Why I won’t take a stand on gay marriage

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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.

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51 thoughts on “Why I won’t take a stand on gay marriage”

  1. Thank you Bronwyn! I really appreciate your post, especially the transparency and thoughtfulness you showed.

    1. Lorrie Anderson

      No tomatoes here, I really appreciate your fresh perspective. It’s a difficult subject for sure. I’ve never been much of a protester myself. I try to think…what “DID” Jesus do. He was always always kind to sinners, and only got angry with the self-righteous religious people. He never told His desciples to protest anything. Jesus was not political. He never tried to legislate morality. My old pastor once told me, “Don’t expect Unbelievers to act like Christians.” Those wise words got me through 20 years of working in the public school system without attacking or judging unbelievers for the way they acted or the things they said. So now, after reading your “manifesto” I think I’ll begin to apply those wise words to this – sometimes – heated debate. Thank you!

  2. Well, quite some food for thought. Your manifesto strikes me the most (grace, love). It is what I would probably say mine is too, but I have never thought about it in respect to my ideas on gay marriage. Would I hate and reject the woman who chooses another woman when I knew this woman from babyhood and consider her a “sister”. Absolutely not! I love her, just the same. So you are brave for putting your love out there and for reminding all of us high and mighty christians who like to think we have the corner market on doing things “right”, that we often step way beyond the lines we like to draw for others.

  3. I’ve talked about this issue a lot, with a lot of people, and you have really captured exactly how I feel about this issue. (And I COMPLETELY agree with you about the civil union vs marriage idea). Thanks for being brave enough to post this publicly.

  4. I’m so glad you wrote this! I’ve felt the same way & have felt judged by both sides for it.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Catherine. One of the encouraging things about having written this is realizing that there are many believers in the same boat as us 🙂

  5. I’ve had a post like this brewing for a while and you basically just wrote it for me (much more eloquently than I would have, might I add). So now I can “delete draft,” because I am both a chicken AND lazy. How’s that??!

    1. Chicken AND lazy FTW! (You can reblog this too, if you like. That way, we would be two running targets for the tomato throwers, and thus harder to hit)

  6. I feel so much better after reading this! I’m not as courageously chicken as you are because for years I have dodged these questions by trying to appear like I’m on everyone’s side. I think more people would agree with you than you (or even they!) realize. Such good thoughts.

    Why should we think one sin is worse than others? Why should someone be less forgivable than I am?

  7. I feel as if I should weigh in from the perspective of the LGBT community.

    I understand the unwillingness or the fear of demarcating marriage to include people that are not opposite gender. It’s a new idea for many people. However I think that unwillingness comes not from slippery slopes, but from the fact that you’ve probably never had a large number of gay loved ones in your lives who are in relationships! 🙂 Gay relationships aren’t unlike straight ones. They are based upon the exact same ideals of commitment, fidelity, partnership and mutual support. Hardly any difference between my relationships and that of my parents or siblings.

    That’s quite unlike polygamy, incestual or underage relationships. Often there’s an absence of mutual consent, or of equal status between partners. That’s not what the LGBT community is about or even wants to be about. Likewise, for your concerns about brother-sister, couldn’t that be a concern right now? We already grant marriages to males/females. Wouldn’t us already granting male-female marriages be more a more relevant concern to brother-sister pairings, whereas my husband and I be more a relevant concern to brother-brother pairings? I’m not certain why incest would become so much more of a threat …

    Anyway, from the perspective of the LGBT community, I want to see churches, organizations and moral leaders challenge the gay community with marriage and encourage LGBTs to form mutually supportive, loving and healthy relationships. We know from observation that having a healthy relationship confers all sorts of social benefits like healthier and longer lives, wealthier and more stable families and possibly happier (although the science is still out) people. Why would we want to encourage a sizable percentage of the population to do the exact opposite? I would also love to see a pastor point at the elderly gay couple in the congregation that FOUGHT for marriage while conversing with all the young people, who have decided that lifelong bachelorhood, co-habiting or single motherhood is the best way to go.

    1. Hi Zach, thank you so much for commenting. I do, in fact, have both friends and relatives within the LGBT community, and it has saddened my greatly to see so much hurtful and hateful rhetoric around. There was a good friend I wanted to invite to my birthday last year and I hesitated a long time before inviting her because I was unsure about how my church friends would react to my new friend and her partner. (I did invite her, and everyone was cool… But I worried nonetheless)
      I want so much for everyone to know that they are welcomed and loved by God, and to feel that within the church. However, for those that follow Jesus, we don’t get to call him Lord and then disregard what he says. I’m trying to find a way to model His love and yet also follow His teaching, and it is my great hope that others will do so too.
      Thanks again for commenting.

      1. You say ” we don’t get to call [Jesus] Lord and then disregard what he says.” Jesus doesn’t actually say anything at all about homosexuality. In fact, I would argue the Bible says nothing about two consenting homosexual adults in an exclusive relationship.

      2. Hi Sam, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I think there were many things that Jesus didn’t directly comment on, but his affirmation of the teaching of God’s word and his respect for the law in its entirety can be found in many different places. I think the bible has much to say about whether sexual activity was consensual (e.g. the old testament laws about rape… which, incidentally, was a sin Jesus also never explicitly mentioned). Also, the bible has much to say about sexuality: contexts in which it is good, and contexts in which God says it is dangerous for us and others and sinful too (My thoughts further on this here: https://bronlea.com/2012/01/10/a-moms-momentary-insight-on-god-and-sex/). God’s “line in the sand” throughout the Old Testament (and a line which Jesus’ teaching consistently agrees with, whether explicitly or implicitly), is that marriage is the demarcation line for sex being awesome or not… and marriage being a man-woman affair was something Jesus spoke clearly on. That being said – there are plenty of people “crossing the line” within church fellowships: plenty of heterosexual couples consensually having sex before marriage, plenty of people who are addicted to pornography etc… and the point of this article was to not to say that none of those issues matter, or that we should be draconian about all of them – but more that we shouldn’t call one out judgmentally while turning a blind eye to the other.

  8. Brave words. I feel exactly the same so usually I keep quiet when the subject is discussed. Love is our guiding standard, so accept everyone, love everyone. but maintain the biblical standard. It is hard being a Christian sometimes isn’t it?

    1. Hi Pat!!! How wonderful to get a message from you. You put it so well: “love is our guiding standard… but maintain the biblical standard.” It IS hard, but worth our full effort!

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  10. This is the best post on the subject that I have ever, ever read. You’ve articulated great points for both sides: not legislating religious views, the church pointing fingers at only some sexual issues pointed out by scripture but not others (EMPHATIC YES I AGREE), and the need for grace and love all throughout. I am so glad to have found your blog! AND you’re from South Africa! Even MORE wonderful! Baie dankie vir dit!!

    1. Baie dankie, Zara! I appreciate your comment so much. The response to this piece has been so weird: it is among the most read posts I have written, but almost no one has commented on it, liked it or shared it. Either that means people don’t like it, or that the group of us chickens is FAR bigger than I had realized 🙂 grace and peace to you.

  11. I really appreciate this post. While I’m a bit more on the “I oppose gay marriage” side, I have struggled with the sinful overemphasis on the topic as well. I don’t want it to become central or even a major part of my witness or thought life, but sometimes it just feels so inescapable.

    1. Thanks, Ian. I struggle with this too. I don’t support gay marriage, but there doesn’t seem to be room in the public discussion to say that without being thrown into an extreme camp. I really appreciated a lengthy, but excellent, article which made a solid philosophical argument against same sex marriage, but didn’t need to appeal to scripture (although it agrees with scripture). Such arguments are easier to discuss in a public forum where the bible is disregarded. Te article is here: http://alastairadversaria.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/marriage-and-procreation/

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  14. Hmmm….haven’t we already re-drawn the “marriage” line several times in history? Wasn’t there a time when interracial marriage was denounced as sinful? Or when marrying across class divides was frowned upon? What makes our current cultural norm about what constitutes marriage the “standard” that prevents a slippery slope?

  15. Very honest message here sister.. i appreciated it so much!! We can see from the old covenant that legislating laws is not what brings about righteousness or the healing of our brokenness; only the holy Spirit writing His ways upon our hearts will bring about moral uprightness, but that is an individual choice that no one should try to force on another.

    The distinction you made between a “civil union” under the authority of the state, and a marriage covenant under God is an important and extremely relevant one, i believe.. and an area of thought that had only come to my attention recently.. this article on the subject may be of interest, http://www.hisholychurch.org/study/gods/cog1mvm.php .

    1. Thanks, SJ 🙂 I had a pastor who once pointed out that we are a saved by Jesus, not by keeping the the Ten Commandments, and remembering that has helped me in many a situation!

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  20. I agree 100% … this is such a key issue. I would have written just the same with one exception. I don’t think you’re chicken. I think we are under pressure to ‘come out’ on one side or the other and feel somehow weakened because we don’t. Yet I think you are writing in a very similar vein to the way Jesus would have addressed the issue… Thanks for that.

  21. Hi Bronwyn,

    It’s been quite a while but your post was shared on FB recently and I just wanted to leave my response here too. Hope all is well!

    While I always appreciate honest and respectful answer like this, what it appears to be saying to me is this: “I love you, but…”

    I love you, but your love is lumped in with all those other sins
    I love you, but your union cannot be considered equivalent to mine
    I love you, but I think this difference should be acknowledged in public forums that will continue to foster barriers instead of bridges

    Coming from a background of deep denial, growing up in an amazing and supportive religious community, I feel that while I grew in many ways, my life was stunted or hindered by this semi-acceptance that is so common in church communities. Do I regret my path? In most ways, absolutely not. Looking back though, in a major way, I guess I do. I often wonder how my life might have been different if it hadn’t taken me 25 years to come out. Ultimately, I know that these experiences mad me stronger and I led me, happily, to my husband and where I am today.

    I still wish though, that there was some way for me to share my feelings an experiences fully with those who doubt. If you could feel my love and intentions and know that they were in no way a choice, would you still relegate my relationship to side seat? Why should I be denied a marriage that is filled with the same love from God and family and friends?

    Again, I don’t mean to leave a response like this to demonize or refute those who struggle with these issues, as Bronwyn and many others do. I just wanted to express my thoughts after reading through a post like this.

    1. Hi Alex, Long time no see. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hear you, and wish I understood better – so I always appreciate people who take the time and have the courage to help me understand better. One thing I am sure of is that no (or very few) persons, facing the challenges that LGBTQ people face, would choose the feelings and struggles their life endures if heterosexual attraction was as simple as a matter of choice. I don’t have an answer for this, but I do have great compassion. I’m sure I mess it up a hundred times a day, but like you, I am trying to find the space which upholds love as well as what I understand God’s word to be saying about holiness.

      So grateful you said hi. Peace to you, -BL

  22. As a Christan mother of a gay, Christian son, I can honestly say I understand this struggle on a level that only a parent can understand. I love my son. Gay or straight… I love him. I’ve sensed he was gay early on, and my fear has not been that God, our creator, would forsake him, but that society would. I know God created my son to be just who he is. Whether he has created a partner for my son, and who that partner is, is not for me to decipher. It is the Lord’s decision. We are commanded to Love ALL. We are not commanded to judge and dictate. The line has been drawn. It is called LOVE. You cannot love and judge at the same time. My son and his decisions about marriage are between he and God… Period. We Christians so often forget that ultimately God is the creator and master planner. Who are we to interfer with his creation? Yes, i do believe in his Word. But I believe faith, hope and love are the common denominator in all He has planned. We are called to have faith in his redeeming grace, we are to have hope our life eternal with Him, and we are to Love Him and our neighbors with all that we have. Now that my son is an adult, he will chose a partner to share his life with. I hope it will be a prayful decision. I Don’t pray for God to send him a male or a female partner. I pray for Him to guide my son according to His will. I pray that the Lord will help me at accept His will for my son. And I pray that society will love their Brothers and Sisters in Christ regardless of their sexual choices. God knows my son’s heart, and I have faith in what He has promised. Thank you for giving me a place to share. Blessings to all.

  23. What an amazing article. This sums up my feeling on the matter perfectly. Thank you so much for sharing.

  24. I encourage you to read your Bible. Do not change its meaning to fit this world. . This is just what the enemy wants. If it is in the Bible it is the truth. If what you are doing cannot stand up to scripture, it is not God’s will for your life. Period.

    Jeremiah 23:16
    This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.

    1 Corinthians 6:9
    Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality,

    1 Timothy 1:10
    for those involved in sexual immorality, for homosexuals, for kidnappers, for liars, for false witnesses, and for whatever else goes against the healthy teaching

    Revelation 20:10
    and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

    Romans 12:2
    Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

    John 10:10
    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

  25. You make a good point that this isn’t the only sexual sin worth focusing on. Our Country is in spiritual decline and this issue is just one of many that are symptomatic of the decline. Since the Bible is no longer the common standard for behavior, the climate is such that anything is permissible as long as enough people endorse it. You mentioned incest. That could very well be the next marriage issue, followed by polygamy, adult/child marriage and human/animal marriage. Don’t laugh. Britain already permits humans to wed pets. I’ve even counseled young men who preferred animals as sexual partners. Traditionally the Church has been the moderator of social norms(temperance movement, smoking, teen pregnancy, and abortion), but the media, through sitcoms, movies, and magazines has now become the new moderator of social norms. The media can make any sin seem harmless and any act of righteousness seem extreme. Historically, when a society reaches a stage of widespread debauchery and narcissism, they are ripe fruit for a coupe or takeover by an authoritarian leader who dictates behavior. May God send revival instead.

  26. Great article. I couldn’t have worded it as well, but I feel like this is where I’ve stood. Until recently. When we were asked if our young children could be in a relative’s wedding. Shortly after they were in another close relative’s wedding in which the marriage has dissolved. Anybody out there have anything like this happen, and how did you deal with it?

    1. WordPress.com Support

      Steff, want to email me via the contact page with some more details? I have an “ask me” page for tricky questions, but need more info 🙂 -BL

  27. Oh, boy! And here I was thinking that I was the only one who felt like that. Thank you for writing about this issue. I, too, refuse to take a stand on gay marriage. I wonder if Jesus sometimes thinks to himself, “With all the chaos, wars, terrorism, human trafficking and all the other abominable things going on in the world, the church is still arguing about gay marriage!?!

    1. WordPress.com Support

      Thanks for letting ME know I’m not alone, too 🙂 happy easter to you, BL

  28. I really appreciate this article. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes concerning sexual immorality and says that we are not to judge outside the church, God will do that but are to confront sin within the church. Most gay people don’t call themselves Christians, so we should not hold them to Christian standards. However if someone does call themselves a Christian and continues in unrepentive sin then we are to confront them. I liked your insight.

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