Same-Sex Marriage and How Offended Christians Should Be

It’s been over a month since President Obama publicly announced his support of same-sex marriage, so I’m probably now the last Christian blogger on the planet to address the issue.  I guess I wanted to see what kind of  societal reaction and critical reaction there would be first.

On what I believe is a somewhat related note, the Pew Research Center released a study in the past month which stated that in the past 5 years, amongst Americans 30 and under (commonly referred to as “millenials”) there has been a 15% drop in those who “never doubt the existence of God”.  For as long as this data has been gathered, there has never been a drop of more than 2% over a 5 year span.  In other words, there is something major going on in American culture today that is causing young adults to not buy the “idea of God” in the same way that they have for the majority of the history of our country (and history of mankind for that matter).

So what is it?

Before we move on, let me cite one more piece of research.  David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, published a very influential book in 2007 called Unchristian, which sought to get at the heart of what young people in America today currently think about Christianity.  The basic assessment Kinnaman presented was that young people in our country today find Christians and their churches, the supposed personal and organizational embodiment’s of Christian doctrine, to be, for the most part, hypocritical, antihomosexual, sheltered, too political, and overly and unfairly judgmental.

Now, if we put all of this information together, I think we find a tempered way to approach the same-sex marriage issue.

How Conservative Christians Generally React

As we consider how we should react to the issue of same-sex marriage, we probably need to consider how we generally react to it.  Now, I don’t want to make an unfair generalization here, so I understand that not every conservative Christian will fall into this category, but here’s how I still see the treatment of the issue usually play out for most conservative Christians:

1) They Try to State What the Bible States: This is actually a good place to start.  Without fail, conservative Christians will have a high view of the authority of Scripture and therefore will attempt, as best they can, to use the Bible to support their views on homosexuality.

However, playing on the growing biblical illiteracy of our country, many modern writers have touted that “the Bible really has very little to say about homosexuality”.  That’s simply not true at all.  I’m not going to cite them all here, but the Bible presents Rom. 1, 1 Cor. 6, Gen. 19, Lev. 18, Lev. 20, 1 Tim. 1, Jude 7 as direct or indirect references against homosexuality.  You also sometimes hear those who are supposedly in-the-know saying, “Well, Jesus never said anything about homosexuality!”  to which Christians who don’t know what Jesus did/did not say sort of shrug their shoulders and don’t always know what to do.

The reality is that while Jesus doesn’t spend his ministry condemning every possible sin, he certainly does reaffirm God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman in Matt. 19, quoting from the Creation Account and God’s institution of marriage (Gen. 1-2).  So……yes, start with what the Bible says about homosexuality, just make sure you know what the Bible actually says about it.

2) They state their anger, offense, and disgust regarding homosexuality:  This is where the wheels start to fall off.  Look, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t be upset about sin.  You should.  But as Kinnaman’s research points out, you should be universally disgusted by the idea of sin, not selectively disgusted by specific sins, or you will appropriately be labeled as a judgmental hypocrite.

Take Jesus’ lead on this one.  Remember, he actually ate with “sinners” and tax collectors and prostitutes – the social outcasts of society.  He was not okay with their sins, but at least they owned the fact that they were sinners, unlike the self-righteous Pharisees.

3) They use some cutesy phrase or cheesy mantra to support an antihomosexual agenda: The “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” line isn’t influencing anyone.  It never did.  Furthermore, it makes your point of view appear as though it was edited by the people at Sesame Street.  The “Adam and Steve” line isn’t going to pull anyone over to your side of the debate anymore than the corny sign at the roadside of the local nondenominational church is going to effectively pull my car into its parking lot.  In the history of this planet, I’m not sure cheesiness has ever positively swung one opinion.  Try to stay away from it at all costs, especially when it comes to your Christian witness.

What Conservative Christians Should Be Honest About

1) There are many social issues to be concerned about: Christians who are vehemently against same-sex marriage in our culture often point to the deconstruction of the family unit as a primary cause in the collapse of society.  This is a valid point that appears to have some historical precedent. They say that opening the door to same-sex marriage will destroy our nation’s concept of family, a building block that, once it crumbles, everything in a nation follows suit.

I have no doubt that same-sex marriage would further muddy the waters.  But that’s making the assumption that the “family unit” waters aren’t already to a degree fairly polluted.  Over half of American marriages end in divorce.  Well over two-thirds of American couples live together prior to marriage.  Please don’t tell me that homosexual marriage is going to destroy the family unit when the concept of family unit has been beaten senseless by heterosexual couples for the past 50 years.  And since we still have a nominal majority in our country of Christians (nearly 80%), Christians certainly need to take ownership of the damage we’ve caused.

All of this does not mean that we can’t appropriately address the issue of same-sex marriage.  In fact, to go the opposite direction and not address it at all wouldn’t be a particularly Christian response either.  But there needs to be some humility in acknowledging that Christians (and heterosexuals in general) are sinful and need Jesus’ grace and forgiveness just like everyone else.  And there also needs to be the death of crusades against sins which we ourselves don’t happen to struggle against.  In other words, sometimes the elderly lady needs to be chastised for gossiping about the young man as “a pervert.”  It’s easy to judge people in relation to the lack of temptation we face toward their particular sins.

2) Politics will not change people’s hearts, so they should be used in a limited way by Christians: Without turning this into a full study, this is a massive point for conservative Christians.  If you want to see how a Christian addresses politics, look at Jesus as some try to get him to fall into a political trap with a question about taxes (Matt. 22; Mark 12; Luke 20).  Even better, look at Jesus’ response as he’s questioned by political leadership (John 18).  It’s brilliant.  Even as Jesus yells at Peter to “Put your sword away!” (John 18:11) at his arrest, you hear a subtle rebuke against using “the sword” (a term used in the Bible to refer to political power) to further your Christian agendas.

The gospel alone can change people’s hearts in a God-pleasing way.  So, while I believe that same-sex marriage could present some lasting negative consequences for our society, I don’t see that legislating against it is going to make a more God-pleasing society.  Only when acts are done in faith to God are they truly God-pleasing (Heb. 11:6), and legislation cannot and will not create faith.  So let’s stop pretending that laws or politicians can do what only the gospel of Jesus Christ can.

Christians are not to be apolitical.  They’re also not supposed to be disproportionately political.  The gospel moves us to something different, something better.

Where Conservative Christians Could Be

Wouldn’t it be great if every Christian could witness to the truth in love like Jesus did?  Obviously we don’t.  And finally, this is part of the reason why Jesus allows nails hammered by sins of politics, self-righteousness, judgmentalism, and hypocrisy to be driven through his perfect, guiltless hands.  He dies for our offenses.

Dare I suggest that conservative Christians pull back from the political arena?  It’s a loaded weapon that our fingers don’t need to be on.  In fact, historically, when the Christian Church tries to run the government, bad things happen to both kingdoms (cf. the Holy Roman Empire and the lasting residual effects of how Europe today is one of the least Christian spots on the planet).

What if Christians would focus their passion and energy on loving others more than controlling others?  What type of impact would that have for Christianity in the world?  I’m not talking about a false Social Gospel, which was focused primarily on improvements for this life as an end goal.  I’m talking about redeemed eternity through Jesus drastically altering your life right now.  I’m talking about Christians like Basil, bishop of Caesarea (c. 350) and Sampson the Hospitable (c. 530) in Constantinople, for instance, who were ones often credited with inventing public hospitals – caring for people whom you didn’t even have any relational ties to.  Only someone with Jesus’ mentality would think to do such a thing!

Conclusion

Please don’t over-interpret what I’m saying here.  I’m not suggesting that Christians should be voting to support homosexual marriage or anything like that.  Rather, I’m suggesting that Christians need to strike a careful balance when it comes to not standing in judgment in a self-righteous or hypocritical way while at the same time holding firmly and unwaveringly to biblical truth.  I’m suggesting that politics isn’t going to get anyone into heaven, which means that for the Christian, it logically shouldn’t be our main instrument in addressing a moral social issue like same-sex marriage.  And I’m suggesting that if we ever want people to respect the gospel of Jesus, we need to live the gospel of Jesus.

If we culturally continue to claim to have a God but that God doesn’t directly impact our lifestyles in any significant or measurable ways, the 15% drops in those who doubt God’s existence will continue.  After all, judging by their lives, it certainly doesn’t look like God is really there.

On a grand scale, the only way for true, authentic Christianity in our country to rise is for the predominant nominal, hypocritical Christianity to die.  For years, the pursuit of “greater numbers” in churches has probably contributed to a relatively standardless Christianity that has watered down exactly what it means to be Christian.  Collectively, if we ask for forgiveness from a merciful God who loves to forgive, humble ourselves in our approach to social issues, love in such a transparent way that people see Jesus in our lives, and firmly hold to and present the gospel as the answer to a fallen world, only then will Christianity stand a chance of being here for much longer.

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16 thoughts on “Same-Sex Marriage and How Offended Christians Should Be

  1. Well written Pastor Hein! I’ve always thought that many who are great Lutherans in the pews, turn into Geneva Calvinists once politics is brought up in the Narthex.

    I’d never ask someone to vote against their conscience, but I also think legislating morality is a road we want to stay far far away from.

    Thank you for writing this!

  2. jeff dunn says:

    Excellent post Pastor Hein. I am a member at Jon’s church. This is something I will pass on. Thanks for writing this.

  3. Matt says:

    Well put

    There are actually a lot of men and women in our conservative Lutheran churches who struggle with same-sex-attraction who accept the Bible when it says sex is to be reserved for a man and a woman within the bounds of marriage and who desire the help of God and the help of the Church to remain faithful to their trust in God’s Word. I know many of them.

    They could be an excellent witness to the power of the Gospel to forgive sins and change lives.

    But as long as their pastors continue to proclaim a Gospel-less law in the public arena they are afraid to speak up.

    I hope pastors will pay attention to posts such as yours and begin to approach this issue from a truly Lutheran view.

  4. kyle says:

    Excellent disection of the state of same sex marriage.

    My only argument would be that the rights of humans should never be put on a ballot for others to vote and pass judgement on. We would be a far more backward society than we are today if that were the case.

  5. Robert Mc Isaac says:

    Well put Pastor but I would also add that any good Christian should also avoid and refuse to carry on any relationships with supporters and members of any Anti-God Pro-Homosexual sect of Christianity like the Satanic ELCA. So many of us have friends in those sects or attend their fundraisers and never think twice that you are putting money in the hands of those truly evil people running those sects. And also by associating with their members you are in effect condoning their false beliefs. I’m not telling anyone to hate those people but realize that their beliefs are rooted in Satan and that should be reason enough to distance yourself.

  6. Michael Thom says:

    Good article, but it contains one piece of information that is not accurate. We often hear the claim that half of all marriages end in divorce. Not true.

    The claim is based on comparing the number of marriages in a given year to the number of divorces. If there were 50,000 marriages and 25,000 divorces, it appears that half of all marriages end in divorce. But that calculation leaves out huge chunks of relevant data.

    Consider a parallel example. Assume there were 100,000 births in a city last year, and there were 75,000 deaths. Does that mean that 75% of all the people in that city died in that year? No.

    The “half of all marriages end in divorce” statement is often used as a political talking point to convince opponents that marriage is becoming a relic of the past, and that other arrangements will work just as well.

    Please don’t accept my word on this. There are a number of sites on the web that explain it in more detail.

  7. Robert Hagedorn says:

    For something different, a change, Google First Scandal. It’s relevant. And it really is all about sex.

  8. Sarah says:

    I’m just finding your blog now and I have to say, the Lutheran church, and Christian church in general, needs more pastors like you. Thank you for your truly humble and Scripturally accurate analysis. I was one of those millenials that left the church after a decade of being in the Lutheran school system because of the hypocrisy you outline here. As an engaged woman looking at having children in the next few years, I’ve had a lot of tough inner conversations about how I want to raise them, and I’ve been slowly but surely coming back to my Lutheran roots. You have given me hope that the next generation of Christians will go in the direction of love and compassion for fellow sinners. In spite of losing faith in the Lutheran church, I have never once doubted my faith in God, and the God I know and studied for years in confirmation classes wouldn’t be running around carrying “God hates fags” signs.

  9. M says:

    I just want to say I appreciate the talk of tolerance. I also want to offer an opinion as a lesbian. I guess I want to know why we limit sexuality to a sexual act? Why is it automatically assumed that because I like women and want to spend my life with another woman mean that I’m talking about sex? Everything I have read about homosexuality is that the sex is wrong….but why can’t we have relationships? Is it really fair to deny us the comfort and love of someone by our side? I don’t understand why marriage is indistinguishable from sex. Why is sexual orientation solely rooted in whether you are attracted to a female or male anatomy? That seems severely limiting to me and honestly shallow. I am marrying a person, not a penis. I will be 100% honest I would go my whole life without sex just to be with the person I love. I just want to share in her struggles, lift her up when she’s sad and grow together. She’s my best support system and my most trusted friend. My mom always asked me: why not just be friends then? My response was always “why are you so focused on sex? A relationship is way more than a sexual act. It’s mutual respect and love.”

    I’ve read other posts you’ve made saying that being a Christian is difficult these days. But I believe being a lesbian is even worse. I’m in the nonprofit field and I have to constantly be terrified of being finding out that I am in love with a woman. I want to help people (arguably I’ve chosen a very Christian career) and yet I’m shunned for this facet of my personality. I can’t even express the terror I feel when people start talking about men and asking my opinion on them. I believe it is much harder to be a lesbian in this world than a Christian. I see Christians everywhere proudly displaying crosses around their necks but if i were ever to wear a rainbow necklace I would be beaten for this. I could literally lose my life if i were open about my love for another woman (not sex, just love).

    In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that we would know false prophets by their fruits. Unfortunately, I have experienced the fruits of “christians” (in quotes because I don’t believe God would ever condone such hatred from those people-not all Christians) while in college so strongly that I almost committed suicide. On multiple occasions I was just constantly bombard with my “sinful life” while they actually had no clue about what I was doing. They had no clue of my sexual activity. All they knew was I seemed gay and that was enough for them to hate, to torment. These are clearly not good fruits. Too many times the Christians ideals are so mentally scarring and tormenting that gay people are driven to suicide. Since God is an all loving and all accepting Lord it seems odd he could ever be okay with something that caused people such pain.

    I think far too often the ones who believe that homosexuality is wrong are people who are lucky enough to be heterosexual. They’re the ones who read the Bible and think “well this is easy enough” because they have never experienced a same sex attraction. I just think there’s a need for compassion and open loving dialogue between gays and all Christians. I was raised in an extremely conservative Catholic household and I have been so deeply scarred by Religion that the thought of God is not a comfort to me. It’s a terror. I can’t express to you the jealousy i have for those who can go to a Church and pray. They can experience the comfort of god, but I can’t. I have to endure lectures about how I am inherently sinful and causing the destruction of society. I have to hear that I am the reason for hurricanes, natural disasters and tragedies. I am literally afraid of the dark and I am being told that Satan thrives within me. How could this be?

    I read some of these comments I see and I wonder if people realize that LGBTQ people are human beings. We are treated as a disease. I’m just so tired of being so deeply wounded by these words. All my life I have tried to do what’s best and yet i will constantly be hated because I am a lesbian.

    I have to tell you. The second I stopped denying my sexuality and accepting myself I stopped self harming, I stopped abusing alcohol and I started to try and find God again. I guess you will have your opinions and I will have mine but I do not believe loving another woman is sinful. I do not believe any true love is sinful. If you remove the sex from a relationship than what is the issue? I do not believe I have to accept the Bible to eradicate these feelings. I feel that is incredibly offensive and very destructive if you actually research the impacts of gay conversion therapy.

    Everyone speaks of sex. Gay sex is wrong. But why are gay relationships? Why is mutual love and respect wrong? It’s lost on me.

    I just wish there could be a kindness between LGBT people and Christians. I think it is utterly needed to thaw the hatred between the two. I won’t lie, I once hated Christians. When I was closeted and hurt constantly by people in the name of God I hated them. As I have matured and become more clearly myself I have realized that hatred only harms myself. The only way to change the world is through love and kindness and tolerance. We are not all LGBTQ, we are not all Christians. this world is incredibly diverse and instead of fearing different opinions we need to be educated. Thank you for the peaceful tone and I hope, in the future, there can be a friendship between Christians and LGBTQ people. I apologize for the lengthy response. Peace, and i wish you the best.

  10. Jeff K says:

    Interesting article, Hein. However, I am turned off by comments like from Robert Mc Isaac on calling other Christian denominations devil worshippers, like ELCA, a denomination I grew up with. It is sucking and more common place in this nation.

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