A few of my Christian friends have asked in the past months what my position is on gay marriage, or whether I was going to write about it. “I wish you would,” said one friend, “I feel very strongly about it.”
That’s exactly the problem, though. Everyone who’s talking about it seems to feel very strongly about it, whereas I have very mixed feelings, with a net result of apparent apathy.
It’s not that I’m really apathetic, though. I do have thoughts and I do care. I do believe that God has set limits around sexuality and yet I also have friends and family within the LGBT community (LGB friends, T relative) whom I love and do not want to see suffer prejudice or judgment.
And yet I won’t take a stand. I realize that writing this post in a public forum is probably just inviting cyberspace tomatoes to be thrown at me from every side, but for some reason I feel like I need to explain why I’m such a chicken.
I’m not willing to take a stand for gay marriage. I do not believe that we live in a Christian state, and I do not believe that Christian morals ought to be legislated, so my resistance is not because I think everyone ought by law to follow Judeo-Christian norms.
My unwillingness to endorse gay marriage is rather because if the boundary lines demarcating marriage and family are re-drawn, I can’t think of another place which is logically reasonable and good to draw them.
The best illustration I can think of for this is to make an argument that immediate family members ought to be allowed to get married too. If a brother and a sister are legal, consenting adults who love each other, if they are promising lifelong fidelity and commitment – why should they not be allowed to marry too? To say “it’s not natural” or “what about the children?” or “incest is morally repugnant” are all arguments which have been leveled against gay marriage, and those objections have been set aside as being irrelevant and unimportant. A couple’s human rights and the insistence that sexual relationships are private trump concerns about a couple’s ability to healthily and naturally procreate or the “questionable” nature of their relationship.
So why shouldn’t brothers and sisters be allowed to marry? If marriage lines are re-drawn to include gay marriage, I can’t see any logical or jurisprudential reason not to include many other categories of union too and legitimize it as marriage. In the absence of another good place to redefine marriage, I vote for retaining the default position.
(As an aside: I would probably prefer the terms “civil union” for everything that the state does to legitimize human partnerships, and keep a separate term for “marriage”, but that is not realistic. I would gladly be “civilly united” to my husband by the state, and then have a church blessing which counted as “marriage”. But even if those words are used or confused, I don’t think God is confused. I believe that God does bless marriage, but He is not confused about what He is blessing. I don’t imagine God would look down on a brother and sister getting “married” and say “now I’m in a pickle: they’re getting married and I’ve said that’s not a legitimate union but I have to bless it anyway because they used the “m” word.” But I digress.)
So I’m not willing to take a stand in favor of gay marriage, but I’m not willing to take a stand against it either. I am not willing to devote large amounts of time to arguing about the ‘sin of homosexuality’ and how to interpret leviticus.
Here’s why. I think the church is drawing the line in the sand in the wrong place. Too much of the discussion draws a line between homosexual-heterosexual, with the former being denounced as “sinful” and the latter as “blessed”. However, as far as I can see, the sexuality line God draws is around marriage. Husband and wife sex is seen as very, very good by him. Everything else gets the ix-nay with the worried concern of a parent who sees their children teetering on the edge of very dangerous precipices.
So here is my issue: the church is FULL of heterosexual people who are standing on the wrong side of the boundary. Statistics say there are more couples having pre-marital sex than not. The statistics on pornography among men and women are alarming. Co-habiting seems to be the norm, if not even the recommended thing among many. Adultery happens, and we say with a shrug “how awful, adultery happened.” And yet no-one is picketing outside churches to have those people thrown out. No-one is looking at them when they come to the communion table and thinking “you shouldn’t be taking that.” So why on earth should we call out and shame just a few?
I’m not willing to take a stand against gay marriage because I’m not willing to call out homosexuality as THE issue that draws the line in the sand. In fact, I’m not willing to call out sexuality as the line the church should draw in the sand, period.
As Sarah Bessey wisely said, I want to be known for what I am FOR, not what I am against. And this I know: Jesus hung out with all sorts of people. Greedy people, sexually tainted people, crass people – and he LOVED them. To those wanting to see the women caught in adultery called out and shamed for her sexual choices, he said “if you’re without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8:1-12)
(To her, he said “I don’t condemn you either, go and sin no more…” but I take it that was between her and Jesus, and not for the rest of the synagogue to follow up on.)
And so I’m officially declaring that I’m a chicken. I’m not willing to cast stones. But I’m not willing to move boundaries either. I am sure that is disappointing to almost everyone who wanted me to write on this topic. Get your tomatoes out already and prepare to aim. But more important than all is this: I hope you know what I’m FOR.
I’m for love, and I’m for marriage. Truly, I am.
I’m for the gospel and its call to radical transformation in ALL areas of life.
I’m for unconditional acceptance and deep friendship with WHOEVER God puts in my path.
I’m for grace.
I’m for equal ground at the foot of the cross.
That there is my chicken manifesto, and I’m sticking by it until The Lord convicts me otherwise.
P.S. comments are, as always, welcome – but please keep the tone respectful. Belligerent comments will be deleted.