Category Archives: Marriage

Eric Reitan’s, “The Triumph of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and the Christian Love Ethic: Some Initial Thoughts

I’m in the middle of reading Eric Reitan’s book, “The Triumph of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and the Christian Love Ethic” Chapter 5, “Homosexuality, Mental Health, and the Good of Children.”

Obviously, I will only write about what I’ve read so far. Essentially, (and I’m going with the gist of what I’ve read OVERALL) Reitan is making the argument against the more strict argument that it is not realistic to expect people to hold off on their sex lives as well as the argument from stigmatization. The Christian love ethic, Reitan says, requires that we seek the good of others and when you stigmatize and foist upon people such a stringent moral code you hurt them.

There is much to commend in terms of stigmatization that Reitan speaks about. Obviously, Christians should not stigmatize gay people. This is a basic teaching Churches of all persuasions and denominations would, I think, for the most part agree with, except for your Fred Phelps and some fundie types.

However, Reitan wants to go further than the stigmatization that I’m suggesting here. He wants to go so far as to say that homosexual orientation and acts are not sin (after all, that is why he is arguing for SS intimacy and SSM). To suggest this is in itself stigmatization. I find this problematic.

Reitan doesn’t draw a clear line or clearer line than I’d like between the Church and the world.

The formula I have in mind (principled pluralism) looks like this of which the rest of this post will be how it works out.

1. The World
2. The Church (organic and institutional)
3. Christian should not obliterate all sin and should live side by side with it (this doesn’t mean arbitrarily changing reality).
4. The sinful things of the world should not be obliterated (this means SS intimacy/friendships/”SSM” can exist (in quotes as will be explained below).
5. Churches (institutional) are diverse and exist as such, in part, because of theological reasons (theological consciences). Churches have rules, moral codes, codes of conduct, etc.

For Starters—the Church
I want to make two intial points.

First, I come from the position that our sexuality can manifest itself in sexually inappropriate ways. Heterosexuality can be JUST AS sinful as homosexuality. There are desires and urges and drives on both the homosexual and heterosexual dichotomy spectrum that are inappropriate from a Christian moral standpoint.

Second, I want to inject pastor Greg Boyd into this to make a wider point. Boyd has held for YEARS that homosexuality and SSM are sin. However, he argues that the Church should allow it because God accommodates sin, ie., divorce, divorce and remarriage, polygamy, etc. So my question (and wider point) is this: How does stigmatization (that Reitan talks about) work in this scenario? Say for example, all the people who disagreed with Boyd on this question, left his church like they did when he came out with his Anabaptist views on government such that all you have left are people who agree with his views. Now, say you have a gay couple who are married coming to his church. On the one hand, he obviously allows for it. However, on the other hand, he still holds that it is sin. Reitan, I presume, would stand outside of his church and protest like he did with Village Baptist Church in Oklahoma that he talks about in the beginning of his book? How does one feel stigmatized in this situation exactly? If Boyd were to preach about this subject and still call it sin (though God would allow for it), would these folks be stigmatized? Yes, it’s a better situation than full all out condemnation and stigmatization where they are not even allowed in the church, but by having the very sentiment of calling it sin, according to Reitan, Greg would essentially be unwelcoming and stigmatizing. Greg certainly could not hold to his theological position or his theological conscience.

A less hard line/strict conservative position, ALLOWS for people to be gay and have SS relationships AND for people to hold to their religious convictions. Ultimately, it seems to me, that the problem has to do with pluralism (which is usually the case).

In chapter 3, Reitan tells the story of Village Baptist Church and a fellow named “Don” in which Don had protested in front of the Village Baptist Church. One day Don and a blind friend “decide to worship with” the folks at Village Baptist Church. Don, at one point during the service, stands up and tells everyone how he is gay and proud of it and are quickly ushered out of the church. Don attempts to speak to one of the men where the man tells him that the pastor is entitled to his beliefs.

This is an important point for the pluralism I’m talking about. Reitan wants to change Village Baptist Church’s view of homosexuality as he finds this harmful and stigmatizing. What he seems to do is put the importance of their beliefs and religious conscience on the back burner. THAT’S not as important as how we treat people. However, imagined if the pastor of Village Baptist Church went to Reitan’s church and tried to force his beliefs on him and his congregation. Would there not actually be damage done to those who believe otherwise? We’re not talking about cognitive dissonance here. We are talking about having someone attempting to foist their beliefs on others. True love–agape love–the Christian love ethic allows for people to not be force to believe what you believe or want them to believe. It allows for others to come to a place of their own decision making. It allows for them to grow naturally. This is one reason, fundamentalism is problematic and people have left these churches and those teachings and beliefs behind. Think of this with regard to children. You set the moral/theological horizon but eventually, you have to allow them to find their own way with hopefully that horizon in view.

Furthermore, everything passes through my principled pluralism grid of understanding of these and other issues. For example, I don’t believe the government has a right to tell anyone what to believe. It should allow for people to have their own consciences about matters, religious or otherwise. Thus, (and this is Skillenesque here) if a Church wants to believe that homosexuality is a gift and blessing, the government should not dictate the theological consciences of individuals or churches that believe such. By extension, neither should one church say to another church, “Hey! You believe this and this or this and that!” So, in reality, you can have churches that have theological beliefs that are welcoming and affirming and not stigmatizing gay people on ANY level ie., such as the belief that homosexuality or orientation or SSM is sin ie., Greg Boyd’s stance. People can go to these churches and enjoy fellowship and peace and love.

The Church in its organic form can be very diverse (I’ll leave judgment as to whether liberal or progressive churches are Christian for I’m speaking about pluralism at this point) but in that diversity she also exists in institutional form with boundaries, teachings, doctrine, codes, rules of conduct and so on. Is it any wonder that someone like David Gushee has started to talk about separation over this question? Maybe it’s come to that. Maybe this is or will be one of those things that separate and divide us–like baptism, salvation, communion, etc. That’s OK by my Kuyperian standards. I’m willing to let the chips fall where they may. Now does this mean that one church should not try to convince another or denomination convince another or a individual not convince another? Well, I think it’s OK to do that as long as there is MUTUAL DIALOGUE. In other words, there is a willingness to listen. But if that is not there, then it really isn’t going to get anywhere is it? Also, how would this tribalism play out in non-church settings? Could I attempt to persuade over social media where I interact with people of other traditions? Yes, but as long as it’s cordial. I could possibly change one’s tradition over time as the old guard moves out and the new guard moves in or it may have no affect. The Church changes to some extent and this is about that somewhat.

Reitan spoke about having the gift of celibacy. This is a question I remember talking with friends and our youth pastor about back in the 80’s and was reminded of again in an article from the, “Spiritual Friendship.” My belief is that there is no such thing as “the gift of celibacy” but rather that celibacy is a gift. And the Bible seems to look at it this way. Marriage is a gift. And singleness is a gift. It’s not some divine will power that over-rides sexual drives. We are all wired sexual beings such that even those who are celibate still have sexual drives. Paul is simply saying that when we are celibate, which can happen for a host of reasons we can view EVEN THAT as a gift.

Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen talks about the Kingdom of God as being like a box within a box. You have the Kingdom of which is the largest box and marriage and singleness are boxes WITHIN that box. So everything is relative to the larger box. Whatever station you find yourself in in life what are we supposed to be? Content. You can serve God in marriage and you can serve God in singleness. As a matter of fact being single may be the better of the two options because it gives you opportunities to serve God in ways that you can’t because you have to take care of your family responsibilities. And this brings me to my final related point…

The World (and the Church)
Reitan paints this dark picture of LONG defeat. It goes like this: “Conservatives say: You won’t be able to have intimate relationships for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. Heterosexuals have the opportunity but gay people are not allowed.” I don’t know if I can even call this a strict conservative view. If you frame it as Reitan does I guess you could say that it is. If sex is reserved for marriage and intimacy it should be reserved for the opposite sex and if homosexuality is immoral and wrong then that means that those who hold to this position are saying that gay people are exiled to a sexual Siberia of sorts. Whenever I hear this, I picture closeted gay people sitting in conservative churches loathing their lives while the rest of the congregation get to enjoy their relationships–sex and the whole romantic intimacy and all that fun stuff.But there are several problems with this. We go back to the world and the Church delineation. When you look at the actual sex lives of people you come up with a picture that looks quite different. For example, people “find themselves in a state of celibacy” (involuntarily). They may not want it, but that is what “their lot in life” has handed to them. Those are the cards they’ve been dealt. What do you do now? It’s not voluntary for them. Being in a relationship is not the same as buying clothes or changing your clothes for that matter. It is not something one easily enters into. I’ve always likened being in a good relationship to two things

  1.  Astrology
  2. Shooting arrows at a target.

With astrology, it’s LIKE the stars have to line up to before things work out to where you can say, “I think this is a good relationship. I think I could spend my life with this person.” Things like chemistry, status (from the same basic economic class), compatibility, religion, family, job, distance, and so forth have to be there. Obviously, some of these may be negotiable while others won’t. Liking relationships to shooting at a target is like shooting a bow many times before you hit the right one. In other words, you may go through a few relationships before you can say, “I think this is a good relationship. I think I could spend my life with this person.”

So what happens during the “in-between periods?” What if that in-between period is a LONG time? Perhaps months. Perhaps years. If it CAN be done for an unspecified amount of time, is it not possible that it can be done for life? What about where, in one’s senior years, one spouse has died and the other has to go on without them? I see this in-between period as an extension of the “long life” as a celibate. One is not living in the moment under this view of things.

Lastly, from the paradigm I’m working from, gay folks can establish intimate relationships and get “married” (marriage is in quotes as for a reason. It really is not a marriage on a conjugal/traditional view). This is really a legal point. Under the Constitution, people have the right to associate or not associate with others (marriage is another question). If gay folk want to attend a church which will bless their relationship and hold ceremonies where they “wed” or “marry” each other then both (individuals and church) are and should be free to do so (though the “marriage” would not be legally recognized via the law).

This allows for churches or companies such as bakeries or even private companies such as Hobby Lobby to not have to recognize these relationships as marriage (to hold to their own theological consciences). It allows for churches to hold their own theological teaching about SS relationships and allows them to perform ceremonies in which they could “marry” each other. Thus, gay people are not being denied having intimate relationships on both a religious front nor a societal front. Do I think gay relationships are a sin. Yes. (So does Greg Boyd). Do I believe gay relationships are less than what God’s ideal? Yes. Not God’s plan? Yes. I see them as being a form of friendship (Skillen). If they are this, then the least Christians on all sides could do is think about them in light of a dark, cold wasteland. We all need touch, and relationships and to be loved in a dark cruel world. Why would we deny ANYONE that no matter how far it falls short of God’s idea.

In summary,

  1. People are allow to form friendships and associations. The Constitution allows this.
  2. Churches can hold their own theological consciences and practices.
    This means:
  3. Gay folk can have intimate romantic relationships.
  4. Churches can “marry” (hold ceremonies) and hold theological beliefs where they practice and affirm and bless SS relationships.
  5. Other Churches will have their own theological consciences and rules, and moral codes of conduct which will be able to call certain practices sin, less than God’s ideal, falling short, etc.

If a person wants to feel accepted and not stigmatized by the community then they should go to Churches that accept them. At the end of the day, the stigmatization argument doesn’t hold much water on such a view.

 

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Religious Accomodation: The Case of The Kentucky Clerks Not Handing Out Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Let’s think about this for a second. Corey wants to say Kim Davis has no right to force her religious views on the public through the government. He says: 

“This particular case however, isn’t about Ms. Davis being free to practice her religion and it isn’t about having the freedom to conform into the image and likeness of Christ. Instead, this is about Ms. Davis’s attempt to force her religious restrictions on the general public and an attempt to conform the secular government into the image and likeness of Christ (or her version thereof).”

and

“Every person in America has the freedom to practice their religion. However, we do not have blanket freedom to step into a government role and force that arm of government, no matter how small, to conform to our own religious beliefs.  That’s not what the Bible teaches us to do. We are told to mold ourselves after Jesus– but are never told to hijack the government and force the government to conform to Jesus. Instead, we’re simply to give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to be obedient to the authorities as we quietly labor at building the Kingdom of God.”  You can read his whole post here.
A. Is THIS not some Christian vision of how Christianity and politics should (or in Corey’s case shouldn’t) mix? So why accuse someone of imposing their version while you do the same? Granted, I agree government should not make theological statements honouring one belief above another ie., padeo-baptism for all citizens regardless of whatever branch of Christianity you are from or religion you are but there are ways of going about this without being accused of what Corey is saying and and accommodating religious belief at the same time. Linked below.

B. The problem with what Corey says here is that because it flows from this anabaptist view it tends to be convoluted. For example, if you are a principled pluralist, you say that God is above everything else. The rest is government and civil society. With each sphere having their own role to play. God above and the rest of civil society below. So THAT understanding should has implications for both government and the public. I guess Corey would accuse someone like me of imposing my views on the rest of the unbelieving world? Seems so.

So essentially, here’s how my religious view would work out in this situation: you accommodate Kim Davis and others like her by saying, “YOU PERSONALLY don’t have to give out religious licenses. Someone in your office who doesn’t have that religious conviction can do it.” Easy stuff you’d think. Read Ryan Anderson’s piece here.

But alas, it would seem, according to Corey, that for the government to accommodate Ms. Davis and her kind that would be imposing your religious views on government. The thinking is so convoluted I wanna cry.


Does Remarriage Equal Continuous Adultery? The Connection With Same-Sex Marriage

Unless you have been living under a rock this past week, some interesting developments have occurred in the US–the one I speak of here is namely the issue of same sex marriage. All states in the Union had bans against same sex marriage lifted.

While I was at the gym yesterday my buddy Dwayne Polk got ahold of me on facebook messenger and wanted to know my thoughts on this Piper article that he posted which you can see here.

Essentially, the argument is that Piper believes that once you divorce and remarry then you are committing adultery. But then he believes that God sanctifies those relationships. So this is the first argument to prove another argument for same sex marriage.

That is, the second argument is that if once you remarry you are in adultery you are in CONTINUAL adultery and God allows for that, then what is problematic with allowing for gay marriage.

At this point, Dwayne says that if that is the case (which he believes it is) then those who don’t allow for same sex marriage but allow for heterosexual remarriage are hypocrites.

Here’s the point I made to my Dwayne.

First off, my interests lie with religion and politics/culture and how they mix. I’m also interested in Christian ethics. Yes, I’m interested in theology and I’ve come to hold to much of the same theology that Dwayne holds to but I’m more interested in the religion/politics question. I’m also a universalist, and I hold to open theism. So you really can’t put me in a “conservative camp” on some score sheet saying, “He’s a conservative.” When it comes to politics I don’t hold to conservative values on some issues and may seem more to the left with others to my conservative friends. This has to do with my believing in the Reform teaching of sphere sovereignty. For me, Abraham Kuyper’s overall schema makes the most sense and is part of the reason why I think there is a lot of confusion in the evangelical community over religion and politics ie., same-sex marriage, etc (yes, that comes straight from Jim Skillen’s book, “A Scattered Voice.”)

I said that to say this. As you may very well know there is a diversity of voices in the evangelical community. My interest lies in how we can get along or co-exist with each other (though getting along is nice it’s not priority in my book. Two can co-exist and not go out of their way to be nice). Being as that is the case, there have been differences of opinion on divorce and remarriage. And if THAT is the case, then there are some who don’t hold to Piper’s view (which incidentally was raised by Greg Boyd on the Open theism boards years ago and by William Heth in the “Four Views” book on divorce and remarriage (which by the way, I’m told by one biblical scholar, Heth has had a change of mind and no longer holds to that view).

Thus, if one holds to the view that scripture allows for divorce AND remarriage, then Piper’s, Boyds and Heth’s view fail. But for the same sex marriage view that uses the argument that one is in continuous adultery it specifically fails (Boyd and Polk). And thus, those who say you CAN remarry are NOT acting hypocritically. They only way you could say that someone is being hypocritical is because from WITHIN the remarriage=adultery view the logic holds.

So, does remarriage=divorce and along with it the argument that we should allow for same-sex marriage? My response is no. And why is that? Because, as I said, in the evangelical community there is more than one view on divorce and remarriage and Piper’s and Boyd’s and Heth’s are only ONE out of the four mentioned in the book (and let’s remember, that if we were to take into consideration the Catholic and Orthodox positions which are in some respects radically different than evangelical views, then we would still have disagreement with Piper’s, Boyd’s and Heth’s).

But why do I disagree with the Piper/Boyd view and disagree with the charge of hypocrisy? Because, I follow Craig Keener on this who is no fly by nighter scholar and would disagree with the remarriage as adultery view which you can read and listen to here and here. For Keener, when Jesus said that when you divorce and marry another you commit adultery he was using hyperbole and thus remarriage doesn’t mean continual adultery. Let me know what you think.


The Marriage Pledge

In this post, I will put up links and then a little commentary on Reno’s and Doug Wilson’s piece. First, we have the pledge itself with the second being a response by Leithart to critics with the third being an endorsement by R.R. Reno and the forth being a critical response by Doug Wilson to the pledge itself. A sixth one has responses by various authors and lastly, a seventh response is by Catholic lawyer, Edward Peters.

Looking at what Reno says:

“But the season of sewing is ending. Now is a time for rending, not for the sake of disengaging from culture or retreating from the public square, but so that our salt does not lose its savor.”

A. What, pray tell, does “salt losing it’s savor” mean if not something more tangible then what Reno is saying? What does Reno mean by this? In what way would the Church being losing it savor by not backing out of the civil marriage? Would “losing it’s savor” in this context mean that there is too much concentration on moral issues while neglecting the “more weightier” matters of the Church ie., preaching, sacraments, etc? If it has to do with offending our neighbours over a moral issue and not the Gospel then I think this is a poor reason. I think of that scene in Acts 16 when Paul and Silas were thrown in prison unlawfully. As citizens, they had certain rights that were violated. Paul not only insists that they be escorted by those who violated their rights but he even seems to “rub it in” in this act and when asks to leave, he rubs it in a little more by not leaving right away but by going to Lydia’s house and THEN leaving. It seems to me he knew how to balance “pushing the issue” and “backing away.” Would we say that he lost his savor by pushing the issue with the authorities and insisting on his citizenship? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about not offending people for the most part, but there is SOME point at which, well, you can’t help it. Can there be such a thing as “offending in love?” Kind of like, can we actually “kill our neighbour out of love” or kill our neighbour while loving them at the same time? If love is narrowly defined, I can understand opposition to it. If it is broadened enough to include a wider goal for a wider situation, ie., someone is killing someone and you kill them or put a “stop action” to their action for not only their sake but for the sake of a greater good then it might be possible to see this as loving.
B. On the point of Doug Wilson’s post, while I would agree that this is not a time of retreat, and with his stance on marriage, I don’t agree that ministers sending people to Caesar is as much of an ethical issue as he says it is PER SE. It’s not as if the state itself is evil. The state may do evil things at times, but it isn’t exactly sending folk into a lion’s den. If a pastor sends a couple to the state to have their marriage recognized, how would doing THAT be unethical? The state will simply recognize those marriages as well as “same sex” marriages. Is that a bad thing for the opposite sex couple involved? All this would be is the government recognizing all relationships that come to them for marriage AS a marriage. They are not doing the “dirty paper work” by simply going to the state to have it recognize their marriage. The problem is the so-called foreseeable future where pastors perform marriages not the couple seeking marriage. The problem is, if the couple go to the state, and then go to the church and the church/pastor performs and recognizes a marriage, then they would be discriminating against same-sex couples if they opt out of performing/blessing THEIR “marriages.”

Alas, the problem of the government legitimizing same-sex “marriages” as marriages is that there others will be forced to legitimize same-sex marriages or recognize same-sex marriages as marriages. This, doesn’t just stop at the church door for it will eventually insist, like the wolf in the fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs, of blowing the whole house down and coming on in. For example, say we go along with the Pledge where pastors don’t perform marriages and leave it to the couple to seek the legitimacy of their marriage with Caesar who recognizes other relationships (same-sex) as marriage. What happens then? Say that same couple who went to Caesar to legitimize their marriage want to open a photography business or open a bakery? Or let’s say they don’t even do anything of that nature. Regardless, that couple will be forced to legitimize same-sex marriage that the state has legitimized. In other words, once the state legitimizes same-sex marriage it expects everyone else to follow suit–tow the line, which is to say that it will insist that churches recognize, in some way, shape or form, that the marriages that it has legitimized need to be legitimized by them as well, at which point they will baulk such that we are back at square one of whether we are losing our savor or not. It would seem to me that all we have done by this pledge is push the line we drew in the sand just a bit further back only to say, “OK, NOW I’m serious. Don’t cross THIS line.”


Kansas And Marriage: Yep! We’re Still In Kansas Dorothy!

I’m just getting around to looking at a couple of different articles here. The infamous one by Andrew Sullivan here (actually looked at this one this week). And this one by Ryan T. Anderson here. Sullivan MAY BE CORRECT that people or businesses of religious belief can withhold services from gay folk PERIOD, IF THEY SO CHOSE to without threat of penalty. But I suspect he is not (I would agree with Anderson on this point). I tend to think he is reading MUCH more into this than what is the case. It’s good that he links us to the law and if you look at the very first part of the law you can see what is going on here. First there is this:

AN ACT concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage

This has nothing to do with with serving gay folk period (full stop) or anyone who might want to endorse same sex marriage or anyone suspected of being “complicit in celebrating or enabling the commitment of any kind of a gay couple.” What it is saying is just below:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:
(a) Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;
(b) solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or
(c) treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.

This doesn’t center out gays per se, which is what Sullivan, a gay writer, seems to want to infer. Nor is it is centring out same sex marriage per se. What it seems to me to essentially be doing is attempting to be neutral toward religious belief and marriage. In other words, if you have such and such religious belief concerning marriage you should not be coerced to RECOGNIZE or celebrate in ANY WAY a marriage that is contrary to those beliefs.

Now, this might seem odd to some because let’s just say you had a person or business that didn’t believe in traditional marriage. Should that person be coerced to do A, B, or C above? Seems kind of crazy seeing that traditional marriage is the in the majority. Who would say, that THAT marriage isn’t legitmate? But I would say that such a person would have a right to not recognize such marriages (albeit to his detriment) on the basis of freedom of religion or association.

But really, that is an extreme case. However, if you were to take, say, a polygamous relationship or incestuous one or what have you, I would say that folk should not have to recognize or celebrate those relationships on the basis of religious belief and the law should allow you to not recognize or celebrate those and not be penalized as well.


Disingenuous Arguments in the Context of Divorce and Remarriage

Just read a sentence that said it was clear, according to Jesus, that divorce and remarriage are sin. Then it said that neither Republicans or Democrats were rushing to outlaw divorce.

There is a lot packed in here, so let’s look at this a little more (except for the outlawing of divorce aspect). Let’s say that one agrees that divorce, according to Jesus is a sin, then would that automatically make remarriage a sin? THAT is NOT clear. Let’s put it this way. If divorce is not God’s ideal it doesn’t automatically mean that there is no “Plan B.” Get it? How do you want to SAY this? Do we want to use the language of sin or do we want to use the more modern language of idealism? To say that both are sin would be to say that those who remarry are living in continuous sin. That would not be the same if we talked about ideals.

Second, it isn’t clear that both are sin as one may repent of the first (divorce), God forgives and then allows for “Plan B” (remarriage) in which case it would not be sin. But there is also, the issue of the clarity of divorce and remarriage that this author speaks of. They said “Divorce and remarriage are CLEARLY sin according to Jesus.” Anybody who has looked at the evangelical literature on the subject has to know that there are different schools of thought on this. For example, this book details these differences.

Some time ago I emailed Craig Keener and he told me that Heth (in the above book) had changed his position from “divorce but no remarriage” to “divorce and remarriage!” Regardless of whatever school of thought you fall into I would have to agree from an old Christianity Today article (can’t remember which issue) that the bottom line in all schools is that God intends for marriage to be permanent. So to make an argument of this sort, in which it is not clear, (I personally hold to divorce and remarriage under any number of circumstances) in order to advance another issue (in this case, same-sex marriage) seems somewhat disengenuious.


The Atlantic’s, “The Quiet Gay-Rights Revolution in America’s Churches”: Some Thoughts

The “The Atlantic” (is that how I would write that?) has put out an interesting article, The Quiet Gay-Rights Revolution in America’s Churches on the changes within faith communities and how they are “progressing” and are more supportive of gays and same sex marriage. Whether it’s true or not, that this was in a very large part due to some political agenda as described by Capelle here:

“In Albany, who do legislators listen to?” Alan van Capelle asked his fellow activists at a dinner at the Sheraton in Manhattan. “Corporations, labor unions, and people of faith. If we can win their support, we can win the issue.”

where churches have been “infiltrated” to cede ground to gay activists, I don’t know. It could be a number of issues going on here.

Regardless, what I want to do is look at some of the points this article mentions and then give a little commentary on each one.

“It is a recent development — Jones dates the “tipping point” to 2011 — and it has helped marginalize gay-marriage opponents by discrediting their most powerful claim: that they speak for the religious community.”

There are a couple of things that have been pointed out in this article. One is that, though Pope Francis is still very much against SSM, he is more friendly towards LGBT persons saying, ” “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” and the other is the LONG solid history of the Church on sexuality and same-sex attractions and activities/relations. The Christian church has pretty much been unified on this question of same sex relationships. For the Pope to say what he has said is not unusual or even contradictory to the long teaching of the church. But I suppose one could say that proponents of same-sex marriage, in the Christian church don’t speak for the religious community either. At least not for most of those who have lived (past) and those who are still alive (such as the Christians mentioned in the article ie., Southern Baptists, a good portion of Catholics, etc. I mean, are we to say that the Religious Left speaks for the religious community?

This really is a question of justice. And the problem is that both the right and left have been narrowly focused on political engagement. That is, they both have jumped on this or that moral issue and have sought to get government to do something about it not asking the question, “Is this where government should be involved?” I know this sounds slightly derogatory, but both the Right and Left live parasitically off of one moral issue or another (Skillen) instead of asking about the more basic questions, “What is civil society’s role? And what is government’s role?” on these issues.

“I get it all the time,” she said. “People have been told for so many years if you’re a gay person you basically don’t belong in the religious community. And straight folks, too, want to see their religion as a source of love and inclusion that’s making people’s lives better, not shaming people or keeping them out.”

This get’s a little closer to what I’m saying above. Think of it like this. Say you have a public space. In this space there are families, churches, shops, unions, universities, police, voluntary organizations, doctors, banks, and so forth. Now, a university doesn’t have the right to tell a family how to work out their family life or family issues, etc. A union shop doesn’t have a right to tell a church how to run it’s business, etc. With THAT basic understanding in place now think of it like this. You not only have ONE church, but many churches of many different stripes. My Baptist church should not tell the Mormon Church what distinctives it should have. The Catholic Church should not tell the Orthodox or the Protestant churches about it how they believe or their codes of ethics or conduct. Even within denominations, a church should not tell another church how to run it’s business because of the dynamics involved. And so, you begin to see the point that this is not so much a theological question but a POLITICAL one. Churches have their theological teachings as well as their ethical ones. There are certain beliefs and behaviours, etc, that churches adhere to. Thus, if one wants a church that is LGBT friendly, such that it invites them to participate in the full life of the church, such that it marries them or invites them to take communion, etc, then what would be problematic with gay-folk attending THAT church and leaving those that are opposed to same-sex marriage alone–to their own beliefs, teachings, codes of ethics, etc? Why is there this need to change all these more conservative churches on this question? And here’s the thing. This has NOTHING to do with centring out gays PER SE. It has EVERYTHING to do with PUBLIC JUSTICE. Connect the dots, please.

“Central to this outreach has been a message that emphasizes religious teachings about compassion, tolerance, and humility. Religious leaders and followers want to feel that they’re not choosing politics over religion but bringing the two into alignment.”

Given what I’ve said above. Who is doing this? Choosing politics over religion? I would say, it is more those who seek to change a particular church.

“When President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage more than a year ago, he framed it as a matter not of separating church and state but of following Christian teaching: “When we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the golden rule,” he said. “Treat others the way you’d want to be treated.”

A religious argument for political question now, right? I mean, churches hold that women should not be ordained as priests, would the President say, that the Golden Rule is not only not being applied but that it is also going against a woman’s civil rights? I mean, there are some that advocate this (goes against a woman’s civil rights). But again, given what I’ve said about churches having “theological consciences” then folk should attend those churches that believe in women’s ordination. Also, this seems to apply only when the issue is “your beloved issue.” Right or Left. The Right, for years has mostly been the one to use religious arguments and those on the Left have said, “You have to hang up your religious hat before you can talk about a particular issue in the public square.” The Left comes out with their particular pet issue (SSM) and it’s OK now? We can use religious arguments?

“There’s no question this is partly the story of an overall change in American public opinion toward gay rights; it’s also partly the story of a rising religious left that seeks an alternative focus to the old religious right.”

All this is is living parasitically in the political system. Right vs Left with no principled understanding or a connecting of the dots between governing and the proper issues. The Left is pretty much doing the same thing that they have accused the Right of doing.

“For faith leaders and LGBT activists alike, a reconciling, gradual but profound, is under way. “People have been told for decades that homosexuality is a sin, but they know really good LGBT people, and they don’t know what to do,” said Groves of the Human Rights Campaign. “We need to be going into those conservative religious spaces with messages like the pope — who am I to judge? Once people see the humanity of LGBT people, it is very hard to hold onto a vitriolic stance.”

Of course, don’t be vitriolic. I know this happens with both sides. Both sides, both Right and Left could tone the speech down. Both can be welcoming but both can’t be affirming. One side will be both welcoming AND affirming and the other will be welcoming but NOT affirming which may look like, invitations to communion, participation in different areas of church life, etc, (again, all of this depending on that particular body’s code of ethics) but don’t believe in or practice SSM.