Thursday, October 30, 2008

    THE YOUTH VOTE: Prop 8 and Marriage Equality

    Next week Californians will be asked to vote on Prop 8, a measure aimed at taking away the right of many individuals to marry the person of their choice. The video above illustrates the profound justice issue inherent in this effort by taking a "Yes on Prop 8" commercial and replacing the words "gay marriage" with "interracial marriage." Yes. There was a time not too long ago in this country when interracial marriage was illegal. And many Christians quoted the Bible in their arguments to keep things that way. Are we making a similar mistake today? Is history repeating itself? It should make some stop and think.

    What an important topic to speak with our youth about -- one that has, unfortunately, almost entirely defined what the Church stands for in the eyes of much of the secular public. You might want to share this video with your youth, as well as check out some of the Prop 8-related discussion questions for teens that fellow blogger Jeremy Zach proposes at his Small Town Youth Pastor blog. These young people are future voters. Let's listen to what they have to say.


    jeremy zach said...

    amen! what sucks too is when some our students have gay parents.

    how do we theologically understand that one?

    it is going to happen. a student is following Christ, but the individuals (mom and mom) are the providers for this student.

    in the future, i guarantee the homosexual question is going to be the question that will haunt every church in america.

    Derek said...

    I am a faithful reader of this blog, but I have to say I've been incredibly disappointed lately.

    I understand your love for God and you're desire to be relevant so that you can reach people. It would seem, however, that in a struggle to be relevant, you've gone so far that you're not relevant at all.

    People need to recognize sin to need a Savior. That's relevant. When we coax people and tell them that what they choose, even if unbiblical, is okay, then we become irrelevant taking away their need for a Savior. Yes, people have a choice and we can't take that away. But we don't have to endorse it and tell them it's okay to do whatever they will.

    You and I both know that interracial marriage and homosexual marriage are not even close to the same thing.

    I agree that it's sad we have such a bad reputation among homosexuals that homophobia seems to define us. I believe we should engage culture and love everyone. But I believe we cross the line when we endorse sin from our churches and politically.

    Jesus loved sinners and ate with them. He did not endorse their lifestyles. He called sin what it is and he was relevant.

    Brian said...

    Jeremy, you point to how complicated this issue is. It goes far beyond simply being "for" or "against."

    Derek, thanks for sharing your point of view. I hope it is not a surprise to the readers of this blog that many Christians (myself included) simply see same-sex attraction as another expression of humanity, and that through careful study and exegesis of scripture we simply cannot find a good argument for proclaiming homosexuality, in and of itself, as sin. In the same way, I am willing to say that your point of view also comes from a careful and honest attempt to understand scripture. We could debate the scriptural issues here until the cows come home and I doubt we would ever reach a resolution.

    So, I would ask that we look at this beyond the scriptural issue and consider that it is a justice issue that spreads into our secular culture. Allowing gay persons to marry, in my viewpoint, does not affect the church in any way. Some churches already bless the unions of gay persons and some do not. Legalizing marriage for gay persons will not change that. But I am hardpressed to understand what damage is done by allowing gay marriage or what justification we Christians have for forcing one particular Christian interpretation of scripture upon the entire population of the country. Maybe you can help me understand that better from your point of view.

    As to the correlation between interracial marriage and gay marriage, I respectfully disagree with your assertion that I really know that your viewpoint on this is more honest than the one I stated in my post. I do believe that these two issues are very similar. Many of the same reasons Christians now use to oppose gay marriage are exactly the same as those used only decades ago to oppose interracial marriage. And at that time, good Christian folk turned to their Bibles to back up their point, were convinced that society would crumble if blacks could marry whites, and that interracial marriage was sinful and an abomination of a lifestyle. Most of us have grown beyond that understanding. I suspect that 50 years from now we will have done the same with the debate over gay rights.

    Derek said...

    Let me first say that though I think homosexuality is a sin, it is no more sinful than any other sexual sin. I think that is where we have went wrong in the modern church. We make homosexuality the unforgivable sin when Christ died for all sin.

    Perhaps reading Romans 1 will help with an understanding of what God thinks about homosexuality. Particularly in 1:26-27, the passage speaks of what is natural and in the Greek is not referring to orientation (what's natural for a heterosexual), but universally for each gender.

    I just think to have a consistent theology of sin, we can't take some sins literally in scripture and some not literally. In my nature, I feel that who are we to tell someone what they can and cannot do, but because of my dedication to Scripture, I must be faithful even when I go against what I feel is "fair" sometimes. There comes a time when I have to say, "that doesn't seem fair, but it's what God's word says.

    Derek said...

    In other words what I was trying to say is this, "If I believe God's word here and here...I have to believe what it says in every area."

    In other words, is premarital sex right in some cases and wrong in others. God has put a sexual drive in people, why can they not use it when they like? If I am physically attracted to an animal is that permissible also because of orientation? It's a slippery slope argument, I know, but it has some credence.

    As far as the difference between interracial marriage and homosexual marriage is concerned, there is no mention of interracial marriage other than Jews in the Old Testament. Homosexuality is specifically mentioned as "sinful" and an "abomination" several times in both the old and new testament.

    As far as justice goes, the only problems I can foresee are being forced to go against my beliefs and marry same-sex couples or lose my license. Practically, right now thoughI just think it's not a good practice to endorse what I believe is sin. If I think it's wrong, I can tolerate it if it passes, but I don't have to give my approval to those I feel are morally wrong.

    Derek said...

    By the way, I know I've been kinda negative in my posts, but I really enjoy reading your blog most of the time. This one just struck a sour note with me.

    I've gotten some good ideas from your site.

    Brian said...

    Hi Derek. Thanks for taking time to post again and share your thoughts.
    I appreciate your willingness to dialogue -- I wish more Christians would do this on issues in which we find ourselves in disagreement.

    I certainly can appreciate your desire to be consistent in your theology and your interpretation of scripture. I think the real sticking point I have here on this issue is that I am not convinced that what they are talking about in scripture is what we today refer to as "homosexuality." I read several texts on this very question in seminary and still think that we are likely imposing a modern concept onto an ancient understanding. I could be wrong -- that is why it is helpful to continue to talk with those who see the issue differently. I'm glad the blog has been of use to you and I hope you continue to visit and post your thoughts!
    Grace and Peace,

    Ish Engle said...

    I don't think homosexuality is a sin. Neither is kleptomania. But stealing is a sin. The predisposition to a specific sin is not a sin, acting on it is. The homosexual act is specifically mentioned several times in Scripture as a sin in both Old and New Testaments.

    I have a predisposition to wanting to sleep with pretty women. That is not a sin. But if I slept with every one of them, it would be.

    My point is that, while the Bible never says "homosexuality" is a sin (as the concept of same-sex couples is really fairly modern), that doesn't mean it should be endorsed by the church.

    Also, I believe it is a false argument to say "we used the Bible to argue against A and B is basically the same." We also used the Bible to argue against works based salvation, is that argument flawed because it was based upon Scripture? What I think we need to do is learn from our mistakes and be careful that we have good exegesis and not eisigesis.

    It is not a simple issue. We need to accept homosexuals as we do any other person with a bend toward any sin -- and that means like we accept everyone else. Just because we find homosexual sex less palatable than multiple heterosexual encounters or gathering and hording large sums of money, doesn't mean we reject them. BUT, as Derek said, accepting them doesn't mean accepting and endorsing their sin, and there's the rub. We can't accept greed, sloth, gluttony or any other sin.

    WOW! I got preachy! Sorry about that. Just wanted to weigh in a little. My tone isn't intended to be as harsh as it may sound. Thanks for the open, honest discussion.

    josh said...

    Gotta agree with Ish,
    While the Bible may never coin a term that we might properly bring over to the modern understanding of homosexuality as a consisten same-sex attraction, we certainly have plenty of texts that condemn the actual homosexual practice.
    However, the term 'arsenokoites' in 1 corinthians 6:9-10 literal means "man bed."

    josh said...

    Sorry, I agree that racial marriage being illegal is wrong, and it was wrong for others to use Scripture to condemn it. However, there is something catagorically different between crossing racial boundaries, and departing from the created order. And this is what homosexuality does, it denies the most basic order of God's creation, trading the purposes of one gender for that of another.
    All that to say, we should not approach the homosexuality with hate, but with love. But love does not condone wrong practices.

    Brian said...

    "it denies the most basic order of God's creation"

    Josh, thanks for commenting. Regarding your quote above, I think you will find the exact same argument was made by Christians who opposed interracial marraige. If they were wrong then, is it possible you are wrong now?

    Let me get this down to the nitty gritty: Aside from some blanket statement of "the Bible says it is wrong" or "it goes against the created order" what is the real problem with same-sex relationships? What is the harm? Why do you see them as a problem...pragmatically? I'm very curious to hear an answer to this.

    josh said...

    Brian, I guess I jumped in without introducing myself, sorry about that. My name is josh hussung, and I am an associate pastor/youth/worship guy in southwest Tennessee.

    I think all we have to know is that the Bible says it is sin. Pragmatically, lying works really well. Adulterous relationships can work very well pragmatically. There is nothing pragmatically wrong with lust or covetousness. There is something greater than a pragmatism at stake.

    Is it possible that I am wrong now? Absolutely. I don't claim to be the holder of all truth. But I think when you have a clear statement like "a man shall not lie with another man as with a woman, for it is an abomination" it would lead me to think that my chances are good. Like I said earlier, arsenokoites seems to mean homosexual activity in 1 Cor.

    Now, to be fair, while I think homosexual activity is sinful, I don't necessarily think that that means that it should be regulated by the government. Regardless of government standards, though, I don't think the church should accept it as permissible behavior. We should treat people who struggle with same sex attraction in the same way we would as a person living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. Lovingly telling them that they need to repent.

    Brian said...

    Josh, thanks for your last comments. They are helpful in my understanding your point of view. I think we are coming from pretty different theological and interpretive perspectives here, but that speaks to the diversity that it the Christian faith. Perhaps you have really touched on the crucial issue here which is whether or not the government should be in the business of enshrining in law one particular understanding of the Christian faith. However individual Christians may feel about the topic of homosexuality, I don't see where we have a defensible position to deny the same rights to gay persons as to heterosexual persons (i.e. the legal benefits that heterosexual married couples enjoy). Perhaps, the Church needs to completely remove itself from the legality of marriage (i.e. no more signing of marriage licenses) and focus on what we really are here to do -- BLESS marriages. Let the governement provide civil unions and legal protections to whomever they choose with the Church retaining the right (as it has now) to bless or not bless the marriages of whomever it chooses. Your thoughts?

    josh said...

    I can appreciate that. And I think whether some Christians are happy about it or not, this is what it is going to come down to. I am sure that within the next ten years or so, gay marriage will be legal in all states. If this is the case, the church is just going to have to decided to bless marriages that it considers to be acceptable.
    I think there is a case for standing against gay marriage, because I do think that there are some social problems that it is going to present. Any time a culture begins to accept as normal things that are sinful, there will be consequences. However, our mission as the church does not change, whether it is legal or not.
    And, as you said, we have varying views. But I think loving people and loving the Lord is one view that is unwavering, and we can do that together.

    Faith Aloud said...

    Hey Brian, I think the dialog on these comments is great and we here at Faith Aloud totally agree that if more people were willing to dialogs like this a lot of the hate and anger could be removed from differing spiritual viewpoint which is something we can all agree is more Christian.

    As far as the rest goes we would like to respond to Derek's comment about losing his license if he refused to bless same-sex marriages. We would like to point out that firstly would be impossible given that churches are a separate entity from the state and therefore a pastor could never be required by the state to preform same sex marriages, but the state is currently banning pastors who wish to preform these unions from doing so. In essence the opposite of what Derek said is true the government can't make any religious official marry anyone for any reason but they can and are and have STOPPED religious officials from marrying certain people.

    We would also like to add that the separation of church and state is something all religious people should be interested in upholding since it is indeed that very fact that would allow Derek the right to refuse to marry same sex couples even if it was legal. So no matter your viewpoint on the nature or homosexuality, it seems to us that allowing to state to give justice to all is a good idea because by not putting our religion into government we are also not allowing government into the pastors office.