What are we to say?
A lot of Christians have some concerns over the debate going on over Same-Sex Marriage (SSM) today. Honestly, I don’t think this is directly the fault of individual Christians so much as it is of churches. Our churches have failed us by and large. We have not been taught how to think Christian. We have only been taught to be good little children, as if the only reason Jesus came and died and rose again was so that we could all get along.
Now I’m not objecting to Christian morality. It should be taught. However, it needs a foundation. It has one already, but it is not known. Too many Christians have this idea that they will sit down with their Bible and God will just beam down the information to them as they read or some mystical experience like that. That can happen, but it is not to be expected. The reality is like learning anything else, you will have to do some study and frankly, you can’t count on your pastor to do it all for you. (And personally, I think most pastors have no business being in the pulpit. Pastor. If you cannot give a case for Christianity beyond personal experience and can’t answer critics, you have no business being in the pulpit.)
What I am wanting to do in this post is to introduce you to a new way of thinking on the issue, but I recommend you go online and look up sites in Christian apologetics on thinking about these issues. If you do not know, Christian apologetics refers to the defense of Christianity. In our day and age, you will need much more than just “The Bible says so.” In fact, I would discourage you from using the Bible in this debate. It makes the issue a religious issue instead of a social issue. Marriage existed before the Bible and exists around the world even where there is no Bible. It is known through general revelation. You don’t need the Bible to know what marriage is and to know homosexual behavior is wrong.
For now, let’s look at some concerns Christians have.
“But I don’t think we can judge can we?”
Matthew 7:1 seems to be the most popular Bible verse. Is Jesus condemning all judging? Not at all. Looking at the context, Jesus is condemning hypocritical judging. Note he says to not give what is sacred to dogs and throw our pearls to swine. You have to judge to know what is sacred, what are dogs, what are pearls, and what are swine. You have to judge to know there is a speck in your brother’s eye as well as a plank in your own.
This is something we do regularly. When you go out somewhere and leave your car, you lock the doors. Why? Because you know there are people who might want to steal your car or items in it. When we go to sleep at night, we lock our doors. Why? Because we know there are evil people out there who might want to rob us and hurt us. If you are married, you made a judgment whether to marry your spouse or night. If you have kids, are you going to let anyone who knocks on your door be a babysitter when you go out at night?
As soon as you call something right or wrong, you are making a judgment. In fact, the reason Jesus came was to deal with sin. If you are going to give the gospel to someone, you have to tell them that they are in sin and that involves a judgment. You have to tell them that Jesus is Lord and that involves telling them all other claimants to the title are wrong.
Yes. Make a judgment. You have to. Be loving in your judgment. That does mean you might have to say something that does initially hurt. We all do that. In fact, many of us have appreciated when someone came and hit us right between the eyes with a judgment we needed to hear because they loved us enough to say it. If you think someone is living in sin that will cause them to not be in the presence of God, it is the most loving thing to do to tell them.
“Isn’t it wrong to hate?”
What? Did I surprise you with that?
You hate several things like me I’m sure. I hate lies. I hate injustice. I hate bullying. I hate evil. If you love something, you will want to go against that which contradicts it. If my wife is being hurt by someone, I can hate that she is being hurt. It does not necessitate that I hate the person doing that to her, but it does mean that I hate what is happening to her. We’ve been taught in our society that all hate is evil. This is not the case. Some hate is essential because it goes against what we love.
To be clear, we are not to hate homosexuals. We can hate homosexual behavior however because we believe that this keeps people from being all they can be. It is the same reason you hate alcoholism in a loved one if you have one who is alcoholic. If you have a friend who has a pornography addiction, you will hate that addiction and still love the person. Now you could be wrong for the sake of argument on homosexual behavior being harmful. I don’t think you are, but you cannot be wrong in why you think you are doing it. You are the one who knows that.
Keep in mind when someone refers to you as a hater or a homophobe or a bigot, they are begging a huge question. They are assuming that it is already an established fact that homosexuality is perfectly moral and everyone knows that. Therefore, the issue is not open for debate and the problem must be you. You are what is wrong. Don’t fall for it. For instance, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose I hated homosexuals. Does that mean that my position on homosexuals is wrong? No. The way you know my position is wrong only by looking at the data. Calling someone a hater or some other name is a way of avoiding the real issue. Don’t fall for it.
“Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality.”
Explicitly? No. However, Jesus didn’t speak about rape, pedophilia, bestiality, and a number of other issues. The idea is that if Jesus was silent on an issue, then obviously that meant he did not have a problem with it. That being said, let’s suppose you’re a Christian at church and you meet someone else who is a Christian. Do you usually ask if they believed Jesus rose from the dead? No. If you’re a Christian, it’s understood you believe that. If you’re a Jew in 1st century Israel, there was much to disagree on, but one thing could be agreed on. At least the first five books of the Old Testament came from God.
Those first five books also condemned homosexuality.
We have instances where Jesus did say something different, such as pronouncing all foods clean, but we don’t have him changing moral issues. Well, not in the way we think. When he changed moral issues, he made them stronger. The Old Testament said “Do not commit adultery.” Jesus said “Do not lust.” It said “Do not murder.” Jesus said “Do not hate your brother in your heart.” Do we have any reason to think he would have changed the homosexual rules, especially with all the other sexual rules that went along with it?
Notice also there is no hint of change in the New Testament anywhere on this. Look at how many times sexual sin is condemned in the New Testament. In 1 Cor. 5, we have the case of a man with his stepmother. The Corinthians could have seen this as freedom from the Law and they were celebrating it. Paul had none of it and let them know that this was something so wicked it was not even done among the pagans!
If Jesus was silent, it would be more likely that He DID agree with the beliefs that were taught in the first five books. We do not have anything from Jesus correcting the Jews on this issue and if it was such an important one, then it would seem that Jesus would have said something about it. Even when he showed grace, remember he still condemned sin. If you consider the story of the woman caught in adultery authentic, Jesus did tell her to go and sin no more. (By today’s standards, since Jesus condemned sin, do you realize he would be called a hater?)
“Isn’t Leviticus just something that is temporal? Aren’t I being arbitrary?”
A lot of people make the claim that the only verses in Leviticus Christians know are the ones condemning homosexuality. This is indeed a shame. Leviticus is the one that has the word to love your neighbor as yourself. It also talks about the Day of Atonement in there, something all Christians should know about. Still, Leviticus says this is an abomination, but it also says that eating shellfish is an abomination. Aren’t we picking and choosing?
First off, the word abomination can refer to something ritually unclean, but it can refer to a wicked act. How can you tell? Context. Look at the surrounding passage. For one thing, these activities mentioned are not just rituals. There is a reason you’re not to marry close relatives and I believe it was for more than just DNA mixing too closely producing children with genetic conditions. It was blurring the lines of the family.
But most importantly, in Leviticus 18 and 20, the verses following the list of sins tells us that it is for committing these sins that other nations are being cast out. Other nations were never punished for not following the dietary restrictions or wearing mixed fabrics. Those were practices that set Israel apart from the other nations as a sign they were in covenant with God. The other nations were commanded by Israel to live moral lives, but they were never commanded to follow Jewish practices. Jews could be condemned for trading with other nations on the Sabbath, but the other nations were not condemned for working on the Sabbath.
Note also that this places homosexuality in the category of general revelation. Other nations were cast out because of doing things that we can say that they should have known better. It would not make sense for God to punish a people when they could not have known that they were doing anything wrong. Since this is in general revelation then, you don’t need the Bible. It would be better to study other issues relating to homosexuality and how it affects other people.
“Aren’t we denying equal rights?”
Let me make a list of my rights as a heterosexual man for choosing a spouse.
I must marry someone of the opposite sex.
They cannot be a close relative.
They must be a human.
They must be someone of age.
I can only marry one person.
Here are the rights of a homosexual person.
They must marry someone of the opposite sex.
They cannot be a close relative.
They must be a human.
They must be someone of age.
They can only marry one person.
The criteria are different. Now they can tell us they can’t marry the person they love. You are not so much meant to marry the person you love, as you are to love the person you marry. When my wife and I went to get our marriage license, we were never asked “Do you two love each other?” Frankly, the state couldn’t care. All they care about is that we’re a couple coming together that can build up the next generation.
What is being asked for in this case is different rights. The whole idea is that all that matters is the happiness of the persons involved. The question is not asked about whether this is good for society as a whole. Note also we have a bad view of happiness today. We think happiness means a sort of good emotional experience. No. Happiness is found more in realizing your place in the universe and fulfilling it. For the ancients, your happiness could be altered after you were dead, and for someone like Aristotle, you wouldn’t even exist then and could have your happiness changed!
We all know happiness does not come from getting everything we want. There are many things we want that are not good for us. Wives. Consider this. When your husband is walking down the street and he sees other women, he is tempted with something that he wants. Now do you want to allow him to go out and have a number of affairs just because that’s what he wants? Or, should it be that he should seek to change his wants so that he only wants you? For we men, this is a battle we have to fight. We have to train our eyes. We are all called to faithfulness, but that does not mean that it is easy.
“You can’t help who you love!”
Would the case be the same if someone loved children, such as goes on in NAMBLA? Now immediately too many in the homosexual community says that that is not homosexuality. Now I would agree that the majority of homosexuals are not pedophiles. That is true. However, if you have attraction for someone of the same sex, that is what it is. I am thankful that homosexuals by and large would also condemn such behavior.
The problem with this is that you can help who you love. If a married man starts developing desires for another woman, he would not be justified in telling his wife “I’m having an affair because I can’t help who I love.” The man has to change his desires and that can be a battle. People treat this as easy. They often say “Why would someone choose to be homosexual?” Why would a man choose to desire other women? He doesn’t. It is just his nature and as much as he wants to change it, he also has to work on it. If a desire is wrong however, then that is what must be done.
“How can you deny their love?”
How can you deny incestual couples their love? How can you deny polygamous couples their love? How can you deny the love of a man and a boy in NAMBLA? The objection assumes all love is good. There are loves that we have that are not good and we should seek to change them. Not all love is equal.
“It doesn’t harm anyone!”
If an action is sinful, even if it is just internal, it harms someone as it builds up an attitude. Note also the affect this has on families. Do you believe a father and a mother are the best environment for a child to be raised in, and most preferably their natural parents? If so, then you should support traditional marriage. To accept homosexual marriage is to accept that men and women are interchangeable as parents. Only a man can truly teach a boy how to be a man and teach a girl how to relate to men and vice-versa for women.
At the bottom of this post, I will also have a link showing the effects of SSM on Massachusetts that a friend sent me.
Keep in mind also that laws change attitudes. Divorce laws for instance affect those that will never get divorced. Why? It builds up in our culture the idea that marriage is not a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman but something that can be broken. That idea can be built up in someone implicitly and they live in marriage with the idea that their spouse could leave them at any moment even if their spouse would never dream of it.
“Aren’t we just legalizing a religion?”
No. We are making a law about a practice. This practice happens to be condemned in a religion, but it is not exclusive to the religion. We can say that the Ten Commandments condemn murder, but that does not mean that we are going to throw out the laws against murder just because a religious institution upholds it. What we need to do is not look and see “Does a religion teach this?” but rather “Is this a true moral principle?” If it is, we should uphold it whether any religion believes it or not.
“But we can’t legislate morality!”
Baloney. Morality is the only thing that can be legislated. Let us suppose that I was president and passed a law that forbid drawing stick people on Friday and if you did so, you would be executed. You would say “Nick. That’s ridiculous!” “Why?” “Because there’s no basis for such a law and with such an extreme penalty.” Exactly. There’s no basis. All laws have to have a moral basis in order to be valid. Our branch of government in the U.S.A. is called the Legislative Branch. We did not see ourselves as lawmakers but revealers of the law.
“Aren’t we to love?”
Yes. We are to love, but we are not to love that which is wrong. If someone is in the wrong, then it is loving to point that out to them. Yesterday, someone asked me if I would have an outcry if someone was trying to treat Christianity the way homosexuality is supposedly being treated. I said I would have no problem. In fact, I’d love it. I think one of the best things ever for the church has been the rise of the New Atheists. I want people to come and challenge my position. Why? Because that is when I get the chance to demonstrate my claim. I am sure my position is right, and therefore I don’t fear dialogue. Now if you’re sure yours is, you should have the same opinion.
Good Christian. I applaud you in wanting to be loving, but don’t accept it on the terms of the world. Don’t play the game according to the rules of the other side. If they do not want to dialogue, don’t dialogue. Someone who just calls you a hater, bigot, and/or homophobe is not someone who is interested in dialogue. I will engage with them in the public forum only to demonstrate to other Christians that these guys can be answered.
I also recommend for more information resources such as the Ruth Institute with the work of Jennifer Roback Morse.
I also ask your prayers in all of this. I and others are on the front lines and we value your support.
Information on the effects of SSM in Massachusetts can be found here.