For the past several weeks Facebook has once again proven itself to be arguably the most annoyingly opinionated place on the planet as users took what was once voted on behind curtained booths at their local elementary schools and churches and plunked said opinions down right in their profile pic box. In one generation, social media has publicized what was formerly peacefully private.
Opinions are…..well, opinions. Majority doesn’t make opinions right. Logical arguments don’t make them right either. They are generally just the feelings and preferences of sinful human beings who make billions of mistakes daily. That hasn’t changed. What has changed in the past decade, however, is that with the advent of the internet, particularly the popularity of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, EVERYONE has a platform for their viewpoint. Forty years ago, for better or worse, very few people’s political views were swayed by the opinions of an 18-year old girl (i.e. still the typical Facebook user). Today she can share one graphic picture of a child being shot with a pithy caption about gun control and all 1,437 of her Facebook friends are moved.
We now live in a world where hundreds of millions of amateurs on social media, possessing no expertise on a given subject, only their gut reaction feelings and opinions, are obsessed with weighing in on every matter through a public medium – particularly hot button topics like same-sex marriage.
Most current research says that an overwhelming percentage of people my age and younger are supportive of gay rights, particularly same-sex marriage (approx. two-thirds). So like it or not, it’s coming. And no traditional-valued elderly white guys in expensive suits are going to be able to thwart the inevitable cultural revolution. Look no further than a supposed embodiment of conservative political values – Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who himself stated Tuesday, “The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals….’We’re Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else.’ That’s a compelling argument, and to deny that, you have got to have a very strong argument on the other side. The argument on the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible.” Previously, in a May 2009 column on his website, O’Reilly had stated, “Our Judeo-Christian traditions, which have made the United States the most prosperous and just society the world has ever known, speak to a family built around a responsible mother and a father-certainly the optimum when it comes to raising children.”
I’d agree with both of those statements. What I’d disagree with O’Reilly on is what the appropriate venue for trying to influence others with those beliefs are. O’Reilly, obviously an influential voice in American politics, understands that arena (i.e. politics) to be the one which can make the most positive change. While I certainly don’t encourage Christians to avoid politics, I fundamentally disagree with him on the political arena’s ability to positively influence our society on issues which are at their core, moral, heart, conscience-based issues. In other words, since I believe the gospel of the Bible, I think it’s delusional to suggest that politics can do what the Bible says the gospel alone can – change hearts. To put it a slightly different way, let’s say America does at some point ban same-sex marriage. Again, none of the evidence suggests that’s going to happen, but for argument’s sake, let’s say it does. At that point, have we just created a more God-pleasing country? We’ve perhaps deterred some actions…..maybe. Have any hearts been changed? If you say “yes” to that, you’re disagreeing with the way the Bible says the Holy Spirit works (Rom. 10:17). As a Christian, you have to understand that God is not merely concerned with obedience, but a certain kind of obedience. The story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4) teaches clearly enough that God is not looking for mere outward action, but faith-based obedience. Legislation is powerless to accomplish that.
Furthermore, while you may have won this anti-same-sex marriage battle, you’ve conditioned a generation of people to think that Christianity asserts itself by way of political tools, something that is profoundly unChristlike (e.g. Matt. 22, Mark 12, Luke 20; John 18 – esp. vss. 10-11 and vss. 33-36; 1 Tim. 2; 1 Pet. 2; Rom. 13). So, in “winning” the battle, you’ve shot yourself in the leg and done considerable long-term damage to the image of Christ. So, what’s a healthy way for Christians to address or not address the Marriage Amendment? Put differently…..
When it comes to the Marriage Amendment, what two extremes should Christians avoid?
1) Embracing a sexuality other than what God designed.
A professional counselor, who readily labels himself a Christian, recently told me that he encourages young people, including Christians, to masturbate as a healthy alternative outlet to having premarital sex. He then said, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about masturbation……does it?” My first thought……Yikes….To state your Christian faith up front, encourage people towards a certain behavior, and THEN ask whether or not the Bible has anything to say about the topic?! This strikes me as painfully irresponsible.
Sadly, many Christians fall into the same camp today – they form their beliefs and then wonder if the Bible supports them. This isn’t restricted to sex issues, although views on sexuality are perhaps disproportionately skewed because much of the Christian church, for fear of rocking the boat, has steered clear of honestly addressing the issue for so many years. If so, shame on us churches for that. Consequently, a young person could have attended church for the first 18 years of his/her life and still be left wondering what exactly the Bible says about sex.
So, okay, what does the Bible say about homosexuality? I always encourage people to start with Rom. 1, 1 Cor. 6, Gen. 19, Lev. 18, Lev. 20, 1 Tim. 1, Jude 7. I further encourage them to check out Jesus’ reaffirmation of God’s design for marriage in Matt. 19, where he quotes from the Genesis Creation account. There is no way to read those texts and think that the Bible is in any way neutral about the topic of homosexuality. “God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” (Rom. 1:26-28). This is not particularly difficult biblical exegesis. I could ask a 6-year-old to read that and ask them if it sounds like God is okay with homosexuality and they’d probably know.
Christians will want to be informed about the biblical sexual ethic before they share their opinions on such controversial issues. Additionally, a main aspect to being a Christian is humbling your opinions before God’s clear will. This isn’t thumping your Bible. It’s a matter of saying “This book is the authority by which I live my life and here’s what it says about this issue. What is YOUR ultimate authority?”
So, if you’re going to be a Christian and publicly support same-sex marriage through your Facebook account or otherwise, you’ll want to be ready to defend how you arrived at your convictions. While anti-discrimination ideals are certainly gospel-flavored, an approval of an active homosexual lifestyle is not a conclusion you’d reach by reading the Bible. Advocating for the equal legal rights of all citizens is one thing, but embracing an alternative view of human sexuality is not a position that the Bible allows you to hold. I’m not suggesting that you cannot be a Christian and be in favor of equality for same-sex marriage in our country. But for the sake of the gospel, it’s important to be able to articulate the difference between those two reasons.
2) Rebuking sin in a manner that Jesus himself never would.
Many Christians do, in fact, understand God’s design for human sexuality. They do not, however, understand the Bible’s design for social influence. It is generally NOT through politics. As I mentioned earlier, I wish more Christians realized that we do more damage than good when we try to correct people’s hearts with something other than the gospel. It’s sort of like trying to perform heart surgery with a sword that’s designed for battle. In a profoundly anti-force, anti-conversion-through-politics statement, in the midst of the injustice of his own arrest no less, Jesus told impulsive Peter to “Put your sword away!” (John 18:11)
“Well, how are we to address all of the godlessness in the world then?!” many will contend. ANSWER: Use a different tool, one that is actually tailor-made for hearts – the gospel. And don’t just proclaim the gospel, but live the gospel.
What does that look like?
I was really touched by a story in Gabe Lyon’s book The NEXT Christians. Gabe and his wife, Rebekah, have a child named Cade who suffers from Down syndrome. It’s no secret that somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 percent of pre-diagnosed Down syndrome babies have been aborted since Roe vs. Wade. Saddened by this reality, instead of making signs and militantly picketing abortion clinics in protest, the traditional route of conservative Christians, the Lyons family created a booklet called Understanding the Down Syndrome Diagnosis. The booklets addressed the concerns of parents-to-be, pointed them to resources for help, including the phone numbers of parents who had raised Down syndrome children, and displayed beautiful photos of loving families with Down syndrome children who were enjoying quite normal lives. They then got volunteers to distribute the booklets into every ob-gyn’s and geneticist’s office in metro Atlanta and got doctors committed to be thoughtful in how they delivered the Down syndrome diagnosis and to offer these booklets as part of the process. While it’d be difficult to measure the effectiveness of such an endeavor, most anyone would understand that such a tool would at least likely cause a frightened young woman in a doctor’s office to pause longer before making such an important decision.
A fairly cursory reading of the Gospel records would tell you that this type of demonstration is much more “Jesus behavior” than signs, shouting, and political ballots. And some may say, “Yes, but Jesus did get righteously angry from time to time. He even aggressively overturned the money changers’ tables.” (Matt. 21; Mark 11) Yes. At the Temple. Not at the Praetorium. Not at the public market. In places where there should naturally be a common understanding of God’s Word and will, we would act differently than in a purely public setting. When it comes to public settings, the Apostle Peter says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Pet. 2:12) And in the VERY NEXT VERSE he encourages believers to submit to a pagan emperor “for the Lord’s sake.” (1 Pet. 2:13)
Advocating for the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality is one thing, but using a worldly method to accomplish a spiritual purpose, something Jesus himself refused to do, is simply not a position that the Bible allows you to hold.
This is an issue close to my heart for a variety of personal reasons. I absolutely hate the thought of even insinuating to someone that they are less than human by having them perceive me as trying to deny them human rights. That said, I’d like to think that I will not discriminate against homosexuals, but will love them exactly like I love heterosexuals, which means I’ll unapologetically share the truth of God’s Word with them as occasions present themselves.
In summary, Christians will want to know what the Bible says both regarding issues of morality as well as how best to address these issues on a social scale. Seems a bit complex? Yeah, that’s Jesus for you – deep and beautiful. Our Lord and Savior is too big to fit on a voting ballot or a Facebook profile pic. His holy, gracious, dynamic way of dealing with the world is worth pursuing, living, and sharing.
For further reading, you can check out Same-Sex Marriage and How Offended Christians Should Be.