Why Christians Should Not Support Legalisation of Same-sex MarriagePosted: April 20, 2012
When faced with criticism of “imposing religious views on others”, even Christians, can sometimes pause to consider whether same-sex marriage should be a legal option for those non-Christians who want it. Various celebrities (EG1, EG2), politicians and others have said that they are Christians, but said that they support same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, these people tend to have a one-sided grasp of what the Bible teaches, perhaps influenced by the gay activists and even some who call themselves Christian ministers or even archbishops who claim or imply that God and/or the Bible in no way oppose homosexuality.
Certainly it’s true that the Bible records do not portray Jesus as forcing others to agree with or comply with his teachings. He advocated certain things, especially love, and he warned of hellfire, but he did not coerce. So then what should the response of a fair-minded Christian be to whether same-sex marriage should be legalised? Some high profile Christians who recognise that gay sex is sinful, still say state support of gay marriage is okay. I suggest that this is a question without a clear answer in scripture, but there are clues there that we can draw from.
The Bible portrays Christian marriage to only be heterosexual and homosexual sex to be sin, but there is nothing in the New Testament that calls Christians to seek political power to establish laws against sin. If a Christian perhaps has a the position of city mayor, it’s not clear that that mayor should rule against same-sex marriage even if most constituents support it. If the mayor was to do so, that action would not align closely with Jesus’ approach, which was to encourage individual’s to follow him one by one, and have their behaviour adjust as an outcome of that religious commitment.
Some Christians do get side-tracked by morality, and come to treat it as the focus of their religion. It’s not. The focus of Christianity is salvation. The ultimate aim is the encourage others to become Christians rather than to just become moral.
However, despite morality not being the apex of focus for Christianity, it’s still a priority. Throughout the Old Testament there are examples of entire regions being judged based on their morality, eg Hosea 4:1-3, not just the town of Sodom. This judgement is portrayed as likely to fall even on those in the town who were being true to the religion. This being the case, it’s in the interest of a Christian to encourage their fellow citizens to comply with Christian morality, in order to avoid sharing in their judgement on earth.
Some people have suggested that when gay people cant marry each other, this results in gay people having more sexual partners. The degree to which this is true, is probably unknown. But statistics indicate that even US highschool students have a higher on average number of sexual partners if they are gay rather than straight. This suggests that when the question of marriage is removed from the factors of influence, gay people are more promiscuous than straight people. And we do know that many married gay couples are not monogamous. We also know that when gay men contract HIV, often (ref. 2, ref. 3) it’s from a primary partner, indicating a lack of stability even for partnered gay men. But while some claim that getting married hasnt changed their gay relationship, others have claimed that the increasing availability of gay marriage is changing gay behaviour. Others claim that the legalisation of gay marriage would mean greater acceptance and less discrimination and harassment against gays and lesbians. This is possibly true, however even some gay sources have pointed to evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, there have also been claims that gay marriage will strengthen the institution of marriage overall. However, there is apparently evidence that contradicts this claim.
The Bible teaches in Matthew 18 that Christians should point out the sins of other Christians to them. Additionally, Ezekiel 3 teaches that if followers do not warn others of their sin, then God holds the follower accountable for this, and that both will be punished.
So is it a Christian duty to speak out against sin? Yes. As far as Im aware, same-sex marriage is not a more severe sin than other sins, and from the Bible it would appear that it’s homosexual sex that is the clearer sin rather than homosexual marriage. But a Christian should not go so far as to support either. A Christian should take a loving attitude towards homosexuals though, and in environments where having no state recognition of a homosexual relationship means that those people suffer, eg based on tax or welfare provisions, then it seems reasonable to support an alternative, such as civil unions, as the Church of England apparently did. At the same time, we need to learn from past mistakes of treating homosexual desires as a sacred cow that cannot be questioned. Certainly Christians should look out for the needs of the oppressed, but marriage is not necessarily a clear way to remove oppression. Some in the GLBT* communities have suggested it entrenches oppression, and others have raised the question of whether same-sex marriage would actually increase a sense of marginalisation amongst the many homosexuals who find themselves unable to find a long-term partner. Also it should also be noted that those who support same-sex marriage still tend to support discrimination against polygamists, so claims of oppression are often hypocritical. It’s also noteworthy that not all (ref. 2, ref. 3, ref. 4) GLBT* people want same-sex marriage legalised.
The catch cry from non-Christians is of course that Christians are hypocrites who cant even follow their own policies. Yes, sadly there is some validity to that claim. But it should be remembered that Christianity is about following God rather than other Christians, who as people are flawed. It should also be noted that statistics about Christian hypocrisy can be misleading.
Also relevant to this topic, is that fact that when a culture embraces homosexuality, that position becomes a stumbling block to Biblical evangelism. Christians who point out the flaws in pro-homosexual propaganda, and show that gay relationships do not mirror heterosexual relationships, may be to some degree engaging in pre-evangelism by helping people perceive the Bible as making sense.
As an update to this post, Ill add a thought about President Obama, who recently said that as a Christian he now supports same-sex marriage. Firstly, I suggest that a truly committed Christian would not be voted in as President in our era. The degree of commitment that Jesus requests to him, is in conflict with the degree of commitment a president needs to make to reflect the wishes of the bulk of the population. I can accept that a president can have a degree of Christian commitment though, even if it’s not full Christian commitment. Based on the reports I read, Obama’s key piece of scripture used to support his decision in favour of same-sex marriage, was the Golden Rule of Luke 6:31; “treat others in the way that you would like them to treat you”. And on a superficial level, Obama’s angle on this makes sense – gay people want to get married, so wouldnt the kind response be to let them be happy? But lets think a bit deeper. Would the Golden Rule principle apply to all sins? Is it generally kind to help others commit whatever sin they are inclined to? Is it ultimately kind to help others sin? Ill let you choose a few sins to use to ponder those three questions. I suggest that if a Christian thinks through the Golden Rule, it doesnt make sense that it extends to the point of helping others sin – that interpretation would lead to you violating most of the rest of scripture. The Golden Rule makes more sense, if interpreted to not mean placing yourself if the other person’s ideology and acting accordingly, but rather simply considering yourself as being in their position, while retaining your own ideology. As a Christian, you dont ever want others to help you sin, so likewise, you should not help them sin. So if they are cold and without a solution, and you have a spare blanket, you would lend them your blanket, on the basis that you would hope they would do the same for you if the situation was reversed. But if they are suicidal and ask you for a full box of painkillers, in following the Golden Rule you dont give them a full box of painkillers, because based on the Christian ideology death is generally best avoided and the loving thing to do is to provide a better solution. Others seem to agree, and one of Obama’s advisors apparently rebuked the president on this point. Some say that theology was not a key reason for Obama’s decision, suggesting it was more about funding and politics per se, but I guess we may never know for sure.
Political support for Obama reportedly dropped after he announced personal support for same-sex marriage. However, at least one young man took Obama’s pro-gay message to heart, although not in a way that Obama intended.
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