It should be apparent by now that Christians do not agree on what the “Christian” response should be to homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage. Even when some share the same position of the morality of homosexual there can be disagreement on the political response to it.
One day after Amendment 1 was approved by voters in North Carolina (see “Christians, homosexuality, and Amendment 1 in North Carolina: three views”) President Barack Obama announced that ”At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” Obama cited his Christian faith as inspiration for his decision mentioning the sacrifice of Christ and the Golden Rule. This has upset and disappointed his Christian supporters who maintain a conservative stance on the matter (see “Obama’s gay marriage support riles religious conservatives, but political effects not yet clear”). Others like Tony Jones (see “Obama Gets Off the Pot on Gay Marriage”) have expressed excitement. Jones wrote, “Kudos, Mr. President. Thanks for doing something so deeply Christian.”
So what is the “Christian” thing to do?
Some would say he did not do the Christian thing at all. The Christian thing was done in North Carolina yesterday. Katrina Fernandez lives there and she said she would vote for the amendment because she didn’t think it was loving for her to approve of the homosexuality (see “Because I Don’t Hate Gays I am Voting AGAINST Gay Marriage…”). Rachel Held Evans expressed the exact opposite sentiment (see “How to win the culture war and lose a generation”) writing:
“And when it comes to homosexuality, we no longer think in the black-at-white categories of the generations before ours. We know too many wonderful people from the LGBT community to consider homosexuality a mere “issue.” These are people, and they are our friends. When they tell us that something hurts them, we listen. And Amendment One hurts like hell.
“Regardless of whether you identify most with Side A or Side B, (or with one of the many variations within those two broad categories), it should be clear that amendments like these needlessly offend gays and lesbians, damage the reputation of Christians, and further alienate young adults—both Christians and non-Christian—from the Church.”
Christian Salafia agree with Evans that what happened in North Carolina was not Christian, but rather oppressive. He wrote in “I Still Have a Dream…Thoughts on Amendment 1″,
“I am thankful for those who work so hard for injustice and inequality, because they draw me nearer to God and to peace in Christ through loving and blessing those who surely would curse me.
“Let us mourn with those who have been deemed unequal. Let us stand, united in love, with those who,
like the woman at the well, are told they are unworthy of even the life God breathed into them.”
In a very cautious response titled “NC Amendment One and President Obama” Matt Emerson questioned the position of using Scripture this way while ignoring the passages that seem to speak against homosexuality. He wrote,
“…for those who support gay marriage, there is one camp that says “who cares what the Bible says.” There is another, though, that seems to think that the Bible actually supports homosexual marriage, relationships, etc. I saw one man post that God gave the Ten Commandments but Moses gave Leviticus, so we just need to look to the Ten Commandments and not the rest of the Law. That clearly indicates a lack of understanding about the purpose, both historically and literarily, of the Law in the Old Testament. Leviticus is not so easily dismissed. Then our President says today that he is being biblical by paying attention to the Golden Rule, to love our neighbors as ourselves. What the President seems to forget is that the first part of the Golden Rule is the Great Commandment, which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The clear command there is to love not just any God, but the God of the Bible, and the God of the Bible has very clear things to say on how he made men and women and what kind of relationships he intends for them.
Emerson is concerned by the response of conservative Christians as well though:
“I am struck by the lack of biblical literacy from virtually every voice in this discussion. Let me start with Christians. It seems that we have little sense about what politics does and does not achieve. My brothers and sisters, “we won” is not an appropriate response. Patting ourselves on the back is silly. Moving forward with anything less than continual proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ with the somber realization of the lostness we face is simply missing the point. Politics does not bring victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave – Jesus does. Laws do not change people’s hearts – the Spirit of Christ does. Elections will not bring this country to be a picture of God’s Kingdom – God the Father and his electing purposes will do so when he sends his Son to restore all things at the end of the age. Don’t get me wrong, we ought to vote in a way that reflects God’s Kingdom, and in doing so perhaps some will be confronted with the reality of God and his created order. But please don’t act like temporal laws in a temporal government will ever bring about the true spiritual change that’s needed to redeem hearts, minds, souls, and bodies for Christ.”
So what is the Christian thing to do?
We Christians must discuss the following matters:
(1) Is homosexuality a violation of Christian ethics? If so, on what grounds? What is the role of tradition? If our view is based biblical passages what is our hermeneutical approach since it could be argued that our Scriptures have been used to promote slavery, the oppression of women, and so forth.
(2) What is the role of Scripture in this discussion? Emerson asks a question that needs to be answered by progressives: Can we throw out Scripture? If we can throw out Scripture on homosexuality why use Scripture at all? In some sense this is a matter of hermeneutics yet again.
(3) Does our views on the morality of homosexuality dictate our response politically? Some say yes, if someone finds homosexuality to be immoral they should vote for the government to support it. Others do not find a biblical prohibition so the answer is quite obvious: yes, Christians should fight for homosexuals to have equal civil rights. Others hold a more dichotomous view: homosexuality may be immoral, but we shouldn’t use government to dictate morality. Then there are those who hold the view of Tony Campolo (one I think I share): marriage shouldn’t be the business of the State in the first place, so to debate the “legality” of same-sex marriage is to begin the conversation at the wrong place.
I don’t have answers for this. Sometimes I feel like someone watching a tennis match as arguments go back and forth at a speed too quick for my eyes and mind. If I were to make a prediction it would be this: for the church in the western world most Christians will come to affirm homosexuality as normative while Christians in the rest of the world maintain the more traditional view. I am not saying this is how it “ought” to be, but I think that it is how it will be. Much like Christians before Constantine would have been quite taken by the thought of a Christian serving in the Roman military so many Christians now cannot fathom homosexuality as a non-issue. Much like many Christians now who have no problem with the idea of Christianity being compatible with military service so I imagine many if not most Christians will feel about homosexuality–at least “monogamous” or committed homosexuality.
Whatever the church does the church cannot fail to remain prayerful on this matter. We must ask for the Spirit to guide us, to open our eyes, and to maintain unity in our midst.