Recently, I wrote a post over on the Her.Meneutics blog in which I revealed that I voted in favor of Proposition 8 in the 2008 election season. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Proposition 8, it is a constitutional amendment that sought to add the clause “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” I explained that, like many people, it was hard to admit the way I voted because I didn’t want to be associated with far-right pastors who preach hatred and violence against gay people.
The purpose of the post was to encourage meaningful and charitable discourse between Christians on the issues of homosexuality and gay marriage. Lately, the dialogue between conservative Christians and progressive Christians has been growing particularly contentious—maybe because it’s an election year. Whatever the reason, conservative and progressive Christians need to figure out a way to treat one another with kindness despite their disagreements.
The post stirred up a maelstrom of vitriolic comments, mainly from non-Christians in the LGBT community. I will not answer the criticisms. Everyone has the right to interpret the beliefs and actions of others in any manner they choose. However, since the purpose of my post was not to defend my beliefs on same-sex marriage, I’d just like to point to others who have spoken cogently and respectfully on this topic.
Beyond that, I’d like to say three things. First, there are good people who support gay marriage and good people who oppose it. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something–probably one extremist view or another. Second, gay marriage has important implications for what kind of society we want to be. It is naïve to think that institutionalizing gay marriage will not have far-reaching implications in our educational systems and our local churches. Third, I am far more concerned about the fact that one in four children go to bed hungry every night, that every two minutes, a woman in the U.S. is raped, that every year 3.3. million counts of child abuse against six million children are reported each year. These issues, and other like, are of far greater concern to me than the issue of gay marriage.
The responses to my post do provide a sobering learning moment for concerned Christians in the following ways:
1. Homosexuality and gay marriage have become civil rights issues, not moral issues. The LGBT community equates what they perceive as acts of discrimination against homosexuality (like voting against gay marriage) with the oppression of women and slavery. In other words, homosexuality is an immutable genetic characteristic like gender or race.
Since homosexuality is (hypothetically) an immutable characteristic, believing that marriage is intended for a man and a woman is discrimination on par with slavery. The question, for progressive Christians and non-Christians is no longer whether homosexuality is right or wrong, but whether or not gay people are being denied civil rights in the same manner as under-privileged groups like slaves or women.
2. The movement away from the moral argument to the civil rights argument makes it impossible for Christians to say they oppose homosexuality in practice, but love individual people who are gay. The old, “Hate the sin, love the sinner” is no longer a tenable position to hold, at least in the eyes of the LBGT community. This makes perfect sense if you view it from their perspective. If homosexuality really is an immutable characteristic that cannot be changed, then 1.) God could never have been against it and therefore 2.) Any one who is against it is guilty of bigotry.
3. Christians will have to take a stand one way or another. The issue is not going away and will have to be dealt with by the Christian community. This will be on an individual and corporate level. Last year, Willow Creek had to deal with this issue when Howard Schultz had to step down from speaking at the leadership summit because of a petition that threatened a boycott of Starbucks if he did not step down from speaking at an “anti-gay” organization.
4. Conservative and progressive Christians need to dialogue with one another peaceably and respectfully. All Christians have a hard enough time building rapport with the surrounding culture without Christians turning on one another.
5. Christians will have to find a place for mutual respect between themselves and those in the LGBT community. Christians have to find a way to enter into compassionate dialogue with the LGBT community in a way that honors their identity as bearers of the imago dei but does not compromise our responsibility as Christians to vote in ways that are consistent with Christian beliefs. Ultimately, this issue is about people, not principles. It’s far too easy to forget that many people in the LGBT community are people in great pain and have suffered from a lifetime of searching for validation and legitimacy. How can we point them to a conversational relationship with God?