Friday, May 11, 2012

Legalizing Sin

* I wrote this in light of the conversations in Christian circles surrounding Obama's recent statement about condoning same-sex marriage.

At the risk of being unpopular among my fellow Christians, and the benefit of not being censored, I'm going to respond to Kevin DeYoung's recent article from The Gospel Coalition, point by point, 1 through 5, using scripture. Why? Because I think he is dead wrong, and his conclusions are seductively unChristian. Christians should not continue to oppose gay marriage. Some of the logical fallacies DeYoung presents are blatantly obvious, so rather than pointing them out, I'm going to stick with using some of Jesus' parables for my arguments against them. My interpretation of these parables, I should note, do not reflect their only application, and if you think I am misguided, by all means let me know with a comment. I intend to use this as a platform for truth, and make no reservation for unaccountability for myself.

Let me start by eliminating some false presuppositions based on my premise that may be unclear: I believe the Bible to be God's infallible scripture, and therefore acknowledge that the Bible explicitly calls Sodomy 'moral sin' (Jude 1:7Romans 1:24–271 Corinthians 6:9–10, 1 Timothy 1:9-11) according to Christianity.

*Edit: The NIV translates this as "Homosexuality", which may or may not fit with the original understanding of the word; I'm simply neutral on this issue at the moment, and the following argument does not address this nor seek to persuade you either way.

So we begin...

1. Every time the issue of gay marriage has been put to a vote by the people, the people have voted to uphold traditional marriage. Even in California. In fact, the amendment passed in North Carolina on Tuesday by a wider margin (61-39) than a similar measure passed six years ago in Virginia (57-42). The amendment passed in North Carolina, a swing state Obama carried in 2008, by 22 percentage points. We should not think that gay marriage in all the land is a foregone conclusion. To date 30 states have constitutionally defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
 If a Christian has an issue with changing a traditional constitution, we must consider what is at stake if we don't change. As in the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7), The Good Shepherd willingly leaves his flock to search for the one who is lost. In order for this analogy to function, one requires the freedom to wander. What is at stake here is not even traditional marriage, per se; it is the oppression of freedom. The constitutional definition of marriage is not the definition as God has defined it. Christian marriage is between God and man. What God has joined together cannot be written and signed by our government to make it any more official. The ones who are lost are the ones in need of being validated as humans with rights. If the majority of people vote for something different than the garden of eden (where choice is freedom), and call it God's ideal, I think we're way off.

2. The promotion and legal recognition of homosexual unions is not in the interest of the common good. That may sound benighted, if not bigoted. But we must say it in love: codifying the indistinguishability of gender will not make for the “peace of the city.” It rubs against the grain of the universe, and when you rub against the grain of divine design you’re bound to get splinters. Or worse. The society which says sex is up to your own definition and the family unit is utterly fungible is not a society that serves its children, its women, or its own long term well being.
A society that relies on its government to define things such as sexual orientation is not a solution for gender confusion. This can be likened to putting a lamp under a bowl (Luke 8:16–18) in that government is elevated to uphold the morals of Jesus by creating a new norm, when in fact, this is idolatry. The only way to uphold Christian morals effectively is apart from the state, so that the light of Jesus can be visible. When we rely on government to uphold family values, we can expect things like gender distinguishability to be taken from us. Besides all this, it is benighted and bigoted to presuppose that homosexual parents desire to control the sexual orientation of their children.

3. Marriage is not simply the term we use to describe those relationships most precious to us. The word means something and has meant something throughout history. Marriage is more than a union of hearts and minds. It involves a union of bodies–and not bodies in any old way we please, as if giving your cousin a wet willy in the ear makes you married. Marriage, to quote one set of scholars, is a” comprehensive union of two sexually complementary persons who seal (consummate or complete) their relationship by the generative act—by the kind of activity that is by its nature fulfilled by the conception of a child. So marriage itself is oriented to and fulfilled by the bearing, rearing, and education of children.” This conjugal view of marriage states in complex language what would have been a truism until a couple generations ago. Marriage is what children (can) come from. Where that element is not present (at the level of sheer design and function, even if not always in fulfillment), marriage is not a reality. We should not concede that “gay marriage” is really marriage. What’s more, as Christians we understand that the great mystery of marriage can never be captured between a relationship of Christ and Christ or church and church.
The church lost the right to define legal marriage when we accepted tax benefits for married couples. Personally, I don't consider a marriage to be Christian unless the people in it are Christians. It's a different set of vows altogether. We can easily fall victim to judging others, to which I'm quickly reminded that while I was dead in sin, Christ died so I may live. The parable of the Two Debtors (Luke 7:36-47) shows us how more debt requires more grace, and pointing out when someone else doesn't measure up to my morals shows how little I could possibly love anyone.

4. Allowing for the legalization of gay marriage further normalizes what was until very recently, and still should be, considered deviant behavior. While it’s true that politics is downstream from culture, it’s also true that law is one of the tributaries contributing to culture. In our age of hyper-tolerance we try to avoid stigmas, but stigmas can be an expression of common grace. Who knows how many stupid sinful things I’ve been kept from doing because I knew my peers and my community would deem it shameful. Our cultural elites may never consider homosexuality shameful, but amendments that define marriage as one man and one woman serve a noble end by defining what is as what ought to be. We do not help each other in the fight for holiness when we allow for righteousness to look increasingly strange and sin to look increasingly normal.
Imposing Christian morals on society is no way to legislate a standard for living, let alone define deviant behaviour. Christianity, like [most] religions, is an opt-in relationship, and to say anything about someone who hasn't made that choice (and therefore doesn't accept our definition of sin), is simply inappropriate—EVEN IF our standards are too high for ourselves. The law was written on the hearts of man for the exclusive right of God to convict. Heterosexual marriage does not define nobility any more than being right handed. What defines nobility is the quality of your marriage. Righteousness will not look strange so long as we appear to be Wheat Among Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30). Since you and I as Christ-followers are mere servants, leave the harvesting to the harvesters.

5. We are naive if we think a laissez faire compromise would be enjoyed by all if only the conservative Christians would stop being so dogmatic. The next step after giving up the marriage fight is not a happy millennium of everyone everywhere doing marriage in his own way. The step after surrender is conquest. I’m not suggesting heterosexuals would no longer be able to get married. What I am suggesting is that the cultural pressure will not stop with allowing for some “marriages” to be homosexual. It will keep mounting until all accept and finally celebrate that homosexuality is one of Diversity’s great gifts. The goal is not for different expressions of marriage, but for the elimination of definitions altogether. Capitulating on gay marriage may feel like giving up an inch in bad law to gain a mile in good will. But the reality will be far different. For as in all of the devil’s bargains, the good will doesn’t last nearly so long as the law.
Besides being a slippery-slope fallacy in logic, this is also classic fear-mongering against an alleged agenda which should really have no bearing on how we should respond to them as people. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37) shows us how to love someone with an affliction, counter to religious priorities or consequences. Upholding the law as a levite or priest ultimately has greater implications for choosing to not get one's hands dirty. Surrendering an agenda of building a Christianized empire for the sake of someone's human rights is a worthwhile investment that will not go unnoticed. Not to mention, that's what Jesus would do.

Obviously I may have raised some further questions, for example, Should the church marry gay Christians? I think this comes down to personal conviction, as performing the wedding would ultimately recognize the marriage as before God, at least in appearance. Although, it sounds rather odd to want that—God's blessing to redefine a covenant that perfects the union of man with woman.