Facebook is exploding with equal signs, articles about Starbucks and gay rights, and Bible verses in and out of context to support whatever view the person leans more toward. I’ve kept up a little with the Supreme Court case on this issue, but the Internet tells me that cursory research and the openness of the Internet demands that I voice my opinion now.
Do I have an opinion? Yep. That’s not super surprising, since I have an opinion on a lot of things.
It may not be the opinion you’re expecting to hear, though, because what I care about much more than my view of gay marriage is the way the Church is responding to the issue of gay marriage. Here are seven things I wish Christians commenting on the gay marriage debate would keep in mind. (I’ll say this about a million times, but I’m referring to both sides in this post.)
One: Don’t separate social issues from faith, but don’t confuse social issues for faith. In The Screwtape Letters, written from the perspective of a fictional demon, the main character advises a junior tempter that, “What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And.’” In this case, it can be “Christianity And Gay Marriage.” The gospel is the cross, not a social issue.
Two: On the other hand, we live in a moral universe. Everyone knows that things related to morality and spirituality happen, and they have a certain order to them (people seek purpose, actions have consequences, we value certain character traits, etc.). A Christian is just going to interpret those phenomenons in a certain way, like the difference between a person noticing that dropped objects fall and someone else predicting the rate of future object falling and calling it the Law of Gravity. You can disagree with their interpretation, but people who are addressing the issue of gay marriage with moral concerns have a legitimate reason to do so.
Three: Love people. Otherwise your moral interpretation of an issue will fall flat because you’re contradicting your other (more important, according to Jesus) beliefs. Often, the mistake members of the Church make when addressing social issues is that they—to use an emotionally and historically loaded word—crusade their beliefs while crushing people, when those two were never meant to be against each other.
Four: Be careful with quoting Scripture. When I play the card game Mafia with my friends, I don’t let anyone swear their honesty on a Bible, because that trivializes it and makes it into something it was never intended to be. I’d argue that the same thing happens when we use sound bites from the Bible to make a political point. I’m talking to both sides here. It’s not that the Bible has nothing to say on these issues, just that it’s very easy to pull out isolated passages and apply them to modern culture without doing the background work necessary to do so. Work hard, people. It’s worth it. And some mediums might never be good for real, healthy discussion of Biblical passages (Facebook, I’m looking at you).
Five: Have gracious conviction. If you think you have very complicated issues that many godly Christians disagree on totally mapped out with absolute certainty (coming down on either side, mind you), then that’s just arrogance. State your opinion, back it up, be persuasive…but acknowledge that there’s another side, and that the other side has some persuasive things to say too.
Six: Don’t reverse judge. Seriously, this is a thing. If someone states the opposite opinion from you, you’re going to feel threatened and assume that they’ll judge you if they know what you think, especially if you feel like your opinion is in the minority. Before you start throwing labels at people like “narrow-minded” or “judgmental,” remember that you’re the one raising the stakes here. By reacting defensively, you’re making the other person feel guilty for a reaction he might not be having. Trust me. I’ve felt reverse judged before, and it makes me afraid to state my opinion (ironically, the very fear reverse-judgers are accusing me of cultivating in others). It’s kind of silly and circular and doesn’t contribute to honest, open conversations. Mostly it just works well for arguments.
Seven: Remember that you’re representing Christ to the world. That’s a big deal. When it comes to gay rights, one side might think they’re representing God’s justice, and another thinks they’re representing God’s mercy. But maybe what the world sees is more the presentation of the stance—the way Christians treat gay people, the tone of the conversations they have, the way they use the Bible to come to their conclusions. From that, they could either conclude “God is soft on sin, God wildly overgeneralizes, God hates gays, and God gets into pointless arguments” or “God wants us to use reason, God cares about truth, God loves people, and God has something to say about what’s going on in the world.” And they could get all of those perspectives from either viewpoint, presented in either the right or wrong way. I’m not saying that your actual opinion on this issue or any other isn’t important. But I do think the world is watching our actions as well.
That’s it. I’m done. Phew. That was about as political as I ever want to get.
Want to know what I think about gay marriage itself? Ask me. I’ll explain. It’s a good deal more complicated than I could write in a blog post.
Take these suggestions for what they’re worth. Bring them to Facebook, to workplace discussions, to the way you think and speak and treat others.
Seriously, have those conversations. Think about things. Love people. As the Church, we may get things wrong or make mistakes. But these things matter, and it’s worth the risk.