Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How Christians Can be Okay with Gay Marriage

Even when discussing gay marriage I'm still a geek. Oh, my!
So you might have heard President Obama recently announced his support for gay marriage. It’s the first time a sitting President has done this, and it got everyone’s attention. In years past, a sitting President up for re-election would have torpedoed his own chances with such an announcement. But by the looks of it, President Obama didn’t hurt his re-election chances.

I’m not here to talk about the 2012 election, though. What I want to spotlight is the issue of gay marriage and why it’s becoming acceptable for politicians to come out in favor of it. Yes, there are still votes like Amendment One in North Carolina and Prop 8 in California, but overall the tide is turning and America is now more in favor of gay marriage than against it. (50% to 48%)

I have news for a lot of you. Gay marriage is becoming a reality in this nation, and there’s no reversing this trend. It’s going to happen. It might not be this year or next, but by the end of this decade, we’re going to see a lot more states legalize gay marriage, and in the not-so-distant future, be it a Supreme Court ruling like Loving v. Virginia, or a Constitutional Amendment, gay marriage is going to be a reality in this country.

And this puts a lot of Christians in a quandary. All our lives, we Christians have been told that gays are evil, that legalizing homosexual activity, let alone allowing gays to marry, would be the end of civilization. If we let this happen, God would strike us down Sodom-and-Gomorrah-style. So how are we Christians going to deal with this new reality, how are we to behave in a world where gay marriage is becoming the norm?

You might be objecting to my basic premise. Perhaps you believe that I’m wrong, that gay marriage isn’t going to happen, and that America is going to reverse this trend. After all, how do I know that gay marriage is going to become the norm? How can I state that this is the future of America? It's simple, really.

Your children support it.

And yes, that includes your children. They support gay marriage. Your grandchildren will scratch their heads and wonder why it was even an issue. Don’t believe me? Look at the polling. The younger you go, the more they support it. You might be thinking that your Christian children couldn’t possibly support gay marriage. And you’d be wrong, because Christian young people support it too.

Simply put, gay marriage is going to happen because the people against it are changing their minds or dying off. Those who support it (your kids) aren’t changing their minds, even if they go to church. In fact, if it comes to a choice between going to church and supporting gay marriage, your kids will opt to stop going to church.

You might tell yourself that you just need to double-down and really teach your children why they shouldn’t support gay marriage. Well, they’re trying that and it isn’t working. You say marriage is for raising kids. They ask you why you’re not against infertile people getting married. You point to the Bible. They ask why you’re not against people who've been divorced marrying someone else. You talk about not changing the definition of marriage. They point out that at one time a wife was "defined" as her husband's property, and that traditional Biblical marriage could include multiple wives and concubines. Aren't we all glad that changed?

They might even bring up the fact that you're using some of the same arguments once used to oppose interracial marriage. And back then, they also used the Bible to argue against interracial marriage as well.

Which brings me to a reality you will need to accept. Your children and grandchildren regard your views on gays the way you regard your parents’ and grandparents’ views on race. They see the view that homosexuality is a choice as an outdated stereotype from last century. They reject the notion that gays are awful deviants intent on destroying society. They feel this way for one simple reason.

They know gay people.

The polling is clear. When people actually meet gays and lesbians, they are far more in favor of gay marriage and have more positive views of gays in general. Everything you could ever say about gay people is negated by their own experience and exposure to their gay classmates, friends, friends' gay parents, and every other gay person they meet. (It's much like you ignore your older relatives’ comments about race.) So you can try to persuade them all you want, but it’s a losing battle. You have to face it; you’re going to have to learn to live with it.

And believe it or not, it is possible to be a Christian in this country, or any country, with legalized gay marriage. You can, in fact, practice your faith when other people make different choices and live different lives than you would have them. You can still believe how you want and practice your faith how you want. You just have to live with other people who don’t see things the way you do.

There's another group of Christians I haven't mentioned yet: Christians who would like to be OK with gays and gay marriage but feel they aren't allowed. Some of you might struggle with that, trying to reconcile what you've been taught to your belief that gays should have the freedom to marry and live their own lives. It's just, as a Christian, you feel obligated to be against gay marriage. You'd rather not be, especially since it puts you on the same side as Westboro Baptist Church and other Christian anti-gay extremists you'd rather not be associated with.

How, you ask? How can I be OK with gay marriage? Here are some perspectives you might consider.

1 – We aren’t a theocracy.

The United States is a Constitutional Republic, meaning that laws have to pass Constitutional muster. The good news is that you are just as protected as the gays. After all, just as gays shouldn’t be subjected to Bible-based laws, you aren’t subjected to any other religion’s laws. That's why the First Amendment is such a big deal. It means that one religion can't use the government to impose its values on others.

Now, I’m not saying you need to abandon your faith. Nor am I saying that you can’t believe what you believe. You can still believe in and practice "traditional marriage." Gay marriage won't stop you one bit from doing so. (It's not stopping me.) If you believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman, that's your right, and you should have every right to enter into that kind of marriage.

However, remember that your right to believe ends where my life begins. Your beliefs about marriage end where someone else's begins. Look at it this way. If you don’t believe in eating shrimp, for instance, I fully respect your right to not eat shrimp and I will even defend with my life your right to make whatever dietary choices you make based on your faith. After all, that's what the Constitution guarantees and that's something worth fighting for.

Likewise, I hope that you will respect my dietary choices. Remember, there’s a big difference between “I don’t like it and I won’t” and “I don’t like it so you can’t.” If you try to regulate others' behavior according to your religious beliefs, you risk opening the door to others doing the same to you. This is why all regulations must be "checked and balanced." Even if you don't fully approve of someone else's lifestyle, if the Constitution says they can live their life like that, they are free to live their life.

Bear in mind, I’m not just talking about other religions. No two Christian churches or denominations have the same beliefs or practices. Some don’t drink alcohol. Some don’t believe in blood transfusions. How would you like it if some other church began imposing its practices on your services? You wouldn’t like it. (And as history shows, some of us would be willing to kill over it.)

Some Christians are all right with gay marriage. Some churches have gay clergy and perform gay weddings. You don’t have to adopt those beliefs for yourself, but you do have to let them practice their faith as they see fit, and they should do the same for you. Again, the First Amendment guarantees them freedom to embrace the notion of gay marriage, just as it gives other churches the freedom to preach against it. Neither side would want the opposing view imposed upon them.

Now that’s a good rule, treating others as you’d like to be treated. Someone should write that down.

Of course, perhaps your objection isn’t just theological. Then I’ve got you covered there as well.

2 – Monogamy is good.

The verse that everyone loves to point to is Leviticus 18:22 and declare “See? The Bible says being gay is evil.” Well, not exactly. These verses have a specific target audience: men. And back then, there was no concept of sexual orientation. The word "homosexual" didn't exist, and there was certainly no concept of two people of the same sex remaining monogamous. Instead, there were simply two basic categories when it came to sex: your wife and everything else. One perspective of the chapter is that it commanded the men not to sleep with anything that moves, because the sin is promiscuity.

Look at what’s forbidden in the entire chapter. Men are told not to have sex with: close relatives, their mother, any of their father’s wives, sisters, father’s other daughters, mother’s other daughters, their son’s daughters, their daughter’s daughters, the daughter of their father’s wife, their father’s sister, their mother’s sister, their father’s brother’s wife, their daughter-in-law, their own brother’s wife, both a woman and her daughter or her and her son’s daughter or her and her daughter’s daughter, their wife’s sister, their neighbor’s wife, or another man, or an animal.

In other words, the prohibition against same-sex relations can be viewed in the context of violating monogamy. This whole chapter could be interpreted as addressing any “that doesn’t count” kind of arguments. All through the Bible, we find very specific prohibitions against different types of sexual activity, and it’s all about not allowing for any loopholes in the “Don’t commit adultery” rule, which is a pretty good one.

When Paul lists sexual sins in the New Testament, he too refers to same-sex relations. However, some theologians look at those verses as a denunciation of the practice of pederasty, relations between men and boys. That’s rightfully denounced, then and now. I don’t feel I need to go further with why that practice is wrong.

While you might not completely agree with the above interpretations, I think we can agree that at the very least, Leviticus 18, and the Bible as a whole, is against abusive sexual practices and promotes monogamy.

Monogamy is a very good thing in society. Monogamy maintains the family unit, it keeps society stable, it ensures that children have a stable, healthy home life. And before you start arguing that children raised in gay households are less well-off, I have news for you. They are just as healthy and well adjusted as children raised in opposite-sex households.

Of course, this brings up the issue of gay adoption. I've already established that children raised by gay couples are just as healthy as any other children. One other factor of gay adoption is that gay couples are often more likely to adopt older or special needs children. Children are far better off being adopted than remaining in the foster care system. Gay couples are helping out in that regard, and since children raised by gays are just as healthy and happy as children raised by opposite-sex partners, it's clear why these monogamous unions are helping society.

So as a Christian, you might be able to concede that enabling monogamy in the gay community is a good thing because more monogamy is always better than less, and children raised in a monogamous home are better off than children shunted around the foster care system. You might not agree that people should be gay, but isn’t it better for two gays to form a monogamous bond? Isn’t it better for everyone?

Look at the writings of Paul. He posited that it was better for everyone to be single and celibate to focus on serving God. But, if you couldn’t handle being single and celibate, at least get married because monogamy is better than just sleeping around.

So I ask you Christians today. If the gays have no intention of ever marrying someone of the opposite sex, if that’s never going to happen, then wouldn’t it be better for them to be married and form monogamous bonds that benefit the community?

You might be thinking to yourself that gays are free to marry anyone of the opposite sex, so why don't gay men marry lesbians? Or gays could just be content to marry any straight person who takes pity on them. But what you’re encouraging are sham marriages, and that doesn’t exactly uphold the “sanctity of marriage,” nor does it help with the emotional, sexual, and psychological problems that come with living that kind of lie.  How is forcing people to live a lie, or a life less-than-abundant, better than simply being OK with two gay people getting married?

Given all the issues our society has with a lack of monogamy, shouldn't we encourage monogamy? And this bring us to my final point.

3 – We have more important things to worry about.

If you truly value the sanctity of marriage, then before you start pointing the finger at other people’s marriages and definitions thereof, shouldn’t you focus on your own? Jesus did have a point when He told us to take care of the plank in our own eye before worrying about the specks in our brothers'.

First, we should worry about our own marriages and work to get that pesky Christian divorce rate down. Jesus said nothing at all about homosexuality, but he did have a lot to say about adultery, divorce, and remarriage after a divorce. If we truly value the sanctity of marriage, then we start with ourselves.

When it comes to society, we are focusing on the wrong thing when we single out gay marriage as some kind of threat. There are real issues we need to focus on, actual threats that hurt a lot of people. If you’re looking to fight a true enemy, there’s plenty to choose from: poverty, sex trafficking, genocide.

Gays who want to marry aren’t among those enemies. In fact, gays getting married actually helps people. They help the children they adopt, they help their communities by forming and maintaining monogamous pairs, and they ensure the overall stability of society.

So there you have it. Three perspectives that can help you get used to the idea of gay marriage becoming a reality. I’m not asking you to change your core beliefs or even agree with all these perspectives one-hundred percent. But you can learn to live with the idea that gays are marrying. Trust me, you're going to be fine.

If you want to see more of my writing, check out Guardians of Suncast Dale, a satirical fantasy adventure on Kindle. You can even read it for free here. In addition, I fancy myself a writer of Christian scripts. Feel free to peruse.

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