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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Homosexuality, Part 1

When I began Cromulent Thoughts last year, I declared that its purpose was to be challenging.  Maybe even a little confrontational.  From Day 1, I knew the topic of homosexuality would be inevitable; however, I did not believe that I would be writing on it so soon.  To be honest, I was unsure of where I stood on the whole thing.  Over the last year, I have done a lot of soul-searching, reading, discussing, and praying; and while I feel closer to inner peace on the topic, I also readily admit that I have much more soul-searching, reading, discussing, and praying to do.

What I do know is this: We’re all wrong.  The political and religious battle regarding homosexuality as a whole (and same-sex unions specifically) has been absolutely bungled by everyone, and as more and more people are posting opinions and quotes and facts and posters and pictures and whatever else on all forms of social media, and as each person’s attitude just becomes nastier and increasingly petty—and sometimes just flat-out stupid—I have realized one thing:

I cannot stay quiet any longer.

At times, most readers will not like what I have to say.  I’m going to discuss whether or not same-sex unions should be legal (they should), and why the Church is right to be concerned with it (from a legality standpoint).  I’m going to discuss whether or not practicing homosexuality is a sin (it is), yet why I believe a homosexual can still be a Christian.  Finally, I’m going to discuss how I believe God is currently more disappointed in many of us Christians than He is with the homosexual community and their push for marriage equality.

You will disagree with some things that I write.  That’s okay.  I look forward to the possibility of respectful, intelligent discussions that this could bring.  I’ve already admitted that I have much more to learn, and am eager to do so.  One way we learn is through respectful, intelligent discussions.  Until that occurs, however, I ask for three things: 1) Patience.  There are multiple posts (about 3-4 as it stands right now).  You may agree with one post and disagree with another, but each is part of a larger message that we all need to receive.  2) Respect.  Controversial topics are controversial for a reason.  They cause polarizing reactions.  Emotional reactions.  When we react emotionally, we act foolishly.  When we act foolishly, fights occur and we grow to hate each other.  When we react rationally, we act intelligently.  When we act intelligently, progress is made and we grow closer together.  3) Read.  This issue is not going away, and ignorance is far from bliss.  Stop sitting in the dark and educate yourself.  I will be providing numerous links to assist in your education, but push yourself to find more.  Without that knowledge, all of your discussions will be emotional, not rational.

“My view is that we should try to disentangle what has historically been the issue of the word marriage, which has religious connotations to some people, from the civil rights that are given to couples, in terms of hospital visitation, in terms of whether or not they can transfer property or Social Security benefits and so forth…(I) would continue to support a civil union that provides all the benefits that are available for a legally sanctioned marriage.  And it is then, as I said, up to religious denominations to make a determination as to whether they want to recognize that as marriage or not.” – President Obama

What Homosexuals Want:
Imagine that you, a recently married (heterosexual) couple from Illinois, decide to move to Wisconsin.  Shortly after moving into your new home, you receive a letter from the state of Wisconsin saying that they don’t accept nor do they acknowledge your marriage.  You no longer are recognized as husband and wife legally, which now affects other federally-run areas of your life such as spousal benefits.  Sounds ridiculous, but that’s how it works for a homosexual couple.  As hard as it is for some Christians to believe, many homosexuals are not seeking a marriage graced by God.  For them, God has little-to-nothing to do with it.  They want what everyone else has—the identification of marriage.  They want the world to know, “I love this person.”  They want the same legal benefits (such as medical, insurance, and survivor) that heterosexual couples receive.  In short, they want a federally recognized, legal union.  Click here and here for a couple of quick sites that explain their legal desires better.

Why This Concerns the Church:
Here’s a question: When are we actually married?  A couple of weeks after our wedding ceremony, Steph and I received a letter in the mail saying that our marriage was invalid because we applied for our license in the wrong county.  The problem had to do with the address of the church and was immediately fixed over the phone, but for those two weeks, our marriage was not recognized by the State.  If we weren’t legally married, were we recognized as husband and wife by God?

Maybe the true question should be: Why are Christian priests, pastors, ministers, etc performing as agents of the StateThis is an absolutely vital question that needs to be answered, because as long as pastors conduct wedding ceremonies for the State, then we no longer have the separation of Church and State; which means that legally, the State could tell the Church who they should marry, and punish those that refuse (typically by removing their tax-exempt status, which would financially cripple many churches).  For more on the Church's concerns, please click here and here(While I don’t agree with everything this guy says, here’s another take on this concept.)

Some believe that this is Christian paranoia, but there have already been examples of this in other spectrums.  “In April 2008, an Albuquerque photographer was fined over $6,000 for refusing to be hired to photograph a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony…On November 19, 2008, eHarmony (a Christian-based matching service) was forced by New Jersey’s Division on Civil Rights to provide website matching services for homosexuals” (Rich Deem).  In fact, a story was reported this morning out of Hawaii where a lesbian couple won a lawsuit against a bed and breakfast who refused to lodge them due to the owner’s religious beliefs.

If Christian-run companies are facing legal ramifications over their religious beliefs, what would stop the government from doing the same to a church?  How long until a homosexual couple sues a church for refusing to marry them…and wins?  This is a valid concern for the Church, and is the primary reason it’s being so vocal in its opposition to the legality of same-sex unions.

One non-legal argument that many (not all of which are Christians, despite what some want to believe) cling to is the ever-popular “sanctity of marriage” slogan.  It’s time to let that one go.  When NBC runs a reality TV show in 2003-04 called, Who Wants to Marry My Dad…you don’t get to talk about the “sanctity of marriage.”  When any two drunken idiots can share the bonds of matrimony for $100 in Vegas…you don’t get to talk about the “sanctity of marriage.”  When “born-again Christians are slightly more likely to have experienced a divorce (32 percent) than atheists and agnostics (30 percent)” (Lisa Sharon Harper), or when over 27 percent of children (up from 9 percent in 1960) are being raised in single-parent homes (Bible News)…there is no room to talk.  Clearly, we as Christians (and heterosexuals as a whole) are doing a bang-up job at this “sanctity of marriage” thing.

“We just stink like hypocrites on this.  People who claim to be Christians get divorced more than people who aren’t Christians, and we’re arguing the sanctity of marriage?  If marriage has been devalued, if anything, it’s us.” – Mark Driscoll

So Should Same-Sex Unions Exist?
In a word, yes.  It’s insulting that it’s even a discussion.  When all adults acknowledge that we learn and grow from our past mistakes, it seems almost comical that America is consistently determined to repeat failures from its history.

There are many who claim that same-sex unions are a civil rights issue.  Others claim that it’s a moral issue.  For centuries, people argued the same about interracial marriages.  It began in Virginia during the 1600’s and continued through 1924, when the state passed an act to Preserve Racial Integrity.  “Under this act, Whites were to marry Whites, those who married interracially outside of the state and then returned back were to be prosecuted, and the children born out of such a union were considered illegitimate and did not hold any privileges or protections” (Angelfire).  This was not just taking place in Virginia, either.  In fact, as recently as the 1950’s, “half of the states held laws that banned interracial marriage…It wasn’t until 1967 that the Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional (a vote that nearly 70 percent of the country objected to)” (B.A. Robinson).

That was less than fifty years ago, yet is very similar to what homosexuals are currently fighting.  When this nation (and at times, even the Church) has such a ripe history full of civil bigotry, it should not be so surprised when minorities speak up.  Obviously, all of this interracial nonsense is recognized as wrong now, but look at how long it took to do so.  Three hundred years.  While I believe the Church is coming from a stronger biblical foothold this time, I worry that those who oppose same-sex unions are handling it similarly.  Just replace “inferior race” with “perverts” and the same vibe is there.

“(Christians) have responded poorly at times and earned a reputation for intolerance.  Now, in seeking a more biblical and grace-filled response, we cannot erase our past mistakes; however, we can control our attitudes and responses in the future by being clear and gracious at the same time.” – Ed Stetzer

That’s the point I’m trying to make.  We (society as a whole) were wrong.  We now recognize those actions and sentiments as foolish.  While we cannot erase our past mistakes, what we can do is behave smarter moving forward to prevent repeating those same mistakes.  One small way to do that is to grant homosexual couples the same legal rights and benefits that heterosexual couples currently possess, so long as churches that disagree are not forced into conducting such ceremonies.

It bears repeating President Obama’s words:  “(I) would continue to support a civil union that provides all the benefits that are available for a legally sanctioned marriage.  And it is then, as I said, up to religious denominations to make a determination as to whether they want to recognize that as marriage or not.”  This is the ideal situation.  The civil rights of homosexuals would no longer be violated, and the moral standards of the Church would not be infringed upon.

I am frequently asked how I can have this political stance on same-sex unions as a Christian.  It’s easy: I’m an idealist.  I try to form my positions on topics based on how things should work, not necessarily how they do work.  We’ve made it very clear throughout our history that government and religion do not mix; therefore, neither the Church nor the State should tell the other what to do.

All About History has a pretty cool breakdown of the origins of “separation of church and state” and what it actually means if you’re interested.  Meanwhile, Driscoll points out that “as the church, we have to recognize jurisdiction.  United States of America is not a church…In the church, we have jurisdiction.  Scriptures rule.  Outside of the church, people aren’t Christians, so we don’t have jurisdiction.”

There’s nothing wrong with Christians who do not wish to see same-sex unions become federal law for moral reasons, but they can’t force the government to pass a law based on biblical views.  At the same time, if the government passes an act that directly contrasts biblical law, it can’t force the Church to comply (Luke 20:20-26; Acts 5:29; Romans 13:1).

So from a strictly political stance, same-sex unions should unequivocally be legalized, and it is my belief that many Christians would agree with that statement, so long as it stayed in the political spectrum and did not spill over into the Church.  America is not a church.  It makes decisions based on civil issues.  Politically, same-sex unions are a civil issue.  Basic American rights are being violated here, and it needs to be corrected.  For the Church, same-sex unions are a moral issue.  The Bible clearly and repeatedly speaks out against it; therefore, the Church stands against it.  Morally, it is allowed to do so.  America is not wrong for legally approving same-sex unions (should the Supreme Court make that decision).  In fact, they have a civil responsibility to do so.  The Church is not wrong for refusing to conduct and/or recognize same-sex unions.  In fact, they have a moral responsibility to do so.

The key is not blending the two.

Now that I’ve covered the political side of this argument, my next post will attempt to tackle the religious side.  In the meantime, check out this amazing sermon by Mark Driscoll.  (A big thanks goes out to Joe for sharing it with me.  It added tremendously to my research and knowledge.)  You can listen to it if you like, or click TRANSCRIPT and read it.  It’s really long, but it’s so right…so powerful…so honest…so humbling.  I quoted it twice in this post, and trust me…many more are coming.

1 comment:

  1. I'm betting you'll get to this, but I think the key question in this particular argument (the political one posed here) is: Are homosexuals a social group on par with being African-American, Native American, etc.? Do one's sexual desires qualify one into a social class? Culturally, that's what we've done. But is that accurate? And where does that line get drawn? What if my sexual desires (and religious convictions) require and encourage multiple spouses? Or a mother and son? Justice Sotomayor asked just that question in the Prop 8 hearing before the Supreme Court, and I think it's worthy of consideration in this forum.