This past week was a milestone for same-sex marriage, both bad and good. On Tuesday, May 8th, voters in the state of North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment (called Amendment One) that bans same-sex marriage. Then yesterday, May 9th, the President of the United States announced that he endorses same-sex marriages. Among other things, the reasoning he gave was religious:
The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the golden rule — you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated, and I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that’s what motivates me as president.
A plethora of blogs and articles on both sides of the debate gave attention to these developments and I am sure more will come. As the debate (some would call it a battle) rages on, it is interesting that the conservatives, predictably, evoke the language of biblical authority. Some more nuanced conservatives, like Collin Hansen in “How to Win the Public on Homosexuality“, would point out that the issue isn’t merely homosexuality being a sin, but that it is idolatry, that is, fulfilling our desires inordinately is displeasing to God. Another conservative pastor, Kevin DeYoung, blogs “Five Reasons Christians Should Continue to Oppose Gay Marriage” to enumerate the reasons why Christians should continue to contend the legalization of gay marriage.
On the other side of the debate are Christians who evoke the language of love and peace. It may seem at first glance like a watered down argument of tolerance, but there are those who have very thoughtful, biblically legitimate positions on the issue. Jared Byas blogs “I Still Stand as an Evangelical for Gay Marriage” with some very compelling points to which the conservative side should at least give ear. Others who fall in this camp claim that the culture wars themselves are harmful to the Christian witness. Rachel Held Evans writes the very read-worthy blog entry “How to Win a Culture War and Lose a Generation” claiming the negative affects of politicizing the issue of homosexuality, she writes:
We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.
And when it comes to homosexuality, we no longer think in the black-at-white categories of the generations before ours. We know too many wonderful people from the LGBT community to consider homosexuality a mere “issue.” These are people, and they are our friends. When they tell us that something hurts them, we listen. And Amendment One hurts like hell.
The danger that this second camp falls into is to argue from the lines of emotionalism (which Evans almost does), that is, to say opposing same-sex marriage is mean and mean people are never good Christian witnesses, so we should stop opposing same-sex marriage. As good as it sounds, this is a flawed argument, as opposing most culturally normalized sin is inevitably mean but necessary, and Hansen is right in that this line of argument replaces biblical authority with our very volatile emotions. But as much as I understand Hansen and DeYoung’s wariness and point that homosexuality is a sin, they do not understand that legalization of same-sex marriage is not exactly the same. And thus, I must personally side with Evans and Byas, but not because it is mean to be anti-gay marriage. But because of what Byas hints at, concerning Christian justice, in point one of his current blog entry:
I know it is hard to grasp, but this matter has nothing to do with whether or not homosexuality is a sin. If it does, then you are probably being inconsistent since 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?
I am still not for same-sex marriage, but I am not for Amendment One. If I could have it my way, I think it is wrong to put into law either banning or legalizing of such a notion. In a sense, the government should stay out of it, but as we do not live in an idealistic world, I think that Christian justice calls for allowing same-sex unions (I am still uncomfortable of calling it marriage). Christians are not only called to evangelize, but our actions are to seal, in a sense, our message. Our actions are to viscerally convey that our message is true. How to do that is not homogeneous, but I know it is not marching to vote for a gay marriage ban and celebrating it. The co-existence of diversity is possible because of justice, and justice requires, like Evans says, the washing of feet, the feet of our friends, the feet of our so-called ‘enemies’. Because isn’t that what our Lord did for wretches like us?