Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Revisiting Same-Sex Marriage

This week I met up with an old friend from my Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) friends for the first time since he moved to California. While there, a woman from our mutual circle of friends asked me about what I realized was my post on same-sex marriage, which made bigger internet waves than anything else I've written. I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged to know that people who don't regularly read my blog were finding and enjoying this post nonetheless. Being asked to describe the thought behind the post several months later with no notes (also the small news item of Minnesota legalizing same-sex marriage) got me thinking about the subject again.

The basic gist of that post, as was hopefully evident from the name, is that while I believe the "traditional" (to western culture) definition of marriage is God's desire for us, I don't necessarily think this should translate to politically opposing it. I think conservative Christians can be very selective and inconsistent in their opposition to same-sex marriage (while relatively ignoring other things that the Bible condemns much more clearly like divorce), and extremely un-Christlike in their condemnatory attitude towards gays and even other Christians who adopt a more tolerant stance. In contrast to the common attitude towards gays of "Repent, clean up your abominable sin, and then you can be accepted in the church", the gospel says (through the words and actions of Jesus) that were are all sinners and we are all loved more than we can imagine by God, even in the midst of our sin. This love comes before, not after, we start following Jesus.

I still stand by everything I said in that post, but I would like to add a few things. First, while I don't think that a conservative theological stance automatically translates to a "culture war" mentality of fighting it politically, neither do I think the Christian's politics can (or should) be separated from his convictions. While I don't think Minnesota's legal redefinition of marriage should be repealed, I've realized that it is certainly possible for Christians to disagree with me on this. What is critical is not the position you take, but how you hold it. (Echoing what I said about how what you believe is not as important as how you believe it) But (and this is a big but) if you take a political stance against same-sex marriage, it must be in a Christlike manner (which is rather rare, at least in the news). Your political attitude's being "for" Biblical marriage does not automatically make it okay with God, not if you hold it while looking down your nose at gays and believing they need more grace than the rest of us.

Similarly, if I were to start attacking Christians who oppose same-sex marriage as "unbiblical bigots", questioning the authenticity of their faith, and in general slinging mud and using their beliefs as an excuse not to love them, that wouldn't be very Christlike either. Claiming that your "camp" is the only one that gets it right and everyone else isn't a true believer is just the thing I want to avoid. It's really important that we get over this myth that being a Christian always means taking X stance on Y hot-button political issue because the Bible says so, "that's what Christians do", or any other conversation-destroying reason.

Also, I'd like to share a a quote from Wesley Hill, an evangelical Christian and professor of theology at Trinity School for Ministry who experiences same-sex attraction. It is from this article in which he is responding to a book written in support of an egalitarian view of gender in Christianity. When I wrote my post, while I did believe marriage between a man and a woman was what God desires for humans, but it had never really "clicked" in that intuitive way that's so essential for me. Not until I heard this.
According to the christological meaning of Genesis 2:24 given in Ephesians 5:32, the difference between male and female becomes not incidental to the meaning of marriage but essential. God established marriage, Ephesians suggests, in order that it might be a sign (mysterionsacramentum) of Christ’s love for the Church. In order for this parable to “work,” the difference between the covenant partners is required. The relationship between man and woman is here “related over and above itself to an eternal, holy, and spotless standing before God, in the love of the incarnate Christ for his bride, which is the Church”… Or, to borrow Karl Barth’s language, marriage is a parable, and for the parable to communicate its truth effectively requires certain kinds of characters, certain kinds of bodies, and not others.
This focus on gender difference—rather than the alleged presence of “exploitation” or an “excess of desire” in homosexual unions—would then explain Paul’s denunciation of same-sex erotic behavior in Romans 1:26-27. In their near locale, Paul’s descriptions of homosexuality link it to humanity’s turn away from the Creator to images of their fellow creatures. Difference is exchanged for sameness. As Simon Gathercole has written, “The key correspondence [between idolatry on the one hand and homosexual behavior on the other] lies in the fact that both involve turning away from the ‘other’ to the ‘same’ …. Humanity should be oriented toward God but turns in on itself (Rom. 1.25). Woman should be oriented toward man, but turns in on itself (Rom. 1.26). Man should be oriented toward woman, but turns in on itself (Rom. 1.27)”… 
The communion of the “wholly other” God with his creation, which was mirrored in man’s turning toward woman and vice versa, breaks down in homosexual relationships, and thus the christological meaning of marriage and gender difference is obscured.

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