Why I Stand for Gay Marriage as a Christian

It’s been a year since I first wrote why I was an Evangelical in support of gay marriage. This week seemed like a good time to reiterate my reasons.

So many Christians will use this time as an opportunity to “stand up for their faith,” while 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 likely never agree. And that’s okay. We’re still family. But here are a few reasons why my faith in Jesus compels me to support gay marriage.

Number One: To Love is to Empty Ourselves of Power. We cannot legislate people into the Kingdom of God, we cannot politically strong-arm people into becoming Christians. To think we can is to misunderstand the emptying of God in Jesus Christ, the most powerful one who shows his power in powerlessness, the one who was God in his very nature but didn’t take advantage of that power but instead emptied himself and became a servant (Phil 2), even to his betrayer, even to the point of dying as a traitor to his state. Does love mean legislating a person’s morality according to a worldview they do not share? That does not sound like love, that sounds like a paternalistic power trip.

I would rather show people the love of Jesus by supporting them in their fight for equality, to stand with them, even if they are gay, hell, even if they are my enemies. My main goal as an evangelical Christian is to reflect the resurrected Christ and his Kingdom, not put it into law. It is to invite people in, not force them in against their will.

And while many Christians believe the “Christian” thing to do is to keep Christianity in power, I believe the “Christian” thing to do is empty ourselves of power, to give up our legislating and to take up our cross. 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, GLBT, atheist, or politician. We all bear God’s image in this story.

Number Two: When in Doubt, Go with Equality. Not many Christians realize that we were, for the most part, on the wrong side of the slave issue and, to a much lesser extent, the civil rights movement. The Bible was used regularly during the Civil War to support slavery as morally acceptable. 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. By the way, in many circles, the same oppressive structure presents itself with women as with gays. We love you emotionally and even personally, but not enough to actually give up my privileged position as the man/straight in power.

Number Three A: My Bible Compels Me. 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 someone to have the same rights I enjoy (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). For those who are thinking, “Yeah, but the Bible is against gay sex,” keep reading.

Number Three B: Supporting Gay Marriage is not Supporting Sin. I know it is hard to grasp, but this matter has nothing to do with whether or not homosexuality is a sin. If it did, then I still have to question your reasoning since you are very likely being prejudiced and inconsistent considering the fact that there are lots of things that Christians consider “sinful” that they do not legislate against. For instance, if God wants us as a nation to live by his laws, why are we okay supporting the freedom of religion? Shouldn’t we be out trying to ban other religions? If we are okay with freedom of religion,which is a law that basically mandates that our country allow for idolatry (according to the Christian), aren’t we being hypocritical?

Now, if this were about gay folks in church leadership or even church membership, we would have to address whether or not gay sex 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

Instead of focusing on “judging those inside” and creating a “city on a hill,” evangelicals are 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.

I might be wrong. We all might be. I am well aware of that and take responsibility for it. 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. 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.

As always, I welcome all critiques and dissenters. I do ask that you present actual arguments rather than just emotional rants about how wrong I am, but I will read those as well if you feel you must.


13 responses to “Why I Stand for Gay Marriage as a Christian

  1. I can’t help but feel you’re just plucking the low hanging fruit here Jared.

    Perhaps the more problematic issue is that I think you’ve already assumed a different framework, one in which your points make sense, but it’s not the historical framework (i.e. I think you’re begging the question) – namely, the privatisation of marriage, and its reduction to being merely an emotional commitment. I mean, if a government wants to redefine marriage to take away the inherent conjugal nature (with which, the idea of ssm is akin to a square circle – interesting that even cultures in history which had no problem with homosexual relationships never even though of the idea of ssm) they are certainly free to do so, but it just makes me wonder what business they then have to be in the marriage game anymore.

    I’m also not sure what you’re specifically referring to when you use the language of ‘equality’. The law, as it has already stood, already applied equally to all persons. The same rules applied equally to everyone. A heterosexual person had exactly the same rights to marriage as a homosexual person – the rules as to who it was legal to marry applied equally – though the options, of course, were perhaps more or less ‘attractive’ to each. Even with ssm there will be those who are not allowed to marry someone they love, so If ‘equality’ means taking away legal restrictions until every single person is happy with the ‘options’ then you have to go a lot further than ssm. That’s not a slippery slope, that’s pointing out the fallacy of the ‘equality’ rhetoric. There is no unfettered right to marry anyone you love. There will always be restrictions, and the question is whether those restrictions (such as gender, relation, age, marital status) are relevant or arbitrary. If marriage is a conjugal union, then gender isn’t arbitrary and easily jettisoned (if marriage is no longer conjugal, it’s hard to see why being related, or already married aren’t also therefore arbitrary?).

    Thirdly, I think you’re using the ‘we shouldn’t legislate Christian morality’ gambit as a bit of a red herring. I agree when you say “We cannot legislate people into the Kingdom of God, we cannot politically strong-arm people into becoming Christians.” but I disagree that this is what is trying to be done here.
    When we legislate against theft, murder, sexual assault and other things we are legislating morality to some degree, and it arguably stems from the ideas within Judeo-Christian moral frameworks, so by your reasoning here, we should never allow our Christian moral convictions to influence our views of legislations, even on things like murder and rape… but, there is in fact a big difference between legislating against murder and say, blasphemy, which is, the direct negative social impact. Legislating against theft is not a case of trying to make unbelievers act like Christians, its recognising the negative social impact of taking other people’s property. So here, if you’ve reduced marriage to a private emotional commitment, then you might say ‘what impact will it have if we redefine it?’ but if you understand it as a conjugal union (the romantic component of which is actually of no consequence to the state) which is good for society because of that conjugal nature and the environment which it (ideally) creates for raising children, you’ll see why there is objection to this being defined away.

    The issue isn’t stopping/letting people get married – it’s about what kinds of relationships constitute marriages, and I don’t see how being a marriage or not inherently devalues other kinds of relationships, or indeed, people.

    I think that when you see the kind of case that Alistair Roberts (for example) puts forward, you’ll see why the response you’ve posted here just doesn’t really answer the issues (esp. that of marriage culture) being raised.

    • Andrew, I see some problems with your argument. It sounds like to to main statutes are the marriage is conjugal by nature, and that we already base many laws off of Judeo-Christian morals.

      If you define conjugal as “sexual,” then it doesn’t make any sense. Homosexuals still have sex, just a bit differently than heterosexual. If you don’t define oral or sodomy as a form of sex, then I feel like you are probably in the minority. I know that I would be upset if I had a child and they were doing those things at a young age or irresponsibly.

      If conjugal means for the purpose of having children, then we should have disallowed marriages where people knew that they couldn’t have children, whether it was for medical reasons or age. Either way, I can’t imagine that the average person would agree with this.

      Marriage is not Christian by nature. I know it’s in the bible and all, but every culture has some form of marriage. It’s biologically innate in us to be somewhat monogamous.

      When it comes to morals argument – do you think people who are not Christian believe it’s ok to murder, steal, or commit rape? These are laws in virtually every country in the world whether they have a judeo christian nature or not. This once again, is biological and part of the evolution of society. We would still be hunter gatherers if we allowed for murder, rape, etc. You cannot build up a large, populous nation without these safe guards in place.

      The marriage issue, however, is Judeo-Christian imposed and doesn’t apply to half of America. I don’t have an issue with not forcing some people to conduct the marriages if they are against it, but to deny people a fundamental right because of something they have no choice over is wrong. There are major financial, emotional, and societal consequences to homosexuals when we discriminate. I find that very wrong.

      • “If you don’t define oral or sodomy as a form of sex, then I feel like you are probably in the minority.”” Well, actually, UK law only counts sexual intercourse as adultery in it’s grounds for divorce. I guess that law would need to change..
        But I mean conjugal in the sense of sexual intercourse with the possibility of procreation. To which you write:
        we should have disallowed marriages where people knew that they couldn’t have children, whether it was for medical reasons or age. Either way, I can’t imagine that the average person would agree with this.
        This is a kind of reducto absurdum, and misses the point. The argument is not that marriage is necessarily for procreation, and only those who are or have procreated, but that the nature of the union is that procreation is normative (a relationship which cannot by nature procreate is not comparible to one which theoretically can, even if this is not possible in practice. When couples are infertile, for example, this is not normative, and does not change the basic nature of a marriage union), and this nature is why the government has an interest in it. Without this interest (as a security for raising any possible children) the government has no business in sanctioning relationships. To redefine marriage to be gender neutral does change the basic nature of the union so that it is no longer conjugal; procreation is taken out of the equation, which means the restrictions on marrying close relatives, or just one person, are also arbitrary.

        “Marriage is not Christian by nature. I know it’s in the bible and all, but every culture has some form of marriage. It’s biologically innate in us to be somewhat monogamous.”

        Well some might argue that it’s biologically innate to spread our seed wide, so to speak, but arguments from biology fall foul of the genetic fallacy in any case. I didn’t actually argue that marriage is ‘christian by nature’ and certainly not that this is any reason to legislate it, but it is very interesting to note that, as you, every culture has a form of marriage, and none of them, even in cultures in which homosexual relationship are ok, have every considered them gender neutral. They have always been understood in every culture, to be conjugal in nature.

        “When it comes to morals argument – do you think people who are not Christian believe it’s ok to murder, steal, or commit rape?”
        Why would I think that? I fear you’ve greatly missed my point, or are reading someone’s argument into mine. This is a red herring.

        ” to deny people a fundamental right because of something they have no choice over is wrong. There are major financial, emotional, and societal consequences to homosexuals when we discriminate. I find that very wrong.”

        But which ‘fundamental right’ are you referring to? Even with SSM some people will be refused the ‘right’ to marry the person they love. Why do you discriminate against them?
        I have no issue with governments securing social and legal rights for same-sex couples, just as for de-facto couples. You don’t need to redefine marriage to do this, however. I think it’s ok to recognise that there are different kinds of relationships without devaluing them.

        Do read the link I posted, btw, because the issues of marriage culture is a big part of the argument, which you’ve not touched.

  2. First of all, excellent write up, Jared. For too long, the church has allowed the government to have a hand in defining what is sacramental and what isn’t by attaching a legal license code to it. If the society around us wants to define something as marriage to satisfy secular legal codes, let them. This does not change the church’s ability to define the sacramental nature of marriage. Just because the government calls something marriage doesn’t equate it to the sacrament. Rome had “marriage” before Christianity defined it. Pagan/heathen countries around Israel had “marriage” before Jews defined it. Marriage isn’t anything particular “Christian” when it comes down to how a society defines it. Let the secular society define it as they will.

    But when it comes to the religious ordinance/sacrament/holy ceremony that we in the church call marriage, then we can start redeeming it as the model of Christ’s relationship to the church, God’s relationship to his people, etc. Zach Hoag wrote an article recently talking about how his church doesn’t use the “by the power vested in me by the state” type language nor do they have their pastor’s sign the legal license. For the legal marriage, the courthouse suffices in order to satisfy the law to allow people to get the benefits of healthcare and so on. But when it comes to applying the religious blessing to the union, churches can define what they must for it.

    In other words, as you pointed out with the 1 Corinthians passage, what do we care what the rest of the world calls “marriage” so long as we, within our sacred communal experience, discern how God defines it and apply it that way. To impose our religious definition of marriage on a society that no longer subscribes to that religion (if they ever did) is not as Christ would have us do. His model is not to forcefully demand the world become “Christian” but to submissively serve the world while calling them into right relationship.

  3. For now, the question for me is: as a citizen of the US, is legalizing gay marriage harmful to our society? This is why drugs and yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater are illegal.

    I’m not sure of the answer to that though. The statistics on domestic violence and abuse in same-sex relationships are staggering.

    There’s the strong link/theory of AIDS and gay (even monogomous) activity.

    There’s the sociological confusion it brings up to our kids.

    Years ago, I heard a former NYC medical examiner talk about the effects of drugs and other things on your body. He told us how our actions, good and bad, often have a visible effect on our bodies. He also talked about how one of the easiest things to tell upon seeing a dead body for the first time, was whether the man/woman was homosexual, because there were consistent negative signs on the body. The guy wasn’t a believer, and he may have had a personal dislike towards gays, but it sure didn’t seem like it. I came away impressed and have even studied some of this. In our church we work a lot with women in the “adult” industries, and it’s become very easy for me to pick out girls at gyms and grocery stores who are part of that “life”…not saying I’m a genius or that it’s 100%, but once you’re submersed in a certain group, you learn the traits.

    All those things scare me.

    There’s the slippery slope, too. Why not father/daughter marriages? Why not identical twins? Those are valid arguments even if the pro-same-sex marriage people try to dismiss them as ludicrous.

    I would like to see legislation passed so that gays can visit their partners in the hospitals and such. I’d like the courts to start small. This is a great, big decision that could have major ramifications. Just because I believe gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry doesn’t mean I don’t love them. (Insert part of the argument where I talk about how I have a really close friend who’s gay; in fact, I do).

    • Do you have any sources for any of this?

      For domestic violence, they did a study in Britain and found it was the same whether in homosexual or heterosexual relationship – http://www.bris.ac.uk/sps/research/projects/completed/2006/rc1307/rc1307finalreport.pdf

      As for AIDs, that’s just not how it works. Yes, it can be passed more easily with gay men; however, unless one of them has HIV beforehand, it doesn’t just magically appear.

      There are many moral/biological reasons as to why family members can’t marry. Homosexual people are not going to have offspring that have an incredibly high chance of genetic defects. They are consenting (unlike the animal examples, etc.).

      Also, there is no evidence that gay parents are just as good as hetero parents. The head of the American Society for Piedatrics looked at over 80 studies and no endorses it because there weren’t problems found. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/27/sorry-justice-scalia-theres-no-evidence-that-gay-parents-arent-great-parents/ The key is 2 parents, it doesn’t matter what sex…

      • You said: There are many moral/biological reasons as to why family members can’t marry. Homosexual people are not going to have offspring that have an incredibly high chance of genetic defects. They are consenting (unlike the animal examples, etc.).

        Aren’t there moral/biological arguments for homosexuals? One biological one being that they can’t procreate? What if a father and a daughter didn’t have children? What’s the harm in their marriage, then?

        The AIDS link I was referring to is the theory that AIDS was originally evolved from homosexual activity. Right now, we can neither prove or disprove that. Of course, the transferral of HIV is much higher in homosexual relationships because of the exchange of fluids as the anus is not biologically designed (evolved) to receive a male organ.

        CNN had an article up last week about how 61% of homosexuals have experienced violence/abuse from their partners. They took it down within minutes due to the timing and outrage. I’m sure if you google hard enough you’ll find a screenshot or something.

  4. Also regarding “Number One”. To love is also to protect, to point out error, to encourage holiness in other another. If a Christian and a citizen of the US believes gay marriage to be wrong, I completely understand the obligation they would feel to support or not support legislation.

  5. as to point #1: if we (Bible-believing Christians) do not keep our moral standards at the forefront of the social/political scene, then we risk losing our political power and standing. if we do this, our religious liberty may begin to erode. for example, christians may, conceivably, have to choose one day between performing same-sex marriages in their churches and losing their tax-exempt status. if they stand their ground and lose that government-given tax benefit, they may lose their buildings and property. if they lose all that, they may have to reconsider what “church” means and how to continue in this context.

    further pushed to the margin in other areas of morality and legislation, christianity (or certain strands of it) could conceivably be labeled as hate groups, perhaps even become illegal.

    ultimately, we could find ourselves, say 50-100 years from now (or maybe not so long?), in an America where for the first time, christians have to live the way millions of believers have lived throughout the last 2,000 years: as a persecuted minority with no political clout and zero say in the marketplace.

    as an American, i find the idea of any group being marginalized in such a way revolting. as a Christian, i have to recognize that this picture is much more representative of the one Jesus painted for us (Matthew 5:11-12; John 15:18-21).

    for the modern american christian, the thought of serving a Jesus that costs us something (political power, social standing, even our “rights”) scares the pants off us. so, we’re scared. so, we fight.

    God help us.

    • Well said, pastoraustin81. I believe this issue that we are debating right now is one that has the potential to do a lot of damage to the church. I think that is already happening with this major split of pro/anti gay marriage Christians. When we bend our beliefs to fit culture’s ideals, we are no longer standing on solid soil, but rather, shifting sands.

  6. Your postings on ‘gay marriage’ have been very helpful, to me personally, and to a wider audience here in New Zealand where the equality of marriage act has recently been passed into law. Needless to say, here in this little Country at the bottom of the world, we are very proud of that.
    I do not believe for one second that there can be any damage to the Church. First of all, whether in part it agrees with the changes of law in 13 countries or not, the Church does not have to abide by secular law. As far as I am aware, in each of these 13 countries the Church has the choice to accept or to not accept the state’s decision and act accordingly within its own canons. Some denominations will go along with state rule, and others will not, and the freedom of choice appears to mostly acceptable.
    I have the God given choice to accept or not to accept the rulings of a government – render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s – our Lord’s own words. But I have to say, as a Catholic brother I have given this a great deal of thought, and the pervading issue for me is one of equality, which means I cannot deny the right of a man to marry a man or a woman to marry a woman.
    God speed – go well with your blog-site.

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