“If I get the choice between Pie Heaven and Regular Heaven, I will choose Pie Heaven. It may be a trick, but if not, mmmm, pie!!” – Deep Thoughts with Jack Handy, SNL
Many people saw a post that appeared on The Gospel Coalition asking us 40 questions about LGBTQ and gay marriage. One of those people was a family member who sent it to me asking me to answer.
I imagine a lot of you have had questions like this posed to you – so I thought it would be a great idea to share my answers here.
Plenty of people like to ask “innocent” questions as a rhetorical device to stump the one they’re asking. Religious leaders did this to Jesus, always certain they had found just the unanswerable question that would corner him. Jesus not only identified the trick questions a mile away but disarmed the questioners with his answers.
The Jesus in me smells a trick from a mile away, but the Jack Handy in me says, “It may be a trick, but if not, mmmm, an opportunity to take a probing look at the Christian response to Marriage Equality.”
Here we go…
1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
Ever since I looked at what being LGBTQ meant to people who are LGBTQ, and the inadequate choices offered them by the church. “Reorientation,” lifelong celibacy or excommunication? None of those work by any stretch, and I realized then that those could not be God’s choices for LGBTQ people.
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
1 Corinthians 8, when they discuss what to do when good Christ-followers disagree on what is sinful and Paul says in verses 2-3, “Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.” People should be loved and celebrated. Also, the Golden Rule, and Jesus great command to “love God and love others.” And not a word about not celebrating. Not to celebrate, or to reject, has a huge burden of proof, and it’s not in there.
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
Jesus put love above all else, he told us not to judge each other, and he did not condemn homosexual union. Neither can we. To deny anyone real and meaningful human companionship is a huge decision that goes against everything in the Bible. We can’t do that.
4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
Isaiah 54:5, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:25, and many others that depict Christ as the groom and the church as the bride. Half Christ’s bride is male. That looks to me like an endorsement of gay marriage.
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
Yes. He blew the doors off all our preconceived notions, always in the favor of love and inclusion and against judgment.
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
Jesus reasserted the definition of marriage in Matthew 19:3 because he was talking to a group of leaders who not only set out to trap him (v. 3) but who had the practice of marrying a woman and then divorcing her for trivial reasons. He was saying, “Don’t be so cruel as to cast your wife into the street!” [Read Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers.] Jesus is telling them, “Don’t you use your slippery finagaling to be spiteful of others. You see, Jesus always defends the powerless one against the powerful, a lesson for all of us to heed.
7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
Interesting question because it implies that we have a place in the judgment seat. He certainly was not talking about gay sex but straight sex; he was addressing straight people. Paul said, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1. If I were to say, it would be any inappropriate thought about sex, because that’s what Jesus said… and he said it to keep us from categorizing sin into the terrible ones (which don’t tempt us) and the not-so-bad ones (which we do commit). Jesus said, “Uh, no.”
8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
It was a Paul’s rhetorical device to get them to condemn certain actions before lowering the boom in Romans 2:1: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Paul was also speaking in a culture rife with men married to women but having sex with boys and slaves.
9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?
Of course not! If our sins could get us kicked off the invite list, who would make it? Paul is saying not to fight amongst each other (with their internal lawsuits and defrauding, Christians against Christians). But even as badly behaved as they were, Paul says (v. 11): “You are sanctified by Jesus and by the Holy Spirit!” He’s actually saying the opposite. Thank God!
10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
Paul was talking about all the extreme things going on right in their community in their temples—rape, temple prostitution, coercive sex (of master to slave). None of it means consensual, loving sex among equal adults.
11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?
These men were all privileged, straight males. Their insight into women, children, non-white, and LGBTQ people is necessarily limited. They all condoned slavery, for instance. Better to take the good they offered and move on to the new light in which we see things today.
12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?
Surely you are aware that the understanding of homosexuality of Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America is culturally conditioned by American (missionary) Christians??
13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?
I really can’t speak for them, and I don’t look to them for what to think about my role as a Christian.
14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
It depends on the mother and the father. Don’t you agree? Good grief! I know some amazingly loving single parents, and I know some incredibly loving, thoughtful gay parents. I wish you knew Pam and Sabina and the gentle and loving home they have for their two adopted, biracial kids. On the other hand, I know some horrifying, straight-couple parents. Courtney and her three siblings could not have had more oppressive and dysfunctional parents, though they are the “traditional, Christian mother and father.” Which children do best: those in a loving situation or those in an abusive situation? Really, it’s a silly and quite offensive question.
15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
The life of Christ does not come in response to research. Jesus always deals with real life situations in support of the oppressed, period. He did not use research to support his overabundant love and compassion. Your question #14 is outrageously offensive to hard-working single parents, both divorced and widowed, and reveals your insufficient experience—and compassion—to address this question responsibly. I grieve at the implications of your mindset for those poor children at the losing end of your “best”-case scenario.
16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?
Frankly, I’ve had enough of the type of privileging you suggest, which binds broken marriages together with duct tape “for the sake of the children,” trapping them in brutal and dysfunctional families. I’ve counseled them as adults, and you are really out of your depth here with the question.
17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
Really? Is it all about sex for you?! You don’t really think people have fought for Marriage Equality for sexual fulfillment? You know that single people have sex, right? If it were all about sex, wouldn’t they stay single for sexual fulfillment, so in case the sex runs cold, they will be free to just move on? What we seek marriage for is something much, much bigger than sex. Sex is only a part of it. And frankly, many same-sex couples are achieving the same “end and purpose of marriage” as straight couples, which includes love, union, and companionship.
18. How would you define marriage?
Hm… good question. I am going to refer to the biblical definition or marriage. Listen closely. Monogamy (Titus 1:6). Rape victims forced to marry their rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). A man obligated to marry his brother’s widow regardless of the living brother’s marital status (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Genesis 38; Ruth 2-4).
Oh dear…I don’t think is going the direction you hoped.
19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
No. Although, from what I know, this exists in patriarchal environments where, because the environment is so controlled, consent is not possible.
20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
Why are you asking me this when the bible is “perfectly clear” that polygamous marriage is not only affirmed but celebrated as a staple throughout the Old Testament? In fact, it was the compassionate option to provide for thousands of women (several hundred each for the patriarchs!) who would otherwise have been abandoned. God personally gave David his multiple wives (1 Samuel 12:8). I’m saying all this facetiously, because I suspect you’re pointing to the tired “slippery slope” argument.
But yes, I do. As it’s been said, people aren’t born polygamists. If anything opens the door to polygamy, it’s patriarchy, not homosexuality.
21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
This question is part of the “slippery slope” argument, that approval of same-sex marriage leads to approval of incest or polygamy, but they are different. As incest and polygamy have been practiced in the past, they are part of patriarchal structures that lack informed consent, keeping people locked into, usually religious, family structures.
22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
No, it must be between two consenting adults. This precludes marrying a child, marrying your dog, and all the other nonsense people want to compare Marriage Equality with, none of whom can give consent.
24. If not, why not?
25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?
Yes, my Christian brothers and sisters are perfectly free to refuse to marry someone of the same gender. Or are you talking about some other “religious beliefs”? Let’s be clear: to refuse to serve someone in your public business because you think they are in sin is not a religious freedom, even if you feel very strongly about it. It is outright discrimination – just as it was in the 60’s.
How would these things become threatened when they are loving as Christ told them to love? If they are judging, and therefore denying services they otherwise offer the public, then that is not religious freedom. It is discrimination, and kind of just being a jerk. Our freedoms to be a jerk are threatened by Jesus who said don’t be a jerk! Love people you don’t like because of how much I love you! Jesus does not protect our religious freedom to be discriminatory and neither does the state.
27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
Of course! I do it every day. I will however defer to Jesus who by example favored the oppressed over the oppressors. You cannot equate the bullying of Christians with the bullying of gays on this issue. 25% of gay homeless youth were kicked to the streets by parents on the day they came out. 40% of all homeless youth are gay. Gay youth are 4-6 times more likely to attempt suicide. Who are the true oppressed? Who is the bigger bully? Gay parents do not kick their kids to the street because they came out as Christian. Get a grip on the situation, please.
28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?
That’s where the evangelical church has gotten this whole thing upside-down. It is consumed with behavior modification, or “sin management,” when it needs to be about loving God and loving others by building real community. Our job is to support each other in loving community and let people work things out with God through Christ. Many churches offer counseling and mentoring for straight couples—they could offer the same to LGBTQ couples. But a focus on “correction” is NOT Jesus’ focus for us, and it reveals a lack of trust in God. What would a church look like that insists on behavior modification? It would look they way it looks right now. Jesus was clear that is not our job. Christ is our mediator. He sent a Helper to lead us in all truth. What better thing do we think we need?
29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?
I fundamentally mistrust “church discipline.” The idea has been misused to punish those the church disagrees with and to abandon those who are in most need. It’s like an insurance company who finds a loophole so as not to have to pay the claim. Jesus calls the church to help those in need and instead, all too often, they find a loophole so they can abandon that person. Countless women in my large online moms group were abandoned by their longtime churches because they (the moms) simply supported their gay child. (The church leaders called that “church discipline.”)
That being said, if a gay couple decides to be part of a church with rules for behavior and membership, they should be held to the same standards as a heterosexual couple.
30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
Christians really like to tell people what their sin is, but that is not our job. Our job is to focus on our own life, and love our neighbor and let God lead them. This is often put out there some sort of litmus test by people who don’t want Marriage Equality, but who really only want to condemn gay sex. This “standard” is not applied equally. I think it is to the church’s advantage to admit their bias.
31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
The focus of the church should not be sin but on Christ. Focus on sin does not reduce sin; it increases it. Focus on Christ reduces sin. (Especially when you realize that sin really is unbelief.) I think it would be lovely and reflective of Christ if church pastors were transparent about their own sin in a meaningful way, to give permission to the body to likewise be transparent. But the price is high in too many churches to be authentic. Focus on life in Christ and sin naturally goes down.
They will do what Jesus called them to do – Love God, love others, focus on their own life, and leave other people to God. They will focus on relationships.
32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?
Love is treating others as you want to be treated. (I borrowed that from Jesus and I can think of no better definition.) It includes the idea of showing someone overabundant kindness with no regard or even knowledge of their “sin” or lack thereof. (Think Good Samaritan.)
Perfect love casts out all fear. Love is putting yourself aside for someone else. God is love.
33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
Luke 6:13. Luke10:25-37. This is a great primer for those who have confused love with behavior modification or punishment. And likely the same ones that you would: 1 Cor 13, Romans 13, 1 John 4:8 and others.
34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
Well, God’s great command was to love, and everything else falls under that, so we learn that by doing! The more we understand how loved we are, the more we love others. The more we love others, the more we understand how loved we are.
Romans 13 says… Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
That might be worth reading again.
35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
Well of course! But love supersedes agreement! What a silly idea that love means having to agree on everything. Even sillier to think that love means discontinuing fellowship with someone I disagree with. What the heck is that? Manipulation… punishment… hubris… but not love. <3
36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
This is a wonderful question, because everything has changed for me! My understanding of God’s love for all of us, of how simple (not easy but simple) the command is to love and let God handle the rest. I mean, seriously, Jesus said that if you love—God and others—everything else will fit under that! How beautiful and simple is that? I am free to love like a child loves without the ridiculous burden of trying to get other people to follow laws I think they should follow. This whole journey has been an explosion into loving God and loving others. How sweet of God to bring that depth to me in such a surprising way, by giving me two LGBTQ daughters!
37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?
I have become less committed to believing I have all the answers right or that the church does. Frankly, anyone with one eye open toward church history might likewise say, “Hm… some of the NON-NEGOTIABLES of the past were flat-out wrong. (Flat earth, burning witches, slavery, racism, etc.) We would be wise to exercise great humility in matters where God alone is sovereign, and not to take vociferous stands that end in pratfall buffoonery as the church has done over the centuries. (Burning the first Protestants at the stake? Really?) The trustworthiness of the Bible in praxis is only as good as our interpretation of it… which has proven over centuries to be pathetic. But my love for Christ, who saved me beyond any measure, has increased exponentially. He is where our faith should be, nowhere else.
38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?
Based on the details of your question, hopefully, none of them – as that is missing the point and heart of the Gospel. They are being directed to Jesus, the founder and finisher of our faith, and they are learning to love God and love others, the exact thing Jesus asked of us. The rest is all an outworking of that foundation, as led by the Spirit, as Jesus said it would be (“everything else will line up under those two commands”).
39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?
More committed than I have ever been! To the marginalized church as Jesus was. To Jesus himself as the one through whom I love these beautiful marginalized people. To telling the truth about the scriptures and not allowing them to be used as a club. Yes, I am profoundly more committed.
40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?
Paul writes a beautiful description here of the power of the gospel, the earth-shattering good news of reconciliation between God and humanity through Christ! What a gift! I am more committed to that than ever, and I won’t let this be turned into idolatry on my watch. You see, Paul was entreating this church in Rome, whom he had never met, not to rely on their idols but to turn to the supernatural power of God toward humanity! It is idolatry itself to think we can pick out something we think we see in there and apply it as if he was talking to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters today (the purpose of this question). The height of idolatry! Look at Paul’s thoughts in Romans 16:17: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles…”
Romans 8:35, 37-39… “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Kevin, I do appreciate your attempt to learn more about this and encourage others to do so. Countless people who claim the name of Jesus are feeling a tugging to open their heart, open their box, and just listen to the Spirit.
Your questions can help many people see the deep theological discernment of a growing number of Christians who have engaged, both on their own and in community. Scripture, tradition, reason and experience have been great guides to many faithful folks. Please understand that we have been praying and thinking and studying and learning and listening for a long time – especially those of us who are parents of an LGBTQ child, and those in the LGBTQ community.
Scripture, experience, church history, and the still small voice of the Spirit have guided many faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who have indeed picked up rainbow flags to waive in celebration of same-sex couples who can now take part in the traditional institution of marriage that celebrates love, family and commitment.