Last Friday, June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court made history in a controversial 5-4 ruling that declared all state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in all fifty states. It would be an understatement to say that for the American public, emotions ran high.
As a committed believer who holds to the traditional, historical Christian teaching on sexuality, but who is also exclusively attracted to the same sex (celibate gay Christian, for short), it has been incredibly difficult to sort out my thoughts and feelings regarding the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday.
On the one hand, I can totally empathize with my gay and lesbian friends who view this ruling as a major victory, finally being able to have their genuine love for one another protected by the law. Coming to the end of a long struggle for marriage equality, and experiencing the freedom that comes along with knowing their legal relationship is now recognized in all fifty states, must feel like an incredible relief.
On the other hand, I completely understand why traditional Christians are saddened by the ruling. For almost two thousand years, Christianity has taught that a marriage relationship between one man and one woman for one lifetime is a sacred symbol of Christ’s relationship with his Church. For traditional Christians, seeing the surrounding culture rally around a further distortion of that image is disheartening, no matter one’s political views on the subject.
One of my close friends was the first to break the news to me on Friday, calling me on the phone as I was driving back to my house. As soon as I hung up the phone, I burst into tears, but for the life of me, I still cannot figure out why. It is just too complicated.
Another friend texted me that day. “How do you feel about the marriage ruling?”
All I could manage to get out was this: “Everything. I feel everything.”
I do not think that I can manage to organize all my thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision into a cohesive whole just yet. It may take weeks or even months to say everything I want to say. This decision has dramatic implications for the type of conversations I am most passionate about: those surrounding the complex intersection of faith and sexuality.
But the one thing I can say to fellow believers right now, without a doubt, is this:
Seeing an issue as complex as the interplay between worldview and public policy as black and white is probably an indicator of a lack of genuine thought, reflection, and prayer.
Read it again.
Fellow Christians, seeing an issue as complex as the interplay between worldview and public policy as black and white destroys your witness to an unbelieving world.
Fellow Christians, seeing an issue as complex as the interplay between worldview and public policy as black and white makes your politics an obstacle to the gospel.
Fellow Christians, seeing an issue as complex as the interplay between worldview and public policy as black and white, and assuming you alone have the answer, is pride.
Reducing complex issues to battles between “us” and “them”, labeling complex people as heroes and villains depending on whether they agree with you or not, or categorizing complex human relationships as complete evil or complete good does a great injustice to broken men and women made in the image of God by denying a part of the truth about them.
With all that in mind, there are some serious questions that we have to honestly wrestle with before we share our thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. I encourage you spend a considerable amount of time in thought, reflection, and prayer to find out what those questions are.
One of those questions I think my fellow traditional Christians would do well to wrestle with is this: can anyone look at a same-sex relationship like that of eighty-five year old Jack Evans and eighty-two year old George Harris, a gay couple married in Dallas County, Texas the day of the ruling after being together for fifty-four years, and say with any integrity that it is all bad?
Hear me out. I am not suggesting that we stop standing firm on our convictions regarding the morality of same-sex behavior or the sanctity of marriage. I share concerns about the turning tide of public attitudes regarding same-sex sexual activity. I hold fast to the traditional Christian teaching on sexuality myself (I have chosen to remain celibate unless I am led to pursue marriage with a woman in the future). I believe that any sexual activity that takes place outside of a marriage covenant between one man and one woman for one lifetime is sin.
But we would do well to remember that there are things we can affirm about this relationship, things that can be redeemed, as well as things we must reject.
The same-sex sexual activity? The distortion of the biblical marriage covenant? Because Scripture and Church tradition both teach that these things are outside God’s plan for human flourishing, we must oppose these things.
But the sacrificial love? The commitment between two people who love each other deeply? The endurance, fidelity, perseverance? The weight of Scripture and Church tradition indicates that these things are good, very good.
I am willing to bet that the more we spend time with our gay and lesbian friends who are in committed relationships, the more we will realize just how complicated human relationships are, how the good and the bad are all jumbled together, and how we need to be characterized by truth and grace when wrestle with questions regarding worldview and public policy, faith and sexuality and love.
This question is only one of thousands that could be asked, questions about how Christians should be politically involved, about the degree to which a Christian worldview should influence public policy, about how Christians should seek to implement justice, about what “justice” even means in a society that includes such an incredible diversity in worldviews.
So fellow Christians, cry with me, without knowing quite why. Cry because there is goodness, cry because there is badness, cry because it is so incredibly complicated.
But then dry your tears, and move forward with me. Begin the process of determining what good can be accepted and celebrated, what bad must be mourned, redeemed, or rejected. Come to this process of wrestling with humility, and with an awareness of the messy jumbled state of good and evil in which this entire world resides. Begin this process with prayer, season this process with prayer, and end this process with prayer.