How Might Christians Respond to the Question of Homosexual Marriage?

How Might Christians Respond to the Question of Homosexual Marriage? March 27, 2013

Re-posted with permission; first posted at 3/26/2013.

Today marks the beginning of a monumental Supreme Court debate about a state and nation’s ability to define the parameters of marriage. With the recent state elections moving in the direction of affirming same-sex marriage as a normative political and social value, many Christians are being pressed into an awkward and unforeseen circumstance: They must come to terms with how to respond to the question — What do you think about gay marriage?

At least three religious-ish sounding responses to the question have made their way into the public eye within the last month. Each offers a possible response to the gay marriage question. In this blog post I want to address each response and offer my answer to the question at hand.

1) The first begins with a cup of coffee. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was recently caught on an NPR audio file lambasting a company shareholder for his opposition to gay marriage (Washington state recently voted to legalize gay marriage). This leaked audio file caused a reaction from conservative groups on facebook calling for a boycott of the coffee company. But notice the internal logic and sequence of the reported events.

The shareholder, Thomas Strobhar, runs a Dayton Ohio based company called the Corporate Morality Action Center, an organization that seeks to challenge corporations on issues like gay marriage, abortion and pornography. Mr. Strobhar apparently purchases shares of a company so that he has a platform to show up and troll CEO’s about ethical issues. In this particular meeting, Mr. Strobhar raised his hand in order to make an unsolicited and unwarranted connection between the affirmation of gay marriage by Starbucks and a recent quarterly dip in numbers. He made the statement in the form of a question to which Schultz responded with gusto.

Not to claim any wisdom of leadership, especially of a Fortune 500 company, but Schultz could have responded in many other ways to Mr. Strobhar’s question. His curt and ungracious response was a misstep for sure. But, Mr. Strobhar was equally guilty of pushing Mr. Schultz’s button with a self-described “maverick” style of aggression.

Srobhar’s position presents option 1 in the response to the gay marriage question. In this position, Christians make it their agenda to confront proponents of Gay marriage in bombastic and argumentative ways.

I don’t tend to recommend this approach for many reasons, most importantly because aggression tends to choke off dialogue. This conversation is complicated and requires nuancing, facts, longitudinal studies, discussions of natural law, and discussions of what the Bible says and doesn’t say. Nuancing generally cannot take place where aggression has become the mode of operating.

2) Option 2 comes from spirituality writer Rob Bell, who stirred up controversy in the past few weeks by aligning his evangelical Christian heritage with a pro-gay marriage position. Bell stated:

I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.

Bell represents a second position on the issue of gay marriage: Christians transform Bible doctrine in a way that accommodates the gay marriage momentum.

This option is not appealing for several obvious reasons. Most pressingly, why hold to the Bible’s teaching at all if it directly conflicts with the culture? If one has to transform the Bible’s plain teaching, then just get rid of the Bible? Why hold on to this Bible tradition in the first place? Isn’t Bell trolling all of us in a different manner than Strobhar? In this case, Bell has nuanced his position without holding to the plain teaching of scripture. In other words, Bell has left the Bible by the wayside and is holding to his own choose your own adventure Christianity — which is not Bible Christianity at all.

3) The third option comes from another famous CEO and involves the best tasting chicken nuggets on the planet. By now you know the story. Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-Fil-A, made some off-the-cuff remarks to Baptist Press writer K. Allan Blume in response to his position on supporting the Biblical view of marriage. Cathy responded, “Guilty as charged.” Pro-gay writers and bloggers quickly pounced on the phrase and reported it as being, not in response to being pro-Bible marriage, but as a response to being anti-gay marriage. While being evidence A of suspect journalistic integrity, it produced website clicks, college protests, and political grandstanding.

So how did Cathy respond to such negative criticism? By sitting down with gay activist Shale Windemeyer and talking openly about his pro-Bible marriage position. Windemeyer recalled the first phone call:

On Aug. 10, 2012, in the heat of the controversy, I got a surprise call from Dan Cathy. He had gotten my cell phone number from a mutual business contact serving campus groups. I took the call with great caution. He was going to tear me apart, right? Give me a piece of his mind? Turn his lawyers on me?

Never once did Dan or anyone from Chick-fil-A ask for Campus Pride to stop protesting Chick-fil-A. On the contrary, Dan listened intently to our concerns and the real-life accounts from youth about the negative impact that Chick-fil-A was having on campus climate and safety at colleges across the country.

Dan Cathy. Hateful oppressor of gay people? Nope. Evil CEO with an evil agenda? Not quite. Homophobic wealthy white Southerner? Negative. Shane Windemeyer called Dan Cathy “respectful” and “civil.” And with this story, we see that Cathy demonstrates a third option in the Christian response to gay marriage: Christians live in the tension of confidently proclaiming the Bible’s teaching while respectfully and lovingly pursuing relationships with those who identify as gay for the Glory of God.

By now it is obvious that I wholeheartedly affirm the third position on the gay marriage question and I commend it to Christians everywhere. I think it is the way forward, because it has historically been the way that Christians have approached these emerging issues. The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

When it comes to the gay marriage question, I think Christians would be wise to follow Paul’s advice:

  1. Make growing in the satisfying relationship with Christ your daily goal.
  2. Know truth and boldly speak truth.
  3. Make “lovingness” your method and the manner in which you do all things.

Today the Supreme Court will debate the future of the political definition of marriage. I, personally, don’t have much hope for this discussion ending up on the side of the Bible’s definition. There are several God-centered folks who will make some political arguments for the traditional definition of marriage. I am not someone who would be good at speaking into that world. That is not my calling.

All this being said, I am not ultimately saddened by the prospect of the government taking a position that may be contrary to Scripture. My hope rests, not in horses or chariots, but in the Name of the Lord. I will continue to follow Paul’s advice no matter what the government decides. I have been and will continue to love God, lift up Truth, and love people. I hope my gay friends will truly practice the tolerance they talk about by respecting my position.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • What about those Christian who faithfully wrestle with Scripture and come to the conclusion, on an exegetical basis, that the opposition of homosexual marriage is a violation of Christian ethics and inherently oppressive?

    Whether you agree with their interpretation or not, you have to at least acknowledge that there are deeply devout and faithful Biblical scholars whose examination of Lev 18, Rom 1, I Cor 6, and 1 Tim result in their conclusion that these passages do NOT oppose the modern homosexual expression we see in same sex marriage. To present the only Christian approaches to this issue as 1. combative argumentation 2. abandonment of Scriptural fidelity or 3. faithful adherence to “Biblical marriage” (as if that is monolythic) is both myopic and manipulative.

  • Eileen

    As a Christian who’s youngest brother is gay, the idea that to oppose gay marriage “is a violation of Christian ethics and inherently oppressive” is fundamentally incorrect.

    My great hope is that my brother, along with all those who struggle with homosexuality will be freed as they come to a saving faith in Jesus. THIS is what matters, their eternal destiny.

    While those who are swayed by the idea that a Scripturally-based understanding of gay marriage is somehow “un-Christian”, as someone who loves her brother deeply, I fear that gay people are being lied to by well-meaning, however misguided people.

  • Ray

    Another option would be to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s. Civil marriage is not the same as “holy matrimony.” It is a civil contract that does not require the blessing of a priest or rabbi or minister. It does not require adherence to a particular religion. Religious marriage requires all of those things. Perhaps we need to focus on the separation of church and state. Some churches are thrilled at the possibility of blessing same-sex unions. Others are appalled. And those who are not religious can get married at a courthouse if they want. I just think we to stop confusing the secular and the religious versions of marriage.

  • Guest

    I CANNOT acknowledge that there are deeply devout and faithful Biblical scholars whose examination of the aforementioned Scriptures result in their conclusion that these passages do not oppose the modern homosexual expression we see in same sex marriage. In my opinion, if they come to that conclusion, they are neither faithful Biblical scholars nor deeply devoted to our Savior.

  • Andrew

    “Christians transform Bible doctrine in a way that accommodates the gay marriage momentum”

    Sorry to break it to you, but Christians have been transforming Bible doctrine to accommodate their lives for 2000 years. The cherry-picking of”biblical issues” to get publicly indignant about opens up the Christian community, predominantly the conservative Christian community who make the loudest noise, up to legitimate charges of hypocrisy and scapegoating. It doesn’t help that one can pretty much browse the OT and NTs and find ways to “biblically back up” a number of contradicting viewpoints.

    Issues of poverty, rampant consumerism, resource depletion/environmental destruction . . .easy to use as vague talking points but EVERYONE loves the gay marriage and abortion bandwagons because those wagons don’t require the participants to do anything in THEIR OWN LIVES. All they have to do is judge others, cite the bible, and go to bed comforted that they are following “the Lord.” And instead of serious reflection, they can turn to verses about how “the World will hate you” and then become even more self-righteous.

  • Bryan

    Is it possible, as a Christian, to vehemently oppose any kind of church sanctioned union of homosexual couples based on the very clear teaching of Scripture, BUT NOT BE OPPOSED to a government agency allowing homosexual couples equal protection under the law by acknowledging their union legally? Would not the Reformed position on the “Two Kingdoms” allow for this? We do have seperation of church and state, which allows that occasionally there may be contradictions between what the State sees as legitimate law and what the church will allow inside its body of Christ. The Church has some obligation to support the constitution, so long as there is no attempt by the State to alter what occurs inside the church. I see this as clear as black and white. As Christians, we can lovingly share the Gospel to the those who are struggling with homosexuality and even condemn the practice, while at the same time supporting the constitutional promise of “equal protection under the law.”

  • Yes, Christians must respect and affirm Bible teaching – but which teaching? The OT verses of the Jewish purity code which forbid men lying with men, along with eating shelfish, wearing clothes of mixed fibres, and shaving one’s beard? Or the story of Sodom, which is incorrectly read as a punishment for homosexuality, but is in fact about luxury and idleness (the reason for the angels’ visit in the first place), the failure of hospitality to strangers and threatened violent rape? or the NT verses based on invalid translations of “malakoi” and “arsenokotoi” as homosexuals? Or,the closing verses of Romans 1, which take on a completely different sense when read in context, with Ch 1 & 2 as a unit (and the division into verses and chapters is a late amendment to the original text).

    OR –

    Do we rather take seriously the overall and compelling message of the Gospels as a whole, of the importance of love, justice, equality and compassion for all?

    There are only half a dozen or so verses in the entire Bible that even appear to condemn same – sex behaviour. Quite remarkable, when especially in NT times, the entire Biblical word was part of the Roman empire and Hellenistic civilization, in both of which sexual relationships between men was seen as entirely natural, and except for Hebrews, the Pauline letters were all addressed to Gentiles.

  • Bob Smith

    How silly? Biblical law is unshakable! Civil law is whimsical! Who considers for moment reshaping the bible? Popularity .. Political correctness … Secular nonsense … Put your nose back in the Word for answers!