This post is long overdue, but I’ve been struggling with how to word it, and also busy GRADUATING from Duke! Which has entailed a couple finals, a trip to Charleston, hanging out with the boyfriend, lots of eating out, and now HOME! Anyway this is something Lukang and I were talking about many weeks ago while sitting in a corner of Chipotle, trying not to be too loud.
What I decided was this: The way people talk about gay rights and the Church needs to change.
Let’s start with the definition of sin, since so much of the Christian/LGBT discussion uses that word. I will define sin as “anything you do that hurts you [or someone else].” This hurt can be emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, or social. (Since it’s less universal, let’s leave out the part about not glorifying God.)
Another definition: freedom. Freedom might be defined as the freedom to do whatever you want. Admittedly, Christianity struggles with the ideas of rights and freedom. An omnipotent, omniscient, loving God with a perfect plan is inherently paternalistic. We also lay down our rights when we surrender our lives to Christ. So I define true freedom as this: when we are able to live as we were created to live. This way is best for us and will never hurt us, and involves healthy boundaries. This, by the way, is what all Christians should believe that following God’s commands gives us.
Back to the topic of how [conservative] Christians talk about LGBT marriage. The crux of the issue, to me, is this: too often I have heard people divorce their spiritual/moral obligations from their obligations as a citizen of a political state, when the two conflict. And I think they shouldn’t have to. It goes like this: “As a Christian, I believe that homosexual practice is a sin, but I believe in the separation of Church and state.” or,”I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others who are not Christian.” or, “Gay marriage is about people rights. People have the right to get married, and since not everyone is Christian, we shouldn’t dictate what others do.”
I have said those things myself, and it comes out of love. It also comes out of confusion, when we don’t know how to reconcile what we think the Bible says with our real-life gay, lesbian, transgender or questioning friends. At the same time, I think it’s unfair to force [many/conservative] Christians to shed their religious identities in the public sphere, when other groups don’t have to, simply because Christian morals diverge here from those of the mainstream culture.
To me, this all ties back to (sorry, throwing in a third concept!) the idea of votership. Do we vote as individuals, with individual preferences and morals, with the result that the majority morality rules? Or do we vote conscious of what would be best for the nation as a whole? There is something selfish about the former plan that I have trouble stomaching. I think there is something to speaking out for the marginalized, loving one’s neighbor above oneself, and yes- keeping in mind that not everyone is submitted to the same religious laws.
If then, we settle on a view of votership that is looking out for the interests of others, not just one’s own, Christians run into the problem of having to separate their moral/religious views/identity from their political views/identity, since “not everyone else is Christian.”
But can we take a step back? Religion at its core aims to be good for people. Sure, religion can been corrupted to oppress and mutilate, but that is the sinful nature of humanity. A belief in the existence of sanctity and divinity, of beauty and goodness, generally correlates with a certain dignity of created beings. If you are in a religion that does not support the dignity of humanity and does not strive somehow to achieve good for the world, then you should probably take a second look at who or what you are worshiping. Christians certainly believe that God is good, and that He created human life with a good design.
So then, if Christians genuinely believe that Jesus—that the Bible and the Gospel— have a good word to speak about people, and the world, then we need to genuinely stand behind that. In our churches, we believe that what Jesus says is good is absolute, and that one day Jesus will return and His will will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Do we really believe that in surrendering to Christ means true freedom for everyone, even those outside the church? If so, we need to hold these things to be true in our rhetoric and in our votership.
My exhortation, then, is this: If you are a Christian and believe that committed LGBT couples should be able to be married, back it up biblically and practically. If as a Christian, you believe that homosexual practice is sinful (wrong in itself or harmful to people), the onus is on you to prove it biblically and practically. If you are undecided, prayerfully reconcile your conflicting beliefs. Compartmentalization is too often a product of lack of study, lack of faith, or simply a reaction to external pressure to conform.
Basically, I am saying that if we genuinely believe that our God created us, loves us, and has a gracious and absolute word to say about what is best for us, then we should stop separating “people rights” from “Christian laws.” They should be one and the same in our minds. And when we vote, we should vote genuinely for what we believe is best for people: ourselves, our families, our neighbors, “society,” the nation. So wherever you stand on the issue, if you are a Christian, vote as you are convicted.