It seems that the big social debate of this lifetime (for millennials, at least) is going to be about sex, gender and marriage. There’s a large debate taking place in many Western nations that you’d have to be living under a rock to miss, with the United States Supreme Court about to weigh in. Sadly, both sides have developed a habit of using downright silly arguments. Here are a few in no particular order:
1) Everyone who disagrees with same-sex relationships hates gay people
Blah, blah – this argument takes various forms. Look, here’s a partial list of the things Christians have problems with: divorce, adultery, abortion, same-sex unions, drunkeness, use of recreational narcotics, swearing, worshiping other gods… so this isn’t some super-special issue. The biggest problem of all is that not everyone follows Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, not same-sex unions.
Furthermore, everyone is made in the image and likeness of God. Everyone is called to repentance – drug addict, pornographer, adulterer, gambler, drunkard, thief, abortionist, philanderer and… those who sin sexually with a member of their own gender. We’re all sinful; and God’s offer of love and forgiveness is for all. That’s what Christians teach about not just gay people, but everyone. You might not agree with the list, but at least have the courtesy to recognize that it’s not motivated by hatred or directed solely at homosexuals.
2) Homosexuals will cause the downfall of modern society
So I don’t think this one needs a lot of explanation. I’ve heard plenty of well-intentioned people point to say, Greece or Ancient Rome, and say they’ve heard that one of the reasons they fell was acceptance of homosexual behavior. Notably, none of these people are historians. It’s very dangerous trying to come up with historical arguments when you’re not actually familiar with the period you’re talking about. Don’t do it, please, for the love of history. Whatever you feel about same-sex marriage, now that it’s legalized the trains will continue to run on time and we can still regard death and taxes as certainties.
3) Opponents of same-sex marriage want to invade the bedrooms of the nation
This argument is equally stupid. Marriage legally happens in a church or courtroom. Many of the arguments around same-sex marriage are about civil benefits and adoption and curricula in school… there are no large-scale plans in the West to have SWAT teams go raid people’s bedrooms and drag them kicking and screaming to jail (a la V for Vendetta.) And the ambitions of the same sex movement are not confined to the bedroom either – it’s in parades, film and all of the things mentioned above. So don’t make a silly straw man argument to make the other side look unreasonable. I’m most disappointed that much of the media frequently falls for this one.
4) If you’re not gay, same-sex marriage has nothing to do with you/won’t hurt you
This could not be less honest. It has to do with lawsuits over what schools teach – even religious schools, as Ontario’s Catholic schools are quickly discovering. It has to do with media. It has to do with civil benefits. It has to do with the homes children are being raised in. It may mean that I, as a Christian, cannot become a printer, licensed wedding registrar or design wedding cakes because I might be required to violate my moral beliefs. That list of closed careers might grow. If you truly care about discrimination, that should scare you.
5) It’s about equality
Nope. Firstly, men and women are different. This one is controversial but I will simply say here that it is self evident that men and women are different biologically and socially from each other by any scientific measure. A relationship missing one of those elements will be very different. One concrete example is that my wife and I could conceive an unexpected child at any time right now; a homosexual couple will never have that problem. So regardless of offering equal benefits the participants are already by nature different with different needs.
Second, this is a rather vacuous argument. Often it takes the form of “Well, if you change gay to black then you’ll realize how intolerant you’re being.” Oh yes? And if I change gay to “10 year old” in those same statements am I still being intolerant? Where’s the equality for minors? Or for polygamists? Or those who love animals? Or inanimate objects? (Lest you think I’m being silly, strange stories have emerged of man-pillow or man-videogame marriages from Japan.) Changing the definition will still by definition exclude other couples. It will still be unequal. The only way to be inclusive of everybody is to drop marriage as a legal term altogether and simply parcel out welfare and legal benefits without reference to marriage and let people set their own definitions. So it’s not currently about equality – either about two functionally equal things or about including everybody. This argument is strictly about whether two men or two women can qualify A) for the same material benefits of a married couple and B) whether the rest of society should be made to treat these alternative unions as functionally the same thing, even when they are not.
6) We should persecute printers/cake shops/pizza parlors/wedding photographers etc who already choose to lose money by sticking to their beliefs
I’ve never really understood why people think this way. A shop turning down a customer is already being punished – they’re losing money! I’d understand picking on people who, say, offer a discount to straight couples, or make gay couples use a separate entrance to the shop. And so on. But I really don’t understand this… first, why would you want to force a shop to take your business if they are against what you are doing? If a shop refused to make cakes for Christian weddings, for instance, I would not want to patronize them in the first place. Second, in what world should someone be forced to violate their own moral code to provide a non-essential service to another human being? If all the shops in Canada refused to make cakes for Christian weddings, I could bake my own. Or even skip the cake (as we actually did when my wife and I got married.) This sort of “sue anyone who objects” will make the law into a dangerous weapon for enforcing personal opinions against those not in vogue. It’s already happening – some people have been specifically targeted for their beliefs under these new laws. Again, if you truly care about discrimination, that should scare you.
…and some uniquely problematic opinions held by some Christians:
7) God hates homosexuals
Oh, didn’t we cover this already? Yeah, well, it’s good for Christians to recognize that some people do hate homosexuals and use the Christian faith as an excuse to justify it. Sometimes people are just insensitive rubes – I’ve had a gay friend show me a video disseminating hatred toward religious people without realizing that it was hateful. I’ve heard of many stories of Christians doing that to homosexuals – not because they hate them, but because they don’t think before they rush on to quote Leviticus.
Other times, people who profess to be Christians are just using their faith to mask some sort of personal hatred/insecurity about homosexuals, sometimes even without realizing it while truly believing that their faith is what drives them. Sometimes people even try to legislate from parts of Leviticus – like in Uganda. And sometimes people who would never ask God’s opinion on anything spout variations on this simply because they dislike gay people. Don’t be like that. Read your Bible regularly, all of it, not just the easy parts that seem to correspond with your own ideas.
8) The Bible is just about love – that means we support same-sex marriage!
This is the opposite problem, but it’s just as bad. My first advice: read your Bible from cover to cover next time.
Second, I won’t try to tell people what to do in every situation (that’s not my job) but generally Christians should not support same-sex marriages. (You can look up those infamous supporting passages yourself.) For me personally, that means I will never intentionally attend a same-sex wedding or offer congratulations for one – in the same way that I would never congratulate a friend for shacking up before marriage. This is because the Bible clearly says that it is wrong. There’s no way to whitewash the Bible and nearly two thousand years of unanimous Christian tradition on this: marriage is between a man and a woman, never between people of the same gender, and to say or celebrate otherwise is to directly disobey the Christian God. Don’t get sucked in by the zeitgeist.
9) Religion needs to evolve to survive
This gets into a larger set of questions about epistemology and also the nature of religion. However, if you accept historic Christian assertions that God does not change, is not constructed by human beings and cannot give contradictory revelation, you can’t in any honesty believe this. If you can’t buy those assertions you really can’t call yourself Christian; you’ve simply built a custom-order Christian-ish religion for yourself. Christianity is not a company marketing platform. It doesn’t need to be appealing; it needs to be true. Part of that truth is that you are what needs to evolve. We need to be conformed to God’s expectations, not our own. God isn’t trying to teach us how to be good citizens of 21st century democratic countries with well-developed social systems and a post-Victorian absorption with sexual social policies; he’s trying to prepare us for heaven. As for Christianity’s survival, that’s God’s job. We’re called to obey.
And this isn’t new. Homosexuals have been around a long time. Christians and Christian theology has known about homosexual tendencies for a long time. This 180 has no pressing reason to happen apart from being torn between craving acceptance in our broader culture and our responsibility to seek the kingdom first.
11) I can get away with saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” and giving this topic no further thought
I still remember in my theology classes hearing a presentation about homosexuals in the church and hearing nothing about how to help them pastorally, just a list of reasons why what they were doing was wrong and why church discipline was important. When I asked, one of the group members admitted that they hadn’t thought about how to practically offer support. He wasn’t a bad guy, it just hadn’t crossed his mind.
Well, homosexuals are real people made in the image of God who need to have the Gospel make an impact in their lives. They need intimacy and friendship, support and love – especially when they come to the church. They have a calling that is not very popular in the world or church today – they are called to be celibate. This is not an easy calling! They need communities who will work and live along side them, experience with them their joys and sorrows, and really, truly be neighbourly to them. Ultimately, this is an opportunity for us to rediscover the Bible… for where we have been guilty (at least as Protestants) of prizing the calling to marriage at the expense of the calling to be celibate, we ought to remember that Paul wished that all believers could remain celibate and dedicate their lives to God. (I Corinthians 7)