Yesterday, the 9th US Circuit of Appeals declared it unconstitutional for states to ban same-sex marriage. There is no doubt this will make its way to the Supreme Court.
And while hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians will use it as an opportunity to “stand up for their faith,” I will use it as an opportunity to stand up for people without rights. We will both have our arguments and our proof-texts. We will both believe this is a watershed moment for Christianity in America. “If we allow for gay marriage God will punish America” or “If we allow for gay marriage our civilization will collapse,” they might say. But I will reply, “If we do not stand up for the equal rights of all human beings perhaps we are not fully understanding the Good News of Christ” and “If we lose the culture on this matter, we are unnecessarily turning off an entire generation to the grace we find in Jesus.” We will probably not ever agree. And that’s okay. They are still my family. But here are a few reasons why I support homosexuals in their desire to marry.
First, this matter has nothing to do with whether or not homosexuality is a sin. So please do not reply to this post with the usual proof-texts from the Bible about why homosexuality is wrong. If this were about homosexuals in church leadership or even church membership, we would have to address whether or not homosexuality is a sin (which is another issue entirely on its own). But Paul seems to make it very clear that Christians have absolutely no place to judge the behavior of non-Christians
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral . . . . In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sisterbut is sexually immoral . . . 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. . . .” -1 Corinthians 5:9-13a
But instead, evangelicals seem to be very good at making sure people who are not Christians know that they are “breaking the rules” of Christianity. And as such, we have gained the reputation for being judgmental, a moniker well-deserved for the most part. It is God’s place to judge the world, it is our place to love it. And just like the story we find in Adam & Eve, when we put ourselves in God’s place, we make a mess of things.
Secondly, then, what is the best way to love the world? And remember, love is not an emotion, but, as DC Talk profoundly says, “love is a verb.” One way I know is to show people the love of Jesus by supporting them in their fight for equality, to stand with them. It doesn’t matter if I agree with their lifestyle or not (it’s not my place to judge, remember). My main goal as an evangelical Christian is to reflect the resurrected Christ and his Kingdom. And I believe Jesus is on the side of those without power and his kingdom is one of equality, where no one is a second-class citizen, whether that be conservative Christian, drug addict, homosexual, atheist, or politician. We all bear God’s image in this story.
Thirdly, I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history again. I am not sure Christians realize that they were, for the most part, on the wrong side of the slave issue. The Bible was used weekly during the Civil War to support slavery as morally acceptable. Not only that, but by taking care of the “less than human blacks,” the white slave owners were being quite compassionate, taking care of a race that couldn’t survive in the civilized world on their own. It was so “obvious” that the Bible supported slavery. . .
And, lest we forget, it was a Christian culture that kept women from being able to vote until only 100 years ago. I am ashamed that a “Christian” culture didn’t support or even acknowledge the equality of women until . . . well, in some Christian circles, they still don’t.
So, the way I see the text of the prophets, the life of Jesus, and the trajectory of the New Testament, I would much rather be held accountable to God for fighting for the equality and dignity of all humans (sorry God, I assumed I should fight for the rights of those who didn’t have them) than to be held accountable to God for excluding rights from people for the sake of religious rules (sorry God, I thought I was supposed to tell the world how sinful they are and that my government should privilege Christian culture at the expense of other people).
I might be wrong. If studies show that children of gay parents are somehow disadvantaged or if our society does in fact begin to fall apart because gay people can marry, then perhaps I will change my mind. But for now that’s a risk I am willing to take for the sake of people knowing that there are Christians who stand with them in their struggle to be seen as equals in the eyes of their government.
If the Church wants to keep marriage between a man and a woman because of their religious convictions, so be it. Remember, this isn’t about the “sinfulness of homosexuality.” I understand that stance within the Church. But I will not support using the government’s power to coerce powerless non-Christians into behaving like Christians. That, to me, seems thoroughly un-Christian. It is the Spirit of God who transforms the heart, not the laws of the powerful.
I know this is controversial ground . . . . While I have no interest in picking a fight, I absolutely welcome critiques to my arguments as well as other options and opinions on the issue.