Is it Time for Evangelicals to Stop Opposing Gay Marriage?

Is it Time for Evangelicals to Stop Opposing Gay Marriage? November 26, 2012

I will begin posting a Question of the Week here on each Monday.  This is intended as a way of inviting Patheos bloggers, or other bloggers for that matter, and all of our readers collectively, to address a question together and offer different viewpoints.  But it’s hoped that we will go beyond offering an array of opinions.  It’s hoped that there will be an actual conversation, and perhaps sometimes the emergence of a consensus.

The question this week is a provocative one: Is it time now, or might there come a time soon, when evangelicals should decide that the cost of carrying on the battle against same-sex marriage is simply too high?

I asked this question of Jim Daly – head of Focus on the Family — about eighteen months ago.  Jim is a famously irenic figure: earnest, thoroughly likable, palpably compassionate, and absolutely devoted to causes such as adoption and immigration reform and opposing human trafficking.  He also helms an organization that, its reputation on the Left notwithstanding, devotes the vast majority of its resources into serving families and children and only a tiny proportion to political advocacy.  So I asked him privately: Is it possible that the cost of opposing same-sex marriage might one day grow so severe, so extremely damaging, that Christians should make a tactical decision to stop opposing same-sex marriage as a matter of law?

Since I put him on the spot, I don’t want to hold him to this, but his answer was simple: We should, humbly and winsomely, never stop contending for the things that matter to God.

I agree with him on that point.  Absolutely.  Marriage matters to God.  We must humbly acknowledge the limitations of our knowledge, and recognize the possibility that we are mistaken, but for those of us who believe it’s biblically and theologically clear that marriage was created and ordained by God for the union of male and female, there should never come a time when we reject or conceal what God has made known to us.

Our critics should understand this.  We do not regard marriage as a social contract, an arrangement established by cultural convention, and therefore susceptible to renegotiation.  We regard marriage (whether or not it is perfectly understood in any given culture) as an institution made by God — and Christians in general are critical realists.  We understand there are difficulties in perceiving the facts of the world, but we believe there are facts in the world, and most evangelical Christians, and most Christians worldwide, still believe it’s a fact — as objectively true as any other fact — that marriage is the union of male and female.  In the same sense that a hydrogen atom simply is constituted by the creative complementarity of a proton and an electron, a marriage simply is constituted by the creative complementarity of male and female.  And just as you can put other particles together in other relations, but those will not be simple hydrogen atoms, so you can devise other human relationships and call them whatever you like — and yet they will not be marriages.  Marriage simply is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman.

And yet…the question at hand is not whether we should abandon the historical Christian teaching on marriage.  The question is whether we should contend for laws and regulations that give this vision of marriage the sanction of government.  And to make one more distinction: the question is not whether Christians have the right to promote their views, just like everyone else does, and to support or oppose laws on any grounds they wish, including religious grounds.  There’s nothing categorically wrong with supporting laws and politicians who recognize and affirm what marriage actually is, even if your view of marriage is religiously informed.  The question, rather, is whether it is still wise to press for American law to recognize only heterosexual unions.

It is, in other words, a question of prudence.  Granted, we should continue to profess the truth as best we understand it.  But are we so losing the culture on this issue that continuing to fight against same-sex marriage legally will so harm our witness, and thus harm our broader mission and our most important purposes, that the time has arrived to abandon the fight over American law?  Is it now the case, or could it ever be the case, that Christian opposition to same-sex marriage laws would become such a massive obstacle to our mission that it’s no longer worth it?

I have to confess: I’m not confident that this fight is worth the cost.  Amongst the overlapping circles of the young, the religiously unaffiliated, and cultural elites, much of the animus against Christians today derives (or at least claims to derive) from Christian “bigotry” against gays.  We are told repeatedly that it’s “hateful” to “deny gays equality” (what we would call “insisting on the actual definition of marriage”).  It strains countless friendships, comes between countless children and their parents, and erects altogether a monstrous hurdle for many people who might otherwise be open to hearing the gospel.

Is this just weariness on my part?  I don’t mind being mocked on issues of first importance, but I confess that I’m tired of being hated for my stance on something I consider secondary, especially when that gets in the way of communicating over the primary matters.  Am I too personally involved?  I do love and respect many gays friends and former students, and I do hate that my position on same-sex marriage comes between us.  Am I being heartless here?  Perhaps I am.  Abortion has clear victims.  The victims of SSM are less clear.  The gay partners are going to persist in their homosexual relationships whether or not they have a legal imprimatur; their children may be better off with fathers and mothers together, but there are millions of children for whom two parents of the same gender, parents who often have to go to great lengths to have or to adopt the children, would be a substantial upgrade; and society in general may indeed suffer for disintegrating the definition of marriage, but the culture appears to be headed that way with or without us.  Perhaps confession and cultural redemption are better tools against the deterioration of our social structures than legal opposition.

Again, the question is NOT whether we should surrender our theology of marriage, and NOT whether we should cease standing up for the truth on God’s intention for marriage and sexuality.  The question is MERELY whether we should cease the legal and political fight to protect the proper definition of marriage as a matter of law — perhaps in return for ironclad assurances over religious freedoms.

I can imagine several responses:

  1. The legal implications of legalizing same-sex marriage are vast.  Many hundreds of laws and regulations depend on the legal definition of marriage, and there will be no “ironclad” protection of religious conscience forthcoming.  So I’ve invited the Alliance Defense Fund to write a piece on what the legalization of gay marriage more broadly would mean for religious freedoms, and other legal implications.  Let’s explore this together.
  2. Christ warns us that the world will despise us.  He did not seem overly concerned about his “witness” when he drove away the crowds that wanted to follow him for the wrong reasons.  Besides, the people who despise us now will simply find another reason to despise us, since the source of their antipathy runs deeper.  If we abandon this hill today, we’ll have to abandon another hill tomorrow, and nothing will have been gained.
  3. The spirit of the times is fickle, and we may actually turn the cultural trend in our direction.  We should fight for laws that reflect biblical truth.  A society that honors God and whose laws reflect God’s truth will fare better than one that does not.  But we’ve largely failed to make the case that same-sex marriage will be harmful to society, in an increasingly secular culture, and in a non-sectarian structure of government such as our own, might there come a time when we stop insisting that the rest of society live according to our understanding of marriage, because the enmity it creates so obstructs are greater mission?

So what do you think?  I’m eager to hear people’s thoughts.

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  • it’s my opinion that this discussion surrounding LGBT equality has less to do with an actual discussion on marriage, and more to do with homogeneity, privilege and power (i began a brief discussion on these thoughts here :: ).

    in the wise words of william stacy johnson,

    ‘what do we make of a society that whips itself into a frenzy over the prospect of gay marriage but greets the overwhelming evidence of torture by its own country’s military leaders with a casual shrug of the shoulders? or how do we explain the fact that, when it comes to same-gender sexuality, some religious-minded people are quick to interpret biblical prohibitions strictly and literally, yet when the subject is violence or warfare, they find flexibility and numerous alternative interpretations to the sermon on the mount’s admonition to ‘turn the other cheek’?’

    to be taken seriously on the stage of the conversation surrounding same sex marriage, it’s my belief that the church must first seriously grapple with our lack of consistency and our overwhelmingly biased response in this conversation. once we admit our response towards the gay community has (generally) been less than christ-like, we may begin to find some credibility in making our way toward peaceful and productive conversation about standing in solidarity with others – even those with whom we may disagree.

    • Ren

      ” standing in solidarity with others – even those with whom we may disagree.” This is most disturbing. disturbing to one who believes the word of God is not ambiguous or open to interpretation.

      Are we seriously to believe that Kipman’s understanding of the God of the bible is that he is a pacifist ?
      or that this country reflects the values of Christianity, thus it’s military and government is held to that standard?

      The church is where it should be…standing for the biblical definition of marriage, not a popular one, not one that seems to be winning popularity among the young or the old.
      But the solution is to capitulate? To water down the gospel so as to minimize it’s offense or better yet, sanitize it to the point of just being irrelevant.

      I think this small critique sums it up, nicely:

      First dentistry was painless;
      Then bicycles were chainless
      And carriages were horseless
      And many laws, enforceless.

      Next, cookery was fireless,
      Telegraphy was wireless,
      Cigars were nicotineless
      And coffee, caffeinless.

      Soon oranges were seedless,
      The putting green was weedless,
      The college boy hatless,
      The proper diet, fatless.

      Now motor roads are dustless,
      The latest steel is rustless,
      Our tennis courts are sodless,
      Our new religions, godless.

      – Arthur Guiterman

      • al

        What a great poem. It lists almost exclusively positive advances in society, and then lumps outgrowing no longer useful evolved notions of a “God” in with the other mostly positive advances. Hopefully it will help some people think about making that progressive step as well. (I do realize the poems author was implying that most of the posotive things he lists are actually negative, just showing how backward his thinking is).

      • “Are we seriously to believe that Kipman’s understanding of the God of the bible is that he is a pacifist ?”

        i suppose one would not have to agree with me, if they didn’t so choose.

        but before i’m excused as a heretic or of ‘watering down the gospel’ to the point it is irrelevant, these words from jesus (the prince of peace) ought to be grappled with ::

        ‘you have heard that it was said ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ *but i say to you* do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.’

        ren, i’d invite you to check out the post i linked above, or this one to hear a different perspective on solidarity’s ‘slippery slope’ as articulated by arhur guiterman. i am convinced following the example of jesus (who did indeed, inarguably, stand in solidarity with the marginalized Others of his day) would serve us better than the back-and-forth, polarizing, us|them inability to dialogue that we’ve been unfortunately accustomed to.

        i also wrote a piece about this for RELEVANT during the chick-fil-a debacle. the comments alone (along with the number of shares the article received) is evidence that we need to find a better way forward.

      • Cindy Lynn

        We can’t give up saying that same-sex marriages are anethma to Christianity, but we have to rephrase the argument. You can’t throw religious exceptions at people who don’t care about religion. We need to refocus it as a cultural issue. Marriage between a man and a woman was a cultural and religious tradition for over 5000 years. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court will probably say that legally it is unconstitutional not to allow same-sex marriages, and when that happens, ANY marriage will be legal because you won’t be able to restrict it by random things such as number of marriage partners. How could you? The fundamentalist Mormons and Muslims are already getting arguments ready for “plural marriages.” California is already trying to have 3 people and possibly more recognized as “parents.” Words have meaning and when you change that meaning it has consequences. By the way, incest is only a religious concept. Why not marry your sister? If it is all about bringing two souls together, why not? If it you just make everything a legal and not a cultural/religious moral concept, it will fall apart as will marrying children or anything for that matter. Already Washington State marriage license terms will change from Husband and Wife to Spouse A and Spouse B to accomodate Same-Sex marriages in Washington state. Once you “redefine” marriage, anything can and will be possible. This doesn’t have to be a Christian issue, but it is a cultural one. No more mother, father, brother, sister – all concepts we have built Western culture on will be neutralized. Fight on that principle and maybe we can convince people.

    • Fr. John W. Morris

      Eastern Orthodox do not accept the Western just war theory. Instead, we consider war always an evil. However, in the real world sometime there are no good choices. It is also evil to allow your country to be conquered and your people deprived of their liberty by a foreign invader. Therefore, sometimes Christians have to fight for their country and their families. However, even in warfare or in self-defense an Orthodox Christian who kills another person is barred from Communion until they have repented and gone to Confession.
      The problem with same sex marriage is that once society recognizes same sex marriage, the pro-gay pressures the schools to teach our children that our beliefs against homosexuality are narrow minded and bigoted. That is the real problem, not whatever sin two people commit in private, but the normalization of sin and use of the powers of the state to undermine the moral teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

      • Dixibehr

        Speaking as an Orthodox Christian, I have to point out that even the Orthodox Church, as well as the civil state, sanctions marriages that Christ called adulterous. Is this morally superior to same-sex marriage?

        Now what, Fr. John?

    • Nutstuyu

      Is it time for Evangelicals to stop opposing gay marriage? In a three-letter word: No. If “gay” marriage was not acceptable to the decadent, hedonistic Greek and Roman societies, then there’s no reason we should accomodate it. And to the poster(s) who think evangelicals are being inconsistent, marriage is one of the few things that Jesus spoke specifically about and was abundently clear that marriage is between a man and woman.

  • Scot Miller

    Of course evangelicals should oppose same-sex marriage if they believe that same-sex marriage is opposed to God’s plan as expressed in scripture. They should hang signs outside their churches and proudly proclaim, “No same-sex marriages performed here.” But they shouldn’t expect any non-evangelical citizen to accept evangelical presuppositions about the Bible or God or homosexuality just because evangelicals have psychological “certainty” that they’re right about what God really wants.

    • Paul D.

      God hates exactly the same people and behaviours that Evangelical Christians do, Scot. What’s so hard to understand about that? 😉

      • Chris OKC

        Or so you claim. Convenient to say God hates those you dislike therefore giving you cover for your own sin of judging others. There’s a long list of “don’ts in the Bible” and only picking a handful to stand guard on is the hypocrisy this article is referring to.

      • Scot Miller

        I’m sure it’s frustrating for an Evangelical to participate in a pesky democracy where all citizens — evangelical or not — have an equal vote, and a majority has no objection to same-sex marriage.

    • Ricard

      Scot, the exercise of religion/faith doe not end at the church door. So apropos of Timothy’s point #1 above, if my profession were a wedding photographer or marriage counselor, would I then be able to hang a similar sign outside my place place of business (metaphorically speaking)? For those living in California (and I think, Massachusetts) the answer so far seems to be ‘no.’

    • Nutstuyu

      Ever read scripture? Marriage is one of the few things Jesus spoke directly and specifically about.

    • Sean Sean

      Homosexual civil unions or marriage are both the antithesis of equality and the biggest threat to everyone’s liberty.
      The notion that “rights” are garnered from our sexual desires is idiotic and at it’s core threatens all our rights
      If sexual desires themselves give us rights then all desires can. When we are convinced of that , our actual rights mean nothing because thehy can be limited or removed by new rights
      It’s already started to happen if you rememberr the reaction of leftwing mayors and student unions agaist ChickFila.
      Actual rights of freedom of religion , freedom of speech and freedom of expression were put aside, dilluted and forgotten by these people because of the “new” rights of gay marriage outweighed them.

      • John Evans

        What? Seriously Sean Sean. Nobody but you is saying sexual desires give people rights. Being human gives people rights. What we’re saying is sexual desires do not _disqualify_ people from rights.

  • David Capp

    I think there’s two issues at play here. As a Evangelical, I can’t come to any conclusion from scripture other than the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, exclusively. However, we may not be able to stem the hide in the land, and the courts may rule against us anyway.

    However, I am also concerned probably eve more for freedom of conscience issues, that is where I and my church and ministry and institutions are not required to recognize these marriages. That in my opinion is the bigotry of the left in America, that the consciences must be violated to accept that which one does not agree with.

  • Hilary

    Daivd, I have a question for you. I am asking this in all sincerity, no snark, no sarcasm.

    What are the limits to religious freedom? Where do we draw the line and say, in this public area, you have to deal with this issue regardless of how you feel about it?

    For example, my parents got married by a Justice of the Peace, because as a lapsed Catholic (mom) and non-affiliated Jew (dad) there was nobody who would give them a religous wedding. So if my dad worked in a company run by an Orthodox Jew who saw mixed marriages like his as an abomination, which beleive me they do, could that Orthodox employer not recognize my father’s marriage as valid and instead force him to accept company benefits as ‘single’ instead of ‘married’? Should a non-Catholic woman, divorced and remarried, who works as a nurse in a Catholic hospital be denied any legal, employer-based recognition of her marriage? Should a Muslim employee at a grocery store be exempt from handling pork products in her checkout line?

    What would you do if your family was being denied legitamancy by someone claiming religious freedom based on their religious belief that Christianity was a freely chosen intrinsic evil?

    For the record, I don’t believe that any religous place of worship should be forced by governmental decree to have any type of marriage they don’t belive in. Any change has to come from within, freely chosen. But public busnesses do not have the right to deny people secular civil rights. But what you said, “the consciences must be violated to accept that which one does not agree with.” that’s life in a pluraliatic society. Muslims are not exempt from paying taxes which are used to give military support to Israel. As a Jew I have to use vacation time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur while Christmas and Easter are federal holidays. So while I would fully support the right of a Church to not have same sex weddings, I don’t see how working side by side with a gay coworker who gets the same employee benefits for their family as yours constitutes religious descrimination. All it means is that you’re not religiously dominant, and that is not the same as being descrimated against.


    • Hilary, I’m glad you would support the right of churches to refuse to perform same-sex weddings. Would you extend that support to a wedding photographer or some other wedding professional who has personal beliefs against same-sex marriage, but whose business is, unlike a church, a secular business? I ask because that very situation has already come up in a state in which gay marriage is legal. It seems clear to me that the First Amendment exists to allow someone in that situation to exercise their religious rights to refuse any work which would violate their conscience, but apparently, some officials in our legislative and judicial branches do not see it that way.

      • matt

        Let’s take that further James. Should a wedding photographer who was a member of Christian Identity (unlikely, I know) have the right to refuse to perform services for an African-Couple? I’ll bet you don’t think so.
        Non-discrimination laws, like the ones you are referencing, don’t really have much to do with the issue of marriage equality. No one forces Orthodox Rabbis to perform weddings for non-observant Jews and now one attempts to make Roman Catholic Priests perform weddings for atheists.

        • matt

          That should, of course, read African-American couple. Editing fail.

          • Nutstuyu

            There’s no such thing as “African-American”. You either have a lot of melanin in your skin or you don’t.

        • James

          Would you say that the same photogapher should have the right to refuse services to a happy couple would wanted to be photographed in the nude?

        • Ricard

          Matt, this is why Timothy’s abandonment of the ‘social contract’ argument is problematic. There is definitely an argument to be made that, from a religious tradition point of view, race is not in the same sphere as marriage. However, it is not necessary to go down that more difficult road in our MTV world. The christian call to ‘stewardship,’ including that of the culture, will suffice. In that arena, race and marriage definition are also in very separate spheres in the ‘wedding photographer’ example.

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        I ask because that very situation has already come up in a state in which gay marriage is legal.

        The wedding photographer case I am familiar with was in New Mexico, which does not have same-sex marriage. The photographer came up against the state’s anti-discrimination law. That is the category of law that comes into play in situations like this and it happens whether same-sex marriage is legal or not. Also, it is important to remember that these laws protect all citizens, not just those more likely to be discriminated against at any given time. For example, imagine a photographer in New Mexico- gay or straight- who refuses to photograph a wedding in a church that vigorously fights against marriage equality. He would be fined for religious discrimination under that same law. As for conscience, I am sympathetic, but where does this line get drawn? If doing otherwise would require someone to violate their conscience, should a business be allowed to discriminate based on race? Gender? Religion? Where is the line?

        • It seems pretty obvious to me that the line should be drawn where a private business owner should be able to turn down business if it violates his conscience.

          • Matt

            But according to your logic–I am replying to James here–white business owners should be able to turn African Americans away from their restaurants, stores, and businesses. I am sure that more than a few whites who denied African Americans service did so as a matter of conscience.

          • James

            Again, should restaurants, stores and businesses have the right to enforce their ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service” policy? When you answer that then apply your answer to gay couples.

          • Nutstuyu

            [Matt says:
            November 28, 2012 at 9:16 am ]

            Wow, Matt, how can you afford those strawmen with hay prices on the rise? White business owners are not allowed to do that because Black people are born with their unique content of melanin. One can always choose to follow or not follow a religion. But unlike Michael Jackson, most people cannot choose the amount of melanin in their skin.

          • Ellis

            Matt, you are comparing genetic determination to a lifestyle choice, apples and oranges. If a business chooses to exercise its religious freedom so be it, the Bible is quite clear regarding homosexuality. Race discrimination is an entirely unrelated issue.

            The church should defend biblical truth despite the attacks it will endure from those that do not know the truth or simply choose to ignore it. I think to the noneducated Christian there is a misunderstanding of this issue. The church needs to do a better job of defining sinners versus sin and how each is viewed entirely differently. One last note, I have seen a few people mention war as some kind of analogy, but I suspect they have never read the Old Testament.

          • Matt, you can extend things using logic to very illogical conclusions. I have no interest in playing that game. Besides, your assertion is based on an incorrect assumption. Before integration of public places was forced, restaurants who allowed blacks to eat with whites found that they lost business from white customers. Their interest in keeping segregation in place was based on economics, not their beliefs.
            In a time when jobs need to be created, we are looking at a new set of laws which will cause people to lose jobs. Wedding workers who disagree with same-sex marriage will quit rather than violate their beliefs. Just as small business owners will close shop if they are forced to pay for morning-after pills, by the way.
            Seems to me that folks seeking a same-sex ceremony should be able to find many photogs and coordinators who are willing to take their business without demanding services from someone who is bothered by it.

          • Carys Birch

            @JamesWilliams – am I supposed to be upset that someone with a job in this economy leaves it voluntarily? That’s not job LOSS. The economy can still support the same number of wedding photographers if one with a crisis of conscience leaves the field. That actually just leaves a job opening for someone else. Someone who might not be so squeamish about who their clients are.

            This conscience thing, in the realm of stuff like wedding photographers is a crock of bull. My dentist doesn’t ask if I’m gay before she cleans my teeth. My barista at my local coffee shop doesn’t ask me about my sex life before she makes my latte. My bus driver, department store clerk, apartment maintenance worker, postal delivery person, and dog groomer also don’t care whether I’m gay before they provide the services that they provide. Because weddings are VISIBLE people think that makes them different. Baloney.

            And before you ask (because I know someone will), no, I’m not gay.

      • John Evans

        James, if you had read all of Hilary’s post carefully, you would have noticed she answered that question.

        Religious freedom in the public sphere does not trump the law. I could say my religious views involved beating a goat to death ritually in the middle of the street and leaving it there for a week, but I would fall afoul of animal cruelty and public health laws should I try to carry out those beliefs. Mosques have to obey noise ordinances. Sikhs have to wear proper safety headgear on construction sites. Offshoot Mormons are not allowed more than one spouse under the law. A Jehovah’s Witness paramedic couldn’t refuse to give you a blood transfusion if it was needed.

        You are, of course, free to seek changes to the laws, within the system. Bearing in mind that the government is not permitted, by its founding documents, to establish a religion and therefore must weigh any new law on arguments that are not based on religion.

        • Nutstuyu

          @John Evans

          “Sikhs have to wear proper safety headgear on construction sites. Offshoot Mormons are not allowed more than one spouse under the law. A Jehovah’s Witness paramedic couldn’t refuse to give you a blood transfusion if it was needed.”

          These strawmen are becoming tiresome. What’s always avoided is that none of these people are forced to be in these jobs. If they can’t handle the requirements or restrictions of a job, then don’t take the job.

          • John Evans

            Nutstuyu – Your quote here “If they can’t handle the requirements or restrictions of a job, then don’t take the job.” applies equally to Christians in business who don’t want to serve gay customers.

        • I did read it carefully before my comment, and asked her for clarification purposes.

        • Kathy

          Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
          Religious freedom cannot exist where a person must violate their conscience in order to keep the law. If I own a company I should be free to run that company in accordance to my faith – I should not be forced to hire gays or pay for birth control. HOWEVER, if I am an employee of someone else (a Muslim working for a meat packing plant that includes pork), I should not force that company to abide by my faith.

          • John Evans

            So Kathy, if a religion supports animal cruelty via blood sacrifice, the law can’t restrict that?

      • SJ

        This has nothing to do with religious freedom. What gay people are asking for is equality before the law- no more no less. Neither church, nor a business, can be forced to “accept” gay marriage. Under the first amendment of the Constitution no church could ever be forced by the government to perform wedding ceremonies for gays. Just as a business has the right to refuse service to anyone, so could they choose not to offer their services to gays.

        When Christian conservatives try to stop gay marriage, what they are essentially arguing is that an entire group of citizens should be denied a basic right based only on their personal beliefs. These beliefs may be based on religious faith or something else, but at the root of it all, that’s all it is- a personal belief.

        When you argue that government should deny equal rights to a class of citizens based on your personal religious beliefs you automatically cede the argument. This is why your side is losing. You want this to be about religion, but it isn’t. If you want to turn the tide, you can’t argue that civil law should be based on a particular belief system that is not universal to the citizenry. If you are going to make an argument about secular law, you must make a secular argument. So far, the anti-gay marriage side has failed to do this. You say it is bad for society- but where is the evidence of this? You say it’s bad for raising children- but where is the proof? You say it goes against the “law of nature” but why should your view of nature take precedence over others in a diverse society that values rule of law, democracy, and individual equality? When you can address these questions adequately, maybe society will give you another hearing. Until then you will continue to lose the debate.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          It has a great deal to do with freedom of religion. Please check back in a day or two for articles explaining why.

          • Monimonika

            Yeah, “freedom” to be able to have the power of the government on your side to say that you find a certain group of people to be icky and therefore must be ranked lower in status than True-Christians/True-Americans (TM). How dare a couple think they can get away with having non-procreative sex (*) and not have to face the “social consequences” of denied healthcare benefits or even be assured they can keep their current non-sex-related jobs! Timothy’s feelings of having to feel superior to sexually-immoral others takes all precedence over whether or not genitalia has any substantial link to housing, job performance, access to business services, inheritance, financial decisions, etc.

            Sure, Timothy is free to call others icky all he wants, but he wants to actively make sure that those icky people live MISERABLE lives and that them being miserable be MANDATED BY LAW. It logically works that if you make it very unpleasant to be -whatever-, people will stop being -whatever-. And the compelling reason to be opposed to people being -whatever- is that being -whatever- makes people miserable.

            That’s why it makes sense to point out that bullying teens for being gay is for the loving benefit of those teens, since gay teens have a higher incidence of suicide (due to bullyi- NO! It’s “due to being gay”. Yeah…).

            It also makes sense to oppose marriages of mixed-race couples, because there’s concern that their mixed-race children will be bullied (due to society’s opposition to mixed-race couples). Think of the children!

            (*) Non-procreative also includes those that involve contraception.

          • Monimonika

            Sorry, Timothy, I made the assumption that you want laws that discriminate against people who live in “sin”. That’s not what you stated (yet) so change the “Timothy” references above to point to those who do feel the law should privilege their disapproval of others above the rights of those others.

      • senor

        Actually, in New Mexico, where this situation is occurring, same sex marriage is illegal. That did not matter to the court. The photographer was engaged in a business where she publicly advertised, and therefore, according to the court, lost her right to discriminate. This is the same argument the Obama administration is making against Hobby Lobby on the HHS mandate: you lose your religious freedom once you engage in the secular marketplace.

    • David Capp

      Hilary, you ask a very legitimate question.

      I actually am concerned that churches and religious organizations should not be forced to recognize marriages which are not within their doctrinal precepts. I really suspect secular employers will have to provide familiar benefits for any form of marriage. So, primarily I’m concerned that religious organizations (and I would extend that not only to churches, but the parachurch ministries and any other institution which is religious in it’s nature like hospitals and schools), should not be forced to recognize homosexual marriage.

      I understand your point about the Orthodox Jewish Rabbi not recognizing a mixed marriage… my Great Great Grandfather buried an empty casket in Germany when his son converted to Christianity… and I would say that if he runs a business that is about non-religious matters, he can’t refuse to hire someone in that setting (for that reason). However, if he ran a Jewish publishing house, or eve more the Synagogue, I think he’s completely in his rights to make that stand.

      Hope that makes sense where I’m coming from. These are very challenging issues we face these days. But I do think it’s more of an issue of speaking truth to the culture than what we can enforce legally these days.

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        I really suspect secular employers will have to provide familiar benefits for any form of marriage.

        I think this is clearly true. Just as churches, synagogues, etc, have never been forced to recognize or perform any marriages they didn’t want to, there is no legal basis for businesses to not recognize legal marriages if they are providing benefits of that sort. The only fuzzy area is the one you raised- any “other instituion which is religious in it’s nature.” It should be noted that there are usually ways around this problem- companies can offer no insurance instead of insurance that covers contraception, or they can offer no spousal benefits rather than spousal benefits that will be availalabe to same-sex couples.

        • Becker

          No, secular employers will not have to provide benefits. They can drop all coverage and simply pay a $2,000 fine. Frankly, you’re going to see that happening in big numbers aside from the gay marriage issue.

          • Kubrick’s Rube

            You are correct- the “out” applies to secular as well as secular-but-religiously-affiliated employers. The point is the same- the law allows for a way to avoid going against one’s conscience.

    • Nutstuyu


      In answer to “So if my dad worked in a company run by an Orthodox Jew who saw mixed marriages like his as an abomination, which beleive me they do, could that Orthodox employer not recognize my father’s marriage as valid and instead force him to accept company benefits as ‘single’ instead of ‘married’? Should a non-Catholic woman, divorced and remarried, who works as a nurse in a Catholic hospital be denied any legal, employer-based recognition of her marriage? Should a Muslim employee at a grocery store be exempt from handling pork products in her checkout line?”

      Yes. All of those private entities have the right, or should have the right to do those things. It is government that does not have the right to prohibit the free exercise of religion. If a Muslim can’t handle pork in the grocery store, than don’t take a job at a grocery store.

    • Susan

      Hi Hilary, I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I would posit that perhaps the flaw in the question you’re asking is the assumption that recognition of one’s marriage for the purpose of receiving certain benefits is a right. I would argue that if it’s a right at all (questionable), it’s not a God-given right on par with those inalienable rights that don’t come from government but from God, such as life and (religious) liberty. I would even argue that being served at a certain business, provided you follow the same rules as other customers (no shirt, no service type of rules) is not a right. Because if someone is forced to provide a service to someone else against their will (no matter how well-informed or virtuous their will is or isn’t), even a service someone else pays for, that is slavery and it violates a much more fundamental right (the kind that comes from God, not the state) to the free exercise of one’s body and talent – liberty in its purest form. That’s why we called the Civil Rights Act civil rights and not inalienable rights. They are rights conferred by civilization – i.e. the society, i.e. the state. That is a different animal altogether than true, inalienable rights from God. Civil rights must bow to inalienable rights if and when they conflict. The problem is that the state has gotten in the business of conferring so very many “rights” these days that they are increasingly and increasingly in conflict with inalienable rights. That is what happens when the state grows beyond its proper sphere.

  • Craig

    God sure works in mysterious ways. I guess he uses social and political expediency to pressure his church to change its attitudes and doctrines. We’ve seen this in attitudes towards Mormonism. The Mormons themselves went through a process like this after the civil rights movement.

    Better late than never.

    • Frank

      God would never work to do anything that is in conflict with his word. Homosexual behavior is sinful so God is not working towards saying anything but that truth.

      • Monimonika

        Please explain why God allows for the eating of shellfish in this modern day, then? NO, you cannot say that technological/scientific advancement in knowledge about how to properly prepare shellfish negates God’s clear word that it is an abomination to eat shellfish. Who are you to presume you know God’s past reasoning? If you do go that route anyway, then it can be argued that advancements in the knowledge of how sex works has made homosexual behavior a non-issue.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          The law against shellfish was a part of the ceremonial law that was not extended for Gentiles into the new covenant.

  • Larry Easton

    “But are we so losing the culture on this issue that continuing to fight against same-sex marriage legally will so harm our witness, and thus harm our broader mission and our most important purposes, that the time has arrived to abandon the fight over American law?”

    The answer seems contained in the question … isn’t our witness inextricably linked to our positions? Our fealty to the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Revelation chapters 2 and 3 provide a rather sobering and insightful reminder of God’s expectations of His Church. Love in action takes a rather long view of things … remembering always the eternal consequences of disobedience.

  • Summer

    This is a question I have been pondering a lot recently. I look forward to the discussion.

  • Ken

    There’s a big difference between fighting for the right to practice your religion in your own life as you wish and forcing others outside of your beliefs to follow the rules of your particular religion.

    There are religions which want to marry same-sex people. Don’t those followers also have freedom of religion? Should you ask the government to force your beliefs from your religion on them?

    How would you feel if you were forced to follow the rules of a religion you don’t believe in? You can oppose same-sex marriage in you own churches, but not in other places of worship. Not unless you live in a theocracy…

  • BlazerJason

    Whether you oppose gay marriage or not is completely irrelevant, it will be the law of the entire land, likely before the next decade. What you may want to do is consider is how to re-interpret your scriptures to gracefully enter the new reality and that people who fight against marriage rights will look as comical as those who fight against interracial relationships. If you want to do everything you can to fulfill the prophecy of being “hated by the world”, you are more than welcome. It is your right. However, people who point and laugh are not practicing hate. They are simply amused by the spectacle.

    • Rob

      Wow BlazerJasson….Wow…..I would love to think you were writing satirically…..if not, I really hope you are not responsible to teach the Bible…..anywhere….ever.

    • Phil


      If I’m hearing you correctly, you’re asking Evangelicals to “re-interpret” their scriptures in order to suit the current cultural norm?

      I’m also curious about your term–“new reality.” You seem to assume that this new reality is moving in the right direction. Please explain this more..

  • I think that American evangelicals should accept a model similar to what we have here in Canada: the state will allow same-sex marriage but churches have the right to refuse to perform them. The state should be giving equal legal rights to all, and in this scenario, the churches aren’t being discriminated against at all since they can still hold to a traditional theology of marriage. In my opinion, nobody loses except for those who insist that they have the right as Christians to enforce their moral views on everyone.

  • I don’t think changing doctrine on homosexuality is the path to go.

    What might be prudent is to not spend a lot of money and effort in campaigning for/against ballot proposals or state laws on the issue. If a church has a finite amount of cash and human capital to spend on various missions, the <1% of the Gospel that the issue takes up shouldn't overwhelm other efforts.

    • BlazerJason

      Fair enough. However, the Bible has been re-examined by followers for millennia. Deeply religious abolitionist fought against slavery, an institution with biblical history. I’m just don’t understand why opposition to gay marriage can’t disappear like other Levitical directives (like eating shellfish and mixing fabrics).

      • Timothy Dalrymple

        Because it’s not merely a Levitical directive. It’s a consistent teaching across scripture and rooted very fundamentally in the created nature described in Genesis and affirmed by Jesus.

        • BlazerJason

          I guess I am wondering why gay marriage causes so much consternation. Divorce, atheism, alcohol use, witchcraft, worship of other gods, and adultery are all biblically condemned, yet evangelicals tolerate those “sins” (i.e. don’t spend millions to stamp them out of existence with legislation). Why is gay marriage so special?

          • Frank

            Its not. Its a sin like some divorce, drunkenness, idolatry and adultery. Lets all just admit it and move on.

          • Ellis

            It is not special. It is a sin just like the other sins you mention. Nobody tolerates sin, the fact is we are all sinners in need of a saviour. But merely saying that we don’t view something that God views as a sin doesn’t make it any less of a sin. We can’t just decide to say that adultry is ok. Repentence and faith go hand in hand and we cannot have one without the other.

          • Mr. X

            Because the push for gay marriage involves a push for the government to encourage and celebrate (and make its citizens encourage and celebrate) sin, whereas with the others the government is largely neutral on the matter. If the government tried to include witchcraft lessons in schools, no doubt evangelicals would oppose that too.

          • Lisa

            Not to mention remarriage after a divorce. For those who are so anxious to make nonbelievers live by your interpretation of your holy book, how many of your churches allow remarriage after divorce. Why aren’t you trying to make rues against it? After teaching kids in poverty for the last 29 years, I can assure you that remarriage causes much greater harm to kids than than people they don’t know getting married.

            I’ve asked this question on many blogs, and I’ve never had a christian respond. I wonder why that is?

          • Ellis

            Lisa I think the reason nobody has ever responded to you question is because it is such a dumb question.

        • Dave Pearce

          I don’t understand this assertion. There a several examples in the Old Testament of polygamous marriage, so I can’t see how it can be claimed that it is ‘consistent teaching across scripture’ and ‘rooted fundamentally in the created nature described in Genesis’ when clearly there are examples of marriage in the bible that are not ‘one man one woman.’ Also, if the bible only supports ‘one man one woman’ marriage consistently in the sense promoted by conservative Christians, why do conservative Christians not also demand that laws be changed to ensure that women must marry their rapists, or that a widow must be married to her brother in law? Both of these are biblically mandated rules around ‘traditional marriage’ set out in Deuteronomy, and if the bible is consistent in it’s teaching about marriage across it’s entirety, why would we ignore these teachings?

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            There are no examples of male-male or female-female marriage in scripture. There are only examples of male-female. Sometimes there are individuals who have multiple marriages, but that’s never really held forward as morally exemplary, and the description of male-female createdness as the basis for marriage in Genesis 3 is key, as well as Jesus’ teachings on that same basis.

            Christians for two thousand years have made a distinction between the ceremonial law that was intended specifically for the people of Israel and the universal moral law. Teachings regarding shellfish, rock badgers stoning wayward children are found only in the Levitical Law, whereas the commands regarding marriage are rooted in Genesis and referenced throughout scripture, including the New Testament, are reinforced by Christ. So there are clear criteria for distinguishing between the laws that no longer obtain from the laws that do.

  • The question is whether we should contend for laws and regulations that give this vision of marriage the sanction of government.

    Such laws have already existed for decades or centuries. And no one wants to take away the right of one woman and one man to wed, and receive all the legal rights and obligations that come with marriage. So no, there is no need to contend for such laws, as they already exist.

    The question is, should Christians fight to prevent gay people from having the same shot at domestic happiness that straight people do (with all the aforementioned rights and obligations that come with it)? Personally, I don’t think so, but apparently a lot of Christians believe that it’s not enough that men and women should be allowed to wed; that two men or two women must be prevented from doing so.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      “This vision of marriage” includes that it is solely intended for male and female. So, (continuing to) contend for laws and regulations that give this vision of marriage the sanction of government would necessarily imply the exclusion of same-sex partners from the status of marriage.

      • It sounds like you agree with what I said above: it is not enough that you be allowed to seek marital bliss with the one you love; you also want to forbid others from doing so.

        • Frank

          No one is preventing you from loving anyone you choose.

          • Monimonika

            No, you are actually trying to prevent that very exact thing in a roundabout way.

            By making laws that specifically target gay relationships as being exempt from certain rights, the lawmakers are purposely making it unpleasant to love someone of the same sex. Sure, people can still pursue those relationships despite the laws making their lives more difficult, but there’s no way I’m letting you deny that this isn’t a form of coercion and that the ultimate purpose of such laws is to prevent people from having such relationships.

            Let me copy from an earlier comment of mine (though it’s only related to the above by wording, really):
            It logically works that if you make it very unpleasant to be -whatever-, people will stop being -whatever-. And the compelling reason to be opposed to people being -whatever- is that being -whatever- makes people miserable.

            That’s why it makes sense to point out that bullying teens for being gay is for the loving benefit of those teens, since gay teens have a higher incidence of suicide (due to bullyi- NO! It’s “due to being gay”. Yeah…).

            It also makes sense to oppose marriages of mixed-race couples, because there’s concern that their mixed-race children will be bullied (due to society’s opposition to mixed-race couples). Think of the children!
            [end quote]

  • A3Kr0n

    “I do hate that my position on same-sex marriage comes between us. Am I being heartless here?”
    Not heartless, just not as open minded as you could be.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Well, thanks, I guess. But I *do* believe that there would be “victims” if gay marriage were legalized. I just don’t think the victimization is as clear cut or as extreme as in the case of abortion.

      • Josh Lyman

        You do know that gay marriage is not ab abstract thing that has never happened. It is real and exists in a number of places around the world. What victims have there been in any of the places where it happens?

  • James Coats


    When we’re “so losing the culture” on other issues will you be wearisome and ready to take a dive then too? It sounds as if you are ready to concede homosexuality as a lifestyle – not just the issue of marriage. It seems logically inconsistent to be in a position where you think the lifestyle is sinful but are ok with its legal recognition as a legitimate alternative.


    • Timothy Dalrymple

      There are many things we regard as sinful that we do not make illegal, James.

      • Hilary’s Mother

        And there are many of us who believe marriage is a cultural contract between two people and as such under the domain of human law.

    • Well, Christians have already lost many other culture battles: nowadays you don’t find a lot of Christians anymore who defend slavery; or segregation; or anti-miscegenation laws; or allowing divorce only for adultery or abuse; or banning pants on women; or Prohibition.

      With this kind of track record, maybe it makes sense to try to look ahead and try to figure out how to be ahead of the curve, or at least not look terribly backward by the next generation.

    • Josh Lyman

      It seems logically inconsistent to be in a position where you think the lifestyle is sinful but are ok with its legal recognition as a legitimate alternative.

      Hinduism. Surely that is a sin, and you are OK with it being legal recognised as a legitimate alternative to Christianity?

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    As an outsider my answer to this question is kind of irrelevant, but if the idea is for evangelicals to shift their rhetorical and political weight to “causes such as adoption and immigration reform and opposing human trafficking,” issues where there is as much (and somethimes more) room for alliance across the aisle as within the GOP, then (aside for the obvious reasons) I would greatly love to see evangelicals put aside vocal opposition to same-sex marriage and get to work on these vitally important causes. Immigration reform seems inevitable and it would be great if progressives and evangelicals could work together to make this bill as fair as possible. And a national discussion on human trafficking is long overdue.

  • Frank

    I guess it all depends on how we define Godly love. Is it Godly love to let people live sinfully? To not speak up? To not fight against efforts to legitimize damaging behavior?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      It’s not a question of not speaking up. It’s a question of keeping it illegal.

      • Frank

        Well speaking up includes participating in the democratic process which includes elections and law.

      • Keeping it illegal, Timothy? Homosexuality isn’t illegal.

        This is not about whether homosexuals can do what they want to do, live with whom they want to live, or even whether they can have ceremonies in some religious institution and call themselves married. They can do all those things, and no one is stopping them.

        This is about government endorsement, government benefits, and as some of the comments in this thread have mentioned, government compulsion. Private businesses will be forced to provide benefits to homosexual partners, even if it is completely contrary to the religious beliefs of the business owner. They will be forced to provide the same services that they would provide to a married couple.

        This is about rights in both directions. It is about giving the “right” of homosexuals to be approved over the right of individuals (and eventually that will include religious organisations) to disapprove. If government takes this course, people will lose rights. This is inevitably a religious freedom issue, for individuals at least, but soon enough for churches, too.

        • smrnda

          What rights will churches lose? That there will exist legally married couples whose marriages would not be approved of by those churches, and that those churches would not have performed or blessed these marriages? That’s already the case right now. Also, you are only married if the government says you’re married – what happens in a church might count to you or God, but it doesn’t matter here on earth, at least as far as the law cares.

          Private businesses don’t get to decide whether they approve of your marriage before they approve of giving your spouse benefits at present, and they shouldn’t have that power. Should a Muslim employer be permitted to deny benefits to a Christian spouse of a Muslim employee since the employer thinks it’s a sin to marry outside the faith?

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            Check back and you’ll find out the legal implications are actually a lot more complicated than that.

          • @smrnda, I didn’t say churches will lose rights, I said religious individuals will lose rights. Here in Britain, even B&B owners have lost the right to decide what they will allow in their own home.

            But eventually churches will lose rights. In Denmark, the state church has lost the right to refuse to carry out gay marriages. It’s a state church, which you don’t have there, but it’s still a church.

            In England and Wales, all churches have lost the right to limit non-clergy employment to those who live by the teachings of the church. If a church wants to hire a youth worker or a school teacher or a janitor or whatever, they don’t have the right to say that your moral standards must match their teachings. In Scotland, there is already noise about this.

            Early in the current debate on gay marriage in Scotland, an MSP put down an amendment that said that no one would be required to take part in or approve of a homosexual wedding. There was outrage and the amendment was defeated. This is not merely about rights, it is about compulsion.

            So yes, churches will lose rights — it is already happening around the world.

        • Lisa

          Why do religious people count more than gay people? It seems so arrogant.

          • Why do gay people count more than religious people? It seems so arrogant.

            Two can play that kind of rhetorical game, but it gets us nowhere, right? But last I checked, homosexual people can legally do pretty much anything they want to do. This is about two things, primarily: government approval / benefits, and using force of government to suppress the freedom of people to disapprove (at least by their actions).

            No one is forcing gay people to approve of my religious beliefs. You don’t have to attend my church. You don’t have to let me hold a prayer meeting in your business. And if your printing business doesn’t want to print things for our church, I don’t even know if the government would force you to do that, but I would certainly take my business elsewhere.

            But homosexuals want to force religious people to accept this, force their businesses to take part in things of which they do not approve, force hotel and even B&B owners to permit things that violate their conscience and their faith.

            There are significant issues around this besides religious liberty, but when it comes to liberty, it is not a question of who counts more, it is a question of who is compelling others.

  • PLynn

    …”perhaps in return for ironclad assurances over religious freedoms” ROFL. Really, good luck with that. Instead of ~ ” we are all Catholic now”, perhaps we should assert that: ” we are all spineless now”, with all the bargaining and pandering Christians are suddenly willing to engage in after this election. It is inevitable that people do not want to hear the truth, so perhaps we should stop making them uncomfortable. Haven’t we finished fighting the good fight when we run the risk of our co-workers thinking we are “meanies”? Surely the race is run when there are so many shouting “Barabbas!”

    Who sold us the notion that standing up for Christ was a popularity contest and could only be sold to others in the packaging of the world? It is the worst kind of nonsense I can think of. I do not intend my sarcasm as an attack, but your question truly shocks me. Your bio mentions you are interested in “religious transformations of suffering”—many believe we will have plenty of opportunity for that. Let the transformation begin—with ourselves—without the denial, even quietly, of the truth! May Our Lord grant us the courage we will need!
    P.s. Re: the notion that acquiescing leads to peace, and less persecution for Christians —just look at Canada and the UK.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Yes, yes, I know, I believe that standing up for Christ is a popularity contest, I’m spineless, etc etc etc. Let’s get that blather out of the way, shall we?

      I made it very clear that we should still contend in the marketplace of ideas for the view that homosexual behavior is sinful and same-sex marriage is not, properly understood, truly marriage. That will, to be sure, incur continued wrath. So don’t worry. We can still have the satisfaction of being hated for our faith (I say half-sarcastically). The question here is MERELY whether we should contend not only in the marketplace of ideas but ALSO in the legal and political arena to make sure that our vision of marriage and only our vision of marriage is the law of the land.

      • PLynn

        OK, point taken:  you are willing to suffer, and are not meaning to be spineless. :):)
        However, if one fight is given up (legal and political), does it not affect the “marketplace of ideas” as well?  The sooner the legal fight is lost (sorry to sound so hopeful), the sooner the educational system will be full force against the Christian understanding of marriage.  What makes up the marketplace of ideas?  Education, family/church culture, media 

        Won’t the education system and churches be affected by giving up the legal fight?  Pastors will be sued for refusing to take part in same- sex weddings once they are recognized by law.  Individuals with businesses will be forced to violate their religious beliefs or be labeled and litigated against for being discriminatory.  When will parents be considered unfit for having such “backward” view of these things?  You may consider it blather, but I contend that we cannot retreat in the legal area without severely weakening ourselves in the marketplace of ideas.

        Our beliefs are affected by our actions, so wouldn’t giving up on this (legal part) be a slippery slope for ourselves—putting SSM in the pile of things (alongside abortion, contraception…) that are easy and comfortable to walk away from.  I am not saying it starts out as a popularity contest–it just ends up that way.

        • John Evans

          PLynn, are pastors being sued for refusing to perform mixed-race or mixed-religion marriages?

          • James

            Not yet. But give it time.

          • John Evans

            James. Mixed-religion marriages have been happening for decades, perhaps centuries. Mixed-race marriages have been happening for decades in the USA, likely longer elsewhere. How much time should I give? If a thousand years from now, one paster gets sued, do you get to say “I told you so”?

            You sound paranoid.

        • Lisa

          Can you show me where in the bible Jesus or the early Christians (before they sold out to Rome0 try to force nonbelievers to live by his laws? I vaguely remember something about shaking the dirt off your sandals and moving on.

  • Bren

    There are many issues at play here, and Evangelicals play it all badly. NEVER allow the wrong side to define terms. Activists call gay marriage an equal rights issue. We never call them on it. Black preachers who went through the civil rights movement don’t call gay marriage an equal rights issue.

    It comes down to, does any group of people have the right to REDEFINE a foundational human institution? Does any single government? After all, marriage is consistent – one man/one woman – in every culture, under every government. How is it that a group people, for the sake of their sexual proclivities, can petition a court or pass a law in a government to change what we simply let it administer? The US government, for all its wonders, did not create marriage. It is insufficient to say it is capable to redefine it for the rest of humanity. Much less any homosexual.

    We must stand to say that in civil society, a moral people does not coerce behavior. Homosexuals are free to shack up, take oaths, declare undying love, and even commit to domestic partnerships, but it is a bridge too far to compel others to call that relationship a marriage, as if it were simply any collection of two (or more) who define a family unit. THAT is a civil right.

    Outside of our religious belief and GOD created marriage, we must remind the unbeliever that marriage was created to protect women and establish legitimacy for children. This is also true in EVERY society, but gay marriage does neither.

    If they want to petition the government for fairer tax laws, or insurance coverage, or social security distributions or hospital visitation – FINE! We have NO problem administering fair policies in our Byzantine bureaucracy. We simply can’t allow people to redefine reality to fit their individual proclivities. Would we let a Klansman reclassify himself as black for Affirmative Action benefits? Would we allow dirty old men to join the Girl Scouts because they like the uniforms and cookies? Would we allow foreign nationals to call themselves Americans just because they weren’t caught illegally hopping a border fence? Okay, that’s a talk for another day. The answer is no.

    As AMERICANS, we believe in the rule of law, specifically what the law CAN’T compel us to do. 2+2 still equal 4 and marriage is still 1 man + 1 woman. As CHRISTIANS, we believe in the tension of speaking the truth in love. We are not loving by legitimizing a sinner’s perversion. To the woman caught in adultery, Jesus refused to condemn, but told her to stop sinning. He also did not allow the wrong side to define terms.

    • John Evans

      Only your statements about the universality of the definition of marriage is false, Bren. Other societies, including the ancient Chinese, accepted male-male marriage. Many societies today accept polygamous marriage, both polygynous and polyandrous. In many past societies, marriage was a purely business arrangement, with women bought and sold as easily, and in the same fashion as, cattle and other livestock. There are societies that have no marriage, where you sleep with who you want to and the children are raised collectively by the clan.

    • Ken

      “it is a bridge too far to compel others to call that relationship a marriage”

      I think I can put your mind at rest.

      Only the government will be “compelled” to call same-sex marriages “marriages”, and only by government workers during their work hours. You can call same-sex people who are married anything you like. Call the relationship “Fred” for all I care. You won’t be arrested for doing so.

      You also seem confused about what a civil rights issue is. Civil rights are any rights guaranteed to the people of the nation under constitutional law. African Americans (and women and other people) were fighting for equal treatment under the law, which is a civil rights issue. That’s the argument being presented in courts for same-sex marriage as well.

      You can claim there is no civil rights violation, but it’s still a civil rights argument. That even frames the legal debate from the side of those wishing to prevent same-sex marriages. Look up the anti-miscegenation fights of the 1960’s for a primer on equal treatment under the law in regards to the government’s position on marriage.

      Before Loving v Virginia people used the same argument: It’s not a civil rights issue since white people can still marry white people and black people can still marry black people. In other words everyone was being treated “equally” by the government. The truth, however, is that the government was discriminating against some pairs of people and not others, so it was a civil rights violation.

      While our constitution does allow the government to discriminate against some people (like minors) for a valid secular purpose (preventing minors from being taken advantage of), the government isn’t supposed to use religious reasons for such discrimination.

      All of this not only makes this a civil rights issue, but also makes it fairly clear Loving v Virginia should be applied as a precedent and decided in favor of equal protection.

      • Evan Dickinson

        Thats funny ken. No, anti-discrimination laws affect businesses as well.

        And the government currently calls males males and females females. No reason why it cannot have a different name for male-female relationships given that they are objectively the only important relationship.

    • al

      @bren I see many have replied to you and you have not responded, so it is unlikely you will read this. Nevertheless… You state ” After all, marriage is consistent – one man/one woman – in every culture, under every government.” As even your own bible shows, polygamy was common legally and culturally. There are many cultures in which marriage was a legal relationship, for the purpose of inheritance, solidifying alliances, and creating recognized heirs. The exclusivity and fidelity aspects only applied on the woman’s end as she was fairly close to the equivalent of property. Your statement shows severe ignorance of history, and if you wish to speak truth, it may be in your interest to research a bit. You also state “It comes down to, does any group of people have the right to REDEFINE a foundational human institution?” A human institution which has been far more enduring in its conception and implementation is slavery. Thankfully we have redefined it from being part of the “natural order of things”. To a repugnant violation of human dignity and rights. I hope you would agree that the right to so redefine slavery existed and was a great benefit to humanity. In summary marriage has had many forms, uses and definitions throughout history, and redefining foundational human institutions can result in great progress and is most definitely the right of society.

  • Tara Edelschick

    C. S. Lewis wrote:

    “Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question-how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.”

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thank you, Tara. I was looking for that quotation. Can you remind me where it’s found?

      • Tara Edelschick

        I think it’s in Mere Christianity. But I’m sitting in an airport, so I just googled the words I could remember and found the quote.

        Is “Random Internet Site” not considered a legit citation these days? It must be some liberal, Ivory Tower cabal who want to keep us from getting all the information we need. 🙂

        • I love this quote and often find myself thinking of it during discussions such as this. I would love to read a blog post where you expand on this, Timothy.

        • Dorfl

          I think it’s Mere Christianity too, since I recognize the quote and MC is the only of Lewis’ non-fiction I’ve read.

      • Bill Goff

        The C.S. Lewis quote passed on by Tara is from Mere Christianity page 112 (in the Harper San Francisco printing.

        • Suo

          Hate to be the party pooper here on C.S. Lewis, but you do think his answer would be the same regarding sodomy-based marriage? Do you think that on this question he would simply say “C’est la vie de Britain?” Somehow I doubt it. In That Hideous Strength he argues that every society eventually has to come to grips with its deadly foe and that all courage and effort must be given to combat it. If this is not the foe, what is? If attacks on that most fundamental of unions and the first blessing are not opposed what is left but an increasingly marginalized Christian society? I submit to you it is no less than New Sodom. Do you want that? The early Christians wanted martyrdom because of the graces they knew would come to them AND the Church at large in the face of an extremely hostile populace. I cannot see there is any justification for inviting, by surrender, pagan Rome to rise up again.

          • Josh Lyman

            Two people who love each other and want to make a commitment to each other is your deadly foe? Wow. That is just very sad.

          • Suo

            “Two people who love each other.” I am a man. I love my brother. I love my friend John. Are we getting married? No. What are you talking about?

  • Bob Seidensticker

    Apologies for what may sound like a snarky comment, but remember when Christians of a particular bent asked themselves a similar question: “Is it time now, or might there come a time soon, when we should decide that the cost of carrying on the battle against mixed-race marriage is simply too high?”

    They didn’t decide to just throw in the towel on a politically problematic or futile point. They changed their mind. What was wrong in the eyes of God became, magically, what actually God wanted all the time. I suggest the same kind of change on this topic.

    I’ve written more about that here.

    • Suo

      “Is it time now or might there come a time soon, when we should decide that the cost of battling incestual same sex marriage and marriage between three or more people is simply too high?”

      And on and on and on until the sphere in which Christians operate is no bigger than their backyard.

      You clearly do not understand that there is a difference between procreative unions and destructive sexual unions. Whatever the argument against mixed-race marriages, of which I know none coming from the teaching voice of the Catholic Church, there is no comparison.

  • Bill Goff

    Mr. Dalrymple, While your blog requires the name and email for everyone to leave a comment, there is no way I can find to contact you by email. I would like you to review my comment on this important issue to determine if it is “spammy” or in any way objectionable. I am an evangelical who believes that the Bible does not prohibit same sex unions.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Hi, Bill. I’m not sure why your comment was being flagged as spammy. I assure you it’s not censorship, however, but an overly sensitive spam filter. Here is what I got of your message through MDR by email:

      “It is high time evangelicals reexamine their stance regarding homosexuals and same sex marriage. I agree that the traditional view of the church is that marriage is between a man and a woman. However once one examines the biblical evidence for this view, it is becomes clear that the evidence for that tradition is quite flimsy. It rankles me that Christians often assert that the clear teaching of the Bible is that homosexuality is a sin. Such assertions confuse tradition and Scripture. The Gospels show that Jesus frequently violated the traditions regarding the Scriptures (Torah), but never violated God’s law.

      “When I learned that the Reverend Mel White, a friend of mine from my days at Fuller Theological Seminary, had come out as gay, I reexamined what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. Among the books that helped me in this study were Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? by Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Mollenkott and Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers. From my study I determined that the Bible is not against homosexuals, only against certain abusive behavior of homosexuals (as it is against certain behavior of heterosexuals). I find nothing in Scripture which would lead me to believe that a same sex couple who publically want to enter into an exclusive relationship should be denied marriage.

      “I wish that evangelicals who wish to speak or write about this issue would be much more humble remembering that in the past sincere Christians strongly advocated positions that few of us would now take such as believing that the earth was at the center of the universe, that slavery was acceptable, that there was a divine right of kings, and that women should subordinate to men in marriage and the church.

      “Incidentally my study of Scripture suggested to me that those who want to have the government enforce a “biblical” view of homosexuals are very selective and inconsistent in what they advocate. Leviticus 20:13 clearly states that “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Those who are against homosexual unions sometimes quote or refer to this text. However I have not encountered anyone who advocated capital punishment for homosexuals.
      I am aware that many sincere evangelicals (probably a majority) believe that any homosexual behavior is a sin and that the word marriage should be reserved for heterosexual unions. But this is a shrinking majority as more and more of us encounter real homosexuals who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior and seek to lead lives that honor him. It may take several generations before the majority of evangelicals view homosexuality as being no more a sin than being left-handed and regard same sex marriage as a positive commitment.

      “In the meantime I believe that is important to abandon attempts to force civil society to conform to Christian traditions. Evangelicals should stop opposing states or the Federal Government from recognizing same sex marriages. If a particular denomination is opposed to its ministers performing same sex marriages, it should have that right. But evangelicals or church denominations should cease trying to have the government (of a state or the Federal Government) conform to its view of marriage.”

      Thanks for addressing the point of my post in that final paragraph. That is precisely the question. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

      To the rest: partly also in response to friends who came out gay, or simply friends who were openly gay when we first met, including pastors, I looked into the issue as well. I’m afraid my response here is not going to be terribly satisfying to you, because the combox really isn’t a great forum for an extensive discussion of biblical interpretation. But suffice it to say that I’m well aware of these arguments. They were the prevailing arguments at Stanford, Princeton Seminary, and Harvard. And at the latter, it was a part of my job to help undergraduate and master’s students make those arguments (i.e., that it was more like homosexual rape that was condemned than anything resembling the loving and lifelong same-sex relationships under discussion in the same-sex marriage debate) as powerfully as possible. In the end, I would love to find those arguments persuasive, but I just didn’t. They read to me less like arguments that would be compelling to an independent judge than justifications for people who already wanted to come to the conclusion that the Bible does not condemn what we do not want to condemn.

      You looked at the same arguments and came to a different conclusion, and I can respect that. At least you looked at the arguments! We can both only do our best, right, to investigate and consider and try to make the most faithful and most reasonable judgment we can. In any case, you say it’s high time for evangelicals to reexamine their view that the scriptures condemn homosexual behavior, but I think that reexamination has been taking place. Some have gone through that reexamination and concluded as you have, and some have done so and concluded as I have. I have respect for both sides as long as they undergo the reexamination carefully, prayerfully, and doing their best to put their personal prejudices aside. God bless and much respect.

  • Thank you, Dr. Dalrymple for a thoughtful essay and for attempting to engineer a healthy discussion of an important issue.

    It seems to me one of your main point is would evangelicals be wiser to step aside on the legal issue while continuing to engage in healthy debate in the public square. Is this just an American public square? Euro-American? What about the public square in Africa? In Arab countries? What will our voice be there once we lay down quietly on the civil issue of marriage?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Good questions. Thanks, Eric.

  • Bill Goff

    The simple answer to your question is Yes.

  • John C.Gardner

    The problem with your suggestion is that the historical precedents are not promising. For example, a literal reading of Scripture seemed to many in the antebelluw south as unambiguously favoring slavery(see Mark Noll’s work on this subject). Followers of Wesley in the late 18th century were somewhat antislavery. However, to be able to witness to white southerners and their black slaves the anti-slavery position became muted in the south. Slavery was more firmly established in law for another six decades after Methodists in the south abandoned their doubts about slavery in order to evangelize. Christians should not support or accept laws that are contrary to Scripture and Christian tradition. A traditional definition of marriage is clearer in Scripture than was the the issue of abolition. Evangelical Christians may see homosexual marriages established in more and more states in the coming decades. However, we should speak out against this anti-Christian practice just as many evangelicals finally spoke out against slavery which was recognized in the Constitution and the laws of antebellum southern states. We need to be prophetic, help establish a Christian marriage culture and not directly or indirectly baptize sin(see how many Christians now ignore heterosexual fornication, divorce, and other non-sexual sins).

    • Josh Lyman

      When you try to compare the vioent ownership of one person against their will by another person to a loving consensual commitment between two people, you just look silly. On behalf of those of us who support the right of our gay friends and family to marry, PLEASE keep it up!

  • smrnda

    I think marriage, historically, has been a terrible institution where women were more or less property, marriages were arranged by parents not because parents had greater wisdom than their children, but so they could score some more lucrative real estate that came along with the bargain. True, when survival is itself and achievement the idea that you ought to be with someone you actually love is probably a luxury nobody had time to think about, but can anyone really believe in the ‘sanctity of marriage?’ as a historical ideal that’s being threatened just now? I think marriage is only now beginning to be an institution that’s much deserving of respect. I mean, you could legally rape your wife until the 1990s. Marriage hasn’t had a great track record, so what sanctity is there to defend?

  • Dan

    Should we stop our fight against gay marriage because the cost is too high? I find this a strange question. I feel that if something is important, then we should fight for it, regardless of cost. So, the real question is whether we should fight against gay marriage. My answer is two fold. Yes, and No. Let me explain. I do not believe that homosexuality is the cause of the degradation of marriage but merely something caused by it. Many Americans (and Christians around the world) do not live out biblical marriages. Divorce is one of the causes. Anyone who’s had any personal contact with people in a divorce or been in one themselves knows that it is an extremely painful process for all involved. Nearly a third of evangelical marriages end in divorce (source below) Pornography is another big one. Among 50% of men and 20% of women in the church are addicted to pornography (source below). Purity is also important. Only about 20% of Christians are virgins when they get married (source below).
    This may sound harsh, but pointing the finger at a very small portion of the population for the problems of a much larger portion of the population sounds more like a scape goat than a real issue. To make a real christian marriage, it takes a lot more than one man and one woman. It takes one man devoted to God and one woman devoted to God. It means that a woman must be willing to submit to her husband. It also means (and this gets neglected a lot) that a man must be willing to lay down his life (i.e. die) for his wife (Ephesians 5:22-25).
    In conclusion, I believe no, homosexuality in of itself is not worth fighting. I also believe the answer is yes. Christ like marriage is worth whatever it takes, regardless of cost.

  • Steve

    The victims of SSM are:
    >The “married” person themselves, who are led by society to believe their behavior is morally good – when we know that it is displeasing to God.
    >The children who grow up in such unions, who either grow up without a mother or a father.
    > Society as a whole, because the true meaning of marriage disappears of the horizon even further.

    We must not relent. Even if we fight to our dying breath, we must not relent.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Yeah, I mentioned those three. I agree that those are the victims. But I don’t think it’s as clear cut or as compelling an argument as in the case of abortion.

      • Josh Lyman

        Where is the evidence that the married couple are harmed?
        Where is the evidence that children are harmed?
        Where is the evidence that society is harmed?

        Again, this is not ab abstract thing about which we know nothing. Gay people can and do get married in a number of places, both in the USA and around the world. If the people who claim are victims really are victims, then where is the evidence?

  • David

    It seems to me that the theological implications are inseparable from the more prudential immediate question of legal recognition. If Christians concede on the question of legal recognition will that not be seen as conceding on the immorality of homosexual behavior? Proclaim as we might that that is not so, it is obvious that it will be interpreted that way. In this case, impressions matter. If we concede legal status we are saying that sinful behavior deserves legal protection. Admittedly, we embrace the First Amendment which protects blasphemy, but there is a legitimate good in protecting speech generally, even if that means that that right can be misused by some. “Gay marriage” would specifically recognize only sinful acts in a legal manner. More importantly, will it not be understood as conceding that homosexual acts are good? We can say all we want that we do not approve of the acts but it is inevitable that conceding on legal status will create the impression that we approve of intrinsically evil acts. That impression, right or wrong, endangers souls. That we cannot do.

  • EssEm

    A thought. Liberalism has morphed into the missionary and totalizing ideology of State-enforced equality. Race, gender, sexual orientation, the list grows. Therefore, all the institutions of the Times of Ignorance (traditional pre 1963 America) must be dismantled and humiliated so that the Sacred Victim Groups can rise up and take their just revenge against their historic oppressors in the Reign of the Minorities. (You can certainly feel the contempt in the remarks of your opponents, no?). All intermediate institutions, including family, must give way before the egalitarian State, which will brook no opposition. No matter what you do, if you think it will leave you in peace, you are mistaken. Look at the last 50 years and cast your imagination 50 years ahead. It’s just a matter of time.

    • John Evans

      EssEm, if you were projecting any more we could use you to screen films. Wanting to be treated fairly is not seeking revenge. Yes, I know it is uncomfortable to see a future where you aren’t treated special anymore, but can you at least try to see it from the other point of view?

      • James

        Given the fact that liberals want to regulate what kind of light bulb I use or the amount of water my toliet can hold, I’d say he is pretty accurate.

    • Craig

      John Evans is correct. Mr. Dalrymple’s Evangelical Channel attracts a lot of right-wing nut jobs; I would respect Mr. Dalrymple more if he would stop encouraging the nitwits and rather give them the strong rebuke they deserve.

      • James

        Funny, it is the mainstream church with its “stand for nothing be for everything open mindness” who is in a membership decline such as the PCUSA, ECA, Luthrean ECA, Methodist, ..etc

      • Klawnet

        Oh, please. Of *course* you *want* him to reject the tenets of Christianity in favor of popularity, but really, would you respect him in the morning? No.

      • steve

        excuse me, but expression of opinion is an exercise in freedom of speech….your absolutist “progressive” belief that dissent of your “enlightened” point of view need not apply and deserves demonization is Fascism….pure and simple.

        Simply said, you’re “opinion” is of no more worth than EssEm’s….no matter how much you like to think of yourself superior to it.

        • John Evans

          Exactly steve. I was expressing my point of view.

          • steve

            How about clarifying what a “right wing nut job” or a “nitwit” is?
            Expressing an opinion, as in contributing to the conversation is one thing.
            Debasing someone you dont agree with is called “delegitimizing” or “demonizing”.
            I’ve noted with interest how the “tolerant”, “open minded”, “inclusive” progressive movement finds ways to be bigoted, intolerant and quite belittling of people who dont share their “enlightened” values.
            Cultural fascism much?

  • Greg Taylor

    Excellent article!

    You are right on but the homosexuality issue is just one part of a bigger issue – political activism of Christians primarily and churches secondarily. It seems to me that the church in America is in the process of switching its mission from evangelism to political activism. The church should have the mission of evangelism – not political activism. It was very good of you to recognize the harm us being politically active is having even though we should remain active but do it differently.

    I think we should implement 2 CHRONINLES 7:14 which I call THE BIBLICAL PRESCRIPTION TO CURE MORAL AND SPIRITUAL DECAY IN AMERICA. The target of change is the church – not the unsaved. The church in America needs to unify, collectively humble ourselves, seek God’s face, and do God’s will. Then the church will be in a condition to reform America. I think that the churches and all of the Christians (including the politically active ones) should have evangelism as their primary mission. Electing good people to office and influencing legislation should be secondary. What about the lives of innocent unborn babies? What about homosexuals gaining more power? I say, what about lost souls? Aren’t they worth more? If we concentrate on winning the lost and discipling baby Christians, these other things will take care of themselves (Matt 6:33). As the church grows, it will automatically exert more influence at the ballot box.

  • ben

    To me Jesus wasn’t a political voice during his time on earth. He was really upset with. people who wanted to represent Him on their own

  • Lou

    I have thought about this issue as well. Yes, homosexuality is a sin and that does not change because society wishes it were otherwise. But I also recognize that having Christianity considered bigotry because of our opposition to homosexuality is hurting our witness, especially among the young. And it does not help that often times the most intransigent fighters against homosexuality are often the ones enmeshed in scandal. And our biggest problem is that society has changed to such a point that the Bible is no longer a valid citation to authority. For many generations, this country accepted the Bible as true and accepted God, but would choose if they wanted to pursue it, if they wanted to change. That has disappeared — we must now convince people of the Bible’s unerring authority before we can convince them to turn over their life to Christ. We live in a highly secularized society; our arguments concerning gay marriage turn toward an authority that many do not accept, our opponents argue in favor of fairness.

    But what we are considering — a tactical retreat — will be interpreted by non-Evangelicals and the media (but I repeat myself) as nothing less than a full blown surrender. We will not be given a serious hearing to say, “Homosexuality is wrong, but we have made a decision that opposing gay marriage is not a high priority.” Rather, any retreat will be taken as tacit acceptance that gay marriage is OK. Anyone who continues to oppose gay marriage publicly will have their legs cut out from underneath them and deemed a bigot of the highest order.

    The status quo on gay marriage is not good for Evangelicals. But a tactical retreat is even worse.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thank goodness for someone who actually understood the question well and offered a thoughtful response. Thank you, Lou.

  • David Dean

    Those who are born, those who are raised in a family with two bona fide heterosexual parents, those who are baptised, nurtured in the faith, confirmed in their faith/come to faith as young people, those who have served the Lord through the life of the local church… discover that they are lesbian or gay. Had they been born in 1932 or 1942 (in USA or UK, or most any other Western country) they are not likely to have thought that acting in the world as anything but an heterosexual person was an option. His or her parents aren’t likely to have known anyone who openly neither took seriously the issue of homosexuality nor studied it scientifically, medically.

  • David Dean


    Those who were born in 1982 and 1992 are informed. (The Iowa farm boy who signed up to fight in WWII… has gone to Paris.) They are already able to see that the time is coming when governments will take seriously the right, responsibilities and privileges of all its citizens, not only its heterosexual citizens. There’s no turning back the clock.

  • David Dean


    Granted, it was much more simple when sheer survival of the tribe depended upon teenagers being coupled in arranged marriages, expected to produce lots of children in the hope that some would survive childhood diseases and grow fit and strong to raise the next generation, while farming and guarding the borders… so that the next generation could do the same thing. And the next and the next.

  • David Dean


    But we don’t live there. We have to live in the real world. We can do no less. The real world includes all those children we’ve brought into the world, baptised/dedicated, confirmed/watched grow into membership in the local church, allowed to take leadership in the life of the church as young adults… who discover that they are lesbian and gay. We must not, we may not, fail them. They enrich the immediate family, the extended family and the church family. If we fail them, we fail the world. We fail God in Christ.

  • David Dean


    We will watch them mature such that they find a partner, marry and raise a family. And we may hope they will raise their families in a transformed church.

  • Perplexed

    And what was the cost to Christ? Should we do less to serve him? He obeyed even unto death. Shouldn’t we?

  • Ricard

    Timothy, part of the difficulty with your argument is your launching point, that “We do not regard marriage as a social contract, an arrangement established by cultural convention, and therefore susceptible to renegotiation.” The fact is that it is a ‘social contract’ that, as stewards of the culture, we can argue as well. The ‘christian’ definition marriage is not unique to Christianity alone and can/should be defended by christians on the viability/stability that the contract, as heretofore defined, brings to society.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Well, Ricard if you say “the fact is that it is” a social contract, then I guess that must make it so!

      No, I don’t agree. I know it would take a long time to explain the more fundamental beliefs that lead me to this point, but I believe that marriage is something for which we were designed, and that design was revealed to us by God. So it’s not up to us to define marriage in a manner we find expedient. And the fact that the institution of marriage is largely the same across cultures (though some cultures allow for multiple wives) is arguably better evidence *against* the social contract argument than for it.

      • Timothy, I agree 100%, but….

        To be fair, government acceptance / acknowledgement / legislation IS a social contract.

        It’s a bizarre aberration, and damaging, to amend / redesign that social contract in violation of the original design. It’s not honest to call it by the same name as the original reality. But there are two things going on here — the reality of marriage, which they can never touch or redefine and will live on as long as the world does, and the governmental laws and regulations surrounding it, which are indeed a social contract and can be modified.

        This is not in the least to advocate the modification being advocated. But the argument that we are somehow trying to protect or save real marriage is absurd. As long as men want women and women want men, as long as people want security and committed love, there will be real marriage, whether government behaves stupidly and immorally or not.

  • SteveAR

    At some point, SSM advocates will sue churches for discrimination when any church denies a same-sex couple getting married in those churches. And, there will be judges who will agree with them. Chances are, the Supreme Court would throw out such a lawsuit, but it won’t stop SSM advocates from filing further discrimination suits. Because this is what SSM advocates do; plus, they won’t be punished for filing frivolous lawsuits.

    Before SSM somehow becomes the law in a state or federally, churches must be protected from these potential suits and the financial effects of having to defend what should be their free exercise rights.

    • Josh Lyman

      Yes, after all, since inter-racial marriage was made legal, look at all the churches that have been sued for refusing to marry mixed race couples.

  • redware

    Sorry to all of you non-believers out there but people of faith do not compromise their religious positions for opportunistic political gain.Yes, I know that having principles is something many of you progressives don’t understand, but tough!

    • Josh Lyman

      I am a progressive. I have principles. One of my principles is that it is wrong to deny people basic rights such as marriage based on their gender. But please, keep yelling and screaming that you are the only one with morals and principles. You make your side of the argument look weaker and make it more likely that my side will win. So thank you.

  • Evan Dickinson

    We have here a situation where it is considered bigoted to consider the combination of the sexes that sex, love, our private parts, and the human race exists because of as special.

    If we cannot have a different name for something so fundamentally different and special, no logic can stand against rampant enforced equivocation.

  • Bill Heatley

    I see nothing in our constitution that would preclude a couple of any make up from finding a civil or religious union from so disposed civil and religious institutions. My concern is when they come knocking on the door of my church and demand that my pastor perform a marriage when such a union runs counter to the belief esposed by that institution. I firmly believe that there is sufficient hate for Christians out there that would make any statement or piece of paper meaningless. (‘So I’ve invited the Alliance Defense Fund to write a piece on what the legalization of gay marriage more broadly would mean for religious freedoms, and other legal implications.’) I liken it to Neville Chamberlain’s proclamation at achieving “peace in our time.” Well, religious freedom in our time relies on the idea that we (Christians) would left alone to practice as we want. I just don’t see the anti-religion folks being able to drop it. For many beating up on the Christians has BECOME their religion.

  • Randy

    “Is it Time for Evangelicals to Stop Opposing Gay Marriage?…….”
    First: you have to believe the Bible is God’s word.
    Second: You have heard what happened at Sodom and Gomorrah.
    PLUS, in the New Testament in the book of Ephesians, it plainly states what God directed a marriage and family is to be.

    With that said……your answer is NO.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      This is not a question of what we should teach about the truth. This is a question of which laws we should support.

  • keats5

    The problem is that once we lose this fight, homosexuals will become a protected class. The next step are hate speech laws, prohibiting any so called hate speech. Once the Bible is considered “hate speech,” we have lost our freedom of religion.

    In a very real sense, this country has to chose between freedom of religion and homosexuality.
    As for me and my house…

  • Joe Childers

    Reading these comments leaves me depressed and disappointed. Aren’t Christians supposed to uphold the Word of God? Did not Paul make clear in his letters to New Testament churches that homosexuality is a sin? Did not Jesus make clear that marriage is between a man and woman? Shall we cast all this aside for expediency? The very premise of the argument advanced seems to be that adhering to a Bible based view of homosexual conduct and marriage damages our witness. I contend that failing to adhere to these positions does the real damage.
    Gay marriage is not a “civil rights” issue, not matter how many times the gay lobby and misguided supporters say so. If you accept that premise, then there is not logical argument against polygamy or incest between consenting adults. Think this is an exaggeration? Twenty years ago no one would have imagined gay marriage being accepted in this country . Now we have Christians debating whether we should just surrender the issue and move, all in the name of advancing our “witness.” You can be assured that should gay marriage carry the day it will be be just the beginning. Don’t imagine for a moment that going silent on the question will buy goodwill or immunity from the backers of homosexuality. Gays want to force us to approve there lifestyle, not just tolerate it, and will not rest until the full mechanisms of the state are brought to bear against anyone who resists doing so.
    Yes, homosexual conduct is a sin, and so are many things, but it is the tip of the spear to make perversion acceptable to the society, which in human consequences makes it a grave evil.

  • AgntOrngVctm

    Moses was refused entry to the promised land because he struck a rock twice to get drinking water when God said to strike it once. Jesus proclaimed that the old testament in its entirety spoke of Him. Elsewhere in the Bible, it is announced that Jesus is the Rock and that He was smitten for our sake, once for all. You don’t mess around with Bible “types” however trivial it may seem.

    Marriage is a type of Christ and his Church. It was first mentioned in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden. Mess with that type at your own peril. Mess with it to incur favor from the Godless and you will have revealed yourself to be not in His Church as it will not seem wrong to you. Calling yourself or your organization Evangelical doesn’t get you saved, so maybe one should inquire from the author who his audience is; Evangelicals or Christians?

  • jpotts

    What do I think?

    I think anyone who abandons the fight is a coward. That they’ve finally decided that the way of the world is better in the short term than standing up for what you allegedly believe…if you really belived it in the fort place. A Christian – ANY Christian – is suppoed to stand for something: a specific set of beliefs. You start with gay marriage, eventually you’ll end up with having to accept the “sexual rights” of children.

    You say, “we won’t stand for that!” Really? You gave up the fight over gay marriage. How long before they beat you down on minors having consentual sex with adults?

    Sit there and wring your hands all you want. Justify your unwillingness to keep fighting until you turn blue. In the end, God isn’t going to hold me accountable for your actions (or inaction) – it’s your immortal soul in peril, not mine.

    • Timothy Dalrymple


  • Warren Bonesteel

    Allow me a version of the slippery slope argument: If it’s ok to grant rights and priveleges under the law to one group of Americans, and limit the freedoms and liberties of another under the same law…don’t be real surprised when the government limits your own freedoms and liberties.

    Question: Which part of The Constitution grants the federal government the power to regulate and license the cultural and religious institution of marriage?

    Which part of The Constitution gives the federal government the power to grant rights and priveleges to one group of Americans and not another? Hint: It’s a Jim Crow law that you’re backing, here, folks.

    Under The Constitution, are some Americans better than others, or do we all rate the same considerations and rights under the law as every other citizen?

    If not, don’t be real surprised when someone comes along and takes your own religious rights -under The Constitution- away from you…

    Second: Many counter-arguments against gay marriage under present laws, amount to supporting a form of collectivism, which same political philosophy is not supported by The Constitution or by most standards and definitions of liberty and freedom, especially in America.

  • jbspry

    I won’t play the fun and popular game of beating Christians over the head with Biblical quotes which could be argued as taken out of context. But if I’m not mistaken, Jesus’ attitude regarding sin and worldliness was that there will be sin because all are less than perfect, and His followers are commanded to mirror His example and love their brothers despite their sins. Christ did not call upon His followers to stamp out sin by making Caesar enforce His teachings upon the world; He commanded His followers simply to share His teaching with the world. In short, if gays want to live as gays they should be left in peace to do so. Tell them the Good News and pass on.

  • Tom

    There are a couple of hazily thought out assumptions made by those who are against people being able to voice opposition towards homosexual marriage. The main one being that the behavioral choice of homosexual activity is somehow akin to gender and race, etc.
    Of course it is antithetical to Christian teaching (and Western philosophy in general) to treat others differently (and/or poorly) because they happen to have some unchangeable physical trait.

    But, bible-believing Christians do not approach the issue of homosexuality from the same set of assumptions. We believe that acting on homosexual urges is a chosen behavioral path.

    As such, it actually is perfectly legal (according to American law and Constitutional philosophy) to allow for limits of what one can and cannot do (in regards to one’s chosen behavioral pattern).

  • Making a distinction between what religious leaders should advocate for the members of their congregations and what laws should govern all citizens seems to make a great deal of sense. The only problem is that once opposition to gay marriage is successfully defined as “bigotry”, then churches that don’t perform them will be targeted as unlawfully discriminating against gays.

  • Georgia

    this is exactly what is wrong with the “church ” of today!! Should we abondon our convictions and just go along with the secular world? I always asked myslef-what would God do?? I think you all know the answer to that question. We must continue the fight And for those going wobbly-shame on you and pray God gives you the will and strength to carry on His will.

  • Gabriela Garver

    Tim, what you and many others are missing is that this fight over gay marriage is really a Trojan horse. What’s inside the horse? Hatred of Christians, and the end of their freedom to practice our faith. The LGBT activistas are ultimately angry at God, who is out of their reach, so they strike at Christians (His arms and legs on planet earth), who are within their reach. Do you really think if we accept gay marriage, that would be it? No, next would be requirements that children be able to choose their own gender, have sex with adults, have sex with animals, and taxpayers should pay for transgender surgery (and its reversal). Then there will also be the matter of affirmative action for LGBT in awarding of government contracts, hiring (including hiring by churches), and college admissions. Children’s sex education will involve very graphic explanations of how to perform sexually perverted acts (that’s already happening in NYC, and it is mandatory that 6th graders be graphically instructed on how to perform sodomy). You get the idea. There is no end, because Satan and his minions (LGBT has friends in hot places) won’t be satisfied until all Christians are defeated, one way or other. So, no, I would not give in here even if we lose every election and are put to death (for failing to worship at the hedonistic altars, which breaks the first commandment). God will weigh in–His timing is perfect. Haven’t you wondered why things are so AWFUL for the West? We’re morally bankrupt and financially bankrupt. Sin has a payday, and we’re just at the start of the “pay back” period. Hurricane Sandy was the warm up. The fiscal cliff will be the next course. What’s the dessert? Probably another war on our soil. There’s going to be hell to pay.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I don’t see how I could be missing that point, when that was precisely one of the potential responses I mentioned.

  • My reason for believing the political battle should still be fought is not listed above. Very simply, we are to love our neighbours.

    God proclaimed woe and judgment on those who call good, evil, and call evil, good. Government approval and benefits for homosexuality is certainly saying that these relationships are a good thing and to be encouraged. God says they are an evil thing to be discouraged.

    It will not destroy marriage or churches if homosexual marriage becomes law. But it will be very damaging for the society that passes it, because they have put themselves in opposition to God’s moral law, saying the exact opposite of what He says. I do not want to see that happen to my country — it will come with a high cost. It won’t hurt me in anything that matters, but it will hurt those around me who endorse it. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t expect those who don’t believe as I do to understand or accept what I am saying. But that is the reason I am still prepared to continue to actively oppose this.

    This is not like divorce. Divorce laws permit divorce, but they do not give government benefits specifically for getting divorced, or actively encourage divorce. Furthermore, there is a strong Biblical case that not every divorce is wrong in God’s eyes (Matthew 19), so laws to handle necessary divorces are appropriate even from a Biblical perspective. God gave a divorce law when He constructed a legal system (Deuteronomy 24). This goes further than the divorce laws, in any event, by actually directly providing benefits for that which is immoral.

    To give up on this would be to effectively say to society, “OK, you’ve asked for it, go ahead and suffer all the consequences. Serves you right.” I’d rather be unpopular. Churchill was unpopular in the years leading up to World War II, but he was right. Whether society ever has its waking up moment, like the British did, remains to be seen, but we’re doing our neighbours no favours by giving up.

    • Lisa

      Jesus was very clear that remarriage after divorce is adultery. BTW – I don’t take the bible literally and the more you beat me over the head with it, the less I like both of you. And arguments based on the bible have no meaning to me anyway.

      • Well, Lisa, He specifically gave an exception in Matthew 19 — if the divorce was for unfaithfulness, remarriage was permitted. I agree that not everyone understands the passage that way, but most do.

        But as I said, I don’t expect those who don’t believe as I do to understand or agree with what I was saying. This post is not about gay marriage, but about whether evangelicals should continue to fight the politcal battle. It was a question for evangelicals. My comment is likewise primarily addressed to evangelicals, it is why I believe the God of the Bible wants me to continue.

        You don’t like the Bible much. OK, I can understand that. If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t like it, either. But since I do believe it, in talking to others who believe it I’ll be talking about what it says and how I should behave given what it says. I’m glad you are listening in. Maybe you’ll grow to understand a little bit more, and understand that actually, I’m not behaving in the way I do out of spite or anything other than simply trying to live what the Bible says.

        You may think I’m misguided, and you are welcome to that opinion. But perhaps, by listening in to the conversation, you’ll understand a little better why Christians who believe the Bible do what they do. But I certainly wasn’t beating you over the head with the Bible, I was talking to others who believe it like I do.

    • “This is not like divorce. Divorce laws permit divorce, but they do not give government benefits specifically for getting divorced, or actively encourage divorce.”

      Jon, you have obviously not been divorced. The whole “family-law” part of the legal system is set-up to in fact, reward divorce. Just ask any man that is paying excessive child and spousal support while his ex-wife is shacked up with her boyfriend. These benefits may not come from the government per se, but they come with the full force of Governmental power. The system as it is set-up now does indeed encourage divorce.

      • Jim, I’m sure that what you are saying is true, but the proper intent of those laws is not to reward divorce, but to protect women and children from deadbeat fathers who abandon their responsibilities. To establish laws for that purpose is appropriate. That we’ve got them twisted to where they can be abused by evil people, and that messed up judges and other officials allow this, is typical.

        It is still fundamentally different. Those laws are not intended to endorse divorce as a good thing.

  • Billy Ruffn

    The solution to the conflict is relatively simple, but would require a compromise by both sides. The solution is this: the government should exit the marriage business — that is, it should no longer at any level issue “marriage licenses”. Because the government (and civil society) have an interest in fostering long-term, stable relationships between adults (regardless of their sexual orientation), it should sanction civil contracts aimed at that end. In the granting and administration of civil domestic contracts, the government must treat all citizens equally.

    Marriage, as an institution between people and God, should be a relationship defined by and entered into under the auspices of the various religions, each acting according to their intrepretation of what is and isn’t a “marriage”. Some religions might agree to marry people of the same sex, while others would not.

    If individuals want legal protections guaranteed by what we know today as a “marriage” they should go to the state and enter into a civil domestic untion or partnership — call it what you may. If individuals want their relationship to be called a “marriage” and have the sanction of a church , they should go to the religious organization of their choosing and get “married” under the rules of that congregation.

    In short, the state does civil unions. The churches do marriages. Everyone is treated the same. Everyone who enters into a civil union and abides by their contractual obligations is protected by the law. Religious groups can limit participation in a marriage according to their beliefs and teachings. Under this arrangement no one gets everything they want, yet both achieve an important objectives.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Well, this is not a new suggestion, of course. The further you look into it, though, and the legal ramifications, it’s a lot more complicated. Disentangling government from “the marriage business” is all but impossible, and certainly it would be enormously difficult and time consuming, since there are many hundreds of laws that are based around marriage and all of those would need readjudication to some degree or another.

  • Jon Touchstone

    The answer is simple. Christians are called to be WITNESSES of Jesus Christ. We’re not politicians and we’re not social engineers. We are lights in a dark and perverse world. As soon as we take our focus of the subject of our witness, we forfeit our witness, because you can’t serve two masters. Homosexuality is an unnatural act and contrary to the God of Nature. Regarding marriage, from the beginning God has joined together male and female, as we see in Mark 10:6, and THAT’S ALL. That’s the end of our contribution to the discussion. When asked our thoughts, the only right answer for a Christian is, “God disapproves.”

  • csrdrunner

    “Stop Opposing Gay Marriage” first off it is NOT “gay”, when are people going to use the correct word HOMOSEXUAL????????????????????

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Gay marriage and same-sex marriage are both fully accepted terms.

    • Josh Lyman

      Can I just give you points for being the sort of troll who moans about people using the “correct” words and then completely abuses the whole notion of punctuation?

  • Suo

    God did not spare Sodom. We are headed toward a society in which sex and gender are meaningless. The consequence is a society which delves ever deeper into false and dark paths that provide the glamour of meaning but cannot provide real meaning because the truth of human nature is rejected. If you think your job as a Christian is to save your souls and others, you don’t aspire to be Lot, chances are, you won’t be the ones inside his house, you will be among the crowd wanting to get in.

  • Michael Loomis

    Many people agree with Timothy that gay marriage is a secondary issue relative to Christianity. The youth ministry evangelical churches near me either try to ignore homosexuality or are gay accepting though with some language indicating its not God’s preferred choice. The mainstream of evangelism is going to follow the culture on this issue, and the verses previously used against gay people will become unclear in meaning to evangelicals. Those that cling to condemnation of homosexuality should accept that they will be thought of as no better than hate spewing racists. It will be hard to get other people to listen to their evangelism.

  • Doug Graves

    Is it time now, or might there come a time soon, when evangelicals should decide that the cost of carrying on the battle against under-age incestuous marriage is simply too high?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I feel a stronger obligation to protect young people from adults than I do to protect adults from the consequences of their own decisions, don’t you?

  • If you’re afraid to speak the truth about homosexuality being a sin and gay marriage being anti-biblical, then soon you won’t be permitted to speak any truth.

    Now, this is likely going to happen anyway. The world is going to crash and burn. Maybe this is the beginning of it. But if you aren’t willing to stand up for what’s right, what does that say about your faith?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Speaking the truth about homosexuality and about gay marriage being anti-biblical does not necessarily entail fighting through legal and political means to force others to live in accordance with our view. We believe that using the name of God in vain is sinful — but we don’t have a law enforcing that view.

      • Suo

        Last I looked the clear majority of states have banned sodomy-based marriage. Why aren’t you asking the other question: Isn’t it time that sodom-philes give up the fight and stop forcing us to degrade marriage to fit their views?

        You say you are more concerned about adults harming children than adults harming adults. Why?

  • Frank


    I disagree with your point that this is a secondary issue. Paul says that practicing homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. That makes this is a gospel issue. The eternal souls of men and women are at stake here, so homosexuality (and the legitimization of it by welcoming it into the definition of “marriage”) can never be considered a secondary matter by a Christian who wants to remain faithful to the Scriptures.

    To Christians in general, I would just say this when it comes to our Christian witness: We need to stop letting the pro-gay marriage side control the language of the debate. For example, the next time you’re accused of “hating gays” because you reject gay marriage, ask you’re accuser if they believe polygamous or incestuous marriages should be legal. Chances are they will say no. Then turn the tables on them and tell them that must mean they “hate” polygamists, which they will deny of course. Right there you can prove to them that charges of “hate” are ludicrous since almost everyone believes there are some types of marriages that should not be legal, even though they don’t “hate” the persons who wish to engage in such marriages.

    Same thing when you’re accused of being “homophobic”. Ask the accuser if they approve of adultery. If they say no (as they most likely will), tell them they must be an “adulteraphobic”. They’ll get the point.

    I’m also quite tired of hearing the refrain that Christians who refuse to support SSM are trying to “force their personal morality on everyone else”. The fact is that almost everyone tries to force their morality on everyone else. The next time someone accuses you of forcing your morality on others, ask them if they believe a 45 year old man should be able to marry his 20 year old son. With very few exceptions, most people who believe in gay marriage would say no to that. Yet if they do say no, they are doing the very same thing they accuse you of, namely forcing their own personal morality on others. Just because incest and polygamy are considered more “icky” by many, that does not change the fact that making them illegal is an imposition of morality.

    Unless a person believes that people should be free to define marriage any way they wish (including things like polygamy & incest), then they are doing the same thing they accuse Christians of, namely forcing their own private views of morality onto the entire population.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      The *salvation* of homosexuals is a primary issue — and therefore we should not abrogate our teaching on the rightness and wrongness of homosexual actions. But that does not mean that *fighting against same-sex marriage* through legal and political means is a primary issue.

      • Frank

        I think we have to make a distinction between “fighting” against gay marriage and “opposing” it. From a political standpoint, I think it’s obvious that the “fight” is over. The SSM side has won, and given the demographics (ie. high levels of support among young voters), there is little chance the tide will turn back (although I expect support for SSM will eventually level off at about 40%). In any case, from a practical standpoint I happen to agree that it simply isn’t worth the time and resources for evangelicals to “fight back” via organized political action. However, that doesn’t mean we have to stop “opposing” SSM (which is the language used in the title of this blog entry). If the issue comes up at the ballot box in our state, we can still vote against it. A vote is not a waste of time and money. We can still take a stand for what we believe even if we know we are on the losing side (from out culture’s standpoint at least). So while I don’t disagree with you about abandoning the “fight”, I am uncomfortable with the notion that we should no longer “oppose” SSM because such language has a ring of moral surrender to it. To me, it’s no different than an issue like gambling. If a vote comes up on whether we should allow a casino to open in my city, I would vote no and tell others I’m opposed to it. But for strategic and practical reasons, I’m not going to waste all kinds of time and money crusading against gambling. So while I’m not “fighting” against gambling, I would still say I’m “opposed” to it.

    • Josh Lyman

      Congratulations. You completely defeated the imaginary proponent of gay marriage!

      • Frank

        Ok, let me argue with a real proponent then. Should a 45 year old man be able to marry his 20 year old son? If not, please explain why.

        Please understand that I am not trying to start a debate whether incest is more “icky” than homosexuality. What I am trying to get at is this: The main argument that SSM advocates have been making for decades is that the majority has no right to draw some line in the sand that excludes homosexuals from the definition of marriage. Yet I find that most pro-SSM advocates have no problem turning around and drawing a new line in the sand that excludes incest and polygamy from the definition of marriage. So why is my desire to “impose” my traditional definition of marriage any less legitimate than your desire to impose a new one?

        • Josh Lyman

          Should a 45 year old man be able to marry his 20 year old son? If not, please explain why.


          • Frank

            Ok, well then I at least have to applaud you for your intellectual consistency….most SSM advocates would not go there. But I do have to ask you, is there any line in the sand you would draw? Some countries like Spain have already lowered the age of consent to 13 and I believe there are countries where it is as low as 12. Are you good with that? If so, then should a 45 year old parent be able to marry their 12 year old child? I feel creepy even saying such a thing but it’s hard to believe that you don’t draw lines in the sand somewhere when it comes to granting legal sanction to certain “sexual relationships”. I’m curious where you’d draw the line and why you would draw it where you do.

          • Josh Lyman

            I draw the line at discussing matters with dishonest people. Spain did not lower the age of consent to 13. And in Spain a person cannot marry until they are 18 (16 with parental consent).

          • Frank

            Yes, and I draw the line at discussing with people who slander others without due process. Instead of accusing me of dishonesty, how about asking “Where did you get your information”? Your underlying hostility to your ideological opponents is quite apparent I’m afraid.


          • Josh Lyman

            They did not lower the age of consent to 13, they actually RAISED it to 13, in 1999. You were dishonest.

          • Frank


            It’s hard to have a discussion with someone who doesn’t even understand what the word “dishonest” means. To be dishonest means to intentionally pass along knowingly false information. The link I provided shows Spain’s age of consent as 13 but says nothing about when or how it got there. If you are correct about it being raised in 1999, then I erred in making the assumption it was lowered. But you know very well that whether is was raised or lowered was immaterial to my point, which was that it is as low as 13 in some countries so there is no reason to think it could not be made the same age in any other Western nation including the US.

            This is a perfect example of what I mean when I say that SSM advocates eventually start deflecting the issue as soon as the slippery slope discussion moves into “uncomfortable areas” like incest or lowering the age of consent. You want to quibble over technicalities that are immaterial to the overall question and turn a possibly incorrect assumption on my part into an intentional lie because you are uncomfortable answering my ultimate question as to whether you think it’s ok for a 45 year old parent to marry their 12 or 13 year old child.

            By the way, if I’m a liar for saying “lowered” instead of “raised”, you said it was 16 and now admit it was 13. So what does that make you?

          • Josh Lyman

            There is a choice. Either you knew it was not lowered and you were dishonest in claiming it was lowered, or you did not know and you were dishonest when you pretended to know.

            And then you were dishonest when claiming that I said anything about the age of consent being 16. I said that the age at which someone can MARRY in Spain is 18 (16 with parental consent). Age of consent is different to age at which marriage is legal.

          • Frank


            Again, you refuse to address my specific question but instead choose to hide behind this idea that I have been intentionally dishonest with you. I told you I may have made an incorrect assumption on an irrelevant point (whether that age went up or down is not the point, the point is that it’s 13). I was simply offering Spain’s low age of consent as proof that if could happen there it could happen anywhere. Your pressing of this dishonesty issue is about as silly as if I had said the age was lowered in 1998 buy you want to accuse me of dishonesty because it was really 1999. This is ridiculous. It’s clear you have no answer for my original question so you’re just going to keep up this diversion. I think it’s clear you are looking for an excuse to duck the real issue here.

          • Josh Lyman

            You haven’t raised a real issue. In Spain people can get married at 18 (or 16 with parental permission). This has not changed as a result of gay marriage and is not even slightly related to the topic. I am calling an end to this discussion.

  • Ted Seeber

    The primary victims of SSM are the homosexuals who substitute lust for love to begin with. Just like the primary victims of extramarital sex are the women who give up on finding a husband and a life-long relationship for divorce and casual hookups.

    Hmm, now that I think about it, most men suffer from casual sex as well, they just won’t admit it.

    • John Evans

      Ted, do you actually know any homosexuals? I do. And some of them have deeply committed, loving relationships where sex is only a small adjunct – a way to share intimacy and express their love. Marriage is another way for them to reinforce their commitment to one another, and protect each other socially and financially.

      It boggles my mind that you can equate a committed relationship to cheating.

  • kenneth

    So long as evangelicals persist in trying to force their beliefs on the rest of us through theocratic measures, they will increasingly be viewed by the rest of us as the enemy of conscience and plural democracy and as an alien occupying force in the American tradition of freedom. Fortunately for us, our ability to vote and a judicial tradition of equal rights and church-state separation give us the means to contain that threat. The problem will also solve itself demographically and through the marketplace of ideas. Very few young people want to be part of culture war/theocratic Christianity.

    • Kenneth, the discussion is not at all about forcing beliefs through theocratic measures, but whether evangelicals should continue to engage democratically on the issue. If anyone has used force against democracy, it is those that have taken recourse to the courts to get their way in this issue, even seeking to oppose democratically-passed measures — and that is not evangelicals. You’ll have to come up with a better line of rhetoric for anyone whose brain is engaged.

      You may indeed win the vote through demographics, over time. But that is not the question Timothy is asking evangelicals. His question is whether we should continue to pursue this issue politically / democratically or not. I don’t see how anything you said is relevant to that question, unless you are suggesting that our ideas aren’t welcome in the “marketplace of ideas.” But if that is your argument, then perhaps you are the “enemy of conscience,” not us.

      • kenneth

        Timothy is asking whether fighting SSM on a public policy level is worth the costs on a strategic and pragmatic level. I think he answered his own question. What’s the cost/benefit picture? The anti-SSM movement – evangelicals and Catholics, mostly, are gaining no ground on the issue. You’ve spent probably hundreds of millions of dollars fighting a holding action followed by decisive losses. There is no realistic prospect that social attitudes toward gays will go back 30 years in time. Young people, even most evangelicals, are simply not interested in fighting that battle. Let’s look at the cost side. Evangelicals are increasingly seen as a negative force in our society and the enemies of civil rights. Young people are abandoning organized religion on a scale that would have been beyond imagination a handful of years ago. The drive to legislate in this area has also helped marginalize the entire conservative movement to the point where its future as a national party is in question. If you all think it’s worth it, by all means, soldier on.

        • I can’t necessarily dispute your cost/benefit analysis, though I’m not as sure of it as you are. But for those for whom the Bible is our authority, Biblical principles hold priority over pragmatic considerations. The question, first of all, is whether Biblical principles mandate a certain approach or range of approaches. If there is no mandate, pragmatic considerations come into play.

          On the cost / benefit question, yes, there have been three states that have passed gay marriage by majority vote. How many votes exactly has the other side lost in the last ten years? I’m not so sure this battle is really lost yet. But pragmatically, the cost is indeed high. Some of those costs will come, anyway. Evangelicals will also be seen as a negative force if they oppose abortion, or pornography, or simply tell people they are sinners. That’s the way the society has gone, and evangelicals (if they actually speak the truth about what is going on in society) are going to be portrayed over and over again as negative. Many people, perhaps a majority, will accept that portrayal. Some of the costs you mention are prices that are going to be paid, anyway.

          So the pragmatism of it isn’t all that clear cut, either, unless there is going to be an abandonment of much more than this issue.

  • Frank Dawer

    Regarding SSM: how many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it so.

  • Don

    What I don’t understand, and will never understand, is why it is so hard for the evangelical right to following their own belief system, and let the rest of us follow ours? Why does there need to be religious based legislation forcing non-Christians to follow Christian law? If you have a bigoted opinion of homosexuality, w/e, it’s a free country. Don’t have gay friends, ostracize your gay family members, don’t allow gays in your home or church. That’s your choice.

    But it’s completely out of line for the Evangelical community to attempt to make the United States, a religiously diverse country whose founding principal is freedom from religious persecution, legally responsible for a religious belief. This is not a battle you can win anyway, no matter how hard you fight. Freedom will prevail. Go have look at the massive decline in church membership and ask yourself “why”. Maybe it’s because the US is becoming more inclusive, not more exclusive. Evolve or die.

  • Daniel

    “To give up on this would be to effectively say to society, ‘OK, you’ve asked for it, go ahead and suffer all the consequences. Serves you right.'”

    But throughout Scripture, the Lord takes this exact posture toward human sinfulness on a number of occasions, essentially giving them over to their own desires as a means of judgment. I hear your compassion, and I agree that Christians should genuinely grieve over self-destructive decisions people make and plead with anyone on a personal level to consider a godly lifestyle. But this is something that can really only be accomplished through personal conversion and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I just don’t see how using the legal mechanisms of the state to attempt to elicit godly behavior will be effective, at least not effective beyond the costs associated with lobbying for such a policy.

    And I’m not sure I agree that state recognition of SSM would encourage homosexual behavior in any way. On a practical level, it’s hard for me to imagine a person who would otherwise live a heterosexual lifestyle choosing to engage in homosexual behavior because the U.S. federal government decided to recognize SSM. This issue seems to have carried much symbolic weight beyond the real world consequences any federal policy would result in.

    I also don’t agree that government approval of SSM declares that this is a good thing and to be encouraged. It seems pretty morally neutral to me. The Justin Bieber Christmas album is legal, but it’s not endorsed by the federal government. I do agree that the debate itself has taken on larger symbolic value from both sides that could seem like an cultural endorsement should one side “win.” The same is true when my wife and I fight over something that was relatively trivial at first, but the fact that we have stood our ground so firmly elevates the fight into a power struggle beyond the initial issue.

    • Daniel, it appears you are responding to my comment. Thank you.

      Yes, the Lord does let people go and suffer the consequences, and we may have to do that, too. If a society has totally rejected morality, that’s where we are. Is society at that point or are we still having a voice and a positive influence? Hard to say. But this isn’t about using legal mechanisms to “elicit godly behaviour.” No one is suggesting abolition, as far as I know. It is about using legal mechanisms to say that ungodly behaviour should have special protections, special financial and societal benefits, that have always been given only to that which is pure and good.

      The Justin Bieber Christmas album is not receiving government benefits, nor are photographers being required to take pictures for the cover of it, nor bed & breakfast owners being required to play it in their home. There are a lot of legal ramifications around marriage.

  • Is is time for evangelicals to stop opposing gay marriage? No.

    Liberals never give up until they get their way, either through the ballot box or through judicial activism. Once they get their way, the issue is suddenly closed. Why shouldn’t we be just as committed to our positions?

    As evangelical Christians we must continue to proclaim the good news of God’s transformational love that offers forgiveness to every sinner who truly repents. But on the political side of this issue we need to emulate Winston Churchill, not Neville Chamberlain.

  • Javier

    As a young evangelical, I find the attempts by some religious conservatives to impose their religion on others through law, public policy, and government to be quite uncharitable and rather authoritarian. My religious beliefs should not be imposed on anyone, and people should be free to reject a particular religious teaching, dogma, or practice without fear. That is called the freedom. The maniacal obsession that some religious conservatives have with persecuting bisexual and gay people really is a huge turnoff to the young, well-educated, urban, and modern-thinking person, and may be the single largest reason for today’s huge decline in church attendance and religious affiliation. I do not want to force my theology on my bisexual and gay brethren. I respect them enough to let them pursue happiness in accordance with their beliefs, creeds, and religious values. Moreover, a growing number of churches and synagogues already bless same-sex marriage, so why should conservative religion force itself into public policy when their is a diversity of religious beliefs and practices on this topic?

  • I used to argue on the Internets, here and there, when the issue of “same sex” marriage first began to be popularized. I was particularly distressed that it was being raised as a civil rights issue. I was sorta agin’ it — not so much as against it as simply denying any such thing exists. It’s a contradiction in terms.

    I also recognized that it was irresponsible to have such a discussion, and that the pro-SSM proponents would win, most likely sooner rather than later. I also recognize that the pro-SSM should be wary of their triumphalism when the time comes, as any generation that’s so loosey-goosey with the meaning of words, that cannot call things by their proper names, and that can so arrogantly declare themselves more enlightened than every previous generation prior to 2000 and every religious tradition will be unlikely to maintain a First World nation. In other words, if you’ll believe in SSM, you’ll believe in anything and you’re in no condition to handle the inheritance being handed off to you. Welcome to Humpty-Dumpty land, where words mean nothing.

    It’s only a matter of time before you get hoisted on your own petard. For the record, it will be polygamy that does it. Same sex marriage proponents have already stripped away any counterarguments against it — the same arguments used for SSM will be used for polygamy. It will take one generation, two at most. And your great grand-daughters will not be free, but property.

    So yeah, let’s keep fighting the good fight.

    • Josh Lyman

      Cats sleeping with dogs!

  • Lion IRC

    For every atheist who thinks religion has no business trying to define marriage, there’s a thousand theists wondering what atheism has to do with gay marriage.

    • B-Lar

      Those atheists who have done their work on their godless moral code will be able to tell you. It is about not letting poorly contructed arguments and irrationality fuel discrimintaion and bigotry. (some) Atheists care about gay marriage because gay people are people. When you base your code of conduct on empathy rather than the “interpreted teachings” of a musty book the way will be made clear. I am pretty sure Jesus would agree with me on that one, hmm?

    • A Hermit

      This atheist is concerned whenever freedom of belief is violated. By imposing their religious beliefs about marriage on gay couples Christians are violating that principle.

  • GarlicClove

    I’m going to be honest with you, the Christian stance on homosexuality is one of the reasons why I left the church, though not the biggest. More fundamentally, my issue on that front was with it’s focus on binary gender. In a world where so many people are born inter-sexed (either as hermaphrodites or as transgendered persons) the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman leaves no wiggle room for people who are “other”. In certain circumstances, gender is harder to define. In those cases, the biblical model for marriage simply makes no sense. I am in a relationship with someone who was born “other” category. For us, there could never be an ideal man/woman biblical marriage.
    Now, I have several christian friends who know this about my SO and I. And it has not changed their opinion of us. I would be far more likely to say visit church with this christian friend, than I would someone who responded judgmentally. She may not understand exactly what my SO goes through, but she has always been willing to at least listen to us sympathetically and non-judgmentally. She is a living example of a good witness, and in my opinion, Christlike behavior. I won’t go as far as saying she could convert me–I find my own spiritual path very fulfilling. But I would be more willing to listen to her testimony, and far more likely to believe that her God truly is a loving God.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I agree that this is an issue that has not received enough attention from Christians, and certainly has not received enough compassion. I don’t know whether cases so exceptional as these, however, should change the way that marriage is understood, or even end the use of gender binary language. I also see a distinction between people who are born with anatomical elements of both genders, where there is no question but that they are “born this way,” and people who may have inherited or formed or inherited-and-formed predilections but then who are defined by their actions. I’ve never heard much judgment from even the most conservative Christians toward the intersexed (although I’ve never much liked that term). That said, it’s always good to remember that there are good people in between and any holistic compassionate response should reach out to them.

  • B-Lar

    To be despised for taking an actual moral stance in the face of great adversity is highly honorable. You will be vindicated.

    To be despised for mindlessly parroting a bronze age book is not honorable. You will not be vindicated. You will be despised legitimately as holding back the development of us all as a race.

    Consider. Why is murder wrong? Because it says so in the bible? NO! Its wrong because of the heartache it causes, because it robs society of a pair of hands, and is permanent. I can appreciate why the ancient Jews thought homosexuality was wrong. It robbed society of breeding pairs essential for the growth of a community with naturally short lifespans. This is not the case anymore, and the fight against gays isolates christians because they are not only applying bronze age rules indiscriminately, but cherry picking those rules as well! The passages in leviticus condemn a host of other practices which you wont hear a single christian complain about today. The intellectual dishonesty is disgusting, and christianity doesnt deserve to survive if it refuses to look at itself humbly, identify its mistakes, and move forward.

  • John Alsdorf

    My father would occasionally joke that he and my mother were each on their third marriage. It was true. They’d each been married twice before the last and final marriage. Each of the three marriages had taken place within a very short period of time, at most a day or two (I wasn’t there, so I don’t know for sure)… the explanation of this odd fact: they had met, fallen in love, and gotten married in pre-war (pre WWII, to be clear) Japan. So they were required to get married by the Japanese government, by the US government (as citizens of the US), and–the one they took most seriously–in the church. Three separate ceremonies; three separate (I presume) certificates declaring them to be husband and wife.

    I often think that this is a model we should have here; that we (or our forebears) made a mistake in having pastors, rabbis, imams, become agents of the state, combining the civil and religious ceremonies into one. It’s more efficient, but muddies things when it comes to, well, issues like this one. Who defines what marriage is, its terms, its expectations, its rules? Is it the state? Is it the church?

    If we were to separate the two, moving toward something like my parents experienced, it would/could become far more clear how the church/synagogue/mosque defined marriage. It would be an opportunity for Christians to take far more seriously the commitment they’re undertaking, to apply church discipline, to lessen (one would hope) divorce rates, to learn to live in Christian marriages characterized by more grace. And the state’s definition of marriage could be, as it’s already becoming, and inevitably would be, less stringent on all kinds of fronts. That shouldn’t surprise us, and, frankly, shouldn’t alarm us any more than so many other social trends in this fallen world. (I.e., we should continue to be alarmed and concerned, but our actions should be tempered more by the constant realization that we ourselves are sinners saved solely by grace, not by any merit of our own).

  • Yes. I have never been to a church were people with guns force us to pray and follow the gospel. I have never read the first amendment to mean that everyone must practice my religion. The natives performed same sex marriages in some tribes. Are they not free to practice their religion? Are we not free to observe any or no religion? I can’t in good conscience impose my religion on others. I’m opposed to gay marriage so I’m not going to do it. Liberty doesn’t mean I do what I want while telling others that they can only do what I approve of. So if we believe in Jesus and God Almighty, why don’t we believe it when the word of God tells us not to judge lest we be judged? Why don’t we listen when we are told to let he among us who is without sin cast that first stone? I don’t condemn others for their sins because I have a long walk before I can pick up that first stone.

  • Frank

    I’m a bit disturbed at some of the hand wringing I see going on here by Christians who seem overly concerned about the “offense” the Church’s stance on SSM brings to our culture. Let’s remember the words of Christ:

    “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26)

    I think we are entering an age where being a Christian in the West is going to be very similar to the way it was to be a Christian in the first century. Standing up for the truth of God’s Word is going to invite the anger and ridicule of the world, so let’s be ready for it. Yes we need to speak the truth in love. But let’s not fall for the lie that if the Church is not liked by the world then it must be doing something wrong. According to Christ, it’s the opposite. If as Christians we find that everyone speaks well of us then we are the ones doing something wrong.

  • Franklin Frank

    I do not believe that a persons rights should be limited because of their sexual orientation. If that is the field we are playing on, we have lost the argument. But, this is a false argument. Homosexual couples are free to marry in all 50 states, and call one another anything they like albeit without official state recognition beyond a civil union. Therefore, the issue is not whether gays can or should marry, but whether the government should officially sanction such a union, and, essentially, force the rest of society to recognize the union as the same as a heterosexual marriage.
    The question then becomes what is the state interest in recognizing any marriage. If the state interest is to celebrate the romantic love of two people, I think you have to question whether that is a legitimate interest for the state to invest such a great deal of time debating and legislating. Traditionally, one could argue that the state recognizes marriage to enforce rights of the offspring of that marriage, although it seems that modern family law, with a few exceptions, has undermined this neccessity as now parental rights can be, often, be enforced where no marriage has taken place. This unlinking of procreativity rights and obligations from marriage is what, in my opinion, has opened up the entire debate on gay marriage in the first place. Before you are going to convince society as a whole that state’s should not officially sanction gay marriage, I think you need to come up with the reason for the state’s recognition of any marriage.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Great comments, Franklin.

    • kenneth

      People think by pointing out that homosexuals are “free to marry” ie straight people in all 50 states, they’re being terribly clever and pithy. Tell you what. We’ll take that seriously when you marry off your hetero daughters and sons to partners you know to be gay…..

      We’ll also take the procreative argument seriously when you start denying marriage licenses to straight couples who use birth control or who undergo permanent sterilization. I won’t hold my breath….

      • Timothy Dalrymple

        The “What about couples who cannot reproduce?” argument really has been dealt with quite a few times.

        • kenneth

          No, it really hasn’t. I’m not talking about people who are sterile through age or other natural cause. I’m talking about the many, many perfectly healthy young couples who choose not to reproduce to the point of permanent and irreversible sterilization. I have raised this question innumerable times within Christian anti-SSM circles as to why these people should be allowed to marry under their theory. They have never produced an answer, except one of convenience ie “it would be too hard to police that” or “it would be an invasion of privacy.” I have also raised the question of why people who remarry without benefit of annulment should be allowed a state marriage license, when in fact they are living in adultery. That one I suspect is peculiar to Catholics.

      • Josh Lyman

        The “gays can marry already, just not to each other” is rather similar to the explanation that Mrs Loving was free to marry, just not with the man of her choice.

  • I feel like the question here is: is SSM marriage an issue where we believe all people are called to a certain standard, or only Christians?

    As a Christian, I believe that taking the Lord’s name in vain or or shacking up are wrong. But I don’t believe in laws preventing non-Christians from doing so. I also believe that murder and stealing are wrong, and I DO believe in laws preventing ANYONE from doing those things.

    The questions is not whether SSM marriage is wrong, but which category it should fall into. Personally, the arguments against SSM marriage are generally pretty weak, so I am against it purely on Biblical grounds. Therefore, I’m leaning towards a position that non-Christians should not be held to this standard.

    But as Lou said in an earlier comment, if evangelicals retreat to this position, everyone will only see the retreat, not thoughtful arguments for our nuanced position. I also believe that the the pro-SSM side will not be satisfied with any sort of compromise, and they will continue to label anyone who doesn’t completely agree with them as hateful, ignorant bigots. This feels like a lose-lose situation.

    • kenneth

      So let’s not structure it as a “surrender” but rather as a cease fire. Both sides could tell their people they achieved total victory, we can get back to the American tradition of live and let live and everyone living their own lives. We could even rent some huts at Panmunjom for a signing ceremony.

    • Frank

      A law against “shacking up” is not analogous to the church’s rejection of SSM. Few if any evangelicals are agitating for the government to ban homosexual activity altogether. The issue here is not the regulation of behavior, but the redefinition of marriage. Contrary to the hysterical proclamations of some on the pro-SSM side, most Christians are not interested in regulating what goes on in people’s bedrooms. But they are concerned about redefining marriage since there are all kinds of legal ramifications that could threaten religious liberty. Living here in Massachusetts (the first state to legalize SSM), I could offer many examples of that.

      • kenneth

        Actually, throughout their history in this country and into the present day, Christians have shown an intense interest in regulating what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. They were arresting gay people in their own homes until the Supreme Court put an end to that less than a decade ago in Lawrence v Texas. They even asserted a right to ban married couples from using contraceptives until the Court wisely quashed that in the mid-60s. Not very long ago, in the scheme of things.

        Christians, particularly evangelicals, have also tirelessly worked to decide for other adults what they can read or view in the privacy of their own home. Their efforts have been largely thwarted by cultural and legal and technological factors, but that instinct is very much alive. There are even some living dinosaurs of this instinct that survive today. In the state of Alabama even now, adults who want to buy sex toys must fill out a form stating that they are medically needed! Many quarters of the anti-abortion movement also have a clear agenda to outlaw or limit access to contraception wherever possible.

        Even beyond private personal conduct, Christians have tried to make gay orientation itself a quasi-criminal offense. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was a policy that destroyed the careers of thousands of military men and women, many with exemplary service, based on nothing more than witch hunts into their private lives. Christians fought the repeal of that odious policy tooth and nail.

        SSM is is not just about “the institution of marriage.” It is about one religious group’s feeling of entitlement to order all of society through force of law according to its own sectarian beliefs.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Kenneth, no one was arresting gay people in their own homes prior to Lawrence. There was a law on the books that made sodomy criminal, but that does not mean it was enforced, much less that people were going into other people’s bedrooms to arrest them. And no, “many quarters of the anti-abortion movement” do not have a “clear agenda to outlaw of limit access to contraception.” Some Catholics share their church’s official opposition to the use of contraceptives, but they do not seek to enforce that on others. I don’t doubt that you can find anecdotal examples, but these kinds of sweeping claims are simply erroneous. Pro-lifers are not, eo ipso, for outlawing contraception. Some do not want to distribute condoms to children in a manner that suggests they condone or accept sex amongst children, but that’s quite a different thing from seeking to outlaw contraception.

          “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was signed by Clinton, and it reflected concerns within the military. When that policy was revoked (it did not have to be “repealed”), no, Christians really did not fight it. That was fairly recent, so this should be fresh in memory.

          • kenneth

            Of course they were arresting people in their own homes. Lawrence came to trial after being taken out of his home at gunpoint. Were police raiding homes en masse for sodomy prosecutions? No, but it was far from unheard of, and plenty of people served prison time or probation, with all of the resulting problems of a criminal record. It was also a very handy way to target unpopular or outspoken people. Even after Lawrence, it is not unheard of for people to be arrested. Sodomy laws remain on the books in many states, and some vindictive or ignorant police officials will still make the arrest, even though they are thrown out by the DA. In addition, some Bible Belt states like North Carolina play the loophole game. They can’t prosecute someone for sodomy per se, but they can use the state’s “crimes against nature” statute to greatly compound the punishment of someone for lewd public conduct etc.

            As to the contraception issue, several of the recent “life begins at conception” proposed state amendments would clearly have outlawed most forms of contraception. In addition, political pressure from Christian Right groups delayed approval of the morning for years after it received the go-ahead by the science people at FDA.

            DADT was in fact repealed as the result of a Congressional Act, which was vigorously opposed by….wait for it….social conservative Christians (evangelical and Catholic). There were efforts to stop it by fillibuster, plans to jam up implementation through endless hearings etc. The 194 votes against repeal did not come from secular states or some secret Zoroastrian caucus. They came from the very same Bible Belt states which had clung tightly to their sodomy statutes until Lawrence. McCain tried to couch arguments in terms of military readiness (even though the military itself had moved on from the issue), but the opposition was largely driven by Tony Perkins and the SBC, archbishops etc.

            If Christians feel called to fight these fights because of their beliefs, let’s at least be honest about what they really want and stand for.

          • Hilary

            So who was it in the crowd who booed the gay solder who asked the Republican nominees if they would reinstate DADT?

          • Josh Lyman

            Yes, people WERE arrested. That name Lawrence in Lawrence v Texas? He was a man who was arrested for having sex with his adult partner.

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            As I said, there are anecdotes, but you were talking as though this was a common occurrence. It was not. It was a law that had not been enforced for a long time.

          • Josh Lyman

            Kenneth, no one was arresting gay people in their own homes prior to Lawrence.

            No. It was a law that WAS enforced. That was why someone had to go to the Supreme Court to have the law ruled unconstitutional. And there are still pushes from Republican groups to have that ruling overturned.

        • Frank


          Sorry but you can’t point to examples from 30-50 years ago and presume that Christians of today harbor the same agenda as Christians back then. At one time some Christians thought burning witches was a good idea too. Do you think that means most Christians of today are secretly conspiring to bring back witch hunts and the stake? I’d remind you that 50 years ago virtually everyone, even most liberals, atheists and secularists, would have thought the idea of SSM to be ludicrous and considered homosexual activity in general to be perverse. Prior to 1973 (which according to you is not that long ago in the scheme of things), homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. So you can’t take examples from the past and offer them as evidence of some contemporary Christian agenda to turn America into a theocratic state.

          Of course there are some “Christians” on the fringe (think Westboro Baptist) who might have some radical agenda when it comes to opposing gay rights. But currently there is no mainstream organized political movement among evangelicals to go back to the days of “arresting people in their bedrooms” (which were never more than isolated events anyway).
          Most evangelicals understand that the sexual revolution has changed our country for good and we can’t turn the clock back via legislation. But holding on to the definition of marriage is another matter entirely.

          • kenneth

            There is nothing at all in the writing or speech or behavior of the Christian Right to indicate any evolution in thinking on these matters from 30-50 years ago. Many bitterly resent the Lawrence decision, and that was not decades ago. It is as of today a bit less than 10 years old. DADT, which was part of the most successful systematic witch hunts of gays in this country’s history, was only repealed two years ago. If you can show me any prominent evangelical figures who have changed their thinking on that since then, I’d be interested to see it. Most of Romney’s challengers in the primaries, who were the darlings of the Christian base of the GOP, had promised to try to overturn DADT and thus to return to active persecution of gays. Most of the movement also has not accepted the 1973 findings of the psychologists, or any medical science that contradicts their thinking on sexual orientation. No sir. Evangelical thinking on these matters has not changed at all since the sexual revolution. They may be circumspect about their realistic chances of rolling it all back with legislation, but they’d dearly love to.

            BTW, the witch burning instinct is also not completely vanished. They’ve just taken that show on the road to Africa. Evangelicals and Catholics have also actively fought to obstruct the rights of modern neo-pagans who they consider to be “witches” and agents of Satan. They had to fight these people for 10 years in courts and Washington to secure the minimal dignity of allowing pagan soldiers to have their religious emblems on their gravestones in military cemeteries.

            It’s also curious that Ugandans and other Africans freshly converted by U.S. missionaries suddenly get inspired to impose the death penalty and long prison sentences in their countries for homosexuality. Surely that’s coincidence. Or Westboro…..

          • Frank


            Regarding Uganda, it’s simply presposterous to blame Christianity in general for the civil punishments handed down in a backward country that has been decimated by AIDS over the past few decades. As far as the APA’s change of heart about homosexuality in 1973, it had nothing to do with any hard findings of medical science. Rather, it was the response to an intimidation campaign by the newly birthed gay rights movement. Science knows nothing more about what causes homosexuality today than they did in 1972. About the only fact “medical science” can tell us in regard to homosexuality is that gay sexual unions will never produce life. Nature has dictated that new families are formed by male/female unions. We can pass all the laws we want and nothing will ever change that.

          • kenneth

            Actually, it’s possible to draw a straight line between the work of American evangelicals and the Ugandan death penalty for gays. The bill which established the death penalty was introduced one month after a conference held by several prominent evangelicals, at least one of which was tied to Exodus International. These men conveyed to the Africans in the most inflammatory terms possible that homosexuals were out to destroy their society and routinely rape young men. There is simply no way to dissociate Christianity in general from the Uganda situation. Evangelicals didn’t invent homophobia in Africa, or the cultural attitudes that favor brutal punishments, but they greatly compounded the problem. They may be considered more strident than average in the evangelical community, but their core beliefs are those of the broader anti-SSM movement.

          • kenneth

            There is a vast body of science available about the causes of implications of homosexuality. Essentially all of it undermines the anti-SSM movement. For that reason, you choose not to acknowledge it, hiding behind the baseless and fantastic conspiracy theory which says that the entire psychological and medical profession, along with countless thousands of academic researchers, have all been bribed or cowed into unwavering compliance for 40 years.

          • kenneth

            Even your sweeping pronouncement (admittedly intuitive), which says that gays do not produce life, is contradicted by emerging science. While it is true that two homosexuals of course do not breed, homosexuality indirectly, but very significantly, contributes to greater fertility. Some of the same gene sets which appear to contribute to homosexuality in men also lead to increased childbearing among their female relatives. Many gay couples also have children through in-vitro who would otherwise not have been born. Beyond these facts, the procreative argument is absurd on its face. There is nothing at all to suggest that sanctioning gay marriage will lead to any net decrease in child bearing on anyone’s part. I daresay there are exactly no hetero people who will jump into a gay marriage as a way to evade having and raising children, and there are no gay folk who will throw up their hands and settle down with a hetero partner because of your efforts to thwart SSM.

          • Josh Lyman

            The Texas Republican Party had a plank in their platform just TWO years ago calling for the recriminalisation of sodomy. This is not a fringe group from 50 years ago. This is a major political party just TWO years ago.

          • Frank

            Conspiracy theory? Check out this blog:


            Admittedly the author of this blog article has an anti-SSM agenda. So of course this article is slanted. But he didn’t make up his own facts. He quotes from publications like Newsweek & The Advocate, hardly bastions of right wing theological propaganda. It’s simply preposterous for you to assert that my assertion that politics affected the 1973 decision is some wild conspiracy theory. According to you, I guess it’s just a wild coincidence that medical science “discovered” that homosexuality was perfectly normal just a few short years after the gay rights movement was birthed (1969) and became a political force….(to be cont)

          • Frank


            As far as having children in-vitro, you are right that thanks to the advances of medical science gays are now able to circumvent nature and create same-sex parent families. However, the advances in medical science that are helping you now may prove to be the death knell for homosexuality as a condition of human nature. If there is truly a “gay gene”, it’s not hard to imagine a day when medical science can determine the sexual orientation of a child in the womb right after conception. And if that ever happens, I can guarantee you that “gay babies” will start getting aborted in far greater numbers than straight ones….(to be cont)

          • Frank


            As someone who is strongly anti-abortion, I don’t say that with any delight. I just recognize the fact of human nature that most people have a desire to “pass on their genes” and even if they wouldn’t admit it, they would far prefer to give birth to straight children who will give them biological grandchildren. So in a strange sort of way, this current controversy over homosexuality may end up going away some day as the number of homosexuals dwindles away. Of course, this is only true if the pro-SSM side is correct that people are “born gay”.

          • kenneth

            “If there is truly a “gay gene”, it’s not hard to imagine a day when medical science can determine the sexual orientation of a child in the womb right after conception. And if that ever happens, I can guarantee you that “gay babies” will start getting aborted in far greater numbers than straight ones…”……….

            I can can guarantee they won’t. Our generation (40 and up), and the current crop of Culture War Christians, will be the last one sick enough to consider a eugenics program to “clean the race” of homosexuals. The kids coming up now are not obsessed with others sexual orientation and attach about as much import to it as right or left handedness. In addition, I can pretty well guarantee that there will be no one “gay gene” found. There will probably be dozens of gene variations that contribute to it.

  • Vickey

    When evangelicals lay claim to the Christian point of view, us liberal Christians lose out. I’m bisexual and plan on going to seminary to become ordained in the United Church of Christ. My girlfriend and I are in a loving, committed relationship, and I fully believe that God brought us together. I would love for evangelicals to stop pushing anti-LGBT points of view as though they encompass every Christian’s point of view. You can believe what you want to believe, and I’m working on forgiving you for hating me so much that you would deny me my civil rights.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Vickey, it’s not hatred. It’s a belief. A belief that marriage is the union of male and female. That’s it. No one here is eager to deny you your civil rights due to hatred. There’s a genuine difference of belief over what marriage means, and obviously if we all agreed that it is a civil right then we would not be having this discussion in the first place.

      • Hilary

        Timothy – how much does it really matter if you deny a gay couple legal rights out of a difference of beleif, or gut level hatred? I’ve been with Penny for almost 13 years now, vows, rings, in-laws, everything but a legal liscence. If she dies tonight, I an denied berevment leave because she is not legally my spouse. Do you really think it matters to me why you would deny me that? If I denied you any legal means of protection with your wife, would it matter to you why I did that? Would you just accept it if I said “It’s just a difference of beleif, I don’t really hate you?”

        If you were the sole provider for your family, would you accept getting fired for someone elses “Freedom of Religion”?


        • kenneth

          Motivation in bigotry is utterly meaningless. A great many of the segregationists in the old South did not consider themselves hateful. They believed with all their hearts that their religion and “God’s order” called them to institutional discrimination. I met some of them over the years, and at a personal level, they were often the nicest people you would meet. That in no way mitigated the wrongness of their underlying beliefs and actions. I’d actually prefer someone acted against me out of honest hate than misguided “love.”

          • Hilary

            I’m right there with you. Don’t say you love me, then do everything in your power to make it impossible for me to protect the most important relationship in my life. Not unless you are willing to accept the same behavior from me without crying out that I’m persecuting you.


        • Hilary, answering for myself, not Timothy, if you denied me legal protection, and I knew it was because of your belief rather than animosity, I would still say it was wrong.

          But I wouldn’t try to demonise you by accusing you of hatred.

          It is wrong that B&B owners in Britain can’t say no to homosexual behaviour in their own homes. A legal protection has been taken away from them, and that is wrong.

          But for the most part, homosexuals haven’t done that because of hatred, but because of a desire to be accepted, or for their own rights. And if you start accusing people of hatred when they don’t hate you, all you do is turn up the temperature and make it harder for anyone who is being falsely accused to even want to listen to anything else you say.

          False accusations are never a good idea. They are wrong, and they are counter-productive.

    • Hilary

      Hey, a lot of us know the difference, that no one voice speaks soly for Christ and Christianity. Some of the best people in my life are members of the UCC. Some of the Christians I have the greatest respect for, too.


  • Hilary

    Since the general consensus seems to be to keep fighting against any legal recognition of SSM, may I offer something to think about? How are you guys going to make your case about how SSM victomizes people and degrades society to non-Evangelicals who have positive relationships with gays?

    Consider the arguement that the children of gay families suffer. How will you back that up to someone who knows a gay familiy with kids, and has firsthand experience with how well loved and cared for those children are? Consider a straight couple who’s daughter’s best friend is being raised by lesbians. The two families coordinate playdates, go out together, reinforce appropriate behavior, carpool to school together. How do you tell them which children are being victomized?

    How do you tell a parant who has accepted having a gay adult child, accepted their child’s loved one, and found the whole family to be enriched by that relationship that gay marriage threatens families?

    cont . . .

    • Hilary

      How do you tell a supervisor who has watched a gay employee lovingly care for a partner with cancer that homosexuality is about nothing more then lust, sex and hedonism? Because if there is one thing about cancer and chemo, it does not make for a hot sex life. If being gay was nothing more then lust, why doesn’t he drop the sick lover and pick up a new one at the bar? Or the person who listens to their coworker complain about doing all the dishes, cooking and laundry while her partner is in grad school full time while working, so they can have a better life together with better economic possibilities? Believe me, there is nothing erotic about a sink full of dirty dishes – I don’t have a dishwasher.


  • Hilary

    And check your analolgies and comparisons. How do you tell someone who grew up with an alcoholic parent that there’s no difference between what they saw their parent do, and the two completely sober lesbians they know who have been together 10 years, and volunteer their time regularly at the library, their church or temple?

    I have a friend who was raped by her father when she was a teen. If someone told her to her face that there is no difference between incest and two men sharing adult, consensual sex in a loving relationship, that person would be lucky if she limited herself to merely scrating their eyes out, instead of tearing them apart limb from limb. There are far too many people, both men and women, who survived sexual assult as children. When you present a slippery slope arguement that you cannot tell the difference between consensual, loving sex between adults and sexual assalt from an adult onto a child, you guys loose a lot of people.

    cont . . .

    • Frank


      When Christians bring up the slippery slope argument in regard to incest they are not talking about rape or assault. No serious thinking Christian would draw a moral equivalence between the rape of a child and any consensual sex act between adults. The question I would pose to you is should all consensual sex between adults be legal and such relationships be worthy of the legal definition of marriage? Just recently in Wisconsin two adult brothers were arrested for incest. Is that ok with you? Why shouldn’t they be free to marry each other if they love each other? Why shouldn’t an adult father be able to marry his adult son? Sure, the number of people who would choose to engage in such perverse relationships is extremely small. But they do exist, otherwise laws against these things would not be necessary in the first place. I have to say there are at least a few pro-SSM advocates out there who are intellectually honest enough to concede that if the definition for marriage is up for grabs, then all sexual relationships between consenting adults are legitimate and worthy of legal recognition including incest and polygamy. But most pro-SSM advocates will ignore or deflect these questions because they know it will hurt their cause to admit there is a slippery slope. Mark my words, polygamy is next on the block. There are already cases moving through the courts and it’s only a matter of time before SSM becomes a “settled” issue and it’s time for the left to conquer the next sexual taboo.

  • Hilary

    I’m asking these sincerely, not as trick ‘gotcha’ questions because they are real questions you Evangelicals are going to have to answer. These are real people, in real situations, and the reason why at this point there are more straight people in favor of marriage equality then gay people, because by sheer numbers there just are and always will be more straight people. But they are our friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. They see us in our everyday life and relationships, and have decided that they are not threatened if we had the same legal rights and responsibilities of civil marriage as they do.

    What are you going to say to them?

    • Hilary, these are good questions, because a lot of people need to take a good hard look at the reasons they have used for their opposition.

      Homosexuals, just like everyone else, are made in the image of God, with an awareness of good. They are sinners who do wrong things, but they are often, in many respects, decent people who are no worse than anyone else. Many, unfortunately, are horribly promiscuous (thus, HIV infection is ever-increasing, for instance), but many heterosexuals are horribly promiscuous, too.

      To label everyone due to the excesses of a subset does not strengthen our case, it undermines it, as you have demonstrated.

      Of course, your side does the same by accusing everyone who opposes SSM of homophobia (hatred or fear), as I noted above. There have been a lot of ridiculous arguments on both sides, which I suppose just goes to show it has become a typical political issue. Stupidity reigns.

      • Hilary

        Well said. There are rediculous excesses on both sides, I agree. Both sides are fighting to protect their families, which dosn’t lend itself to much rational, polite behavior. But why does this have to be such a zero sum game? Why can’t both gay and straight families be equal before civil law, with protections that no place of religious worship is ever forced to engage or promote such behavior against their prinicples? Christians already have to put up with Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Pagans, athiests, serially divorced and remarried, never-married but with kids, all kinds of families that aren’t aproved of in the NT. Why should gay families be so different?


  • Agkcrbs

    1) Perhaps all of us have wished the world could accept us, and we understand the feeling of waverers. Jesus understood too, during his temptation. But it’s not our truth we’re defending. It’s God’s. Let God speak, and let us listen and obey, one way or another. We don’t need to have any anxiety about it at all. We’re not at liberty to uphold a wrong position in the name of faith, or deny a right one. We did not invent this faith; our ancestors didn’t invent it; and we’re not salesmen of a product. We’re servants, sons, and daughters of the Giver and Taker of all life.

    2) Homosexuality is not behind society’s rejection of the gospel; brazen atheism is behind it. The churches embracing unchastity will not bring more people to Jesus, though it may bring a few into a diluted and meaningless social entity. Those called to believe will believe at all hazards. Those who will not are just waiting to be sifted out by one new wave of doctrine or another. If you really want to fill the pews, simply throw out Christ, and the masses will be clamouring at the doors — as some of them are now for homosexual marriage outside of church.

    3) Christianity has gone through a lot. Astonishing theological and denominational diversity have not yet destroyed it; a vibrant faith in Christ is even confessed and lived in groups rejected by some as heretical (including my LDS church); but all aspects of human culture drift over time, and it is possible to reach a tipping point, where the religion will have changed so much that it would no longer be recognisable to its Holy Founder and ancient ambassadors (and we don’t want to see what comes after that point). If the question of mass social embrace of homosexuality were not very close to that religious breaking point, and doctrinally integral to the gospel as we know it, we would have abandoned this fight years ago. Some churches, indeed, have now abandoned it, counting the cost of shame too great, and we need only watch and learn, to see whether actual “heresy” can really abolish Christ from Christianity, as it once abolished him from God’s “chosen people”.

    • Agkcrbs

      4) Prophets have warned us of a time of ultimate division preparatory to judgment. Again, we have actual, point-blank rejection of God in the form of atheism, but so far, the well-disguised homosexuality-as-state-religion seems to be working in close concert with this final division, with the great moral fulcrum that will split mankind. The line over marriage has been clearly drawn in a way that Christians, for all their petty strifes, have little confusion toward: scripture, marriage, and chastity are on one side; promiscuity and rejection of scripture are on the other. This is not a contest we are guaranteed to win, but our purpose here was never to physically overcome the world.

      5) Christians are not the only ones in this fight. Our feared and hated adversaries, our Muslim brethren and sisters, have an equally large stake in the question, if possible. Other faiths, and traditional heathen cultures around the globe, are grappling with this modern rebuke of mankind’s common moral heritage. Homosexuality, as before in scripture, is poised to make or break what it means to be human — whether we are God’s offspring, or whether we are animals. It would be treacherous indeed for the custodians of Jesus’ witness to throw down their banners and abandon the truth for… what? For political gain? To enrich their churches? May it not be so in our lifetimes. If anybody accepts the holy commandment of Genesis 1, 2, and 9, Matthew 19, Mark 10, 1 Corinthians 6 and 11, and Hebrews 13, let it be those who claim to have known God through his Son. Let it not be said that Christians were the ones who kneeled to their souls’ Enemy for the sake of illusory peace. This is not a day to shrink and turn back, just because those against us are many and growing. This is not a day for Christians to be overcome by the world.

      • Hilary

        Please tell me how you are going to convince the people in my questions that the gay people in their lives are godless animals. Each and every one was taken from my real life.


        • No serious Christian believes that homosexuals are godless animals, Hilary. Nothing like that has been said here.

          • Hilary

            “Homosexuality, as before in scripture, is poised to make or break what it means to be human — whether we are God’s offspring, or whether we are animals.”

            Please explain to me how this is not implying that a person who doesn’t follow the right rules to be God’s offspring isn’t an animal. The implication is that humans follow God’s rules and are thus God’s offspring, but anybody who doesn’t follow the rules is an animal.

        • Agkcrbs

          Agreed, that no suggestion has been made that homosexuals alone are animals, merely by virtue of their physical desires. All people have bodily urges, and they all require some degree of self-control, if we want peace in our lives. We have a choice between obedience to instinct, and management of instinct. Homosexual marriage proponents did not invent the argument that humans were created with the urge to “sin”, and therefore, there can be no such thing as sin (because how could we possibly be made to have innate desires that were wrong?). And to be fair, they don’t fully embrace that belief; they only take a decided step into it with sexual matters. Even so, the marriage question has become the banner-holder and possibly the most effective vehicle of this philosophy, of evolutionary instinct being man’s highest ideal. The faith held by those who reject it is an opposite belief that men cannot allow beastly instincts to reign over them and still expect to rise above this earth as heirs of the divine.

          Though my comment was not in response to your question, Hilary, of what we should tell those convinced of the love of their same-gendered relationships, it’s an easy question to answer: there is no legal obstacle to their lifestyle. They are being denied nothing. Any two people could freely associate as they do. However, legal marriage has flourished in religious civilisations to encourage the natural family, as established by God, above common (including homosexual) associations, in recognition of the fact that husband and wife create life together. A reversal of this law to promote genderless marriage is effectively a departure of the state from religious neutrality — the state would now forbid recognition of gender, and will bend all policies to establish and promote this view.

          • Agkcrbs

            You asked, Hilary, why can’t we legally embrace homosexual unions while still protecting those who disagree? There is frequently the naive, empty promise that “churches” will be exempt from the law, so none need offend their conscience — but believers do not spend their days hiding in churches or mosques, begging sanctuary. The law that pretends to uphold their conscience in church will strike at them in the public sphere. There is no protection of those who disagree, because our law has already embraced proscriptions against refusing equal public access, discrimination, and “hate speech”. Once homosexual union is no longer merely tolerated by the state but becomes a state prerogative and interest, we will see more of all the strange occurrences we have already seen: academic candidates being disbarred by leftist universities for believing in the sanctity of life’s creation; motel owners and private photographers being sued, fined, and forced either to comply or to leave the business for refusing to facilitate homosexual weddings; teachers being disciplined for failing to promote the state’s new morality; and professional people both public and private being punished, fired, or disenfranchised (not to mention boycotted) for expressing what used to be their free views in favour of husband and wife.

            These bizarre events were once theories or anecdotes. Now they are realities, popping up in the news. Still, the faithful patriot would find solace if only his own state had the right to protect marriage by the people’s will — let democracy prevail in every state, even those with other views. Let there be national laws granting the people of one state freedom from the aggressive new moral dictates of another state.

          • Agkcrbs

            …But there already were such laws; DOMA has now been overturned by judges on all but the highest level. The dogma of homosexual marriage is not a tolerate one, but a militant belief that cannot bear dissent or disobedience; if possible, it will drive the legal recognition of child-bearing marriage from the earth. We could sigh and chuckle if these were exaggerations… but we who pay attention have already seen their weird reality, instigated by a very angry, very rich social campaign that transforms even the commonest, most peaceable believer into a fanatic and outcast in his or her own land.

            No… We will struggle to love and forgive every sinner, as God loves all of us, but we dare not trample and spit on a God who gave his life for us; we dare not surrender our freedom to believe in the truth of life’s creation, only because a belligerent, sneering enemy ridicules and harrasses us for it, or bathes us with crocodile tears and pitiful tales of a non-existent legal repression (not true everywhere, but true in this country), when we see an opposite repression peering thuggishly at us from just around the corner. If we believe laws come from God, let us receive them. If we believe laws come from men, then we claim an equal right of self-governance with all others, to protect ourselves and guard our government from radical ideologies bent on inverting our own values, exerting moral compulsion, and brainwashing those who come after us. Let democracy prevail. If even self-governance marginalises us and takes our freedom, then will be the time for God to extend his arm.

            But, a homosexual caring for a dear cancer patient, or washing dishes? There’s no debate about that. Good for them. No criminalisation of biology or overturning of religious freedom in society will somehow enable any more homosexuals to wash each other’s dishes; they are already free to, as are all of us who care about another.

          • Josh Lyman

            Again.. this is not abstract theory. Gay marriage exists. Now, where has government outlawed the recognition of gender?

          • Josh Lyman

            But there already were such laws; DOMA has now been overturned by judges on all but the highest level. The dogma of homosexual marriage is not a tolerate one, but a militant belief that cannot bear dissent or disobedience; if possible, it will drive the legal recognition of child-bearing marriage from the earth

            Here is a list of national jurisdictions that have allowed gay people to marry, perhaps you could let us know when any of them have stop recognizing “child-bearing marriage”:

            Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden

  • Jeff

    I wanted to say something about incest. The argument linking incest to homosexuality is based on the notion that both people in the same family would love each other equally. But most would still say it is wrong. That is where the anlogy makes sense. I hope no one is suggesting an analogy between abuse and homosexuality.

    Also Tim I agree with your inclination to allow homosexuals to get married. No one is forcing pastors to marry those who they do nto want to. We live in a pluralistic society and so the idea that our laws reflect that is normal. It is a hindrance to fight againt this.

  • Timothy, I found this a really thought-provoking topic. I tried to tackle it at my blog, both the specific questions and also some concerns about Christianity and SSM in general.

    One thing that really interested me was your acknowledgment that when evangelicals talked about marriage they were discussing a sacrament rather than a social contract set up by a secular government. I can respect that and agree with it to a certain extent; even as a non-evangelical I think of sacramental marriage like it’s separate from whatever laws the government passes. But I do think the government has a right to recognize the benefits it grants like tax breaks, child custody, benefits for govt employees, and the like. And I’m not crazy about the idea that the church would control that process directly, just like I’m not crazy about government defining how certain churches handle the sacraments. It seems like you’re half way there, and I’m a bit curious why you seem to stop short of saying “what the govt says about marriage doesn’t impact what we believe the Bible is saying.”

    I’d much rather see Christians work on developing a theology of Christian marriage – what it is, why it matters, that kind of thing. If they’re convincing enough they’ll impact the culture just by having a good position that resonates with people. And that’s the way the church should impact politics, IMO – not by getting involved directly, since quite often that will come across to non-Christians like you’re trying to force your beliefs on them or restrict their rights, but by shaping consciences and world-views. Over the long term that will result in better laws.

    (If this a withdrawal on the issue of gay marriage? Maybe. But if it is, it’s much more positive and Christlike, I’d say, than simply giving in because you can’t seem to win on this topic. Also more useful to people like me who really would love to know more about what different Christians think sacramental marriage is all about.)