Evangelicals for Gay Marriage: Please Be Consistent

This will be my last post on this topic for now.

The number one (and probably only) reason why evangelicals do not support gay marriage is because they believe gay sex to be a sinful act. However, my case in my previous posts is that its sinfulness is surprisingly irrelevant to my decision to support gay marriage as an evangelical Christian. But here I explore why evangelicals are typically inconsistent on this issue.

Let’s assume that gay sex is a sin (as most evangelicals do). Let’s follow this logic to see if it doesn’t lead us toward a double standard.

Essentially the argument is that a Christian can never support a law that both
(1) champions governmental equality for all Americans
(2) allows for sinful behavior to be legally practiced

But one really relevant question is:

Do you actively support the rights of all Americans to worship in any way they choose?

That is, do you believe religious freedom is something worth fighting for?

If so, you believe all religions should be given governmental equality, that all religions should receive the same benefits from the government.

But hold on . . .

Do you also believe that the Bible teaches that worshiping other gods is a sin?

Do you realize that your support for religious freedom in America is championing the cause of sin? You are actively supporting a law that legalizes sinful behavior in our country.

To be more specific, you are a Christian supporting a law that both
(1) champions governmental equality for all Americans
(2) allows for sinful behavior to be legally practiced

How is this different (other than the fact that religious freedom serves an evangelical’s own personal interest) than the argument that a person can believe gay sex to be a sin and yet still support the rights of the GLBT community to have governmental equality?

If you find a logical reason why these are different, please let me know. As a philosophy professor, I will be thoroughly ashamed but grateful for more truth.

However, if you admit that these arguments are not different, then you admit your inconsistency. At which point you should either fight for gay marriage (if that makes you entirely too uncomfortable, at least please stop being so angry and condescending toward us who do!) or be willing to start fighting against our religious freedoms as Americans (if that makes you too uncomfortable as an American, at least stop saying it’s a good thing that we have religious freedom).

According to this argument, I have five choices as a Christian:
1. State that homosexual practices aren’t sinful (as our brothers and sisters in other denominations have) and bypass the whole argument.

2. State that they are sinful (most evangelicals are probably more comfortable here) but that its sinfulness is irrelevant to supporting governmental equality for the GLBT community since my place as a Christian in the world is to support equality and justice, NOT to judge the behavior of non-Christians.

3. State that they are sinful, be against their fight for equal rights, but then also be against the religious freedom of all Americans, for the same reason.

4. Be okay with the inconsistency of supporting religious freedom but not the freedom to marry. But then don’t be surprised when no one listens to you.

5. Drop the sin argument and find new reasons not to support gay marriage.

I am not sure that logic is going to lead many evangelicals into an easy decision if those are the only options (are there others?). As for me and my house, we will choose to live in the top half.

33 responses to “Evangelicals for Gay Marriage: Please Be Consistent

  1. You’ve laid out a good argument. I’m definitely in the top half as well…

    I have a question… about your #2… 2. State that they are sinful (most evangelicals are probably more comfortable here) but that its sinfulness is irrelevant to supporting governmental equality for the GLBT community since my place as a Christian in the world is to support equality and justice, NOT to judge the behavior of non-Christians.

    Are we to judge Christians? I know what Paul says on the matter, but then I’m drawn to Jesus when he chooses not to throw stones.

    I believe this issue comes down to judgement vs. love and I find myself wanting to be free of judgement and heading toward love. I know most evangelicals may think they are loving by telling the world they are sinful, but I can’t resolve that in my heart to love that way. (not anymore.)

    • I believe in order to rebuke someone in a positive and loving way is through a concrete relationship. I believe that we should probably only rebuke those who we can understand where their heart lies. I think the best and maybe only way of doing this is by being very closely tied to them in friendship etc.

  2. You know, I really don’t look forward to us redefining marriage as anything other than between one man and one woman. I guess I wonder how long it will be before those that have multiple wives or husbands start appealing the courts for rights to be legally married to multiple spouses. Or how long will it before someone appeals the courts to legally be allowed to marry their own children, or be allowed to be married to a man and woman. Maybe a group will petition the courts to be allowed to have group marriages. Maybe groups will petition the courts to allow any age child to get married without parental consent. Right now, we are just asking that two men or two women be allowed to get married and have the benefits of being a married couple in the eyes of the government. One day I think we are going to be faced with these other scenarios.

    I can’t stop gay and lesbian marriages from being made legal, and I’m not going to try to. I know that at this point in my life, I just can’t stand up and support it, anymore than I’m going to stand up and support morning prayer being brought back in the schools. Maybe with time, God will change my mind, but not today. I’m just not sure I completely agree that they aren’t being given the rights they deserve. If they aren’t being given the rights they deserve, then neither are polygamists or any other group of people living together as a family unit that isn’t being recognized by the government.

    • Respectable position Keelie, thanks for your thoughtfulness, patience, and willingness to think through these tough topics. Perhaps many who have commented on this blog are right – may we should be advocating for marriage to be taken out of the hands of the government completely. We’ll keep thinking and most importantly, we’ll keep being friends.

    • Certainly all of the above is possible, and a logical consequence of defining marriage legally to include gay marriage.

      I would advocate a different approach – remove all mention of marriage from the laws. If you don’t regulate marriage, or provide legal benefit to being in the married state, then the whole argument becomes moot.

      Existing laws regarding child custody (which already apply to unmarried people out of necessity), and statutory rape, and child welfare in general would tend to address many of your concerns. We already allow children to be kept in highly damaging family situations legally as it is.

      If you get government out of the marriage business then everybody is free to recognize marriages or not as they see fit. Co-ownership of assets by married couples (or whatever the arrangement is) can already be addressed by contract law and mutual agreement.

  3. I am a GBLT Christian. I appreciate this article, I think it will help a few. My only comment would be that option two seems to suggest that GBLT folks fall into the non-christian category. Perhaps number 2 could read..not to judge people. Christian or non-Christian, GBLT or not.

  4. I still have a question that has not been answered. At what point do you draw the line? Is there an issue where “governmental equality for all Americans” should not be recognized? How far will you go before you stand up and say, no this is not right? Or would you always “choose love” by blindly supporting all rights for any choice one wants to make?

    • I agree this is a good discussion. I am not sure why you consider it “blind” support but the first common sense line is to give up my position of power and support people to have the same equality I have.

      That is to say, justice, for me, has to start by not making an exception of myself (did I just endorse Kant’s categorical imperative? Shame on me). Would you not agree? What things do you have in mind that we might be at risk of “blindly” supporting.

      It seems like if you advocate for religious freedom this question is just as applicable to you.

      • Okay, so apparently I should have left out the last question because it gave you the option to avoid the main question. To answer your question, “blindly supporting all rights” is a reference to the inevitability (based on your argument) that you will continue supporting equal rights, while “closing your eyes” to what you know is truth. And disguise your blindness as “choosing to love”.

        So, back to my question that you are eloquently avoiding.

        At what point do you draw the line? Is there an issue where “governmental equality for all Americans” should not be recognized? How far will you go before you stand up and say, no this is not right?

    • It’s ironic that you decry the argument against gay marriage and point out its “inconsistencies” by being inconsistent in your rebuttal. In this post, “Please Be Consistent”, you claim one has to be for gay marriage (equal rights) in order to be consistent with also standing for religious freedom. Please consider this… Would you admit there is a point where you would say that one does not have “the right to do this or that”? I realize this question is being ignored on this thread to this point. So if you disagree and would claim that there is not a point where you would say one does not have “the right to do this or that”, I would like to here your explanation. Back to the point. Because there is an issue somewhere where you would respond by saying “they don’t have the right to do this or that”, then at that point you are being just as inconsistent as the people you are targeting in this post.

      There is something more to gay marriage than just the fact that its foundation is rooted in the sin of homosexuality. I am not an expert on sociology, psychology, or even philosophy for that matter. But there is an obvious difference between getting a tattoo and a gay couple getting married. I point this out because you stated in your previous post that “I think this is a good analogy”. One reason this is such a sensitive topic is because the sociological effects of gay marriage are not as obvious as say murder or theft. But it’s equally obvious that there is a major difference between one getting a tattoo and a homosexual couple getting married. Some people point out that a gay couple has raised a child to become a successful and responsible citizen and use it as proof that gay marriage in and of itself is good and has no ill effect on the family or the society. Unfortunately, this argument proves absolutely nothing. If this were a good argument, then you would also say that a heterosexual married couple who raised a child that turned out to be a social outcast, or a convicted criminal would prove that heterosexual marriage in and of itself is wrong. Both are absurd.

      I’ll ask the question again, in hopes that I will get some sort of response from either Steven or Jared.

      At what point do you draw the line? Is there an issue where “governmental equality for all Americans” should not be recognized? How far will you go before you stand up and say, no this is not right? Or would you always “choose love” by blindly supporting all rights for any choice one wants to make?

      • Brock I am with you, what kind of effect will gay and lesbian marriages have on our society? I don’t know, but I think these things are going to happen. In fact, I’m not sure Jesus will come back until after they do.

      • I am confused, I really did try to answer the question in the last post, but I will try again in the shortest most straight forward point that I can.

        I believe that everyone should have equal rights until that person chooses to infringe on the same rights afforded to others. For example, felons are not permitted to have weapons because they have demonstrated a capacity to commit crime, or some parents have their children taken away because their parenting has infringed on the basic rights of the child. Thus, I am a proponent of homosexual unions because they do not pose a reasonable or empirically measured risk to the rights of others.

        I have now given two examples of where people are no longer afforded equal rights, is this acceptable?

      • Keelie: We already accept them as couples. So, aside from taxation, and empiracal right, what effect do you foresee concerning society, that isnt already present? The only thing I see changing, is the gravity of the commitment they have made to each other.

  5. Steven,

    My last post was submitted before reading your previous post regarding illegal drugs. That’s probably why you were confused.

    It seems you have no view or stand on the sanctity of marriage. Or maybe your stand is that it is not a relevant issue? All three of your examples have nothing to do with marriage or the family. They are all individual rights. If you have no respect for the sanctity of marriage or feel it is irrelevant, then there is no possible way we can come to a place of agreement on this issue. The fact that Jared agrees that an analogy of gay marriage and tattoos is a good one, proves there is no regard for the sanctity of marriage. If, however, Jared does believe in the sanctity of marriage, then he is demonstrating extreme inconsistency by accepting this analogy as legitimate.

    You are correct. The way I stated the question was very broad, so I will restate the question. Where do you draw the line when it comes to marriage? Is there a “marriage” between two or more living beings that you would say is “not right”?

    Don’t forget to be consistent in your argument, maintaining that all people should have the right to marry whoever they want or choose to do whatever they want “until that person chooses to infringe on the same rights afforded to others”.

  6. This is my analysis of the predicament. As I posted in a previous post: There are two meanings to a word, the denotation (literal definition) and the connotation (the evolving meaning). Take the word “voter” for example, the connotation evolved from “white-land owning male” to what we have today, yet the denotation of “a person whom votes in an election” has not changed.

    I believe that the state shot itself in the foot by using the word marriage and taking part in the ceremony that is most often referred to in Christianity. I dont think they knew that there would ever be this much controversy, afterall, how could they foresee it?

    Nonetheless, I believe that the underlying issue is that society has made a voice to change the connotation of marriage to include all unions, while the Church is not ready to sacrifice the denotation of marriage. As Christians, we dont think their should even be a connotation, if we say that it is one man and one woman, we believe it to be literal.

    That said, I would stand to say that homosexuals cannot be “married” according to the church, but can be “married version 2″ according to the state, and their individual liberties.

    It reminds me of a situation that my parents were faced with. Both of them were divorced, and our church had to deny them the wedding ceremony, out of conviction concerning divorce. It was heart breaking to my family, but they accepted the judgement, were legally married and have continued attending our church for over 20 years.

    Does this clarify my stance and remain consistent?

  7. It does bother me that you suggested I do not respect the sanctity of marriage though. I assure you that is quite wrong. I understand and appreciate the sanctity of marriage (as well as abstinence for that matter) as a Christian. I just happen to have a different set understanding of how the state should interpret marriage.

  8. I don’t want to get into the infinite argument of a word game. Although, I appreciate your explanation of the difference between denotation and connotation. It was very insightful. I will, however, point out that the word “voter” is not an institution of two people being joined together that was created and ordained by God. Nor does God explain anywhere in scripture about the concept of a “voter”. But God does explain the concept of “marriage”–the coming together of a man and a woman. So much that the two become one. This is one example of absolute truth. If you do not believe in absolute truth, this will be yet another foundational understanding that will hinder us from ever coming to an agreement on this matter. It makes no difference how you, or Jared, or our culture, or I choose to redefine what is means. You can even call it something different as you suggested the government should have done. It still doesn’t change the reality of what is actually taking place. It, being marriage or whatever you would suggest to call it, will still have the same effects on our society and the sanctity of “marriage”.

    I will reiterate what I have already said in a previous post. I am not an expert in any area and cannot say or speculate what real effects we will see as a result of this. All I know is that this issue is in no way comparable to getting a tattoo or abusing drugs.

    I apologize for wording my statement about the sanctity of marriage in such a way that it accused you of not respecting it. It is simply a reality of the inconsistency of believing in the sanctity of marriage, but standing for something that pollutes and degrades it. Ultimately, it is not me or someone else that accuses one who “believes homosexuality is a sin AND supports the right for gay marriage” of disregarding the sanctity of marriage. It is the actions of that very person that places the accusation on themselves.

    Please understand this. I am not an extremist that believes this world will completely fall apart if gay marriage is legalized. If it happens, it happens. I am also not a person that excludes, shuns, or condemns gay people. I am the “chief of sinners”, as Paul declares himself to be in 1 Timothy 1:15. I do not compare myself to people around me. I compare myself to Jesus, of whom I always fall short.

  9. I understand your position. I really do, and I very much appreciate the apology as well as your patience in the discussion. It is always refreshing to have a calm discussion about matters, such as this, which get carried out of hand so easily.

    The “voter” bit, was just a demonstration of how words change over time. And it is an applicable analogy for non-christians who do not believe that marriage is sanctified by a higher power at all.

    I think ultimately we come full circle, back to Jared’s point… As an individual, do we believe it is the governments job to legislate ethics and morality. I think not. Simply because of it’s potential to become a slippery slope.

    There is one question I have for you, and I havent really been able to form an opinion on it myself, hopefully I will hear from Jared on this as well:

    What are your thoughts concerning the multiple wives that many old testament figures had, that the bible made no reference to as being wrong? There were cases where only one other wife was assumed, because the first was barren. But in many cases, the number of wives was completely excessive, even for the purpose of having an heir.

    The only reason why I bring this up, is because the case is made in the new testament for “one man, one wife.” A much different proclamation. I know this isnt the same issue as homosexual marriage, but it does demonstrate a fundamental change of the sanctity of marriage WITHIN the context of the bible. I find it to be very interesting!

    • No, thats not what I am saying at all. That is a whole other can of worms.

      However, you bring up a fresh reminder. My argument is that all people should be allowed to marry and be recognized by the state regardless of religion, race, creed, ethnicity, etc, and in this case sexual orientation. Whether or not the church recognizes it as a marriage and it is sanctified by God, that issue is a couple articles down the road.

    • This post is written assuming the logic of someone who believes either that gay sex is a sin, though gay people can be Christians or that it is a sin and therefore any claim for Christianity from a gay person should be suspect completely. At least that’s why I keep assuming — for the sake of argument. Does that answer your question?

  10. I have to mention the fact that no one who was critical of my position even bothered to tell me why they are justified in promoting religious freedom but protesting gay marriage. So I appreciate all of the dialogue, very helpful, but it still leaves me wondering if I have any holes in my logic.

    • Oh, I just read this post after I replied on the previous one.

      I must say, I would not call myself a “promoter of religious freedom.” Maybe that’s the reason why. I benefit from it, obviously, am grateful for it, but it is not the reason why I am living in the U.S. I was just born here. My husband and I are planning on leaving at some point to do long-term mission work elsewhere. We do not feel an attachment to this nation. It is where we live, but we do not adopt its ideologies and ways of living as our model for our personal living. In fact, most of what America stands for, I hate. If I get persecuted for my faith elsewhere, so be it. It is God I am loyal to — not the nation I was born into.

      Does that clarify?

      • How can you possibly you say you hate what this nation stands for?

        I have a HUGE issue with this. I think maybe what you meant to say is you hate the people who have operated it, and have deviated from the full potebtial we are capable.

        America is not a nation of crooked politicians, economic inequality, youthful apathy, or greed. America is a nation that has given the rights and liberties for us to make of this nation WHAT WE CHOOSE to make it.

        I have a lot of dissappointment in the PEOPLE of the nation, I would concede to that statement. But the nation itself is more capavle of greatness and acts of good nature than any other nation in the world.

        As Americans, we are born into the richest ten percent of the world, we have education, running water, values and the potential to do as much good anywhere we choose. And, we have the freedom to worship God, the freedom of speech to have blogs such as this, to be open and discuss and advance.

        We dont always make tye right decision, what is important, is that we are given the ability to make that decision for ourselves.

        Sorry for the rant, I am not upset. But hopefully you consider the potential of our great nation, and the wonderful experiment it has been in the history of human civilizarion, not just the many misguided people who populate it.

      • Indeed, my argument is only for those who would do believe it is a good thing that we have religious freedom in this country for all people.

  11. I haven’t read all the comments, but interesting discussion. Jared, I agree you have a compelling argument comparing it with religious freedom, but I must disagree with your point that you keep repeating. That is, it is never NOT about sin, at least in the general scheme. Of course, I agree that point is not practically helpful (nor applicational) but I think it has to be acknowledged. The point I think that you try to make with the language of ‘coerce’ is more in line. But I think the more clear way to put it is: it is not the Christian mission to force someone not to sin by use of law. That would lead us to the ugliness of religious war.

    I think for this issue, there are things that are assumed (by both sides) that need to be clarified. Some being, what are we talking about in terms of rights and what does it mean to deserve them (as you seem to imply in your language of equality). Or what is the purpose of fighting for equality?

    Also, I think Americans are always hazy on the role of the govt in relation to Christianity. What is its role? And especially, in relation to a Christian’s call to influence culture (including laws and govt), rather than just “not judge” them. Missionally speaking (and i know you’re talking about judgmentalism) judging is necessary, individually and corporately AND governmentally. That is what you do when you vote for ANY law.

    • I agree. I think that every Christian desires to live in a Christian nation. And there is nothing wrong with that, nothing sounds more appealing to me than every person in the world being Christian and living according to Christian values. But it is not feasible. Primarily because the world isnt all Christian. Therefore, in order for us to coexist, it is important that we dont tread on each other, and why I believe it is not the govt responsibility to enforce religous doctrine.

    • Paul, can I just say that I always love how you engage with me on this blog. Thank you for your desire to challenge me. I agree that there are lots of things being assumed, mostly because we are all amateurs here regarding law and rights language (at least I think we are)!

      I completely agree that I really am hazy on how my Christianity should influence how I vote. All great points, thanks!

  12. A good definition of Apostacy, Not to point fingers, I use this to examine myself, Be carefull, Be extremely carefull, when deviding the word of God!

    Matt Slick
    “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [Jesus' return] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,” (2 Thess. 2:3, NASB).
    Apostasy means to fall away from the truth. Therefore, an apostate is someone who has once believed and then rejected the truth of God. Apostasy is a rebellion against God because it is a rebellion against truth. In the Old Testament God warned the Jewish people about their idolatry and their lack of trust in Him. In the New Testament the epistles warn us about not falling away from the truth. Apostasy is a very real and dangerous threat.

    The verse at the top of the page tells us that there will be an apostasy that is associated with the appearance of the Antichrist. Most Christians are looking for the arrival of the Antichrist, but very few are looking for “the apostasy” that must come first. The arrival of the Antichrist cannot occur until sufficient apostasy has happened in the world. The Antichrist, who is the ultimate of liars, cannot abide in a world where the truth of God’s word is taught. This is why the Bible says that the apostasy will come first and then the Antichrist will be revealed.

    Therefore, we must, as Christians, ask this question, “Is there an apostasy occurring in the Christian church today?” Some would say no and others yes. But, as we look for the arrival of the Antichrist, should we not also be looking for the arrival of apostasy? And where else should we first look but in our own house for the Bible tells us that judgment will begin in the house of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17).

    If there is indeed an apostasy occurring in the Christian Church, we would not know it unless we first examined the Bible closely and then compared the Church to the Word of God. It is only after truth is established that we would then have a measuring rod by which apostasy can be detected. Therefore, I propose the following list of biblical truths as a sample of essential Christian and non-essential doctrines by which we might compare other teachings and phenomena. Note this is not absolute and the nuances of several can be debated as not all will agree with the categorization of all points.

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