The Right Lesson to Learn from the World Vision Kerfuffle

The Right Lesson to Learn from the World Vision Kerfuffle March 27, 2014

It’s been months since I’ve written a proper blog post, but the kerfuffle around World Vision draws me out of my cave.

I have a lot of sympathy for the leadership of World Vision. They are doing extraordinary, life-saving work. They are captaining a billion-dollar organization that’s global and complex and fraught with dangers on all sides. In the United States, they sought to take a position on same-sex marriage that would establish neutrality on a “culture war issue” in order to maintain the focus on their core work of saving and supporting the impoverished. I really get it.

I have a lot of sympathy for the people who were upset by their decision. And frankly I have a lot of sympathy too for the people who applauded the policy change and now find themselves mortified at the reversal. These are tough issues.

The core of the mistake, it seems to me, is precisely in regarding this as merely a “culture war issue.” When Richard Stearns addressed the Q Conference in Los Angeles in April, he pointed to Westboro Baptists as an example of “angry Christians protest[ing] gay marriage.” He then admonished Christians to be outraged by the right things. “As far as I know,” he said, “no one ever died of gay marriage.” That statement, I think, set off alarm bells amongst some Christian leaders, and that framed how they interpreted this change of policy. Even in the letters and phone calls and statements since the reversal, the leadership of World Vision has explained that they were trying to bracket a “culture war issue.”

That’s the problem right there. This is not a culture war issue. It’s much more than that.

It’s hard to imagine any issue more profoundly moral and theological than marriage. It’s hard to imagine anything more important to the cultivation of healthy societies than the cultivation of healthy marriages.

When Stearns and his team call it a “culture war” issue, that belittles the significance of the issue. It makes the people who work for healthy families (and therefore for healthy environments for children) feel that their labors are devalued. And it shows, I think, a limited engagement with scripture and the theological tradition on the issue as well as a shortsighted vision of God’s redemption of the world. It’s extraordinarily important to serve the poor. Putting food in the mouths of children who would otherwise starve is sacred and eternally significant work.

But it’s also extraordinarily important to strengthen families so that fewer people will be poor in the first place. It’s also extraordinarily important to speak for God’s truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that more people — rich and poor alike — can enjoy a reconciled relationship with God forever. And it’s also extraordinarily important to uphold the truths and values of God, because people who embrace anything short of that are, ultimately, embracing self-destruction.

It feels as though Stearns and team, regrettably, have bought just a little into the left’s narrative that feeding the poor is driven by compassion while fighting for a biblical model of marriage is driven by anger.

It’s simply not so. God loved humanity enough to give us the sacrament of marriage. We should love enough to give that sacrament to one another. And when a secular and skeptical society raises the cost of standing up for the truth about marriage, we should love enough to stand up for the truth anyway. Not because we’re angry. Not because we’re hateful. But because we want the best for people.

At that talk at Q, Stearns went on to say: “We’ve got to see the world as God sees it. We need to love what Jesus loves, we need to value what he values. And we need to let our heart be broken by the things that break his heart.”

To which I say: Just so.

And to Mr Stearns, offered in all humility: You are loved. You are respected. You do the Lord’s work. I will still give to children through World Vision. But the lesson here is not that “There’s no escaping culture war issues.” The lesson is, “This was not merely a culture war issue. This too is core. This too is sacred, significant, and compassionate.” It’s not your mission, but it’s a worthy mission. Your brothers and sisters who stand up for God’s model of marriage are doing the Lord’s work too.

Pax Christi.

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  • duhsciple

    The right lesson may be found in the Gospel reading for Sunday, found in many of our churches, John 9:1-41. The former blind man is driven out as a sinner by people who are 100% certain that they are right. The same 100% right people will later murder Jesus, thinking they are doing the will of God.

    What I learn is that if you are always right, then you can never learn or never grow. You cannot. You are already perfect. So I know that there is something very, very wrong about this whole episode. And I’m hesitant to offer the “right answer”. We need to find a way to stop driving people out. Meanwhile, many, many people are dying.

    • kevin47

      You are begging the question. Unless you already agree in principle that gay marriage is allowable under God, it does not matter that those who killed Jesus believed they were serving Him.

      The issue is not the certainty of the Pharisees, but their rejection of God.

      • teller

        [allowable under God]
        The Bible is flooded with God going against what we so often see as God’s rules. John 9 ends with Jesus telling the “certain” that they are the guilty. In John 5 Jesus notes that God “disobeys” his own rules and He will do the same.
        “We are not called to follow the Bible; we are called to study the Bible and follow Jesus. Jesus says love and forgiveness is the true revelation of God’s nature and character which we should imitate.”
        Alan Storey

        • kevin47

          But it does not tell us to go against God’s rules. We are to study the bible and follow Jesus. The Bible tells us homosexuality is a sin, and Jesus (via the Bible, contra those who set up a false dichotomy) tells us to cut out our eyes, lest we sin.

          We should absolutely be forgiving, but some are arguing we have nothing to forgive. I would not support a charity that hired unrepentant sinners to do work in the name of the gospel.

          • teller

            [The Bible tells us homosexuality is a sin,]
            That is not really so easy to claim. Ezekiel gives the Biblical definition of Sodomy.

            “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.”
            Jesus points out that people are the way they are:

            1) by being born that way,

            2) because of what others do to them,

            and 3) by the choices they themselves make.
            “those of you who can accept this; accept it!”
            I still like Mr. Storey’s quote.

          • kevin47

            The sins of Sodom were myriad, but there are numerous other examples of the bible calling homosexuality a sin.

          • Funny enough, there isn’t any mention of homosexuality from Christ. If he’s your god made flesh and your god hates homosexuality, I would imagine his avatar would have mentioned the subject at least once.

          • Actually, it doesn’t. And keep in the mind the two major passages that most Evangelicals site (Leviticus and Paul) are taken wildly out of the context.

            Unless you live according to all the laws of Leviticus, don’t use it as a bludgeoning tool for gay people.

            As for Paul, he is speaking of men and women taking on gender roles outside of the norm. Keeping in mind that gender roles have consistently changed for the past 2000 years since these books were allegedly written, I doubt his words should have any bearing outside of their own time and context.

            But that’s just approaching the problem logically. I know it’s a stretch but you should give it a try sometime.

          • kevin47

            Well, in addition to employing logic, I also read those passages (note: Paul wrote more than one book) in the context of all of scripture.

            In terms of Levitical law, let’s take shellfish, since that seems to be a favorite topic. It would make little sense to adhere to laws pertaining to ceremonial purity and cleanliness. As the scripture foretold, Christ offered a perfect sacrifice, so we are pure and clean in him. The new testament speaks to the fact we can eat what we please, but not so that we trouble the conscience of others. I behave accordingly.

            Paul does talk about gender roles, but he also talks about homosexuality in a different context from gender. He mentions homosexuality in the context of other sins while elsewhere holding up sex between a man and a woman as part of the natural order (which takes it out of a cultural context, and places it squarely in a biblical one.

            You are welcome to have doubts, but those would have no bearing on my logical approach to this problem.

          • Actually, I wasn’t going to mention shellfish. I would however ask if you’ve ever spoken a word against your parents. If you have, they should have put you to death.

            Or you should follow your god’s command to destroy any city in which one non-believer resides for fear that they would pollute the purity of the others’ beliefs.

            Paul also told women to defer to their husbands’ authority, to not get married if you aren’t married or get divorced if you are married. So you have chauvinism and disapproval of divorce. Yet Evangelicals don’t have a problem with divorce anymore.

            Speaking of the sacrifice, at what point is it morally correct for a person to be sacrificed in order to gain a god’s favor? Is it because the deity commands it? If so, then you have fiat authority, which is a form of absolute morality but only because the person with the biggest stick says it is.

            You have a monster for a deity and a human sacrifice for an escape clause for responsibility. You and Christians like you float in an ether of moral turpitude which you claim smells like freedom. Smells like self-inflicted suffering and needless cognitive dissonance.

          • kevin47

            “If you have, they should have put you to death.”

            The penalty for that sin is death, and Christ paid that penalty. But yes, you cannot speak against your mother or father. That is a sin.

            “Paul also told women to defer to their husbands’ authority, to not get
            married if you aren’t married or get divorced if you are married. ”

            I essentially agree that wives should defer to their husband’s authority. I disagree this is tantamount to chauvinism.

            Paul opines that you should not get married if you can help it, but he also says you should certainly get married if sexual sin is a problem (which it is for just about everyone). I agree you should not get divorced if you are not married.

            “Yet Evangelicals don’t have a problem with divorce anymore. ”

            This isn’t true. Most evangelical churches, especially the conservative ones, have a number of rules about divorce that accord with scriptures. At my church, if you leave your wife, and she wants to reconcile, you must do so, or may not remarry or serve in any leadership position. That’s just one example.

            You don’t see a fight over at will divorce in the legal sense because that ship sailed decades ago.

            “Speaking of the sacrifice, at what point is it morally correct for a person to be sacrificed in order to gain a god’s favor? ”

            2,000 years ago, when Jesus did it, was sufficient.

            “Is it because the deity commands it?”


            Your last paragraph is a tirade, and does not merit a response. You reject the authority of the scriptures. That doesn’t make me illogical.

          • Then you’re one of the Evangelicals who takes “I have not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it” in the exact opposite way it was meant to be read.

            You’re right, it’s not chauvinism. It’s actually misogyny.

            Sex is only a “problem” insomuch as it is a evolutionary function to seek out desirable mates and continue to spread your genetics to the next generation. Religions like Christianity have taken a perfectly natural process and turned it into something shameful strictly for the means of controlling people’s minds and actions.

            My tirades have not even begun, sir. You claim that human sacrifice is not inappropriate because your deity commanded it. That’s fiat authority, not morality. That is Big Brother telling you it’s okay to throw your guilt onto a goat, paint it black, and send it out into the wilderness to die so the community can feel righteous again. It’s scapegoating, pure and simple. What it boils down to is this: Christians like you believe that unless your deity holds a gun to your head (i.e. Hell) you cannot live like decent, moral people. Considering that atheists like me and members of other religions that don’t recognize your god’s pyramid scheme can live lives of joy and moral behavior, you have no argument.

            Here’s why the fight against gay marriage is such a stupid fight for Christians: marriage is not just a religious ceremony. Here’s what I mean: have a marriage ceremony and don’t get a marriage certificate. The ceremony is all well and good but the State will not recognize the union without the license. Meanwhile, two people can go before a judge, receive a quick ceremony that is not religious in nature, get their certificate, and they are legally married. The church doesn’t have to be involved and doesn’t have to run the show. The couple gains all the legal benefits and protections (well over 1000) afforded marriage. That is what the LGBTQ community is fighting for. Considering how contradictory your bible is concerning what constitutes proper marriage, you should really learn which battles to fight.

            Then again, considering that Conservative Christians have been on the wrong side of civil rights pretty much every time in this country, it’s not surprising your group can’t get their heads out of their collective asses yet again.

          • kevin47

            “Then you’re one of the Evangelicals who takes “I have not come to
            destroy the law but to fulfill it” in the exact opposite way it was
            meant to be read.”

            I don’t know what this means.

            “Here’s why the fight against gay marriage is such a stupid fight for Christians: marriage is not just a religious ceremony.”

            I don’t think government should at all be involved with marriage. This is tangential to the topic.

          • Matthew 5:17-19 are pretty explicit (but contradicted by later gospels and writers. Perhaps your deity was not able to properly “guide” the editors to make everything concise) that the laws of Moses (as in all of them) will not be changed until the end of days. And this is the Avatar, the physical manifestation of your deity, saying these words supposedly.

            We, as a culture, agreed centuries ago that marriage was as much a legal matter of the state as it was a religious ceremony. This was so property could pass easily from one generation to the next. In America, marriage is not so much a religious ceremony as it is a union of property between two individuals recognized as such by the State.

            Considering the topic is a Christian organization that had to go back on a positive change because Conservative Christians threatened to take away funding, I think it is rather relevant to the topic.

          • kevin47

            The law is not abolished, but purity codes certainly would be upon the death of the perfect sacrifice for the reasons I explained. That would be the point of him saying he is going to fulfill the law. Far from contradicting this point, later writers fully embrace the distinction he is making.

            I don’t see why a Christian organization should much care what America says about marriage.

          • adam

            No, religion should not be involved in government.

          • kevin47

            I don’t know how this contradicts what I wrote.

      • duhsciple

        Given that I’m thinking of gay family members and friends who have been cast out by the church, and I see them threatened by a kind of Phineas reading of the Bible, I do interpret the scriptures differently than you. Grace and peace to you.

  • Keith

    Homosexuality doesn’t kill anyone, he said? It kills people for all eternity. 1 Cor. 6:9

    • 1st Corinthians 7:27. Seems pretty clear about marriage in general, doesn’t he?

  • ahermit


  • Dorfl

    […] Not because we’re angry. Not because we’re hateful. But because we want the best for people.

    I sometimes feel like the biggest harm people like Fred Phelps do on a society-wide level is that they make practically all bigotry seem mild and reasonable by comparison. By openly meaning to harm gay people they make statements of the form “we mean well” seem like a meaningful defence, rather than something too obvious to mention.

    Of course you want the best for people. Anything else would fail the most basic standards for being a decent human being. The interesting question is whether you have any good reason to think your actions actually bring about the best for people: Are your actions based on data, or just a vague ‘everyone knows’ that things are the way you believe? Have you talked to the people affected by your actions and asked how they perceive them? Do you understand that their reception of your actions trumps your intentions behind the actions?

    • kevin47

      I disagree that reception trumps intentions. A lot of people don’t want to hear a lot of what scripture has to say. Many were angered by Christ’s remarks, clearly. Did their reception trump his intentions?

      • Dorfl

        I’m talking about actions, not words.

        Jesus went around talking to people. When his words weren’t taken well, he said “Meh. No prophet gets honoured in his own hometown” and moved on.

        People like Timothy Dalrymple – who fight gay marriage, believe homosexuality is ‘curable’ and blindly trust their own capacity to love the sinner but hate the sin – are acting in a way that harms gay people. Gay people have been on the receiving end of these actions long enough and often enough to say that their overall effect is harmful. Ignoring them when they say this, insisting that the intentions are still good, reduces ‘intention’ to something so vague and non-committal that it’s basically meaningless.

    • People who share Mr. Dalrymple’s views are often surprised or offended when they are called “hateful” or “anti-gay”.

      I am Christian man who is married to a man. My faith and my marriage are profound things that shape my life and give it meaning. Traditionalist’s theology says that I am immoral and that my relationship is inferior. Traditionalists want to forbid people who are gay from living into fully human lives that include emotional and physical intimacy. In short, they want to obliterate relationships like mine and marginalize people who are gay. That is indeed hateful regardless of the believer’s awareness of their own animosity.

      • kevin47

        I didn’t read anything here that indicated he is offended or surprised.

        “In short, they want to obliterate relationships like mine and marginalize people who are gay.”

        We want to obliterate all sin, including our and yours. If you consider that tantamount to marginalization, then it is so. Is it your position that someone who rejects Christ can spend eternity in his kingdom? If so, you are obliterating their belief, by your own definition.

        • Nathaniel

          Yeah, just like your ancestors did their best to lovingly obliterate the sin of being Jewish.

          • kevin47

            Nope, nothing like that.

          • Actually, if you replace the physical implements of torture with the social and political stigma being thrown around by Evangelicals, it’s pretty much the same.

          • kevin47

            If you replace instruments of torture and human destruction with stigma, a lot of things are the same.

        • Caspian

          What part of scripture puts you in charge of obliterating my sin; or anyones sin for that matter? The hubris of that statement is dumbfounding.

          • kevin47

            We are to live Christ’s example. He called out sin, and commanded us to sin no more.

          • If you read scripture that way, then you should have also read the part where Christ said he is the final arbiter of human souls and he is the judge. Not humans like you.

  • Chris Jones

    It seems to me that war is far more destructive to society and families than gay marriage. Therefore, as long as the power brokers of the evangelical world (which I am part of…not the power brokers but the evangelical world) continue to embrace the views of Augustine and his followers, they have no biblical, theological or moral high ground to stand on. I would venture to say that the evangelical endorsement of US military violence around the world does far more damage to the cause of Christ than gay Christians entering into a life-time commitment because they believe the bible does not condemn gay marriage.

    • You’ve noticed that as well? I was under the impression only atheists and progressive Christians noticed how deeply ingrained warmongering has become for Evangelicals, as if Patriotism, Bombs, and the Bible were all part of one faith.

  • RustbeltRick

    Is the institution of marriage weakened when two occultists enter into a heterosexual marriage? I’m very alarmed when writers like Dalrymple intertwine “standing up for the gospel of Jesus Christ” with “standing against this or that in the name of truth.” There is also truth in the statement that “gluttony is a sin, and it’s a pervasive sin in the USA and the entire Western world.” Can I then insist that gluttons should not get married, since hey, truth is truth and I’m sorry it makes you sinners uncomfortable and if I don’t always spew “truths” somehow people aren’t going to understand God? I am an evangelical, I have been heterosexually married for 26 years and if gay couples have the right to be married I’m pretty sure my heterosexual marriage keeps chugging along, too. Whether the Scriptures declare homosexuality a sin or not is an entirely different topic of discussion.

    • Andy B

      Is public school weakened when large groups of people begin homeschooling? Is the Kindle weakened when people buy the Nook?

      • Caspian

        Flawed analogy. Just because most people buy the Kindle, that doesn’t make the Nook a fake. Moreover, marriage is not a business or a commodity. There’s not a finite amount of ‘marriage mana’ out there.

        Marriage is marriage, is marriage, is marriage. Whether opposite-sex or same-sex, both have within them the capacity to refect the love of Christ for the Church. That is, steadfast, faithful, sacrificial, longsuffering, nurturing; the chromosomal makeup of those involved is irrelevant.

      • Kindle and Nook are direct competitors. They are both competing for the same customers, and one would like to steal customers away from the other. Do you suppose gay men are trying to steal away straight men who would otherwise marry women?

  • Alex

    World Vision Canada, which does not refuse to hire married gay people, posted a statement in response to this mess in the US. Here’s part of it:

    “As part of our hiring process, we do not ask questions about sexual orientation, marriage or related issues.

    “However, when we hire, we are very clear about our values and our Christian identity. We explain how our Christian identity motivates and informs our work and how we work together here in Canada.

    “While we have a code of conduct on ethical and legal issues, we don’t ask staff to sign a lifestyle code of conduct.

    “We want our staff to be united around our mission of following Christ in serving the poor. When we hire staff, our Christian faith is clear. And when they join World Vision they are aligning with us as a Christian organization.”

    Why is it that World Vision USA requires employees to acquiesce to a personal code of conduct (that forbids SSM, among other things), and yet World Vision Canada can survive without it? Is the aid provided to children by World Vision Canada tainted by sin in some way? If excluding same-sex married people is core to the mission of a Christian organization, then how has World Vision Canada managed to survive as a Christian organization for all these years?

    • Because in Canada some of the Christians are still Christians instead of just right-wingers.

  • Caspian

    “And frankly I have a lot of sympathy too for the people who applauded the policy change and now find themselves mortified at the reversal. ” Empty words. You say that but all that’s heard is the sound of fallible humans taking it upon themselves to seperate what they see as chaff from the wheat. A responsability not given to them.

    “Your brothers and sisters who stand up for God’s model of marriage are doing the Lord’s work too.” And with that obliviously pompous statement, I sign off.

  • Tom F.

    “It’s hard to imagine any issue more profoundly moral and theological
    than marriage. It’s hard to imagine anything more important to the
    cultivation of healthy societies than the cultivation of healthy

    Really? It seems like God allowed a lot of variability around marriage across time. God grants an exemption for divorce, even though Jesus later says it was bad. Did that doom Israelite society? God allows for polygamy. Did that doom the Israelite society? If the Israelites could properly worship God in polygamous marriages, and polygamous marriages are intrinsically damaging, than doesn’t it seem that you are overstating your case?

    Sure, marriage is important. But, frankly, there are a good number of theologically and morally more important matters.

  • Michael Snow

    Yes, this is really the key point that most miss in this fray. In the flood of comments at CT there was a lot of talk about “love” with little biblical definition.

    A huge side-track from the issue was all false blame cast about the plight of the poor. Here is the best analysis that I read of that. MIguel writes:

    First of all, I’m willing to wager that most of the people who pulled
    their support are not trying to cause children to suffer. Most of them
    have been loyal supporters of the poor, and to throw them under the bus
    as if they didn’t give a damn is disingenuous. Many would have
    continued to leverage their resources to help those in need through
    other organizations. These are giving people who care, not hypocrites
    bent on inflicting pain. These “Evangelicals” are objectively known to
    be disproportionately generous with their donations to charitable
    causes. They have put their money where their mouths are, and do not
    deserve to be thrown under the bus merely because they believe an
    organization bearing the name of Christ has crossed the line.

    Second of all, the hiring of homosexuals is not merely a civil rights
    issue. It is an ecclesial issue, a harmitological issue, and a
    soteriological issue as well. Here’s why: As an explicitly Christian
    organization, World Vision (like many other Christian organizations)
    hires specifically people who are Christians, exclusively. This leaves
    them in the situation of determining who is or is not a Christian. This
    is an unfortunate task for an organization to be stuck with (it is
    better left to Pastors and those who draw the lines of fellowship within
    the context of congregations and church traditions), …

    But anyways, once you have this system, where World Vision has to
    filter it’s potential employees for unbelievers, anybody who has gone
    through similar employment process knows the drill. You have to sign to
    a certain statement of faith that assures you’re not a Jehovah’s
    Wittness, Arian, or Buddhist. Then you have to agree to abide the
    teachings of Christianity, and live above reproach in terms of morality,
    especially sexual morality.

    Organizations that pursue this method will often dismiss employees
    who are sexually promiscuous. Such behavior is incompatible with
    Christian faith, and indicates a lack of sincere belief (unless it can
    be determined it is a sin of weakness an the repentant offender is
    willing to work towards recovery).

    Throughout the New Testament, issues of sexuality are treated with
    specific harshness in terms of church fellowship. A Christian church is
    not permitted to treat someone living in open sexual immorality as a
    bona fide disciple of Christ. You cannot claim the name of Christ and
    reject His teaching and that of the Apostles and church he founded. If
    you want to argue a new interpretation of Christ’s teaching, recognize
    that your spin is in fact new, comes from an ulterior motive, and will
    not be adopted by Christ’s church. We believe that the unrepentant
    sinner has no part of Christ, and it is our duty, as those who hold to
    Christ, to be clear about this. The hiring of homosexuals in committed
    relationships/marriages, in an organization which claims exclusively
    Christian employees, is a contradiction of this.

    There is no way in hell the response actually surprised the
    leadership of World Vision. You know it, I know it, and the American
    people know it: Any dolt off the street could have predicted this was
    going to happen. So I ask you, where does the blame truly lie? The
    supporters of World Vision who stick to their guns, or the leadership
    who flips to please a vocal minority and then flips back to protect the
    bottom line? I will not say for sure, but I do know this: If World
    Vision continues wants to deliberately alienate their support base for a
    cause they believe in, they shouldn’t complain about the cost they
    agreed to pay. Starving children is not a fair price for the
    progressive agenda, but Christians honoring 2000 years of consistent
    tradition and teaching know they don’t have to choose between them.
    Perhaps the solution is that World Vision ought not only hire
    Christians. Perhaps the solution is that it should stick to feeding the
    hungry and let the Churches bring the Gospel. Perhaps the reality is
    that an institution claiming the name of Christ should not be so
    surprised when it is held accountable by His church.

    Note, this entire argument is premised on the idea that IF World
    Vision hires exclusively Christian employees, then the hiring of
    married/committed gays implies that such practices are compatible with
    Christianity. The Church disagrees and calls this false teaching. We
    are not against married homosexuals having jobs, nice jobs, good paying
    jobs, or even doing charity work, and to paint us that way is neither
    honest nor fair. I’d personally rather that World Vision not require
    all their employees to be Christian, but I can understand how that might
    interfere with the spiritual aspect of their mission.

  • How, exactly, does working to outlaw same-sex marriage “strengthen families” or promote “healthy marriages”? Your post repeatedly implies that there’s a connection without ever coming out and explaining what it is.

  • lakewood

    The ‘battle over marriage’ is a struggle over the fundamental nature of reality. Genesis 3 and Matthew 19 speak of God’s plan for marriage, and this is a reflection (often a very poor one, sadly) of a greater reality, God’s relationship with his people. All through scripture the language of husband/wife, bride/groom are used to describe God’ relationship with his people. The relationship between God and his people is always spoken of in nuptial language. This is so important that it is included in the Ten “Words” where protection of the family is built into the heart of these “metaphysical statements about the nature of reality”-parents are to be honored, adultery forbidden, and so on. Early on in Jesus now called ‘Sermon on the Mount’ the subject of lust, adultery and divorce are mentioned. It is plain that Jesus not only understood family in terms of husband and wife but insisted that the relationship of marriage must be protected at all costs. The Bible is very clear on what a family is, and all of Paul’s advice on family relationships follow this pattern of husband/wife and children (if there are any). Polygamy was tolerated but never approved by God, and when it entered into the Abrahamic community trouble it was the result of failure to trust God. The same can be said of divorce, granted for one primary reason; ‘hardness of heart.’ Nonetheless, God hates it. [I am deeply indebted to the theological understanding of Dennis Kinlaw and this comment is reflective of his thinking]
    John Mark

    • Caspian

      If only life were not so tangible, so concrete; we could get away with commitment to abstraction.

      You can wax philosophical and metaphysical until you sprout wings. Unfortunately, here on the ground people have to go about the business of actually living life. Convictions are all well and good, but the convictions
      that only affect ‘others’ are the easiest convictions to hold onto, and the
      toughest to let go.

      The fact that the Word used marriage so many times as an analogy of God’s relationship with His people means nothing other than the language used was that which the contemporary culture would understand. Language using same gender pronouns would
      have made no sense since it would have had no context.

      The scriptures you mention regarding lust and divorce speak nothing of any mystical aspect of marriage. That conclusion can only be reached if one is looking at the words rather than the message. Here Christ is trying to communicate to those whom he is speaking that grace requires more than the law ever did. So those living by ‘the law’ are only doing the ‘status quo.’ (and not managing to succeed even at that) The law is for the spiritually immature, they’re the training wheels of a spiritual journey. Living by the law requires little faith. Stepping out of law into grace requires much faith.

      As far as the bible being ‘clear on what a family is’; adherence to that line of thinking must be willing to concede adoptive families are not true families. Families with a missing parent are also interlopers. Since scripture never uses analogies regarding these types of family units, then they’re all a farce; not true families.

      Yes, God was tolerant of polygamous relationships, He even blessed them. And He was still faithful to His people. Certainly such grace is available to same-sex couples living out their faith while in committed
      monogamous relationships.

      Yes, marriage is the prime example of the relationship God would have with us. Those of us fortunate to have found that special someone to share in this experience with get but a small and imperfect
      example of that relationship. And it teaches those in such relationships how to be better imitators of Christ. If Christ is our spouse, then there is no better way to understand what it means to be a spouse then to become one ourselves. God has implanted within each of us the need
      for psychosexual intimacy. This need is no less tangible for homosexuals then it is for heterosexuals. And it’s no less realized in their

      • lakewood

        To say there was no homosexual context is in error, I think, certainly by Paul’s day, when he wrote to a church and said, “Some of you were homosexuals.” You will argue, I presume, that that did not mean what it might mean today, but there certainly was a homosexual context that clearly existed by New Testament times.

        • Caspian

          Once again, if we’re going to fixate on words rather than
          the message, then I would argue that the word ‘homosexual’ did not exist. But that is neither here nor there.

          No, there was no context for same sex marriage. Then as now, mixed gender marriages were commonplace. Thus the context would not be lost on anyone.

          However, Paul often used the context of slavery as analogous to his relationship with God. Slavery being commonplace, his contemporaries fully understood his meaning. We on the other hand, can and should find it alien.
          Yet such scriptures can be and were used to justify slavery, since it casts it in a positive light.

          • lakewood

            I would suggest, respectfully, that insisting that the word homosexual did not exist, is fixating on words. Further, I would suggest that Jesus, who did bring a message of grace, never rejected the Law, but strengthened it in his message we now call the Sermon on the Mount. He was never a ‘lighten up, guys, quit fixating on rules’ kind of person. His insistence that the Law must be kept internally as well as externally was indicative of that. I don’t think; I doubt you really think Paul saw slavery as anything positive….

          • kevin47

            “I would argue that the word ‘homosexual’ did not exist. But that is neither here nor there. ”

            It’s decidedly “there”, which is why it’s a throwaway bit in these arguments.

            “No, there was no context for same sex marriage. Then as now, mixed
            gender marriages were commonplace. Thus the context would not be lost
            on anyone.”

            I don’t see how this argues either way.

            “However, Paul often used the context of slavery as analogous to his
            relationship with God.”

            He was a slave to God, but, explicitly, not to man.

            “Slavery being commonplace, his contemporaries
            fully understood his meaning.”

            That meaning being that being a slave is a lowly and undesirable position.

            “We on the other hand, can and should find
            it alien. ”

            Alien to what?

            “Yet such scriptures can be and were used to justify slavery, since it casts it in a positive light.”

            Paul calls Christians to gain freedom from slavery, if possible. That seems decidedly negative.