Magic Trixter FoX

Magic Trixter FoX

Sunday, July 5, 2015

40 Answers to Conservative Christians About Why I Support Marriage Equality

Recently, someone I am close to posted an article from "The Gospel Coalition" called "40 Questions for Christians Who Are Now Waving the Rainbow Flag" to their Facebook account.  The original poster is someone who is very adamantly against same sex marriage on religious grounds.  He wrote that he would rather that the questions be answered personally and not be part of a debate on his page.  I clicked on the link and read the questions, and although I have honored the wishes of the original poster by not debating with him, I personally felt that the questions asked were good ones.  I felt that I had answers for them, and so I went ahead and typed them up.  But what made them good questions was not the fact that I already felt equipped to answer them.  What made them good questions was that they seem to have been asked in a good spirit.   "These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical," the article says. "They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying."

The tone of this article in general reminded me of myself, about a decade ago, when I was equally distressed by what I perceived to be a major error that the church was making.  That error was our stamp of approval, as Evangelicals, on George W. Bush's "pre-emptive strike" on Iraq, specifically, and the "War on Terror" generally.  As a young college student, and a committed Christian, nothing was so distressing to me as the idea that the Christians in my church were wholeheartedly swallowing Bush's rhetoric about a "crusade" and a fight against "evildoers," when all the evidence I was seeing was that our invasion and occupation of Iraq was really about oil and wealth.  I wrote many blog posts at the time, similar in tone to this one from the Gospel Coalition.   I asked many sincere questions of the Christians I knew who were part of the warmonger's agenda.  However, my sincere questions were almost always met by a deafening silence.  Silence as a response to my sincerity proved to be so frustrating to me.   I do not want to be the cause of a similar frustration, so I will at least attempt to provide thoughtful answers when I am presented with sincere questions.  So below, I have posted the original questions, along with my answers. 

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
------My position has evolved slowly.  As late as 2004 I believe I was actively arguing against gay marriage.  I went silent on it for a number of years and I considered my position deeply.  By 2011 I was willing to work for the Human Rights Campaign, door canvassing to overturn DOMA in San Diego, California.  By 2012 I had many close gay and lesbian friends, and attended my first ever same sex ceremony.  It was a very moving event and I felt absolutely no qualms about what I was celebrating at that time.  I have not felt anything but celebratory for the gay and lesbian couples I have met since. 

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?  
-------Galatians 3:28 says, "In Christ there is neither male nor female."  That one played a role in opening my mind.  And in 1 Timothy 4:3, a verse which is set in the context of talking about apostate faith in the end times, it warns that there will be those who "forbid to marry" in the end times.  I look at the conservative Church's very active role in resisting the civil, secular liberties of homosexuals on a religious basis, and I wonder if 1 Timothy 4:3 was prophetic enough that it applies now. 

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?
-----------I wouldn't make a "positive" case from Scripture to that effect.  I will be honest here and admit that no positive case can be made which is specific to this issue.  Negative cases are frequently made, and I have issues with the hermeneutics involved, but as far as a positive case, I am not aware of how one would make one.  That said, it is also hard to make positive cases from Scripture for lots of other things.  Interracial marriage, for example.  Christians running for office in a democracy.  Christians serving in the military.  Etc., etc.  Interestingly, I could make a good positive case from Scripture for the institution of slavery. 

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?
-------------Marriage is supposed to be an Earthly representation of Christ's relationship with the Church.  Why?  Ephesians 5:25 is specific.  Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church, giving himself up for her.  That's a reference to Christ's atoning death.   The type of love Christ had in not thinking of Himself, being willing to die for His love, is what marriage is all about.   I believe you will find plenty of same sex couples who love each other that deeply.   Heterosexual couples do not have the monopoly on agape love.  For that matter merely being heterosexual in no wise means that you will be successful in modeling this Eucharistic type of affection. 

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
---------------Jesus didn't say very much about it.  However he did heal the centurion's servant.  There are scholars who will argue that the centurion and his "servant" were actually a homosexual pair.  I am not 100% certain what Jesus would say about it but in absence of a clear words-in-red injunction against homosexuality, I feel that I am free as a Christian to consult my own conscience on the matter.  Since I am not a homosexual myself, I have no feelings of conviction on the matter which I feel are coming directly from Jesus. 

6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
----------------He reasserted the Genesis definition of marriage in Matthew 19:4-5.  In verse 11, it should be noted, he said, "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given."  In verse 12 he continues, and says that "there are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother's womb."  I don't think it is outside the realm of possibility that when Jesus said eunuchs in this context he may have also meant to include homosexuals.  Whether that is so or not, Jesus reasserted the Genesis definition of marriage as part of an answer to questioners who were talking about divorce.  The text doesn't logically lead to the conclusion that Jesus was giving us a complete teaching on human sexuality. 

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding? 
--------------Lust, most likely.  Infidelity, compulsion, fornication, adultery. 

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
---------------I believe that the passage in Romans 1 is referring to a type of sexual appetite which becomes so intense as to be completely unrestrained and that flows into and out of all orientations.  It does not read as though it is condemning an emotional, spiritual, usually monogamous and lifelong same sex relationship.  It reads as Paul's angry denunciation of unbridled sexual passion.  When I read the Romans passage, I also like to keep in mind that Paul himself tells us he sometimes speaks "by permission" according to 1 Corinthians 7:6.  In other words, he did not always keep his personal opinions out of his writing.  Certainly, Paul never expected that his letters to the churches he was involved with on his missionary journeys would become part of Scripture itself. Paul was a very humble person, frequently choosing not to "boast" about his own revelation or experience.  He would not have expected to have been the final word on this subject.

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
----------------1 Corinthians 6:9 is specifically referring to pederasty.  A widely practiced form of ritualized pedophilia in the ancient world.  Revelation 21:8 refers to "whoremongers," which are people who are willing to pay for meaningless sex, whether they be gay or straight.

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?
-----------------------There is probably a great deal about the Bible that I fail to grasp, and I have learned a lot from reading Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, and others.  But I am certain that each of these theologians were, in the final analysis, mere mortals, and themselves subject to social conditioning.  I have the benefit of being able to stand on the shoulders of giants, so to speak, and look at the accumulated wisdom of the church.  In the past I have found much to embrace, and much to question.

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?
-----------------------I would begin with a survey of every verse involved, and ask deep questions of each one.  We had one such study in my home church which was very enlightening.  I would not argue that my understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned, however.  I would argue that all understandings of human sexuality are culturally conditioned.  What is important to take away from the Bible are the principles of self-sacrificing love and fidelity.  I believe that a genuine "love of neighbor" will lead straight Christians, eventually, to see that their homosexual neighbors are capable of divine love for one another, and I believe that a genuine love of neighbor will also eventually lead them to advocate for equality.

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?
----------------------No, I think they were culturally conditioned to hold the positions they held, and that their opinions have changed in response to political pressure.

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
---------------------I believe children do best when they are surrounded by parental love and support.  I believe my gay friends would be capable parents.

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
--------------------I've not consulted psychological journals, so I suppose this is an area where I would be open to doing more research.  In fairness, I would ask this same question of opponents to same sex marriage.  Have there been peer-reviewed studies which show that children from stable homes with same-sex parents are some how worse off than children from stable homes with heterosexual parents?  I can certainly think of plenty anecdotal evidence that children of same sex couples turn out fine.

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?
-----------------------No.  The State should stay out of it.  The Church has a role to play, but as there are different types of Christians, there are certainly churches who would probably succeed at Christian formation for the gay families in the congregation. 

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
-----------------------Yes, it points to spiritual fulfillment.  Marriage is the basis of families and communities and, for Christians, is supposed to evoke the relationship of Christ to His Church.

18. How would you define marriage?
----------------A lifelong commitment between people who love each other physically, emotionally and spiritually.  

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
---------------I will admit that the concept is a bit creepy to me.  However I do know that in the Bible close family members often were married.  I suppose in extreme situations the marriage of close family members could be a possibility (I'm thinking of cousins and half-siblings or step-siblings, not parents and children or brothers and sisters).  I fail to see how this question fits in to the discussion we are having, however.

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
-----------------Perhaps not.  I am aware that polygamous trios are now starting to apply for marriage licenses since the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality.  Scripture is full of examples of polygamous families.  I know that 1 Timothy 3:2 teaches that church leadership should only include those who are "husbands of one wife."  But I don't see anything directly in Scripture which precludes the laity from practicing polygamy.  I would say, however, that a marriage involving more than two people could be exponentially more difficult to maintain.  How would those involve keep jealousy or favoritism from  getting the better of them?  Then again those already practicing polygamy in the United States often point to the many benefits of the practice: three incomes, for example, and an extra person helping with child rearing.  I fully expect that in time to come polygamy will be a more widely accepted practice.  I hope that as we go forward Christians will think about this with as little animosity and with as much open-mindedness as possible.  There is considerably more backing for polygamous marriage in the Bible than there is for same-sex marriage.

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
-----------------I would not prevent consenting adults of any number from getting married.  I would prevent consenting adults of close family relationship from getting married on the basis of scientific or health-related problems that may arise should the pair attempt to procreate.  But even this would stance is more of a general aversion than a universal law which would apply in every case.  The bottom line, I suppose, is that as a citizen of a free country I don't feel the need to prevent consenting adults from pursuing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
----------------Yes, of course there should.   Children are not emotionally capable of making the very adult decision to get married.  If I had my way I would raise the age requirement, in fact, because I believe that most young marriages are very ill advised.  

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
----------------No, I can see problems with that description.

24. If not, why not?
----------------Again, marriage should be restricted to consenting adults.  

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, they should.  Pastors should never be forced to perform a ceremony of which they disapprove, for example.  However, in a workplace which is opened to the public and not explicitly faith-based there should not be any discrimination against the customers.  For example freedom of religion does not mean that people who make wedding cakes can deny service to a gay couple.  

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 speak up for my fellow Christians if gays attempt to, for example, sue churches who refuse to give them a ceremony.  I can't really think of other credible ways that the so-called "gay agenda" threatens religious freedom.  But yes, people have the right to attend a church which interprets the Bible literally and preaches against homosexuality.  Those churches should not have to go against their own religious beliefs to accomodate non-believers or to accomodate the State.   I will be happy to speak up on that issue should it arise.

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
-----------------I have, in the past.  In fact on Facebook just recently I posted the following comment on a friend's status: "Most Christians I know who oppose marriage equality are still on good personal terms with LGBTQ individuals. There are those gay-bashing Christians out there, but because someone opposes marriage equality doesn't make them vile and hateful people. I agree that is a little harsh characterizing it that way. I say this as a pro-marriage equality Christian."     I have a problem with the way Christian conservatives are easily all lumped together with the "Westboro" type Christians out there by some in the gay rights movement.  I know that it is not the case that every conservative Christian is frothing at the mouth filled with hatred.  They should still be able to make their case.

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?
-----------------This would be a question for my rector, I suppose.   As a member of the laity I am not eager to accept the role of anyone's marital counselor.  But I do subscribe to the belief that divorces are the last resort, and are really only Scripturally suitable if the precipitating event was abuse or adultery.

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?
-----------------I don't view "open relationships" as sacramental.  I don't see how an open relationship can fit in a believer's life.  Perhaps I am not fully aware of what the term "open relationship" means.  If it means that you are in a relationship but that your partner is okay with you being promiscuous, then no, I do not think that qualifies as a righteous relationship.  I think that is too permissive and is focused only on gratification of the self.  My belief is that anytime a person engages in a sexual act with another person, it is also a spiritual act, and it should be entered into carefully.  If a couple however is seeking a three-way relationship I can understand that they may be dating someone else while being married.  I am not sure this is exactly the same thing as an open relationship.

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
-------------Yes.  All the more reason why those believing LGBT individuals that exist have wanted to have the blessing of the sacrament of marriage.

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
-------------My hope is that they will do their very best!  There is ample teaching in the Scriptures against these particular sins.  However, perhaps the best approach is not to harp on specific sins.  Perhaps the best approach is to affirm in the words of the Baptismal Covenant the "dignity and worth of all human beings."  If those who are in relationships view their significant other as someone with inherent dignity and worth, then perhaps they would be much slower to dishonor them with infidelity, fornication, pornography or any of these other ills.

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?
---------------Love is a self-sacrificial regard for someone else.

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
--------------John 15:13.  "Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends."

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
--------------God commands us to love each other as we love ourselves.  With that in mind, what we want for ourselves (security, family, love, shelter, our needs met, etc.) we should want for everyone else.  To be sure, sometimes what we want for ourselves is not what is best for us.  So above all else, we should want others to experience a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The biggest way that we can show love as Christians is by being a good witness to the power of Jesus Christ.  

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
--------------Yes of course it is.

36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
---------------Yes, very much has changed for me since 2004.  The entire political landscape of our world has changed.  The Evangelical faith I was raised in proved a very good starting place for me to begin thinking heavily about the World.  To answer this fully, however, would take much more than one paragraph.  So I invite you to peruse my personal blog at  

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?
----------------By being more welcoming to the LGBT community than my conservative brothers and sisters, I have frequently found myself in the position of being able to represent Christ to friends who had shut out many other attempts. Even long before my position on gay marriage changed, I recall being part of church efforts to evangelize the lost, and I have never felt comfortable being the tract-distributing type of Christian.  I feel that my personal witness and testimony connects with seekers who have deeper questions than can be typically answered in a 5-minute session on the boardwalk or on a street corner.  I am vocal about both my faith and my political convictions on facebook (as well as in real life) and have occasionally been the recipient of such comments (from non-believers) as "I didn't know there were any Christians like you," and "you have gotten me to think about Jesus in a way that I would not have, if you had not been the type of person you are."  My own feeling is that if Christians came out from behind their sort of monolithic Christian-culture bubble and admitted at least the possibility that their understanding of the day's political issues could be flawed, they would discover that the fields are indeed ripe for the harvest.

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?
-------------------I would point to the American Episcopal Church, of which I am a part.  Frequently I have heard the Episcopal Church mocked by conservatives who see our support of gay marriage as a compromise with the World.  But factually speaking, we are indeed orthodox.  We adhere to the Apostle's Creed and repeat it every Sunday.  We study the Scriptures with our heads as well as our hearts.  And I personally believe that we warn about judgment every bit as much as our conservative brothers and sisters.  The main difference is that when conservatives preach about judgment they usually are promoting an "us vs. them" mentality which eagerly points out all the sins of the sinners, but in my church I have observed that we view the judgment of God as something that also happens introspectively, in our day to day lives.   We believe that God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed.   So who we vote for, how we spend our dollars, what we eat, are all things which are connected to oppression and inequality, globally.  My perusal of Scripture leads me to conclude that the God of wrath and judgment frequently shows up in response to economic sinfulness, not just sexual immorality.   I wish that the conservative churches were more rooted in the Scriptures about the rich and the poor, and were motivated by a passion for social justice to not only bestow charity upon the afflicted, but to denounce the economic system which perpetuates inequality.  To my mind, that is where the judgment of God is most imminent.  

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?
------------------This is a daily walk with the Lord that I am on.  I frequently wish my involvement with the church could be more than what it is.  I am constrained by economic realities like everyone else.  I have a schedule to keep with my job, and child-rearing duties which keep me occupied all of the rest of the time.  Nevertheless I have remained active in my church community, and I am proud to say that my commitment to Christ is affirmed daily with prayer and Bible reading.  

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?
---------------------It is referring to the list of sinful qualities in verses 29-31.  "Without natural affection" is one quality which I have sometimes heard conservatives use to talk about gay people.  I would like to point out, however, that in our day and age we seem to have a lot of abusive parents, even parents who have killed their own children.  To my mind, it is such people who lack natural affection.  For although in nature, among the animal kingdom, homosexuality is widely practiced, care for one's offspring is almost universal.  So to my mind those who truly lack natural affection are those who abuse other people, particularly their own offspring.