Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gay Marriage and the Church

Yesterday at 5:01 PM on the Western Coast of the U.S. lovers of the same sex became more than just lovers as they exchanged matrimonial vows under the loving (or politically acute?) eyes of San Fransisco mayor, Gavin Newsome. The first couple to participate comprised lesbian couple Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 84. More homosexual exchanged vows today, most rushing to legalize their relationships before an inevitable upheaval by the Supreme Court.

Yes, this is quite the historical event, but the issue that divides so many is far from new, especially when it comes to the "church." As I mentioned in a recent post, the issue of whether homosexuality was compatible with Christianity or not was a recent point of contention in the United Methodist General Conference.

While all eyes tinted red, white, and blue were turned towards California and her rebellion against federal governance an equal historical event occurred on another continent.

The Church of England united two members of her clergy in marriage. Reverend Peter Cowell and Reverend Dr David Lord exchanged vows under the loving eyes of Reverend Martin Dudley in open defiance of the more conservative Bishop of London. The couple had been united in a civil union, which is allowed by the Church of England, so long as the members of the union remain celibate. (Remain celibate? Come on, that's like giving my five year old a bed made of chocolate and asking him not to take a bite once the door is closed at night. Unrealistic. Impossible?)

I would suggest there are four opinions when it comes to the issue of gay marriage:
1. Yes! (you closed minded fool!)
2. No! (you moral degenerate!)
3. Let them do what they want! (so long as it doesn't affect me!)
4. Sure, but not for clergy.

As an individual more inclined to absolutes, options 3 and 4 are a little blurry. I am interested in what my readership thinks.


crackers and cheese said...

Personally, I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of homosexuality in general. As a Christian, I was raised to believe it to be a sin,, but having made several gay friends during the past few years, now I'm reexamining that assumption. It's something I'm still figuring out, and I don't yet feel comfortable putting my stake down in the ground.

But politically, I support legalizing gay marriage. Two reasons:

1) Marriage is a state issue, not a federal issue. I'm opposed to things like the Federal Marriage Amendment and taking these things to the supreme court because I believe that when it comes to marriage, each state has a right to decide its laws. This does get tricky when a couple married in California may not be legally married if they move to Utah. Despite the complications that could arise from different states having difference stances on gay marriage, this doesn't change my resolve that gay marriage is a state issue, not a federal issue.

2) I am opposed to legislating moral issues that do not harm others. People may argue against me, but I do not see how gay marriage brings harm to anyone. There are plenty of other immoral things (ie pornography) that actually do bring harm to marriages, yet are still legal. If we start legislating against gay marriage to "protect" marriages, where does it stop? Why don't we make divorce illegal also, since Jesus actually spoke out against divorce? I feel like most of the people opposed to gay marriage are religious people trying to impose religious values into a law. The law exists to serve and protect our citizens, not to tell them which values to conform too.

The clergy thing however, that's a little strange. Like you said, I have no idea how any clergy couple (male-male, male-female) could stay celibate! This issue is much stickier, because unlike the federal government, I believe that churches do have the power to say who should and should not be married. So, if a church is accepting of homosexuality, and gay marriage, and gay clergy, and any of their clergy marrying, then they should also allow their gay clergy to marry. Personally, I would not choose to attend a church with a gay clergy member.

Kat(i)e said...

'Citing post! Ballsy. Very ballsy.

I have to say I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this issue, but I can't not jump in there and share my unformed views as I fathom them out!

First off, marriage. Well, I would say that marriage is not at all a state issue. Not in its original form anyway. The whole point of marriage is a union between man-woman-God. That is the church view and (I think) the origins of wedlock.

So, what society calls marriage is in my mind the same exact thing as a civil union. Everything is just better with God but I think that any union between two sexually active partners that encourages commitment and love is a good thing that should be encouraged.

As for homosexuality in general. Well the bible outlaws it, along with lots of other things, and Jesus clearly said let he who is without sin cast the first stone... He was the only one with the right credentials and did not take the opportunity so I'm not even going to go there.

Gay marriage in the church? Anything that is openly not biblical (I go on the premise that anyone will have secret not biblical things 'cause everyone is fallible) is a bit risky to publicise if you are representing God and delivering His message. I suppose with ministry you can tell by their fruits. I'm not convinced but prove me wrong foe show!

As for marriage without sex? Is that even possible? Literally, isn't the sex part of the agreement?

Anonymous said...

first, Has anyone read Romans chapter 1? Any kind of fornication is wrong.

Second, Christ didn't address alot of issues. He was here to teach HIS law, the law of Grace. So as a christian it's my obligation to lovingly show that grace to others, especially those who don't know Christ.

Third, As a christian man, husband, and father it's my obligation that I vote my morals. Not to morally police my country, but to build a more "Grace of God" conducive enviroment.


Kat(i)e said...

Surely fornication in a committed relationship at least has the potential for less emotional damage and preserves to some (granted human degree) the love that God intended sex for? Everyone is on a journey with God (whether they know it or not) and perhaps a semblance of truth in the meantime is better than none at all.

Plus, it isn't just lust that mankind suffers with. Envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice all get a good mention and we find it a lot easier to dismiss these (well, maybe not murder) both in secular society and the church.

I suppose the Grace that anonymous so rightly mentions is, once again, the key to Everything.

nate said...

Crackers and cheese, Katie, and Russ thanks for digging in and interacting on this issue...I hope you interact more.

I tried to remain aloof in my post so that any commenter would not feel subconscious pressure to side with my view, but as you all may have guessed, while I am not a literalist when it comes to exegesis of scripture, I tend to be conservative on issues of morality and the whole concept of absolute truth.

What was truly interesting to me was that, as far as I know, gay marriage is not yet legal (while civil unions are,and I agree with Katie; in my mind they are one and the same), and 2 representatives of Godly authority rebelled not only against the state, but against the Bishop of London. Go to this link to see the bishops response: http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/2008/06/bishop-of-london-responds-to-rev-dr.html.

Whether or not homosexuality is a sin or not truly wasn't the point of this post, as I see you all picked up on--I was driving more to political standards, or should I say "double standards."

If one thinks it is ok for two people of the same sex to unite in a sacrament of God, marriage, why then should not a priest be allowed? Sure, in the Catholic/Orthodox church priests are not allowed to engage in heterosexual marriages, but now where in scripture are heterosexual unities condemned.

Some interesting points were brought up, like state issues. At some point, the state or federal government must draw a line; i.e. a recent case in which a 35 year old woman ran away with a 14 year old boy. The state said "this is morally reprehensible, and thus illegal." But as soon as the young man turned 18 the couple came together legally. Seemingly, the illegal action brought no harm to anyone, yet the state still acted...and I feel they were justified in their action.

All that to say, like Russ, I will vote my conscience.

Anyway, thanks for all the comments, I appreciate them all!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, especially since it's the first of yours that I've read. It's odd to me how the church and it's people are so easily swayed to being less and less about the truth, which is that homosexuality is wrong. True, Christ didn't speak about it, but the Bible does, and since it was inspired by God, then it is truth.
I agree, first and foremost, that we shouldn't judge the homosexual. It is not our place, only God's. We should love them. However, how can we, as christians, say that it isn't a sin? It is, frankly. And since it is sin, it's okay to not like it, DUH! God hates sin but loves the sinner.
It really disturbs me that the church, in general, in its attempt to become 'relevant' to culture is allowing themselves to be changed by culture instead of being the change. Personally, I think we should stand strong in what the Bible says is right and not apologize for it, all they while showing Christ's love and grace and mercy.
If we build relationships with the homosexual community, only then will they listen to what Christ has to say. We have to love them and accept that they won't change overnight. But, we cannot compromise what the Bible says. It's pretty simple.
Romans 12:2(MSG)
"Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out...Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."
This is what it's all about.

Kat(i)e said...

Nicely put. Thank goodness we have the bible! Being an example in which others can see the truth and not some augmented version of it is defo what witnessing is all about and with leaders it is, as I tried to say before, imperative that the example they give does justice to the faith. I stand by the fact that God can use what is not good to bring good about but perhaps glossed somewhat over the idea of accountability within the church...!

James said...

Unfortunately, in our society, the Bible and life in general have nothing to do with each other. What I mean is, Christians live their lives according to the Bible and believe that everyone else should, but that does not happen. Here is what does happen. Lesgistators and activists bring up an issue, be it moral or political, and each side vocally fights over it. When it comes to a vote, though, Christians are no where to be found. If the Bible really says that homosexuality is a sin, and it does, and Christians really follow the Bible, how on earth can a country with a national majority of "Christians" pass such a law saying homosexuals can have a government recognized "union" or marriage? One of two things is happening here: either our nation is not as "Christian" as we would like to believe, or the Christians are not voting. Hmmm, wonder which one it is.... Remember absolute truth leaves no grey areas.

nate said...

wow...seven comments on one post? I am besides myself in disbelief. Aaron, Katie, and James....thanks for the comments, great insights, as always.

James said, "there are no grey areas in absolute truth." I agree, which is why I mentioned in my post, I have a particular problem with opinion #4 (how can there be a dual standard...gay marriage OK for a layperson but not a priest). But, as Paul said, now we see through a glass darkly; that is, we are not privy in this life at arriving to a complete understanding of absolute truth, thus the disparate diverse interpretations of Absolute Truth (GOD) in the 'church' today.

crackers and cheese said...

I'm really enjoying reading these comments. It's giving me a lot to think about, and everyone has responded so thoughtfully.

In response to James' question "If the Bible really says that homosexuality is a sin, and it does, and Christians really follow the Bible, how on earth can a country with a national majority of "Christians" pass such a law saying homosexuals can have a government recognized "union" or marriage?"

I do believe the Bible to be true and I want others to follow it, but the answer to getting people to follow the Bible does not come from legislating its doctrines. People will follow the Bible when they are transformed by the grace of God through Christ's sacrifice and they are given the Spirit to guide them. Creating political laws to make people live out the Bible is not the answer. I want to live in a democracy not a theocracy, because the United States is not my true kingdom.

James said...

Ok, in response to Crackers and Cheese, it's not so much that I would want to make others live what I believe by passing such legislation, I just know that I vote my conscience, and the fact that gay marriage passes in a vote shows me what the majority is voting. They are not being honest somewhere. It does not personally affect me or make me angry that the legislation passed, my issue is with people who say that they are "Christians", yet vote directly against the Bible.

I love living in a democracy, just as you do, and no, this is not our home, but where does absolute truth become realtive truth?

I appreciate everyone's comments on this post. It was a great post, Nate, and I thank you for facilitating this conversation. Just like Crackers and Cheese said, it is giving me alot to think about.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming to this post late, but I'm a #1, and would like to add that if people are married, it ain't fornication, so if you actually LET people get married, that solves that problem.

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand why people insist everyone else has to live the way they do. I have just 1 question....logically, why would God have a problem with homosexuality. I know 2 women who truley love each other, have been together for 12 yrs, treat each other with utmost respect. Why would God have a problem with them getting married? Logically?

nate said...

anonymous...I rarely stop by my own blog, but since you asked, I'll play devil's advocate and posture an answer.

First off...EVERYONE insists that everyone else lives as they do, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. You see, we are not talking about just sex, rather, and ideal. Marriage.

those who are pro gay marriage assume they are right and that everyone else is wrong, and try to force their opinion on the masses via legislation. Those who are against gay marriage assume that they are right and everyone else is wrong and try to force their opinion through legislation.

Both parties are doing the same thing. both parties insist that everyone else live (and by live, i mean 'adhere to a set of ideals') as they do.

And as far as the logic of God...Well, who am I to know the mind of God. Recently a teacher was having consentual sex with a teenager...they were both happy and in love. Both old enough to think for themselves. Perhaps that should be legal, as the consequences are null and void. My point is, logic doesn't always make sense with morality. If I say curse words under breath at a passerby, nobody is affected, as it was done in silence, but it was still an immoral action.

If God truly defines marriage between a man and a woman, perhaps his logic sides with the long term propensity of the human race? Who knows?

Kat(i)e said...

God and logic, now there's a thought. If there is one thing I may have a slightly academic opinion on it is logic - I am in my final year of a maths degree! As we mathsmos see it, we have to build our logic upon premises. It is a construction and attains for objective truth rather than represents it.

As a Christian I take God as my Premise. He gives me a starting point to reason off of. Without Him I was muddling through without very much security or foundation.

Logic is a flawed human conception and I would not imagine God to use it. He has knowledge such that, by my definition, His approach to life and living is always the correct one. So I take God's wisdom - as portrayed in the bible - and derive my reasoning from it. (Always guided by the Holy Spirit mind as my reasoning can be flawed too.)

The reason there is debate is 'cause we don't always agree on the very basic premises that make up God. LOVE. That is an absolute definition. Maximising love - that seems an intuitively good objective... how do you do that in the context of homosexuality? This is not maths anymore...


nate said...

Please continue...I feel there is supposed to be more after "this is not maths anymore..."

I agree...mostly. The definition of Love varies based on ones interpretation of God as a starting point.

I have two friends who graduated with the same degree as I (MATS) one is pro homosexual marriage, one anti homosexual marriage, and both claim the love of God as the absolute matrix for their opinion.

The absolute becomes misinterpreted...only one can be right (see my last blog post), however.