Sunday, August 19, 2012

Opposing Views of “Like-Minded People on “Fair Marriage”

In the debate on legalizing “same-sex marriage”, I’ve encountered instances where, at least on the surface, it has appeared that “like-minded people” have differing views on the topic. Namely, these like-minded people are “People of Faith” and/or “Conservatives”. Here’s what I’ve found in my effort to gain a deeper understanding of these puzzling situations.

Differing Views Among Christians

These have been the cases I’ve found to be most surprising. For me, they’re exemplified by my ongoing dialog with a dear Catholic friend.

Since most would label me as an Evangelical Christian, of course, I have doctrinal differences with my Catholic friend. But, I’m confident that our beliefs match up on fundamentals, including the Holy Trinity and the infallibility of God’s Word. And, I’m just as certain that she is devout in her Catholic faith. Knowing these things and knowing that the Catholic Church’s position on this has been stated as “opposes gay marriage and the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships”, I was bewildered when I noticed her making comments that seemed to imply her support for same-sex marriage, referring to it as "Fair Marriage". With that, I started exploring the topic with her.

Her first points to justify her position were that she has homosexual friends who she loves dearly and that she just hates to think that, if one of them, who is in a same-sex relationship, were to get sick, their partner wouldn't have the same rights for hospital visitation as a married couple would have. My first response was to commend her for being loving, as Jesus commands us to do and to let her know that, though we may disagree on the topic at hand, I too have homosexual friends who I love dearly. But, I went on to say that, at least where we live, the hospital visitation concern is a straw-man argument. In 2007, the State of Washington enacted the "Everything but Marriage" law, creating State Registered Domestic Partnerships and making them the equivalent of marriage under state law. I, also, pointed out to her that, when that legislation was passed, proponents claimed that was all they wanted, that they would never ask for legalizing same-sex marriage.

However, none of our discussion seemed to persuade my friend to change her position. And, she offered validation for her stance by saying, "God is love." Certainly, that is true. I acknowledged that with my friend. I also noted that there are additional aspects of God to take into consideration. Before delving into that, though, I asked my friend, since her Priest opposes same-sex marriage, if she believes she has a better understanding than her Priest does of the truth that "God is love". With that, her demeanor changed and I sensed that not only was it unlikely that continuing our conversation would cause her to reconsider her position, it was likely that our relationship might be damaged.

What I would have liked to discuss with my friend is that, in striving to lead our lives according to God’s will, we can be misled by only taking into consideration one dimension of an omnipotent God. I think this is a common tendency with Christians as we confront a sensitive issue. It’s true of me. And, I think it’s especially true in a case like this, in light of the fact that, when Jesus was asked, “What is the great commandment in the law?” He said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But, just as we can be misled by only taking into consideration one dimension of an omnipotent God, it can be misleading to take one line of Scripture out of context. The context for this Scripture is:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

In my words, this means that, in striving to lead our lives according to God’s will, we must follow these “two commandments”, not just one of them … perhaps the one we find easiest to follow. And, if we are to love God, in my words, with all we’ve got, this requires considering more than just one dimension of God … perhaps the one we find most appealing.

Another aspect of God that I see as being very important to bear in mind here is that He is a God of order, not of disorder. And within God’s order, there are things He finds to be virtuous and things He finds to be sinful.

In an article entitled Opposing All But One Man/One Woman Marriage, I offered the following quotation from my own Pastor to provide a summary of the order God established for marriage:

“… the first institution that God created, defined, and established for mankind was Marriage. Marriage was established by God for the development, well-being, and advancement of healthy (spiritually, emotionally, and physically) human relationships. These relationships – particularly when united in fellowship with God – would then be the foundational building blocks for future generations (children/family) and the backbone of local communities and culture. God was quite intentional and specific when He created that first marriage as being between one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve). Because God is both gracious and wise, then we know He wasn’t experimenting with marriage in the beginning – He was defining it!”

Although my Catholic friend and I, presently, disagree about legalizing same-sex marriage, I’m confident that she would agree that this is a good summary of the order God established for marriage. Furthermore, I’m certain she would agree that relationships meeting these criteria are virtuous and that relationships outside this standard are sinful. The remaining question then is, how does a Christian lovingly address this matter?

I think the answer is found in a well-known story from Scripture that involves sexual sin. It’s the story of Jesus’ encounter with a woman who had been “… caught in adultery, in the very act.” This is the story contained in John 8:3-11 where the woman’s accusers bring her to Jesus, saying that according to the law she should be stoned and asking what He says to do with her. God’s loving grace is dramatically demonstrated when Jesus says, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" and when, after her accusers have left, Jesus says to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you …” Generally, these are the parts of the story that get the most attention but that’s not how the story ends. It ends with Jesus telling the woman, “… go and sin no more.” Though He did it lovingly, Jesus acknowledged the woman’s sin and he told her to not continue in that sin.

Frankly, I think the stance of the Catholic Church on same-sex marriage follows this model pretty well. As mentioned earlier this stated position has been “opposes gay marriage and the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships.” However, their accompanying statement teaches that “homosexual persons deserve respect, justice and pastoral care.” This should be helpful in providing the best answer for both me and my Catholic friend, as well as for other Christians who have been struggling with the question, how does a Christian lovingly address this matter?

The Differing Views of Other People of Faith

It's, also, puzzled me when I've run into others who describe themselves as "people of faith", who also favor legalizing same-sex marriage. For me, the most illustrative example of this involves a State Representative who I first met at a Meet the Candidates event sponsored by our local Christian Chamber of Commerce. Considering this and that he presented himself as a person of faith, I was surprised to later learn that he is openly gay. After learning this, I wasn't surprised to see him promoting the legalization of gay marriage. Since these things seemed incongruous with what I think of as the expected conduct of a person of faith, I continued to wonder about it. My wonder was increased by having my Pastor tell me about he and his wife going to observe a local Gay Pride event and finding booths there sponsored by "churches". When I saw that the State Representative I mentioned was featured as a speaker at a "Marriage Equality" event at a local church, I decided it was past time for me to investigate this incongruity, as it appeared to me.

Although I had puzzled over this matter for more than two years, I didn't have to look too far to gain understanding. I found that the church that had hosted the Marriage Equality event described itself as "A Liberal Religious Alternative To Christianity." That, alone, made it clear that this is a church that does not share the faith that I share with my Catholic friend. Looking further, I found that, unlike my Catholic friend and I, the beliefs of this church have nothing to do with a deity greater than themselves. In fact, the only apparent focus of their worship is themselves. With that as the foundation of their ideology, it's no wonder that they should conclude that whatever their desires are should be OK.

Differing Views Among Conservatives

Last but not least, when I've encountered others who call themselves "Conservative", who support legalizing same-sex marriage, that too has seemed contradictory. When I've questioned it, the typical answer I've gotten is, "Well, I'm a fiscal-Conservative, not a social-Conservative." As far as I'm concerned, that simple answer results in there being little light between fiscal-Conservatives and people of faith, as described above. The only difference is, whereas the above mentioned people of faith worship themselves, these fiscal-Conservatives worship the almighty dollar. Furthermore, that simple answer doesn't change the contradictory nature of the fiscal-Conservative's stance. In fact, it's very illogical. Although their first love is money, not God, they acknowledge at least one truth of what my Pastor says about God's definition of the marriage relationship - i.e. It is "the backbone of local communities and culture." Without that foundation, the goals of the fiscal-Conservatives are not just unattainable, they wouldn't actually exist. When communities and culture come apart, so does the related economy.

Summing Up The Differences

With fellow-Christians, I've found that we are, in fact, pretty like-minded. As we help each other look at this issue through the fully unfiltered lens of our shared faith, I'm confident of our finding agreement.

Concerning People of Faith, as described above, I recognize that we're not like-minded at all. And, I have little, if any, hope for a constructive dialog with these folks. Washington State's "Everything But Marriage" law would not have been possible without folks like me being willing to listen to those in favor of that legislation and working with them to find a solution that worked for both sides. But, understanding that this group's faith is based on a worship of themselves, I fully expect that they will continue to hatefully label people like me as "homophobes", along with their relentless insistence on having their desires OKed and a complete lack of interest in finding a solution that is acceptable to all.

And, finally, regarding fiscal-Conservatives, I've come to understand that we are like-minded on fiscal issues but it is my second Conservative priority while it is their only Conservative priority. However, I'm hopeful that they will discover that supporting my social-Conservative views serves their best interests in attaining their fiscal-Conservative objectives.