This week, I have been interviewed on multiple occasions about what my reaction is to the Same-Sex Marriage legislation that came before, and ultimately passed, the lawmakers in Albany. Many of you at The Chapel saw some of those (edited) interviews; many others did not. So, I thought I would outline for you some of my thoughts regarding this issue in an unedited format.
Let me start by noting a few items of importance. First, in no way is this small article a full, exhaustive treatment of the subject of the Same-Sex Marriage debate. Second, as a follower of Jesus, I would neither have a justification, nor a desire, to condone hate or discrimination toward any people – including those who are homosexual. Third, this brief article represents my thoughts as informed by a Biblical, Judeo-Christian worldview, and as such, does not mean that I speak for anyone else specifically (though it is true that many of the thoughts herein are embraced by a sizable populace of Jesus followers). I am not endeavoring to speak for everyone generally, or anyone specifically – I simply want to make an effort to lovingly, clearly, and with gospel centered integrity, help those who so desire to understand some of my thoughts regarding this issue. For some added perspective on what I have taught from the Scripture regarding sexuality, including homosexuality, you could reference this teaching for free online here.
With the aforementioned caveats in place, I will say that my reaction to the legalization of same-sex “marriages” in New York State could best be described as “saddened.” Before articulating the “why”, let me offer a brief corrective to those who would note that anyone who doesn’t agree with the State of New York’s decision are “bigoted”, “hate-mongers”, or “discriminatory.” It is simply not true. What is true is that some people, not all, on both sides of this issue have been unkind, malicious, and outright hateful in the name of everything that can be named, not the least of which is religion. It is this kind of speech that deters honest, thoughtful dialogue about pressing issues – and tactics that are intimidation based, regardless of which side of any issue one is on – are wrong. I can love those I disagree with. In fact, that is the beating heart of the way of Jesus. But I can also disagree. Strongly. That doesn’t make me a bigot, of necessity. We should all be free to disagree and not have to be labeled in this country. But as a follower of Jesus, my disagreement, though strong, must be couched in love and grace, so that I may not be guilty before the LORD of possibly saying the “right” things in the “wrong” spirit. Too much of that has gone on in the name of Jesus. Those of us who follow Jesus should set a different tone, while not compromising our convictions rooted in Scripture, testified in nature, and generally expressed and embraced since the Creation itself.
So, “saddened” describes my state of mind and heart regarding this issue. There are many reasons, on many levels, as to why, but I will highlight only a few.
1. God’s Design for Marriage
For those who take seriously the obedience of faith in the God revealed in the Bible, and who hold to some sense of Biblical authority (namely, that God acts and speaks to the world through His written word), then it seems to be very dangerous territory to try and “redefine” what God has already clearly defined. I have articulated some of my understanding of the Godward design for marriage in a previous teaching that can be accessed here, so I won’t rehash in print what I communicated in speech.
What I didn’t mention in that talk, however, was the specific (and obvious) idea of procreation. With a culture that is so focused on sexuality as “enjoyment between consenting adults” (whether homosexual or heterosexual), what is lost in the dialogue is the reality that the design of procreation can only happen between a male and a female. Thus, marriage is a societal foundation – if everyone were to marry those of the same sex (for argument’s sake), there would be no posterity. As well, often lost in the debate about Same-Sex marriage is the functional impact on children. You can do your own research on the studies that have researched how well children fare with two moms, or two dads, or one mom, or one dad, as opposed to both a mother and father. Honest research on this topic will only strengthen the argument in pointing to God’s design for marriage.
What concerns me further about this, is that the agenda doesn’t always seem to be about “redefining” marriage – it seems to be about simply making the homosexual lifestyle acceptable and normative in society. In Canada, where they are even further down this track than we are in the U.S., I found it interesting some years ago that Canadian Parliamentarian Svend Robinson, himself in a homosexual relationship, did not feel the need to marry once the “right” was available on a legal level. He said, “After nine years in a committed, loving relationship, how would the state’s imprimatur change anything?” (Globe and Mail, June 24, 2003). It seems that, for him, the issue wasn’t about “redefining” marriage as it was about “deconstructing” traditional marriage. When marriage gets “deconstructed”, then it seems there is an open door for any number of things: Laws embracing polygamy, or marriage of siblings, or worse. If the redefinition of marriage for homosexuals is about the opportunity to freely get the rights of other “married” couples and to legally express their love to another adult, then the door opens wide for many other marriage deconstructions to take place.
2. Worldviews Shaped by Legislation.
One of the additional issues that saddens me is that many people in American society, bereft of any other moral foundation outside of themselves, base their morality on legality. The law is an interesting moral teacher. Many people simply believe that if something is legal, then it is moral. So, for those who want to forward an agenda, the real work is to get whatever the agenda is “legalized.” They know, from history, that a long track record of legalization seeps into the American conscience to the point that is goes from being legal to being moral. When an issue goes from the legality level to the morality level, then that issue becomes cemented more firmly into the culture of a country. The adoption of this legislation in New York is another step in that direction, though it is by no means a mandate to the entire country.
3. Issues of Religious Freedom.
I was glad that part of the caveat in the Same-Sex Marriage legislation was the protections for religious freedoms. In other words, under this legislation, those clergy with religious objections to doing a same gender wedding would be under no legal obligation to do it. At least that part is moderately comforting…but not completely comforting. The truth is, these types of laws simply set-up the inevitable future conflict between “discrimination” and “religious freedom.” Look no further than our neighbors to the north (Canada) to see this played out in real ways. Pastors have actually been arrested and fined for preaching from the Scripture that God calls homosexuality sin (such as Pastor Stephen Boisson in Alberta, Canada). That will be the inevitable conflict awaiting the United States in the not so distant future. Any move in the direction of the “state” being able to tell a church what they can and cannot do regarding historical, orthodox, Biblically justifiable teaching is a step down an avalanche-pregnant cliff.
4. Further Erosion of Marriage.
This part may not be the most popular part with my Christian friends. Frankly, I am less concerned with the Same-Sex Marriage legislation than I am with the ridiculously high divorce rate among those who claim to be followers of Jesus. It seems somewhat ironic to me that you hear very loud voices from Christians in the state of New York who have been married multiple times (even three or more) who are “outraged” at this redefinition of marriage that those “radical homosexuals” want to inflict on society. It may be high time for the community of Jesus followers to look in the mirror. Could it be possible that if Christians took seriously the design of God for marriage, that maybe our country wouldn’t be at this place to begin with? Or, even if we did arrive at this place, the overwhelming opinion in the country would be shaped because the beauty, value, and purpose of marriage would be so compelling in the lives of Christ followers (by the way, the One Who Himself designed marriage) that the country would naturally not even consider a redefinition of something so beautiful.
Our desire to curse the darkness, so to speak, regarding this issue, may not be as justifiable as we first think. We want to point the finger at maybe 2%-3% of the population (the homosexual demography – understanding that I have seen figures that are both above and below the ones I listed), instead of looking at the attitude toward marriage in the overwhelming majority of the populace. To squeeze it down a bit further, I would be happy if just those who claimed to seriously follow Jesus would seriously embrace His thoughts regarding marriage and divorce (and, though I don’t claim to have exhausted this subject either, I did take up the issue of divorce in a teaching found here. The Scripture soberly reminds us, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17).
So, these are a few of the reasons I am saddened with the events that have transpired in New York.
But I am not without hope. Whether or not this kind of thing becomes a trend in other states or not, what I am confident in is that, as the prophet Daniel concludes, “the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to whomever He chooses” (note Daniel chapters 4,5, and 7).
These events have also awakened some positive impulses in the Christian community I hope. First, that those who have been filled with hate, instead of truth mixed with grace, would repent to the LORD and seek His forgiveness and help to love as He does. That doesn’t mean condoning something that is contrary to the heart of God, it simply means loving in the midst of it. Second, I hope that churches in the U.S. will give added emphasis to the design, purposes, and strengthening of God-sanctioned marriages for the purpose of glorifying God in them, and telling the world a better story about Jesus and His faithfulness. And third, I hope this is a part of the purifying of the witness of the Church in the world, since sometimes it only comes by way of a sobering wake-up call.
At whatever point in the above comments someone may perceive that I have failed to be loving, please forgive me – it was not my intent. I desire to see the truth of Christ presented with the heart of Christ, and I realize that I don’t always perfectly represent that. As well, at whatever point the above comments register with you as truth, may God help you and I to embrace it through loving others with the grace and truth found in Jesus and articulated in the gospel.
Jerry Gillis, June 25, 2011