Okay, so I wanted to keep up the light-hearted posts a little longer, but the whole point of starting this blog was to share perspectives (both fictional and non) that I believe haven’t been given proper attention, instead of just keeping them in my private journals where no one hears them and they only serve to increase my frustration. The gay marriage debate has been around for a while now, but it’s only in the past couple years that I’ve really been struggling with the issue. I am a second-generation pastor’s daughter on both sides of my family (meaning not only is my father is a pastor, but both my parents are also pastor’s kids), and for the longest time I towed the line of the Church that says to have a gay orientation isn’t wrong, but acting on it is. My personal orientation is bisexual, but since I’ve never had the opportunity to act on my attraction to either gender, I like to think that I’m able to see both sides of the issue.
First of all, let’s set aside such polarizing claims that gay sex is just gross or unnatural, or the bodies don’t ‘fit,’ because I’m honestly not interested in what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms. Secondly, and I may step on a few toes as a say this, I need to express my contempt for those who affirm the ridiculous claim, ‘It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.’ It was the beginning of creation, people: obviously God isn’t going to marry two members of the same sex. They can’t procreate. And why this has been used so often to automatically disqualify same-sex marriage in this day and age is beyond me. Thirdly, for those whose only reason for being against gay relationships is because ‘the Bible says so,’ I highly recommend a You Tube video featuring Matthew Vines, an openly gay devout Christian who spent two years doing biblical exegesis in order to find out what the Bible really says about homosexuality. But for those who don’t have time to watch the whole thing (it’s over an hour long), I think the most important point that Matt brings to light is that fact that the idea of a ‘sexual orientation’ wasn’t even around when the Bible was written. In fact, up until only a couple centuries ago, homosexual acts were invariably seen as resulting from an excess or greediness of desire, where one’s lust was so intense that normal same-sex relationships wouldn’t satisfy. In other words, the Bible doesn’t condemn loving, monogamous, same-sex relationships because it honestly doesn’t talk about them. How could it, when the very notion of same-sex monogamy was inconceivable?
Whether you agree with Matt or not, there is a rational (and I believe quite obvious) consideration that I have yet to hear brought into this debate, which has been the focus of my struggle. The driving force, the pervasive theme, and the overall message of the Bible is love, and gay marriage does not in any way violate the very heart of God’s commandments: to treat others how you want to be treated. However, every time I’ve heard churches discuss gay orientation, they compare it to someone being born with tendencies towards certain sins, as in you are orientated towards shoplifting or non-monogamy, or you’re orientated towards alcoholism or domestic violence. But the problem with these comparisons is that shoplifting, infidelity, alcoholism and domestic violence are wrong, and no reasonable argument would disagree. In fact, even the morally grey situations that might condone these acts – like stealing to save your starving family – would be solved in an ideal world, but for every person who the Church claims has ‘turned’ gay from some form of abuse (so something that would be ‘solved’ in an ideal world), there are plenty who have had a perfectly healthy upbringing and still have same-sex attractions. However, when you ask why a monogamous same-sex relationship is wrong, the only somewhat reasonable reply you get is ‘because the Bible says so.’ (Again, I recommend Matt’s You Tube video for a more detailed response to this.)
It’s very easy to justify why other ‘sinful’ acts are wrong, because each of them transgresses the ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ command. For example, murder is wrong because you wouldn’t want to be murdered; stealing is wrong because you wouldn’t want someone taking your stuff; adultery is wrong because you wouldn’t want your partner cheating on you, and so on and so forth. The other greatest commandment is to love God with everything in you, but I believe that too many Christians have forgotten that as long as someone isn’t doing something to hurt another person, we have no right to judge, because everything else is between them and God. I can say that someone who worships Buddha isn’t loving God, but if that person is respectful and, for lack of a better term, ‘Christ-like’ in his or her actions, who am I to tell him that he’s not ‘living’ right? I’m not God. So why should homosexuality be any different?
Now, I have to pause for a couple stipulations in this discussion. I do support gay marriage, but I do not condone those who look down on the churches that refuse to marry gay couples. I think each minister should be free to decide for himself, and honestly, why would a gay couple want to get married by someone who didn’t support them in the first place? I also do not support the part of homosexual culture that lends itself to casual and group sex, or any other acts that objectify or demean someone (thereby treating them as less than you would like to be treated). Real love celebrates a whole person, not just their body, and the sexual aspect of real love should be private, so I’m not a fan of the gay pride parade, because it tends to flaunt sexuality to an obscene level. I certainly do not intend to open a door to ‘free love’ that celebrates the kind of behaviour that lets people act on their sexual urges with no more self-control than animals in heat, whether gay or straight. And on that note, I find heterosexual promiscuity far more disturbing than committed, loving same-sex intimacy.
Some people I’ve mentioned these concerns to have expressed the fear that condoning gay marriage will lead to looser morals when it comes to sexual immorality, like promiscuity, child molesting, and even bestiality (there’s an episode of The Daily Show where Bill O’Reilly says if we let a man marry another man, how long will it be before we let a man marry a turtle). But there is a definitive line here: anything that does not meet the criteria of a respectful, monogamous, loving, consensual relationship crosses that line, and there’s no reason why it can’t be enforced, for both gay and straight couples. The gender of each partner shouldn’t even be an issue.
All that being said, Christians still need to adhere to the first part of the greatest commandment as well – to love God – and those who are against homosexuality in all its forms claim that because God says it’s wrong, we just have to take his word for it. I’m not discounting the place for faith and putting trust in what we as humans don’t understand, but in a world where extreme religious affiliation too often leads to violence and mass murder, to say something is wrong because ‘God said it’ isn’t good enough. After all, in the past fully devout Christians used ‘God’ as an excuse for the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, slavery, and the oppression of women (even to this day).
However, I do want to comment further on few of the biblical commands that speak about homosexuality. The Old Testament says that a man should not lie with another man as one does with a woman, but in that day and age, homosexual acts were a common form of pagan worship, and God didn’t want the Israelites behaving in any way that could lead them to adopt the practices of the nations around them (it didn’t work, but it wasn’t for lack of trying).
There are plenty of cases where Christians ignore direct commands in the Bible. Why are we allowed to work on Saturdays and eat shellfish? Well, Jesus said he is the fulfilment of the Law, so we teach that the commands in the Old Testament don’t apply to us as much. Okay, fine, but the New Testament says women shouldn’t be allowed to speak or uncover their heads in church, or have authority over a man. Why don’t we live like that today? The answer is that Paul gave those commands to certain churches in certain cultures, which again don’t apply to us today. Exactly! In biblical times, same-sex monogamy was about as conceivable as artificial insemination, and promiscuity – both ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ – was a pervasive part of Roman culture, so any homosexual act was seen as a product of greed and impulsivity, where pleasure had eclipsed love. It was hard enough for people of that age to imagine the possibility of loving heterosexual monogamy, let alone homosexual.
To conclude, I believe our God-given abilities of logic and reason can be of use in this situation. Jesus said that the entire Law and the prophets hang on the commands to love God and love people, and that if you’re not loving people, you are not loving God. This doesn’t mean we begin teaching a gospel that says we should love only and not call out people when they’re behaving ‘sinfully.’ That would be like telling a parent to love their children, but if little Billy punches his sister Sally in the face you’d be infringing on his personal rights if you tell him it’s wrong. The Church can still be a moral compass, but it’s suicide to shut out logic when you’re trying to navigate an entire culture.
There is a lot more that I can say about this issue, but above all, I want to be clear: I am not saying that I’m right in claiming same-sex relationships aren’t sinful. I don’t speak for God (honestly, I find it hard to get a definitive read on his personal opinions in these matters), but at the very least I would like to see the Church even discuss the fact that gay marriage does not transgress the second part of the greatest commandment, instead of talking about it while assuming it’s so obviously wrong.