Should We Feel Great About Proposition 8?

California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative making same-sex marriages illegal, just nicked by in November. I’m pretty sure that outcome, and everything that flows from it – starting with this week’s filing in federal court – is going to lead a lot of Christians to regret what they engaged in during the campaign.

Last fall I was of the mind that Christians in California needed to be politically engaged, but abstain from the Proposition 8 vote. I read (and heard) plenty of arguments on either side, and looking at the situation I saw that no good could come of it. Either we look like closed-minded bigots, who just want to exclude people who aren’t like us, or we endorse something most of us recognize as sin.

The church had no place in this fight, and it has no place in the fights to come in California and other states. That’s not because I think the we shouldn’t be involved in the discussion, it’s because of the way the question is framed.

As it stands now there are two options: give a right to marriage, or deny a right to marriage. As long as there are only those two ways, Christians have no good choice. Luckily there’s a third way. There are three facets to marriage: legal, social, and religious. The legal facet deals with governmental recognition. The social facet deals with the recognition of society. And religious is pretty well self-explanatory. There’s really no way the church can win through the legal facet.

The social recognition of marriage exists on a number of levels from family and friends to society-at-large. This is the place where, for most people, the recognition of their relationship is really important. And in the social arena recognition is all but guaranteed. Two people can have a ceremony that includes vows to each other and their families and friends, which – as far as they are concerned – renders them married.

Legal recognition is a complicated issue, which also exists on many levels from hospital visitation and survivor benefits to licenses and joint tax returns. I’ll be getting into that soon at A New Kind of Politics.

It is, of course, religious recognition that is of true importance to the Church. Unfortunately – from my perspective, anyway – there will always be churches that support same-sex marriages and perform the ceremonies. And while we can open dialogue with them, it is unlikely either will convince the other. So the tension will remain. But whatever happens legally and socially, churches can maintain their positions.

The real benefit in abstaining is that staying away from emotional, hostile campaigns – especially those based on soundbites and picket signs – allows us to demonstrate what it means to love a person regardless of his sin, without condoning it. There was a great opportunity to demonstrate opposition to sin without condemnation, and we threw it away, instead opting for the much easier path of passing a law. In the process we sacrificed any opportunity for respectful disagreement.

Some wear the accusations of homophobia as a badge of honor. “If they ain’t shootin’ at ya, you must not be doing it right.” That may be the case for a prophet, but there’s nothing prophetic about “Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve.” There’s nothing Christian about it, either.

We need to approach these questions like we’re talking about real people. In fact, we need to approach all questions of sin that way. So next time there’s a vote about something like this, do what I do: vote “present”.

About Charles Jones
  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    I pretty much agree that the church’s rabid support of Prop 8 did it damage, but I don’t know that voting against the proposition necessarily means that I endorsed something most of us recognize as sin. I don’t endorse homosexuality. What I do endorse is the statement that Prop 8 was stupid and was promoted dishonestly by people who are supposed to be examples of truth and honesty.

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • http://www.heargodspeak.blogspot.com Joe Blackmon

    (sarcasm) You know, you’re right. I mean, the very idea of having a law on the books saying that something immoral is also illegal. The audacity. The unmitigated gall. I am so ashamed that we supported something just because the Bible says it is wrong. I repent in sackcloth and ashes. After all, sinners and their opinions of us are of prime importance. It’s our job to convince them to pray the sinner’s prayer and give their hearts to Jesus. How, may I ask, are we going to do that if they don’t like us? (/sarcasm)

    Joe Blackmons last blog post..Book Review: Christianity in Crisis-21st Century

  • Alan Noble

    “there’s nothing prophetic about “Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve.” There’s nothing Christian about it, either.”

    Amen, amen, amen.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    C’mon <silly>Joe</silly>. That wasn’t even funny sarcasm. And what’s the point of sarcasm if it doesn’t make somebody at least smirk? And lost in the poorly conceived bid at sarcastic argumentation, you present a case against something that no one has said: namely that anyone is arguing against having a law making illegal something that we believe is immoral because such a law would hurt the feelings of others. In more erudite climes, we might call that argument a straw man.

    Since you’re not very good at the whole making a point via sarcasm, how ’bout trying to just do it the regular way. You know, by making a point and supporting it with evidence.

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • http://pos51.org/ Charles Jones

    Joe,

    It’s not the law that’s the problem. There are plenty of laws against things we think are immoral. Am I campaigning against any of them? No. I’m not saying moral issues can’t also be legal issues. What I’m saying is that the nature of this campaign turned Christians – most who I assume are kind, loving, empathetic people – into arrogant, aggressive political activists, who saw no humanity on the other side.

    Churches and churchgoers poured millions of dollars into a political campaign that will, in the end, only show how misaligned their priorities were, and affect nothing. Making same-sex marriage legal isn’t going to cause a generation of teens to say, “Hey, that looks fun, let me try!” And making it illegal isn’t going to lead anyone to Jesus.

    And the main problem I have with your idea that “sinners and their opinions of us” are of little importance is that we’re all sinners. That means our opinions of ourselves are of little importance, too. If you think my position is about softening up so “they” will like us, you’re completely missing the point.

    Charles Joness last blog post..I Can’t Believe I Missed It!

  • http://pos51.org/ Charles Jones

    Dane,

    “What I do endorse is the statement that Prop 8 was stupid and was promoted dishonestly by people who are supposed to be examples of truth and honesty.”

    I’m saying what you’re saying. We just respond differently.

    Charles Joness last blog post..I Can’t Believe I Missed It!

  • http://www.heargodspeak.blogspot.com Joe Blackmon

    …namely that anyone is arguing against having a law making illegal something that we believe is immoral because such a law would hurt the feelings of others…

    In my opinion, belly aching that we have “sacrificed any opportunity for respectful disagreement” means that we are worried about how the opposition feels. We want them to feel that we respect their opinions and value their input. I’m missing the part where I should worry about their feelings. If I am in sin, you are my friend if you come to me and say, in whatever manner you see fit, that I’m in sin and call me to repent. How I feel about it should not enter into the equation.

    Making same-sex marriage legal isn’t going to cause a generation of teens to say, “Hey, that looks fun, let me try!” And making it illegal isn’t going to lead anyone to Jesus.

    “So What?” (Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, 1959)

    And the main problem I have with your idea that “sinners and their opinions of us” are of little importance is that we’re all sinners.

    Touche’, mon frere. When I said sinners, I should have added the adjective “unredeemed” or “unconverted”.

    Joe Blackmons last blog post..Book Review: Christianity in Crisis-21st Century

  • http://pos51.org/ Charles Jones

    Joe, you’re still missing the point. It’s not about the law. It’s about the campaign to pass the law. Tell me where in the campaign for Prop 8 an event was held to call those in same-sex relationships to repent. Tell me what part of the law offers them forgiveness. This isn’t believers calling their brothers and sisters to repentance. This is like me, as your friend, putting up a billboard calling you evil and telling you never to come back to church.

    “So What?” So…what’s the point? Why are we pouring all of this money into a cause which will result in, “So What?” What did we hope to accomplish? This isn’t going to help the sin. Marriage is only vaguely related to the sin issue. So what are we talking about here?

    Charles Joness last blog post..I Can’t Believe I Missed It!

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    “In whatever manner you see fit.” So, like, with waterboarding?

    Here’s the thing: Calling people to repent and believe has nothing to do with a poorly conceived proposition that was promoted through dishonesty and vicious propaganda. Every man jack of us believe that we should be prompting our neighbours to forsake sin and take faith in Christ. I fail, however, to see how legal semantics affects that. In addition, the gospel is offensive on its own terms and I fail to see how introducing needless offenses in addition to the needful ones makes any sense at all.

    “Love Supreme” (John Coltrane, Love Supreme, 1965)

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    p.s. Rich? Did you intentionally use a picture that underimposes devilhorns on the 8? You did, didn’t you, you little minx?

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • David

    Charles, I see your point and I agree with it in many ways. Our first priority needs to be to show the love and grace of Christ to a hurting world.

    But I think you aren’t taking into account the fact that we are also called to stand up for what is right and good in society.

    I don’t think it’s right to say that we shouldn’t have a voice in policy. I’m reminded of William Carey, who was extremely influential in getting the practice of sati (burning alive a widow with the body of her deceased husband) banned in 1829 in India.

    He could have decided not to interfere with the practice, since it was legal, and part of the religious tradition of the Indian people. But he chose to work through the legal system in addition the religious systems to bring the practice to an end, saving many many lives.

    In many cases I believe it is good to work through the legal system to uphold what is right, of course doing so in love. I know that love was lacking in the campaign to pass Prop 8. But I think this means we should be saying, “Speak the truth IN LOVE” but not saying “DON’T support good legislation.”

  • David Dunham

    I think that’s a good clarification David…as well as a good name.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    “But I think you aren’t taking into account the fact that we are also called to stand up for what is right and good in society.”

    Where? Where are we called to do this?

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • David

    @ The Dane

    Are you kidding? The whole push for social justice is based on this fact.

    It’s pretty myopic to live in a democratic society yet decline to influence policy.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I understand what Charles is saying in the article, and he makes a good point, but I think he comes to a bad conclusion. Instead of saying “let’s abstain from voting on the issue”, the conclusion should be “make sure you’re standing up for what’s right for the right reasons and in the right way.

    Read this:
    “By the way, for those who wonder why the current Congress has become so aggressively pro-homosexual, actually pushing through two stand-alone pro- homosexual bills, it might be instructive to note that at the same time that Christian voters experienced a 30 percent decline in the last election, 92.5 percent of homosexual men and 91 percent of lesbian women voted in that same election.”
    David Barton, quoted from wallbuilders.com

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @David – No. I’m not kidding you.

    Look, I’m all about social justice and changing the world to make it a better place. I just don’t remember where I was “called” to do so&#;where I was called to stand up for what is right and good in society. If you want to point out such a place, please do so; but saying that supporting the Right and the Good in society is a good thing is not the same as saying we are called to support it. Not really the same at all.

    In conclusion, it’s pretty myopic to live in a world in which people use words to mean one thing but ignore those things and presume they mean something else entirely, i.e.whatever you demand them to be saying.

  • Jason

    So are you saying we should “approve” in gay marriage? Because not calling it what it is, and allowing it to go on around us seems like we approve, but don’t approve. The Bible calls homosexuality a sin. And although we sin everyday, God is very strict and against the sexual sins. Now the Bible says to kill the homosexual.(sure it is old testament, but if you don’t believe that law then why should you believe in the ten commandments) We have ignored that law by saying we should “love the sinner, hate the sin”. Well that quote has cost us. Funny, type that quote into yahoo and the first website that pops up, is a “gay christian” site. The Bible does not give us this command. In fact that was a quote by Ghandi. As good as it sounds, it is still wrong. We keep letting them gain ground in the hopes that they, or someone that sees our “love”(tolerance) might (emphasis on might) become saved. The more ground they gain the more ground we lose.

    You might say, it is not our fight, well sir, it is. You say we only should be concerned about the religious part and not the social or legal part. What happens when the law says it is a hate crime for a Christian pastor to refuse marrying a gay couple. What then? What happens when you child comes home with a same sex partner and tells you “dad it’s socially acceptable and it’s not like it’s illegal” What happens when Christians lose the right, due to hate crime laws, to turn away homosexuals from their church? What happens when because of that your children see men kissing in the pew in front of you.

    No! We should fight homosexuality to the end. We should stand up for what God says, and quit being sissies. We need to fight for the freedoms of Christians, the freedoms we are losing everyday.

    Making same-sex marriage legal isn’t going to cause a generation of teens to say, “Hey, that looks fun, let me try!” And making it illegal isn’t going to lead anyone to Jesus.

    No it won’t lead people to Jesus, but it will be doing the things Good tells us to do.

  • Jason

    I meant God

  • Cannerus

    “Them vs. us” only works when one side gets wiped out. That’s not something I like forward to. I’d rather someone be free to make their own choice and choose what I considered to be right than to be forced otherwise (apply the common sense grain of salt to this one). Realize it or not, but the moral high ground is only an illusion. The witch hunts of yore were people on the moral high ground. The Holy Roman Empire was the moral high ground. People blowing themselves up to kill women and children is the moral high ground. Whatever we know we must be willing to question and we must be willing to be wrong, or we fall into the trappings of pride. If you believe we need a holy war expect me to stand in the way and get slaughtered without raising a finger, because I’m here to love people. If they see me and there’s something desirable, they’ll ask and come to know. In the mean time, enjoy your fight, and I wish you luck. Don’t be surprised when the blood on your hands doesn’t wash off.

  • Savanna

    Jason- hardly anything you said reflected the Christian ways.
    “What happens when Christians lose the right, due to hate crime laws, to turn away homosexuals from their church?” Yes, that sounds like a beautiful Christian thing to say..go away you sinners you don’t belong in our church….and how come you had no influence over your daughter’s sudden change in lifestyle?


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