I reviewed two books by evangelicals on gay marriage for The Christian Century — God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines and A Letter to my Congregation by Ken Wilson — and the review is now available online. Here’s the core of what differentiates their books:
Every week now, there’s news about gay marriage. Today it’s that Oregon is allowing same sex marriages. Last week it was the Religious Broadcasters Association forcing Multnomah Publishers to resign from the trade group.
It strikes close to home for many of us as well. I regularly hear from readers who wither A) are gay and can’t get married in their state, or B) have recently gotten married and are overjoyed. In my own personal case, last month I lost out on a potential six-figure grant from a church foundation exclusively because of my affirmation of marriage equality — someone connected to the foundation didn’t like my stance.
I’ve got a few friends to graciously and tenaciously hang on to the idea that a third way can be found on this issue, a middle ground between affirming gay marriage and condemning it. And I agree with them, to a point. I know many churches that are studying the issue — the church council is reading books and discussing it; the pastor is offering Wednesday night classes, etc. Those are practices of a middle ground, but that middle ground is necessarily temporary.
The evangelical intelligentsia is very, very nervous. That’s because opposition to same sex marriage is crumbling among the generations that will be running evangelicalism in coming years. Yesterday, we saw Moorholer attacking a couple younger evangelicals who had the gall to question Arizona’s anti-gay, pro-discrimination legislation. But as the new survey out this week from PRRI shows conclusively, evangelical opinions about gay marriage are shifting very quickly among those under 40.
Here are some other findings of the survey:
My friend Jonathan Merritt and Kirsten Powers co-penned a piece on the Daily Beast titled, “Conservative Christians Selectively Apply Biblical Teachings in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate.” Their essay, written in opposition to the Arizona legislation allowing companies to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds, is fair and even-handed. In fact, if anything, it’s too safe.
They simply make the point that if a wedding photographer or cake-baker refuses to supply a same-sex wedding because it is “unbiblical,” they should similarly refuse service to other “unbiblical” marriages. Like, for instance, people like me who are divorced. Or people like you who engage in unnatural sex acts.
Merritt and Powers don’t even get into the extended argument that Lydia surely sold her purple garments to non-Christians in Thyatira. Even if she’d put a fish on her business card, there weren’t enough Christians in her town to make a living if she’d exclusively catered to fellow believers.
Evangelicals have lashed out at Merritt and Powers, including Russell Moore and Albert Mohler (hereafter, Moorohler). It matters not that Merritt and Powers’s argument is so supremely superior to Moorohler’s — anyone with a modicum of intellect can see that. Merritt and Powers present an airtight argument. It’s a stupid law, as most anyone can see, and it surely isn’t defensible by any biblical argument.
But what I’m more interested in is the politics of the backlash.