Over the past few weeks I have seen a lot of secular libertarian commentary on the issue of gay marriage. I don’t think there is an adequate understanding of the traditional Christian view on this issue, so in this quick post I just want to try to frame the issue a little more correctly. This is obviously a really touchy subject, especially since I know plenty of openly gay people and it’s awkward if I write something and then they think, “Oh, Bob must despise me.” So, I hope that’s not how this post comes across, but anyway I really do think people aren’t understand what a truly “Christian” view is.
First of all, it is absolutely ridiculous if a Christian carries around signs saying, “God hates f***!” etc. Even if you think homosexuality is a sin, if you’re a Christian then you think we are all sinners, and so you had better wear a shirt that says, “God hates all of us!” to be consistent. But oops, you wouldn’t do that, because you also think God loves all of us.
Second, it’s not quite right when secular critics say, “Why would God punish someone for the way he was born?” Or at least, that’s not the discriminatory zinger that the critics think. By my understanding, the most one could say is that the Bible condemns sodomy, or if you will, acting upon one’s homosexuality. It’s not one’s orientation per se that it the issue. And if you say, “Well that’s still absurd, why is the Christian God telling me to not act on my natural urges?” well OK, but He also tells heterosexuals not to sleep with other men’s wives, not to get drunk, not to rob a bank even though getting money is fun, etc. Yes, go ahead in the comments and draw a distinction and say that heterosexuals get an approved outlet for some of their urges, whereas the homosexuals don’t, but my point is that the critique (“I’m being punished for the way God made me”) isn’t really limited to the issue of gay marriage, it has more to do with free will and God’s sovereignty altogether.
Third, I personally don’t even get into the issue of, “Is homosexuality a sin, according to the Christian Bible?” It would be hard to deduce that merely from the prohibitions in the Old Testament, since there are plenty of things there that Christians no longer endorse. There are writings from Paul that would carry more weight (to a modern evangelical Christian), but then again Paul says a lot of stuff in his writings that modern Christians don’t necessarily take at face value.
Since Jesus said–in reference to a heterosexual caught violating the Mosaic code–“let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” I don’t really even get into this issue. I have done all kinds of stuff that I believe is a sin, like going to websites that I shouldn’t. So there’s no way I’m going to get worked up about how other people are living their lives, because you’re going to see nothing but rampant sinners all over the place if that’s how you want to approach the world. (In other words, if some evangelical is pointing at a gay couple and telling me, “Hey Bob, there go two rotten miserable sinners, don’t you agree!” I will say, “Sure, and the same is true of any heterosexual couple, without the work of Jesus on the cross.”)
Finally: The thing about the marriage issue from a Biblical Christian perspective, it seems to me, isn’t that we’re endorsing “sin” or not. Rather, the reason this is such a big deal for Christians is that people are using the government to try to culturally redefine a crucial institution. Look, let me be clear; I am NOT even saying here that I think the government ought to go one way or the other one this issue; there really isn’t a good answer, once government starts wading into this matters. (It’s like asking, “Should kids be allowed to pray at lunch in a government-run school, or should teachers be able to say, “Merry Christmas” in December?” There’s no principled, non-slippery slope answer to that.)
What I am saying is that it is very understandable why Bible-believing Christians would be really upset if the government sanctions homosexual unions and calls it “marriage.” The correct Christian objection (it seems to me) isn’t, “Ugh! I hate those freaks so much! No way! Hate hate hate!” Rather, the correct Christian objection–if the Christian is going to object–is to say, “I’m sorry, that’s just not what marriage is. God established marriage to be a union between one man and one woman. It’s why Jesus didn’t endorse divorce, and it’s why homosexual unions just can’t count as marriage. Yes, by all means let’s change the tax code so we’re not penalizing people unfairly, but I cannot go so far as to say, ‘Yes this is marriage just like these other relationships’ because I simply don’t believe that’s true. I’m sorry if that offends somebody but given my views of how the universe was created and Who created marriage in the first place, that’s what it is and a majority of voters can’t change that simple truth.”
I am not going to bother making an explicit analogy, because the last time I did that people got offended. So, in your mind, come up with something ridiculous that the government would then want to call “marriage,” and see if you can understand why people would object to that. Not because they want to stymie the person involved, but because they would say, “Huh? That doesn’t make any sense. That’s just not what a marriage is.”
I do agree that the evangelical Christians have done a terrible job getting their message out. In particular, I really wish they would tell Rush Limbaugh and other multiply-divorced people to keep their mouths shut on the topic, in a gentle way of course.