One of my wife’s relatives sent me a link to an article that purportedly explains not just why homosexuality is wrong but why Christians make such a big deal out of it being wrong. She wanted my take on it. Considering that I asked her to consult her more orthodox pastors to explain why my Lutheran marriage is a valid marriage in their eyes when we were married by a woman pastor and her congregation’s interpretation is that women don’t have the spiritual authority to teach a man (presumably me) in a homily, I suppose fair’s fair. Even if said pastor said “that will need a very thoughtful response” but then never provided one, perhaps hoping the matter would drop or be forgotten on its own.
I intend to be more forthcoming.
The question she posed was “how [does] a Christian supports his/her pro-gay marriage view with the Word of God?” I already give her points for not phrasing it the way I usually hear, which is along the lines of “how can you support gay marriage and still consider yourself a Christian?” The intimation of course being that I am not one, or at best a really crappy one. At any rate, I wouldn’t be a “true Christian,” as a “true Christian” would not hold those beliefs.
Obviously, I disagree. That distinction is more important than one might realize, because my support for gay marriage comes from my ability to recognize a world that exists outside of Christianity. I happen to be blessed with the gift of acknowledging that there are non-Christians who co-exist with me in our state, country, and world. I affirm that the legal standing and protections for them are not granted them merely as a friendly courtesy by the church. I acknowledge that others exist, and have a say in establishing secular law.
This is critical. It is critical because a goodly portion of my biblical grounds for supporting gay marriage comes from Jesus’ and the apostles’ pointed distinction between God’s Word and the laws of the people. Concerning taxes, Jesus produces a coin with Caesar’s imprint on it and states that one should “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17). Our stewardship team will tell us that we can’t think of ourselves as “giving money to God” because all of creation is already His, and we are merely stewards of it. Even if do we manage to tithe at church, no one is saying that it defies God’s law to pay even more as taxes of fifteen percent or greater to the state in income taxes.
In 1st Corinthians, Paul writes “20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
In order to save, Paul is willing to let people live as they live, and live among them by the laws set by them. You cannot bring someone to Christ by demanding they socially adhere to a religious directive from a source that they may not accept or even acknowledge. And our society has reached a point in its history where gay marriage is acceptable, or at least tolerable, to vast numbers of people. That is because marriage HAS changed, moving from one between unequal parties of greatly disparate power to an ever more even standing between equals. One could even argue that the most extreme form of marriage between equals would be a marriage between two individuals of the same sex.
Full equality is still very bothersome to many Christians. As if my marriage wasn’t rendered heathen enough with a female pastor presiding, keep in mind that I am also a stay-at-home dad, and that my wife makes significantly more than I do. I would never claim to be the head of the household. I would never claim to have the final say on important decisions. Yet that same book of Timothy that is used to clamp down on the possibility of women lead to preach is also used by others to tell stay at home dads that they are going to hell.
I have been accused of not being a “real man” in much the same way that I have been accused of not being a “real Christian,” in that my conscious behavior does not align with their definition. I grew up enjoying music, poetry, writing, and cooking. I was not at all enthralled by sports, or hunting, or “tough guy” stuff. Today I am not the breadwinner. I bake pies while my wife cuts wood with the circular saw to build into shelves. I acquiesce to her in most matters of money. “Let me check with my wife first,” is one of my go-to phrases. I cry. At no time in my life have I been “man enough” for people who would rather call me a faggot, a pussy, a wimp, girly.
Yet to these same people who question my manhood in every other single aspect of my life, they all agree that I am supremely qualified to take a wife. Because I have a penis. None of them have seen it, so I imagine that they just sort of take it on faith. They certainly didn’t move to block me from getting married on the grounds that I wasn’t man “enough.” But maybe if the Defense of Marriage Amendment manages to get into all state constitutions, maybe they’ll move on from there and require a candidate groom to bench press 200 pounds, chug an MGD, gut a fish, and prove he can get his bride-to-be to make him a sandwich in under ten minutes before legally acknowledging it as a marriage. Who’s to say?
For all the talk of the biblical model for marriage, the New Testament seems kind of lukewarm on the concept as preparing one for heaven. Jesus opted not to, but in 1 Corinthians Paul seems to suggest that many of the apostles did. Being or not being married certainly didn’t seem to be a requirement of being an apostle, although the Catholic church has since codified celibacy for priests, none of whom therefore are “the husband of one wife” as per 1 Timothy. Paul suggests that the most devoted followers would not marry, but devote themselves to God, yet concedes that if people “cannot control themselves, it is better to marry than to burn (with lust).” (1 Corinthians 7:9)
The author of the piece I mention at the beginning of the article laments that Christians did not take a strong enough stand in opposing divorce. The suggestion being is that if he and others had the ability to have a “do over,” they would put up a greater resistance to it. The article mentions Matthew 19: 4-6 where Jesus evokes the Genesis story in discussing husbands and wives. It should be noted that this passage is coming in the context of divorce, a practice that Jesus reminds the Pharisees was a part of Mosaic law, a law given “because of the hardness of your hearts.”
Moses, the man who watched God inscribe the Ten Commandments — including the one about adultery– created the laws allowing for divorce because he felt kindness and compassion for his people. It allowed the Israelites to mitigate the pain, suffering, and penalty of death that was being enforced to such a degree upon the people that it was doing more harm than good among God’s children. Moses, one degree of separation from God, did this, and went against God’s design.
This is where we are today. The “traditional” definition of marriage, and the secular defined rights and protections that come with it, does more harm than good to a substantial number of people living in this country, many of whom aren’t even bound by biblical or Mosaic law. We are putting children in the ground because they have been made to feel so unnatural that they decide it is better to take their own lives. We are living at a time when a significant portion of the homeless under the age of eighteen are on the streets because they came out to their families and were driven out of their homes. We are at a point where people have convinced themselves that it is better for children to remain unadopted than to find love in a same-sex couple household. We find ourselves amidst people who claim that people become gay by being sexually molested by a gay person, like some sort of vampirism, and those claims go unchallenged.
My biblical ground for lobbying for gay marriage is because I feel that this is how I can best love my neighbor. I have gay neighbors, by the way. And gay friends. And gay family, probably more than I know about. I had gay students. I had gay teachers. None of them have yet to diminish my marriage. Rather, their lives and their struggles toward achieving a personal covenant with each other have added meaning and wisdom to my own with my wife.
The article states: “our confidence is that God condemns those things that will bring his human creatures harm and commands those things that will lead to true human happiness and flourishing.” I agree 100% with that statement. I differ in what I believe are the things that cause His human creatures harm. I have yet to see how allowing gay couples to marry harms anyone. Whatever there may be is clearly not at the level that the soul-crushing persecution gay people endure is. Similarly, I believe that gay marriage leads to true human happiness – for them, for their families (including children), for their communities, and for marriage as an institution.
If a church does not want to perform a marriage, that’s their right. If they don’t want to recognize legally married people from other states and countries as married because they do not see them as having undergone a sacramental version at their church, then whatever. Doesn’t bother me. What does bother me, what does threaten the sanctity of my marriage, is the idea that the threefold cord between me, my wife, and my God can be frayed or undone by a sufficient number of like-minded voters who think they know better than I do what my family should look like.
The article mentions Acts 10:15. Oddly enough, I had used the same verse in a recent blog post in which I declared my belief that God has the ability (and, I believe, the desire) to call women to preach and loving gay couples to marry — “What God has made clean, you must not call unclean.” Has made clean. Either made clean something that was not, or made something that was clean as God made it. I have felt that both apply to gay people, both in that they are as God made them and that they had been considered unclean. Certainly I would like to think that even those who haven’t softened on gay marriage will at least permit gay people to exist and abide by the laws of the land in not killing them, as Leviticus also dictates.
Dissenting Christians react to that difference of opinion the same way that they would respond to any verses I cared to discuss or use — that my interpretation is invalid, incorrect, and perhaps even evil. They will pray for Satan to release his grip on me with all the vehemence and energy inherent to “God’s Chosen.” But I’m Lutheran, and one of our core beliefs is that our relationship with God and Jesus can be aided but never supplanted by preachers and religious leaders. We are not dependent on them for salvation. Scripture, Faith, Grace. The scripture tells me that Jesus died to save us, to make us right with God. I have faith that this includes me, in all my imperfection. I celebrate the grace that this provides us. These statements are no different than those of religious gay persons I know. I would go so far as to say that the faith of some of them exceeds my own.
The ELCA Statement on Human Sexuality included a controversial section that acknowledged that some Christians might support gay marriage. The statement itself did not take that position, it merely noted that some of us did. That in itself was too much from some congregations, who split away from the congregation and declared to be in pursuit of reform in the same spirit as Martin Luther. This is questionable at best, as Luther would have preferred to reform from within but was instead kicked out, whereas the ELCA has unceasingly invited and plead for congregations to stay and reconcile. Instead, those congregations preferred to see how loudly they could slam the door on the way out.
By the way, do you know what else is in the spirit of Martin Luther? Marrying somebody that the church tells you it’s a sin to marry.
So I stand in favor of gay marriage because I see a world that lives and moves outside of myself. I see people unable to marry who are far more forgiving than the people who are preventing them doing so. I see gay people and I won’t pretend they don’t exist and I won’t ask them to hide away where I won’t see them. I can see a future where being gay and being married need not be mutually exclusive in the same way that I see being Christian and being for gay marriage need not be mutually exclusive.
There are those people who will never believe it possible to be both, Christian and gay-friendly, despite my actual existence, despite typing these words even as my Pastor is here playing with my kids as we chat and discuss worship planning. Thank God that those people don’t have the authority to legally force me to choose between the two.