Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gay Marriage and the Supreme Court

I have been loathe to enter this debate preferring to sit on the sidelines as I believe there really shouldn’t be a debate to begin with. Unfortunately, this issue is loaded with pure, raw emotion and very little logic and reason. I believe if we were reasonable in our discourse regarding this topic, then we would immediately see the solutions are obvious. Yet, when it comes to the polarization of this issue, I believe neither "side" is reasonable.

The Anti-Gay Marriage Side (which is grounded in faith/religion)

I think it is time for the church especially to admit, we lost. This nation is no longer a Christian nation. At one time deep into our history, we were. The basic rights and principles that governed our nation were deeply rooted and grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Founding Father’s thoughts that we all have the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were grounded in the belief that a Creator God granted such self-evident rights. Those who dispute this seriously do not know their history.

Yet, these same Founding Fathers intentionally left religious language out of our governing document: the U.S. Constitution. They did not want to establish a national religion for fear of what had happened in Europe a couple of centuries earlier. Many in our country were still burned by the fires of religious persecution, and we wanted a nation where no such thing would happen. Therefore, we have the assurance that the government will not impose religion nor restrict our freedom to exercise it. This has, in my estimation, actually helped our churches, temples, and mosques as such entities are forced to "compete" in the milieu of our nation rather than receive automatic membership.

Yet, this set up does have a drawback, at least as far as religion is concerned. Our governing document is not the Bible. Read that again. In the United States, our governing document is not the Bible. As much as both liberal and conservative Christians might like it to be, the Bible and its teachings do not dictate how we as a nation are supposed to act. Our Constitution is the ultimate law of the land.

At one time, the knowledge and understanding that our Constitution’s principles were founded on the Judeo-Christian belief system was very strong. No one dared to separate the two, but time has passed. A great deal many things have happened driving these two entities apart so that no longer does our nation function as though these two traditions walk hand in hand. Many things have caused this to happen–to detail them would be to go far beyond the scope of this blog post.

Those in our churches today would do well to recognize this. We would do well to recognize that arguments appealing to the Bible generally fall upon deaf ears–whether we argue for or against gay marriage, divorce, abortion, gun control, welfare, social security, health care, or what have you. Strictly appealing to our faith stances–be they liberal or conservative–is an exercise in futility. Our biblical faith no longer holds much sway. The Constitution trumps it.

Which is why there should be no debate as to whether or not gay marriage should be allowed. According to our Constitution, it should. A segment of society is being discriminated against. Sure, we could go into the arguments regarding nature and nurture, behavior versus biological attributes, etc. But, since the U.S. Constitution is the law of the land, it dictates the conclusion to the matter. Whether we like it or not.

The Pro-Gay Marriage Side

Despite what many on this side say, the belief that marriage is between man and a woman is not grounded in hate. Sure, you can point to Westboro Baptist Church as the evidence to show that there are some people who do hate gays and lesbians. Sure, you can point out that there are hate crimes committed against gays and lesbians. There is no doubt that there are those in society who hate gays and lesbians. I will not dispute this at all.

Yet, it is also true that a great many people do not support gay marriage out of hate. They do so because they have a high regard for the teachings of their faith tradition. This is not restricted to Christians, but I will focus on this group because I am a Christian and am intimately connected to the Church, particularly the Lutheran expression of that faith.

Christians who hold the plain reading of Scripture to be the best form of biblical interpretation see very clearly the Bible’s labeling of homosexual behavior as a sin. I know very well there are other Christians who turn to the historical/critical methodology of interpreting Scripture who see no such conclusion. In my experience, their argumentation is weak and easily debunked, but this is not the place for those arguments. What is important is the realization that such behavior is labeled sinful.

Usually, the immediate response to such assertions is: Thou shalt not judge!–at least from those who have some understanding of Scripture.

This response is quite weak for two reasons: 1. It misunderstand’s Jesus’ statement. Jesus never tells His followers to cease judging actions. If we were to do that, no Christian could never call any act by another evil, sinful, or what have you. If a Christian caught another stealing, he/she could not say, "Stealing is a sin, and you are sinning." Doing so would be rendering a judgement. 2. By calling someone judgmental, you are rendering a judgement. Sorry, but it’s true. So, is there any logic to using Jesus’ statement "Thou shalt not judge," to judge what another is doing? Didn’t think so.

This in itself is a fun exercise in logic, but it fails to address the main issue: the issue of hate. Here is the important part: the rendering of a judgement of sinfulness does not equate to the rendering of hate. In the Christian faith, it never, ever should for at least two reasons.

#1. Jesus Himself never hated anyone who was sinning or caught in sin. His example alone should give us ample evidence that hatred toward a sinner has no place. In fact, His ultimate statement regarding such matters was spoken from the cross as He hung, dying. Instead of speaking out in hatred or frustration, He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Church would do well to heed Jesus’ example.

#2. Each and every person is a sinner and is living in sin. Each and every person’s identity and being is warped by sin. This ultimately should lead to humility, understanding, and reconciliation.

This statement is born out of response to those who say, "God made me this way. Homosexuality is genetic and caused by nature not nurture." Or some other similar argument. For centuries, the Church has taught that each and every person has fallen short of the glory of God. For centuries, the Church has taught that each person is born in sin–Original Sin, as it has been called. For centuries, the Church has taught that we cannot escape our sinfulness during this lifetime–"for I do the very thing I know I shouldn’t"–St. Paul.

We are fallen creatures. All of us. God made me a man. Sexually, I desire women, and even though I am happily married, there are times when I see another woman, and impure thoughts enter my head. I would happily argue that this is just a part of genetics–this is just how God created me–these are natural responses, and I would be correct in my argument. I would also be correct in stating that I cannot stop these thoughts. I can’t turn off my sexuality! Yet, Jesus calls them sinful. Jesus says I commit adultery when these natural thoughts enter my brain. Is Jesus wrong? Am I not sinning because I am simply being male? No. Jesus is correct, but rather than have self-hatred, rather than hate other men, I am humbled. I must turn to the cross. I must admit my brokenness and ask for forgiveness. I must realize that my brokenness goes deep to my very core of being.

If every Christian realized their brokenness in this fashion, there would be much less hateful judgement rendered. Instead, it would be a compassionate outreach grounded in a mutual understanding of what it means to stand condemned by the Laws of God. Such understanding should never, ever lead to hatred because we know we are broken like everyone else.

Admittedly, such compassion is oftentimes lacking as we struggle to confront sin. More often than not, we fail miserably, and this is why our actions are often seen as hateful–even though, for many, they are not.
I believe there is a failure of pro-gay marriage people to understand this aspect of those who do not support their position. While it is perfectly o.k. to disagree with the stance, in my estimation, saying that someone is driven by hatred is not kosher.

The End Results?

As a nation, the legalization of gay marriage is a given, in my estimation. Not because I support it from a faith standpoint, but because the law of our nation is the U.S. Constitution and not the biblical faith.

It is also certain, in my estimation, that churches, mosques, temples, and other religious institutions will not be forced to conduct such ceremonies should they choose not to.

It is also quite certain that there will be those who will call such places "hate filled."

It is also quite certain there will be those who will continue to say "God hates gays."

And there will be those like myself who will continue to strive to work toward understanding while holding onto the orthodox Christian faith’s position on marriage–striving to show love, grace, and compassion to those who are sinful, just as I am sinful.


David said...

Your post is well thought out and states what so many have struggled to say. Sadly, few people on both ends of the argument can see through the emotional aspects of such issues and look at them with such clarity.

Gary said...

I am very, very, very impressed with your position on this tough issue! If only more conservative Christians would follow your advice!

"Hate the sin, but love the sinner" should always be our Christian motto. Christ was our perfect example of this attitude.

Here is a statement I posted on another Lutheran blog that was discussing this same subject:

I am not a supporter of "Gay Marriage" per se. I believe that marriage should be a sacrament in the Lutheran Church, and God established marriage between a man and a woman. Our Church should never teach otherwise.

However, as an American citizen I believe in equality. There should be no special rights for certain groups of people...including heterosexual couples. Under the Constitution, we all should have equal rights.

I would prefer that the government get out of the marriage business and leave that to Churches. The government should grant "civil partnerships", that's it.

I do not believe that Christ or any of his apostles ever encouraged us to force our Christian morality onto sinful, secular society. You never saw the Apostle Paul heading a political campaign against homosexuality in secular Roman society. He preached against it and other moral sins in the Church.

Keep the State out of the Church and the Church out of the State!
Collapse this comment

Wayne Beebe said...

Gary, there are reasons why marriage is not a sacrament in the Lutheran church, and will never be a sacrament. The primary one is that marriage was not instituted by Jesus. He fully supports it, but he did not begin the institution. Second, it is not a communal rite. It is a rite between two people who are hopefully very much in love which the community of faith witnesses and are called upon to support as well. Third, while the Word of God is used in the marriage ceremony, it really does not have a earthly element, that we can see, touch, or feel.

Lutherans have always recognized that marriage is not an ecclesiastical institution, but it is a civil institution. The state allows pastors to perform the ceremony, but only if the couple has a license to marry from the state.

Pastors and congregations still have the right to determine who can or cannot get married in the church. Even heterosexual couples may be declined if the pastor feels there is something not quite right.

Actually I prefer the European approach to marriage. All marriages are civil marriage, and if the couple want to have it blessed by the church, they have to meet the expectations of the church.

Rather than government getting out of the marriage business, the church in the United States should get out of the marriage business. Luther would have wanted it this way.