There has been a lot written over the past weeks about the attitude of Christians to the definition of marriage. There are all sorts of statistics floating around about what percentage of religious people are for or against or indifferent. Those stats, while sociologically interesting, really aren’t as significant as the views expressed by major church leaders recently, which make it clear that at the top levels, the Christian church is opposed to the proposed changes.
As a fundamentalist Christian myself, I have to say that my views are paradoxically set in concrete and at the same time constantly changing. When the issue was first raised, my initial reaction was to think “well, that’s wrong. Of course it’s wrong.” Then I made the biggest mistake the dogmatist can make: I started reading other people’s opinions on the matter, and weighing them up against my own.
There are a lot of reasons given for why people are opposed to changing the definition of marriage to allow for homosexual marriages. I’ve read through thousands of blog comments on a few different forums, each with varying levels of logic, passion, consideration, bigotry, hysteria, sloganism and ability to construct a grammatical English sentence. Having read counter arguments and counter-counter arguments, and having observed with increasing despair the level of name-calling and chest thumping that these debates inevitably descend to, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that most of the arguments about social stability, slippery slopes, false equality and respect for the institution proposed from both sides by every amateur social psychologist on the internet are complete baloney. Well… partial baloney at least. I’ve at last come to the revealing conclusion that as a Christian I’m opposed to homosexual marriages… because God said so.
This is where I believe the Church is coming unstuck. Our leaders are – in perfect accordance with Biblical doctrine – insisting that marriage is ordained as a covenant between one man and one woman, because God said so. The problem is that we’re saying “because God said so” as if that argument still carried any weight in this country. Try using it as an argument in support of anything outside a church and count how many seconds it takes for you to be laughed out of the debate.
As Christians, I believe we have only ourselves to blame for this.
I’ve had a lot of people on both sides of the argument quote Leviticus at me, either as evidence that God hates gays, or that the Bible is stupid. A more informed and contextualised understanding of the role that Jewish law plays in Christian doctrine reveals that neither of those statements are true. However, if we’re going to cherry pick verses out of context, then here are a few more for you:
What then does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
“They will answer ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison and not help you?’ He will reply ‘whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:44-45)
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbour? (James 4:12)
This is a blog post, not a sermon, but my point is as Christians we don’t get to play the divine authority card unless we’re consistently following the precepts laid out for us. If we aren’t supporting the poor, campaigning against injustice and going out of our way to meet the needs of those around us, then denouncing homosexual marriage as ungodly is the height of hypocrisy. If we don’t know the names of the homeless people in our neighbourhood, but can list the names and merits of the Voice finalists, it’s a sign that something is going horribly wrong. As Brennan Manning so famously said;
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
It isn’t all doom and gloom. There are many great religious (and secular, for that matter) organisations and individuals who are out there making a difference for those who need it. They don’t attract much media attention, largely because they are too busy feeding the homeless to write press releases, but they’re working in communities, addressing issues much more important than whether we call certain arrangements “marriages” or “civil unions.” Take a trip through the more remote parts of the Northern Territory, and then come back and tell me what a great step towards ‘equality’ it will be to change the marriage act.
All the same, it’s not good enough for those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ to ignore the poor, tolerate racism, engross ourselves in materialism, treat our own marriages as states of convenience and then jump up and down over gay marriage because it’s unbiblical. That ship has sailed. If we want “because God said so” to be a valid argument in society again, we need to be living as though it applies to us, before we start trying to apply it to others.
From my point of view “because God said so” is the only reason I need. However, I’m acutely aware that not everyone in this country shares my religious beliefs. And nothing gives me the right to impose those beliefs on those who don’t share them. In fact, both the Bible and Australian law tell me I shouldn’t. So if you don’t identify as Christian, then go and marry whoever you want: I'm prepared to concede that there is nothing we can say to convince you it's a bad idea. No-one is going to stone you or throw you out of the village, but please be sensitive to the religious beliefs of those around you.
And if you are a Christian, take comfort in the fact that when they finally get as far as outlawing religion in this country altogether, there probably won’t be enough evidence to convict us.
Make of that what you will
Garry with 2 Rs