Gay Christian follow up: thoughts on gay marriage

This is the 3rd post in this Gay Christian conversation.  Be sure to read the first one first, which includes commenting rules, and read the 2nd one, written by Jim Decke.  Here are some follow-up thoughts from me on one of the comments underneath the first post:

Some difficult words to chew on, brought to you by my friend Jeff R. in the comment section of the first post: (after agreeing with me that homosexual behavior is a sin and should not be elevated above other sins, but please read his entire comment to get the full context) And I would never argue that someone who sleeps with someone of the opposite sex outside of marriage, or someone who gets angry easily and often, or someone who is lazy, or someone who dwells on impure thoughts, or someone who uses porn, or someone who lies often to make themselves look better, or someone who gossips shouldn’t be able to serve his country, live where she wants, adopt children, or have their relationships recognized by the government on the basis that they are also world-class sinners. So why then would I oppose those things for homosexuals? To me the answer is clear: because I don’t really see myself as being a world-class sinner, that I see homosexuals as being in a class worse than me, more unholy, less deserving of being treated well. I’m willing to stone the adulteress woman as Jesus looks on.

These are powerful words from Jeff.  I’d be curious how some of you respond to this.  For me personally, it’s very convicting.  My auto-response to gay marriage is to vote against it on spiritual reasons, but at the same time I’m also not starting a petition to make those who’ve had premarital sex unable to marry, or those who’ve looked at porn unable to marry, or those who have divorced unable to remarry.  Why is this?  So on this level, YES I agree with Jeff I think we still have a double-standard in how we spiritualize our response to legislate against homosexuality, but we don’t seek to legislate against others sins, sins I just preached that are all equal with homosexuality.

I think the other side of the coin that I see is that “marriage” is something seen as sacred and God-designed between a man and a woman.  So if someone is sinning before marriage, we still allow them to get married because we still want them to get to marriage, whereas with homosexuals, we don’t see a way they’ll ever “get to” God’s design of marriage, so what we are standing up against is a new definition of marriage, different than the one we believe in and that God defines.  I think that’s what it comes down: how do we define marriage?

Getting off the fence and stating an actual opinion: I think it’d be best suited to give homosexuals the legal rights of marriage but somehow delineating a in-the-eyes-of-God definition of marriage from a legal, in-the-eyes-of-the-government union.  What I mean is, why does the spiritual definition of marriage have legal/civic connections to it anyway?  (i.e. tax benefits, shared health insurance, etc.)  Church and State are separated so it seems odd to me that those things are combined.  I’m sort of thinking out loud here.  I can see a homosexual’s point in saying “why don’t we get the tax benefits of a heterosexual couple?” –I can answer that on a spiritual level = Homosexual behavior is a sin + God’s design for sex/marriage is a man and a woman…but I can’t answer it on a legal/civic level.  And so if my final answer is “I am depriving civic rights to you because of your sin”, then I think Jeff’s point comes in loud and clear, why don’t we make equal efforts to deprive legal/civic rights from other sinners / for other sins?  Because if we did that, we’d have to deprive them from ourselves!

Thinking out loud here and still wrestling with these thoughts, but hey, thinking is a good thing, right?  This level of conversation is really making me analyze the motives of my heart, and like Jeff said, my own pride and self-righteousness.  I’d ask that you not read into what I wrote and assume I’m advocating for gay marriage to be legal.  What I’m advocating is that we practice what we preach and if we say all sins are equal, wow that carries a lot of weight when it comes to our own sins and the way we respond to them practically (in contrast to how we respond to other sins practically).

Thoughts from others would be helpful on this.  Please be calm and respectful.

I’ve been really impressed with everyone’s comments thus far.  I will post more in the next couple days hitting on some of the other topics you brought up, and Jim may also.

All of the posts in this “Gay Christian” series:



Related Posts by Noah:

17 responses to Gay Christian follow up: thoughts on gay marriage

  1. I have been shifted from the legal opposition to being supportive of it. I do not see any legal reason/authority to be opposed to gay marriage. Without a legal reason Christians are left to trying to enforce a moral commandment on a population that is not christian. Think about this as an outsider of the church, it simply doesn’t make sense. Alternatively imagine being in a society where there is a aging religious group that held the reigns to enforcing certain laws (like no working on the Sabbath, girls have to marry there rapist, use your imagination for more examples) keeping in mind a significant amount of the population was not a part of this religion. I hope you can feel the sort of oppression towards you the minority this causes. In terms of marriage equality Christians have become the oppressing force. Although their desire to keep marriage “sacred” in a religious sense may be noble, trying to stop the sinners from sinning is not something I feel we should be trying to legislate.

  2. A lot of good points here Noah!! Some questions I’ve thought about myself, seeing marriage as a civic union and/or as a sacred ceremony. Here’s my issue: So my best friend from undergrad is a homosexual. He and I have a very clear understanding that I believe his behavior as a homosexual are sinful, but I to am sinful in some of my own actions. I love him as a person and that is made very clear to him, so much so that he has asked me to be part of his wedding (which won’t take place until spring 2014). I wasn’t sure how to respond at first…I was honored. He told me that I am one of the most significant people in his life, one who has actually attempted to keep in touch with him since he moved to Boston last summer.

    I asked one of my good friends who is a lot like me (social work student, Young Life leader, best friend is homosexual) what she’d do if Eric (her friend) asked her to be part of his wedding one day. She said that that was a good question, hard to answer. She honestly said though that she probably would be part of it because she couldn’t imagine not seeing as how good of a friend he is to her. I spoke with a another friend and she made a good point asking asking what does my religious and moral beliefs have to do with whether or not I’m standing in a wedding for a person I love.

    He and I haven’t talked about it since that one time he brought it up, and who knows, in a year and a half from now that might change. But at the end of the day I think I would be a part of it to show support that I love him, and his partner, as humans and creations of God despite their behavior that I view as sinful because everyone has it, including myself.

    • Amanda, what if you had a friend who wanted to have an affair and wanted you to celebrate the affair by having a party? Would you go to the party?

      • Dan, I get where you’re coming from, but I’m not sure a party for an affair and gay marriage are a great comparison because parties for affairs are not something people do, they aren’t important life milestones, like a marriage is. They aren’t something a best friend would expect a best friend to be at. I guess what I’m saying is Amanda’s predicament isn’t as black and white as your question infers. The other difference is that no one in our culture sees affairs as a lifestyle that is hardwired into them. Most people that have affairs admit there is some level of “wrong” to them. These are major contrasts to homosexuality and gay marriage, where the people involved don’t acknowledge any wrongness and they definitely believe their homosexuality is hardwired into them. So again, these elements cloud the picture quite a bit, as far as having a friend who disapproves of a behavior that the other friend approves of and see as a part of their identity.

  3. The purpose of marriage is not to provide benefits; marriage is the basis of family where children are born and reared, and the benefits are society’s way of helping families defray the high cost of rearing children. The argument that gays couples should have the same right is settled by the simple fact that gay couples do not bear children. Apart from having and raising children, I think perhaps the idea of partnership should be extended to everyone, without consideration of sex. For example, a person should be able to specify who can visit him or her in the hospital; I’m unmarried, and I feel I have the right to name my preferences for visitors. Economic benefits beyond those helping in the rearing of children should either benefits all partners or none; what does that have to do with sex?

  4. I
    think an important fact to remember is that marriage is not a Christian
    invention, nor is it exclusive to one religion. I understand that it is
    a highly spiritual experience for many people, but it’s also a legal
    ceremony. A church can decide who it deems worthy of marrying within
    it’s walls, but should their idea of sin have any impact on the
    government’s definition of marriage?

  5. Noah,

    I was very happy to hear your thoughts on this. This has been an interesting topic and one that will always have interesting points of view. Here are my thought on Gay Marriage: Homosexuality is a sin but we are all sinners ( I think that is something we can all agree on) But first and formost people who are gay too are People and should be treated as such. For me this means they need to have the same rights that have been granted to us. The right to marry and decide who should make decisions for them when they cant, who can visit them in the hospital….everything that we have. I think wether we call it marriage of civil union doesn’t matter so much as long as they can have the same rights and benefits. Wether it is right or not in the end will be left up to God as it is not our place to decide.

  6. The argument that marriage is for “child rearing” is not a valid one. First, gay couples can be fully capable of raising children, especially when there are so many kids needing families in the foster system. Secondly, what about straight couples without children? Should the elderly not be allowed to wed since they will not be having children? Or what about infertile couples that aren’t biologically capable of having babies? Or a straight couple that simply doesn’t want to bring more kids into the world? Marriage is an act of devotion to someone you love enough to be with for the rest of your life. Children may or may not be part of that equation.

  7. My
    initial response to that was based on something I heard a while back
    that the church only got involved with marriage in the middle
    ages because it needed a fundraiser. I don’t know my history well
    enough to confirm that so I did some googling to make sure I got the story right.

    It is true that the church didn’t make marriage a sacrament until the 1500’s and priests weren’t involved with weddings prior to that. I also found some alternative (probably the official)
    explanations as to why this was the case so the cynical fundraiser theory isn’t the only one. However, I did find some additional interesting
    information, as a result of essentially letting the society define what
    marriage was and than saying it was good, the church probably allowed gay marriage
    for a while under the Roman Empire after it converted.

    Due to the wonders of Google tracking and compaing recent searches, my searches from this computer are giving different results than the searches last night so I can’t find the links but in a disputed book a Yale (I think, maybe U of Chicago) professor tracked the history of gay marriage through old documents.

    What does any of this have to do with today, not much other than to present a basis for which to provide some background and suggest that gay marriage has not always been the anathema that it is today.

  8. I am baffled as to why any Christian would want to legislate anything based on religious beliefs — flip it around and there would be an uproar about religious freedom, and this type of argument actually sets the precedent for that to happen.
    Secondly, marriage is a legal institution in our country – for Christians (and other religions) it is also a religious one.
    But it is a legal one, and to deny those legal and civil rights to gay couples brings to mind the fact that not long ago (in my parents’ lifetime in some states) my husband and I wouldn’t have been legally allowed to marry because we are an interracial couple.  I really do feel the same about this and know that my children will look back on this time with the same horror I feel when seeing “Whites only” signs from the past.
    Individual churches can do what they want with the religious aspect just as some won’t marry divorced people now, though of course divorce is legal.
    We must remember that marriage as a legal contract and marriage as a sacred contract are two entirely separate things.  When I said my vows in front of friends and family 8.5 years ago, if I hadn’t also gotten a marriage license, would I be married?  In my heart, yes.  Legally?  No.  They are not tied together — they are separate.
    And the only reason to deny gay couples the right of marriage is a religious one.  And we walk a really dangerous path whenever trying to legislate something for religious reasons — that has never ever worked out well…particularly for the religious.  

    • Your line sums up my point well: “We must remember that marriage as a legal contract and marriage as a sacred contract are two entirely separate things.” –As I think this is the fundamental divide in this argument. I don’t think the solution is asking Christians “are you for gay marriage or not?” though because it’s too confusing of a question with way too much room for interpretation. Why can’t we just come up with two separate terms so we know we are talking about two different things? If we keep using the same term “marriage” to describe both sides, I feel that neither side is going to make much progress and the divide and confusion is only to get deeper.

      • Noah, are you suggesting we find two different words, or just one new word to cover the legal side? I’ve heard the latter argument so many times, and although I understand the thought behind it, I think the argument of “let’s divide marriage religiously and civilly into two different terms” would only really work if both types of marriage as we currently have it got different names, neither of which is “marriage.” If you consider yourself “bound” religiously and a “union” civilly, then that’s an argument toward equality. To say “well, let’s divide it. We get to take marriage and you’re going to get a term we’ve come up with that should be just as good for you” doesn’t really meet the spirit of dividing the issue. To your point, it’s claiming something as wholly on one side that currently isn’t. As you mentioned, it’s a hard word for either side to give up.

        Does it make sense to do this at all? Are we just drawing lines and making distinctions so that we can view ourselves separately from those who don’t believe? Aren’t there other words that we share equally between religious and secular states? One example that comes to mind is the word “minister.” You can be a “minister” within your faith, which has a whole set of meanings, and you can also be a “minister” in government, which carries its own connotations. We use these terms in their respective contexts with no need to bitterly argue over whether religion or government gets the word “minister.” Can “marriage” not also coexist peacefully in both realms?

        • Hi Chrissy, thanks for the thoughts and good questions. I think we may not truly know how people would respond to it unless it was tried. If “marriage” could be presented in such a religious way, I feel like non-religious people wouldn’t even want that term used to describe them. As you noted though, that term may be so embedded into our culture that at this point it’d be impossible to do this. Maybe the solution would be a Christian marriage, a Muslim marriage, a civil marriage, etc. Someway of legally modifying the word marriage? I’m just brainstorming here and trying think very pragmatically on how this could actually be implemented. But I think the principle I originally bring up still stands as the issue behind the issue, and if we could find a way to address that principle, we could see some real progress in this area and conversation.

  9. Noah, you are essentially describing the Christian Libertarian view here, which I happen to espouse (no pun intended), as well. From a legal standpoint, we have no right to argue legislation with regard to our religious beliefs. The Christian right seems to pick and choose which religious beliefs they want to legislate on. I am personally for the term “marriage” no longer being used on a governmental level. Make civil unions legal for couples regardless of sexual orientation. Save the term marriage for separate religious/personal use. Also, just to be clear, this same argument does not apply to abortion. I, like most Christian Libertarians, do not view abortion as a religious issue, but rather a legal issue of individual rights and murder. I agree with Jeff’s post that gay marriages do not harm the sanctity of marriage anymore than adultery, divorce, or premarital sex harms the sanctity of marriage. But it’s funny where we draw our battle lines.

    • Hey Chris, thanks for the post. I wasn’t aware of the Christian Libertarian view; I typically stick my head in the sand on politics and hope the noise passes quickly. Is CL an official political position that espouses a collection of beliefs (personally, something I hate about politics…if I agree with xyz of the Republicans and/or Democrats, why do I also have to agree with abc)? I wish we could just handle things on a case by case level. You offer a good explanation of what I’m trying to say about the civil unions and how Christians don’t need to legislate our Christian beliefs here. Otherwise, we’d need to make it illegal to not know Jesus as your Savior, which is a much more important issue than who you are sleeping with. But I don’t see Christians rallying or campaigning for that anywhere.

  10. Noah,

    I have really enjoyed reading your last several blog posts. With all of the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage in the media and our government, not to mention my personal friends who are affected by this…it has been heavy on my heart and mind. It has been a real struggle for me to figure out how I feel about this issue. The “good Christian” in me says automatically, “Same-sex marriage is wrong and I oppose it wholeheartedly” but then the Christ follower in me wonders how Jesus would respond to this. There is this very real “persona” of Jesus; love, acceptance, forgiveness….but then there is also God’s temper and jealousy to take into account as well. And like you said in one of your previous posts, we cannot hold unbelievers to the same code as we hold Christians. This is a very real struggle in my heart. Does it make me a bad Christ follower if I have real issues with not allowing sinful people (which we all are) to have the same rights as everyone else? Does Jesus want me to have this conviction in my heart or is it the media and today’s culture that is laying this on my mind? I also wanted to thank Jeff R. for posting what he did….because his post is EXACTLY how I have been thinking and praying and struggling.

  11. In this country, the separation of church and state was more about preventing the state from making you follow a particular rendition of faith, or Christianity. I found this book, Roger Williams and the creation of the American soul : church, state, and the birth of liberty / John M. Barry, to do a good job of explaining this.

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