And lo, the blog becomes resurfaced.
If ever this Bible student was frustrated, it has been this last week. I have seen angry Christians react in downright inappropriate ways in reaction to the American Supreme Court’s decision on Marriage Equality this week.
The Christian Right is spitting in the faces not only of the LGBT community, but also of honest Christians who, under confident conviction, have chosen the side of equality. It is a time of judgment, of disgruntlement, of victory, of pain, of confusion, of love, and of hate, indeed on all points of the spectrum.
Recently, The Gospel Coalition writer Kevin DeYoung published an article asking 40 questions to Christians who were openly in support of marriage equality. I am going to answer them, some in brief, some sarcastically, some some in great (possibly extensive) detail. This is from the heart of someone who, in high school, slandered his LGBT peers, telling them their choice to be gay was wrong and explaining in great detail, as is often explained by conservative Evangelical Christians, why. I hurt people. I alienated myself from people I should have been loving, should have been accepting and embracing (forget luke-warm “tolerance”).
I’ve come a long way since then, decided what I believe on this and many other issues, and I am confident to shed some light on what people like me are thinking when we change our Facebook profile pictures to rainbows.
So without further ado…
1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
Just over two years.
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
No particular verse led me to change my mind. Rather, expanded understandings of key verses led me to question and explore what I had been raised to believe about sexual orientation
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
We have zero examples of monogamous same-sex relationships discussed in the Bible. If a man and a woman can share a sexual bond that allows them to grow in unity and love for one another and God, I see no reason why a committed and healthy relationship between two persons of the same sex can’t do the same.
Also: Proof-texting is not the answer to understanding this topic. We need to be able to understand the Biblical texts in their own cultural/historical contexts, and also apply them responsibly to our vastly different ones.
4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
Ah yes, more prodding to proof-text. If that’s how you want to play, I’ll first use Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” So if the distinction between male and female is found in Christ, and all are TRULY equal then the depiction of a husband and wife as a metaphor for Christ and the church in 1 Corinthians 11 could just as well be that of a husband and husband or wife and wife. Then again, I took that verse out of context, but that’s proof-texting for you!
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
Good question! I would say no. But Jesus also would have been okay with slavery, because as much as he was fully God, he was also fully a human, growing up and living in a very particular cultural environment which was vastly different than that which we are now a part of. The purpose of Jesus’ mission was not to set the record straight on an issue that the Jewish world of his time wasn’t really discussing all that much. I’m sure if Jesus came back to 21st Century North America maybe he would have some things to say on the issue. But I think he would have a lot more to say to those who condemned, judged, and alienated the LGBT community, than those who were actually engaging in same-sex relationships. But that’s just what I think. (You asked what I think.)
Also note that Jesus never at any point mentions homosexuality in the four Gospels. So this question is fairly irrelevant.
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
Ah! A leading question! You must be referring to Matthew 19:3-7! Well, Jesus is actually talking about divorce here. Now if Jesus had never heard of two men wanting to get married (seriously, this was just not something that happened), he definitely never heard of two women wanting to divorce each other! So naturally, the author of the Gospel of Matthew depicts Jesus referencing the Torah and sticking with its example of marriage. He never defines it saying “This is what always should happen,” he just says, “This happens, and here’s what happens next.” There is never any distinct “definition” of marriage in either of these texts, merely an example of what a marriage regularly looks like.
(Also note that terms like “marriage” and “wedding” are anachronistic. Jesus is talking about a bond, yes, but both marriage and weddings look very, very different in the 21st century from their 1st century equivalents.)
7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
I think you’re referring to Matthew 5:32 (thanks for making me do all the work on the referencing end. Some of your poor readers might have no idea what you’re even referring to.): “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of porneia, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that Jesus was talking about marital unfaithfulness or possibly prostitution (see question #30), and probably not an impromptu lesbian encounter. But I suppose you never know. General marital unfaithfulness seems to follow the theme and context of adultery in this passage a lot more than a particularly same-sex affair.
8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
Good question! This one, really, is the kicker. It comes down to a matter of interpretation. Paul clearly has an opinion regarding the same-sex sexuality he has encountered or heard of in his lifetime. He is influenced by a strongly Pharisaic understanding of the cosmos in which God has made nature to follow a very distinct universal and consistent order. Anyone who studies biology or psychology knows that this order does not exist. This is merely a case of Paul’s worldview being uninformed by modern advancement in understandings of human sexuality. We can’t blame him. But we also don’t have to think that what he says in regards to sexuality is the end-all-be-all, just because it’s in the Bible. And besides, if you read Romans 1-3, the whole point that Paul is getting at is that EVERYONE, from those who were given up to these “unnatural” desires to Pharisees like himself have fallen short of God’s standard and have been made spotless in the eyes of God by the grace that came through Christ. This is pretty standard theology, and the reference to homosexuality is, if anything, a passing thought meant to direct readers, who likely shared his understanding of natural order, to his larger point: all have sinned, equally, and are equally in need of grace.
Um… no. This is very basic theology. Thanks for actually providing references this time though! But still. No. I really hope you agree with me on at least this.
10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
Probably watching internet porn. (You basically already asked this in question 7. I know to you the answers should be the same, so this question is unnecessary. But I guess 39 is a less Biblical number than 40 so if this was a filler question, I understand.)
11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?
The same thing Paul failed to grasp. Human sexuality is not dictated by some pre-ordained cosmic law. It is fluid and complex. Don’t get me wrong, these men contributed great things to Christian tradition. But might I also remind you that Aquinas (and most of his contemporaries) believed that women were, by nature, intellectually inferior to men, and that this contributed to the beauty of the world’s natural order. Further, none of these men would have opposed the concept that human slavery is an acceptable institution. I am 100% okay with saying that these guys got some things wrong. But that’s just me.
12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?
Do the normal arguments not suffice? Do we have to dumb it down for the internationals? What even is this question?
13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?
Let me make some calls and I’ll let you know what they say.
14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
I think children do best with parents who love and support them. The gender shouldn’t matter. But I do know this. There are way too many heterosexual couples who have messed up beyond repair in raising their kids for us to argue that a heterosexual marriage is the ideal situation in which a child should be raised.
15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?
This is a pretty funny video:
17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
It depends what a couple believes about marriage. For many people the marriage is not necessary for sexual fulfillment. So it must be pointing to something greater.
18. How would you define marriage?
“a combination or mixture of two or more elements.” (Oxford)
19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
Oh I was waiting for this one! This is a classic case of trying to find analogy where it is not. Attraction to a family member is not an orientation like being gay or lesbian. A person who is only attracted to one gender and then is restricted from being maritally involved with someone of that gender is left with the sad reality of either never being married or denying their orientation in order to be married. Someone who is simply attracted to a family member could also become attracted to an individual who is not their family member and marry them instead. Further, the genetic risks of incestuous reproduction are very real. By engaging in heterosexual incest, you run a high risk of bringing into the world a child who was genetically disadvantaged from the start and this is simply irresponsible and unfair to said child. Of course, the jury’s still out on same-sex incest.
20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
No, I believe everybody should be allowed to get married, not just two people. Besides! We’ve already let WAY more than two people get married!
21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
If three or more, committed, consenting sexual partners respectfully decide to live together as a family and want to have their marriage recognized by the state, I see no reason to prevent it. I do think the church would be far less easily convinced on the topic of polyamory than sexual orientation. But we also must recognize that marriage is no longer a strictly religious institution. People should be allowed to receive the same benefits regardless of their orientation or relationship situation. Remember, even after the SCOTUS ruling, church leaders still have the right to not perform a same-sex wedding. I feel like the same procedure would be fair in regards to polyamorous relationships. Studies have shown that a polyamorous relationship can be equally as thriving or damaging as any monogamous relationship. Again, as we learn more about human sexuality, we must be more open to the ways in which different people express that sexuality.
Overall, I believe consent is the big issue here. People need to be of a proper age at which they are able to responsibly provide consent, and their consent needs to be fully informed.
22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
Yes, but again, as long as there is fully informed, age-appropriate consent, and as long as there is no one else (such as a genetically impaired child born out of incest) getting hurt.
24. If not, why not?
Here’s a picture of a cute cat.
25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?
Yes, as long as it remains a part of their private lives and is not used to hurt or slander others. In other words, believing that people should still be allowed to buy and sell human slaves is very legal. Adamantly expressing that belief in the public sphere is degrading, hurtful, and generally inappropriate. Your freedom of expression should never trump another person’s integrity as an equal human being.
26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?
I will always speak up for equality. Unfortunately, if Christians who maintain a traditional stance on marriage choose to express that stance in a way that is hurtful, degrading, or inappropriate, then it is no longer the issue itself causing them to lose their jobs, accreditation, etc. It is their own actions, their own problem. And quite honestly, I would feel far more comfortable hiring an employee that I was sure would not insult his fellow employees by expressing hurtful or degrading opinions in a business setting. The key is to maintain your beliefs in humility, never forcing them on others, and always being careful to assess whether or not it is appropriate for you to be expressing them in a certain social context.
27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
Nobody deserves to be bullied, and slander against Evangelicals is equally as wrong as slander against gays. So yes. But if your expression of your beliefs in public is hurtful and degrading, or if you use your beliefs as a tool to bolster your own superiority, shame on you.
I would also like to note that this narrative of Christianity being persecuted by modern secular values is bunk. Society is progressing, not out of disdain for Christianity, but out of natural forces of social progress. We are a people that continues to change. Instead of playing the victim, Christians should be finding the true victims and standing up for them, rather than keeping them to the fringes as has been done to the LGBT community again and again, by the church no less.
28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?
I personally do not intend to police anybody’s personal relationships. People are mature enough to deal with that themselves and to allow their own personal convictions to determine how they are to go about them.
As Paul would say, “All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.” (Galatians 6:4-5)
That of course pertains more to the scriptural/moral aspect. There are certainly marital relationships which are unhealthy in that they are doing genuine harm to one or both of the parties involved. Again, if people are getting hurt or abused, then it is the job of those around them who love them to come alongside them and protect them. But it is not my place to determine whether or not another person’s grounds for divorce is “unbiblical.”
29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline
Only if they signed something saying they would only engage in a specific type of relationship as part of a membership or something. What is a church going to do, spank them?
30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
This question comes from a dangerous idea that determining what is or isn’t sin, according to the Bible is more important than developing a strong set of personal convictions based on informed understandings of philosophy and ethics. The Bible simply cannot be our only moral guide in life.
Further, if you already believe that sexual activity outside of marriage is sin for heterosexuals, I don’t see how this particularly pointed question is relevant. However, I believe I can answer this question in a way that may clear some things up for those of you who, for many good reasons, still choose to hold a conservative interpretation of Scripture. It’s about to get heretical up in here.
I’ll start off with an analogy. Nowhere in the Bible is there any verse which condemns pedophilia. But most people, Christians included, would agree that pedophilia is wrong. Well according to what we read in the Bible, we can’t even say it’s a “sin.” We have decided on our own that pedophilia is wrong, not because it would probably be premarital, and thus unbiblical, but because children do not possess the maturity or understanding to provide consent. That is a sexual ethic that we have developed outside of biblical consultation, and few Christians would disagree with it. But for Jesus and the people in his culture, a girl being married to a 40-year-old at the age of 13 would not have been out of the ordinary.
In the same way, the Bible does not say specifically that sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin. What we can infer from the Bible is that any sex which breaks a preexisting marital covenant is wrong (see Hebrews 13:4). But we cannot infer from scripture that premarital sex is, fundamentally, dishonoring to marriage, since it does not actually break any covenant. To say that pre-marital sex is equal to adultery is a fallacy, because the only people who were charged as adulterers were those who were currently married and had been unfaithful. Further, in first century, the concept of virginity was a predominantly feminine concept, applied to women, and not to men.
The strongest argument for the Bible’s condemnation of premarital sex is based in 1 Corinthians 7. However, Paul asserts throughout this passage that these are merely his opinions and not a command from God. It is also important to note that Paul distinguishes between “virgins” (female) and “unmarried women,” implying that not all unmarried women are expected to be virgins. To go even further, look at the first two verses of Cor. 7:
“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is well for a man not to touch a woman.’ 2 But because of cases of porneias, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” A cultural/historical analysis of 1st Century Corinth is really important in figuring out what Paul is saying here with reference to porneias, which most versions have translated as “fornication” or “sexual immorality.” However, both word studies of porneia and an understanding of prostitution culture in Corinth points to a translation of porneia which errs on the side of prostitution, rather than premarital sex. You’ll also find that if you insert “prostitution” where you see “sexual immorality” or “fornication,” it makes perfect sense in context.
Did I need to humor you with this ridiculously long answer? No. But there it is. Further proof that taking the Bible at face value simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to developing one’s ethical perspective. And this problem is at the core of why so many Christians still oppose marriage equality.
31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
I feel like the church has more important things to do than police peoples’ sexuality.
32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?
Most English dictionaries are great resources for finding the definition of love. I’m pretty sure you know what it means and how it is used in context. If you’re looking for a “Biblical” definition of the English word “love” let me remind you that the Bible was written in Hebrew and Koine Greek, and so we can’t exactly use it to define a word which is specific to an entirely different language. Study the Greek words and learn what Paul means when he talks about agape. But don’t try to tell people that love actually doesn’t mean what everyone thinks it does. That isn’t how languages work.
33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
Loving one another is the core of Jesus’s interpretation of Hebrew Scripture. All of our obedience to God is manifested through a genuine love for both neighbor and enemy.
35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
I feel like this is essentially a rhetorical question. Your article should be entitled “39 Questions and 1 Statement for Christians Who Are Now Waving Rainbow Flags” and number 35 should be “It is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make.” And then we would all be like, yeah, obviously.
36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
I am constantly learning more and more about faith as I research the Bible and related literature, so naturally, my understanding of it continues to expand.
37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?
The entire Gospel is centered around the coming Kingdom of God, in which all people are equal. As I continue to support equality, and as humanity progresses closer to it, I see that as a sign that the kingdom is at work in the life of the Church, as well as society as a whole. However, I can’t say my passions lie in doctrines, but in active, embodied faith. To me, evangelicalism is more about being inviting, welcoming, non-ritualistic, and authentic, rather than pushing doctrinal tradition on people.
38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?
39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?
Absolutely! This is where my passions lie.
40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?
If you read the rest of the chapter and identify the whole thesis of Paul’s arguments in this chapter, you’ll notice that it is centered around man’s failure to acknowledge God and worship him. Instead, they exchanged the glory of God for idolatry. The entire chapter points back to idolatry. Paul is rebuking those who practice and give approval to those who practice idolatry.
Well there it is folks! If you made it all the way to the end, you should probably find something to do.