to follow and ask yourself if I’m completely nuts or if I have a leg to stand on.
The popular liberal position on gay marriage is that it’s good, natural, and nobody’s business. They see society as advancing in tolerance, freedom, and reason as more states legalize same-sex marriage. Legalized gay marriage is viewed as a victory for progress. Furthermore, those who oppose this movement are viewed as having out of touch beliefs that are largely informed by outdated values. Many who oppose gay marriage are influenced by their religions. Those influenced by religion are in large part viewed as religious fundamentalists, which means they interpret their holy book literally. Each of the three major world religions condemn homosexual lifestyles, so the opposition either takes a more liberal stance on their religion (allowing for the acceptance of homosexual behavior) or they dig in their heels and quote their ancient texts. Many liberals are critical of conservative Christians especially, calling them bigots, homophobes, and haters. Society as a whole is growing more tolerant of gays and gay marriage, and this is good for those people who have lived in fear of judgment. There are many cases of teen suicide related to bullying, and many of these are hate crimes linked to anti-gay sentiments. Accepting same-sex marriage paves the way for gays to live more freely and securely in a society that is just now shaking off its puritanical roots.
If you represent the position I just described, please feel free to critique or condemn what I just wrote. I’m sure there are elements I am missing or glossing over. I’m attempting to sum up a position that isn’t my own so it would be better if someone who supports gay marriage had input.
The popular conservative position is that gay marriage is bad, unnatural, and nobody’s business. They believe that family is the foundation of society and marriage is the foundation of family. Many conservatives are informed by traditional values, which are informed by religious values. They point to a long history of civilization, but mainly to the short history of America for evidence of the time-tested legitimacy for heterosexual marriage. They view their opponents as possessing a worldly morality, that is one formed by the trends and passions of modern society. These liberals are governed by their own passions and desire for personal freedom, and pay no respect to a higher standard of right and wrong. Freedom is their god, and they recklessly sacrifice traditional values on its altar. To many conservative Christians, liberals who favor gay marriage are attempting to redefine marriage and pass legislation that will shift our society’s standards further away from the standards of God and traditional American values.
Once again I am fitting these beliefs into a nutshell. There’s much more to say on both sides of the issue. But for now I want to leave them be and move onto my own beliefs on this matter.
I ask myself, what is the role of the Christian church in shaping America’s policies? It is one thing to view a particular way of life as sinful, but it is another to influence secular society by fighting for political power. Should Christians be able to speak about their critical views on homosexual behavior, absolutely. This wouldn’t be America if people couldn’t express their beliefs openly. Open expression doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. It just means that the government doesn’t snuff it out of the public square. I think all reasonable people can agree that civil discourse on this and any other issue is essential.
Regarding the political fight to shape legislation, or to prevent legislation, I am less confident about my role. It is one thing to establish a common morality within the church, and it is another to try to establish one in the world.
Is it our place to fight for the highest seats of power? Is it our place to expect the same way of life from those who don’t know Jesus Christ? I think it is damaging for people to treat America like a church, as if everyone used to be Christian and we just have to knock some sense into them. I see many people like myself dreading the changes in society as if society is meant to reflect the status of the Christian church. Society as a whole is a part of the world, and even though we live in it and shape it, we can’t look to it like we would look to the body of Christ. The church is called to be set apart from the ways of the world. What happens when the church judges someone outside of it as if that person were a member? Is that what Jesus wants us to do? Or does he ask us to live for Him and model a righteous life? Maybe then we would appear as bright lights to a dark world.
To sum up my position,,,
I believe that those on both sides of the gay marriage issue should speak openly and courageously. We as Americans shape the world around us based on our values. Christians like myself should vote for those people who most closely reflect their values just as anyone else should. But when society shifts further away from biblical values, Christians are not meant to panic and dread as if the church itself were crumbling. The church is a people set apart, and cannot demand of the world that it live in submission to its principles. That doesn’t mean that we curl into a ball and die. It simply means that we expect one thing from the church and another from society. Since Americans have the freedom to shape their government, and as a result their society as a whole, every individual also shares in the responsibility of the result. For that reason religious and non-religious alike should take an active role in politics. But the Christian doesn’t look to a worldly nation for his or her spiritual affirmation. They look to God, and their brothers and sisters in Christ.