Conversation on President Obama, Gay Marriage and Christianity (Part 3)

This is the third and final part. I would love to hear your thoughts after reading all three.

Matt: Christianity struggles with extremes. There have been voices that have said Christians should have everything to do with politics and other voices who say Christians should have nothing to do with politics. Is there a healthy balance where we can land? I think that balance starts with saying that we can’t rely on political processes to be the leverage we use to impact the world with our faith. We cannot depend on politicians to be our voice or our power and strength. I fear we have often put politicians into some roles and given them some expectations that should have been reserved for God and the Holy Spirit.

Politics is not the priority in the life of a Christian. When we have faith in God it will certainly be expressed in how we view the political process, how we vote, what issues are important to us and which issues won’t make any difference to us. We have to get below the surface to the spiritual reality of our lives and how our actions and attitudes toward politics, legislation, etc either uphold a Christian worldview or they do not and adjust accordingly. I love how Jesus takes specific actions in the sermon on the mount and digs below it all to the spiritual reality of what God is really after. God wants our hearts. Have we given our hearts to another and does our reaction to all these things show us where our heart really is? Too often I am afraid we have co-opted and syncretized our faith with the world in a way that makes Christians unrecognizable from the world. We can’t let that happen.

On a side note, I don’t see why granting “partners” visitation rights has to be tied to marriage. Is there a good explanation out there of why the two must be tied together?

Philip: I pretty well agree with all you said there.

As for your question, that’s where my knowledge gets hazy.  But it’s always struck me that the only difference between a civil union and marriage is semantics.  And there is a growing sentiment in the LGBT community to call their relationships by the name that opposite-sex couples call their relationships:  marriage.

Imagine for a moment a bizzaro world (this is a stretch, but play along) where our country banned marriage for cannibals.  No one who openly eats human flesh is allowed to gain a marriage license.  ALSO- guess what:  Christians who partake in the Lord’s Supper are classified as cannibals.  So we can no longer get married.  But, hey, here you go:  you’re allowed to have a Civil Union.  BTW, that’s the case in only 18 states — in 30 of them you can’t even have a civil union.  So you’ve got that going for you.  But no matter what you can’t call it marriage.

To us, that would seem like a very strange way to prevent a group of people from enjoying all the civil benefits of marriage that a large swath of the rest of society enjoys when they pledge themselves to someone.  Much less being able to express socially that you are married to someone.  And having your government — which is supposed to represent you (“a government of the people, by the people, and for the people”) — acknowledge that as well.

So I think that’s the essence of the yearning that the LGBT community has.

Matt: I have a feeling the transubstantiation crowd would flex a little in order to retain their rights to marry :) I also think that many would view themselves as married in God’s sight (after going through the traditional Christian process) apart from what the government had to say about it all. There is the whole point though, right? Do we care what the government does and doesn’t say about all of this?

Philip: The LGBT community cares, yes.  Especially when it comes to civil issues related to marriage.

I don’t like being put in a position of defending their views.  I don’t want to fall into the trap that political moderates (like myself… since I am one) often stumble into.  Someone takes a side, so they (I) sense imbalance.  So as to restore their (my) sense of balance the moderate takes the other side.

Over and above the political intricacies of rights in gay marriage — or legal considerations of state amendments vs. a federal law — I’m way more interested in how the Church responds to the shifting dynamics at play.  Because I’m convinced that the bi-polar status quo of either wholesale resentment of & political activism against anything homosexual (on one side) or wholesale embrace of homosexuality & consideration as a legitimate, God-accepted choice for consenting adults (on the other side) is wrong.  So what is the way forward for the Church?

Matt: You saw right through my trap ;) How does the church respond? We could write a whole book on that one and not cover it. In my opinion here is the key…the problem we have had in the past is that somehow Christians have thought that certain issues were serious enough that they could leave every single one of the fruits of the Spirit at the door when discussing them with others. If we embrace those fruits as we enter into these conversations we can have a healthier dialog with those we disagree with.

Related links:
Did Obama Change the Nation’s Mind on Gay Marriage
How Obama Moves the Needle on Gay Marriage

0 Responses to Conversation on President Obama, Gay Marriage and Christianity (Part 3)

  1. Thanks for posting these, Matt. I enjoyed this conversation.

    I liked these words from Tim Keller that I saw the other day:

    http://kellerquotes.com/talking-about-homosexuality/

    “Acknowledge that often when this topic comes up the rhetoric gets heated – and those who represent the Christian position are not always respectful of those who disagree, nor do they have sound reasons for their position. Christians have no more or less of a right to tell other people how to live their lives than anyone else. But we all have ways we think the world should be; and we all have the right to try to contend for these views respectfully. The gospel – that we are saved only by sheer grace – should help Christians to do this without self-righteousness.

    Homosexuality is not God’s original design for sexuality – sex is designed for marriage between a man and a woman. But that belief should have no impact on a church’s or a Christian’s desire to love and serve the needs and interests of all their neighbors, including gay people, people of other faiths, and so on.

    Note that there is not widespread division over what the Bible says about homosexuality. All three branches of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) agree – on at least four things: one, that every mention of homosexual practice in the Bible says that it is wrong; two, that it is specifically prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments; three, that it did not just reflect the prejudices of the day – it cut against the views of ancient cultures; and four, that the whole arc of the Bible begins with a heterosexual marriage (Adam and Eve) and ends with the vision of one – the wedding feast in the book of Revelation.”

  2. I can appreciate this post. I thought it would be another post filled with hateful sentiments from so-called Christian tongues. I feel as Christian we are losing our savour, our salt, but not because the gay activists, but because WE have lost our LOVE. It bothers me that the church-going Christian will raise Cain against Obama, instead of praying for this man to make the right choices. It bothers me that they support a man (Romney) that wishes to cut the WIT program (one of the only programs out there designed to help mothers and young children… This is the commandment of God, that we help one another and the widow or fatherless… and yet, this man is portrayed as the “moral” choice. If Christians Love one another as Christ. The communities outside of the Christ centered one, would want in, not feel threaten by us.
    God called us to Compassion, not Condemnation.
    Best~

  3. Thank you for this dialog.

    One of our problems (we have many) is that we are selective in our outrage. Heterosexual promiscuity is much more common than homosexuality, even if you accept that as many as 10% of all people are homosexual. Yet, I see very little public outrage about heterosexual immorality.

    That makes our outrage about homosexuality seem somewhat hypocritical and “hate” based.

  4. The above referenced article concludes in its final paragraph:

    If American Christians continue to see…the culture wars as the primary way of shaping culture, they should expect to see their numbers decline and their influence wane. But if they wake up to our current reality and return to the foundations of their faith — love, compassion, and a rigorous commitment to the “Gospel” story that drives them to faith in the first place — the faith’s best days may yet lie ahead.

    The politics of Jesus did not involved acquiring political power to compel people to do what is right. He presented an alternative way of life – the way of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23). Christian leadership is not like the great ones of this age – just as Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.

    There are many problems we face where “the religious right” approach just does not have the solutions that square with the gospel. Just two examples: the very free use of military power that has become common in the halls of Washington in the past century and the attitude expressed toward the very poor “illegal” immigrants.

    What has become of Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as you love yourself? That includes loving your enemies and also showing kindness and benevolence to “the stranger that is within your gates.” We act as if this land really is our land – instead of our being the stewards of God’s possession.

    As the author referenced above concludes, we really do need to return to the basics of the gospel’s transforming message instead of trying to play power politics with the great ones of this age. We can do more to change nations with Bibles and Christian attitudes lived out than with power politics.

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