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28 August 2017

Same-gender marriage in the United States.

And why it freaks certain Christians out to no end.

Depending on your politics, same-gender marriage is either a done deal or a huge issue.

I think we can figure out which camp you’re in, based on what you call it. I’m gonna describe it as same-gender marriage, ’cause that’s what it is. Conservatives seem to prefer “same-sex marriage” and “gay marriage,” and of course cruder terms. Progressives frequently use the term “marriage equality,” ’cause they’re trying to emphasize how, as they see it, it’s no more nor less than marriage—so why add adjectives?

Me, I know a lot of conservatives. To their minds, same-gender marriage is gonna be the ruin of the United States.

Mostly that’s because their beliefs consist of a combination of replacement theology and civic idolatry. Replacement theology presumes Christianity has taken the place of ancient Israel, and all the LORD’s promises to Moses and the Hebrews in the wilderness, now apply to us present-day Christians and our nations. Civic idolatry presumes this is especially true of the United States; that because of our Christian forebears, and indicated by God’s blessings of abundant wealth and military supremacy, America is God’s primary Christian nation. Americans will grudgingly accept some other nations are sorta Christian… but nobody’s as Christian as we are. (Now cue the chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”)

The catch: If the United States has superseded Israel, and likewise has a special covenant with the LORD, when Americans violate his will, the cycle’s gonna kick in and God’ll let our enemies smite us. Or he’ll personally smite us himself with hurricanes. Either way.

I should point out if replacement theology were in any way not rubbish, God would’ve started smiting Americans long before we declared our independence. ’Cause slavery. True, there’s slavery in the bible, and God even had commands about how the Hebrews were to make and treat slaves. But by those commands’ metric, American slavery was a ghastly abomination. It wasn’t a penitentiary system. It was kidnapping, dehumanization, and torture. If the Civil War was, as Abraham Lincoln believed, God’s judgment upon American slavery, we got off so lightly.

Need I mention all the other violations of God’s covenant with the Hebrews which Americans—including “good Christians”—violate hourly? We’d be here a while.

Same-gender marriage zeroes in on only one command of the 613: The command prohibiting male-on-male sexual activity. Lv 18.22 It’s not one of the 10 commandments, nor one of Jesus’s top two, but conservative Christians have elevated it to maybe number 13. To them, it offends God like no other.

The real problem? It offends them like no other. They personally find homosexuality distasteful. That’s why they can’t “live and let live,” like they do with all the other commands they ignore. Or even themselves commit, like coveting and Sabbath-breaking. This one captures their attention because it creeps ’em out. Hence their quickness to condemn it, and everything relating to it… as they look the other way at snobbery, lying, injustice, evil schemes, and all the stuff God’s truly outraged by. Pr 6.16-19 Their priorities take precedence.

How we got here.

Purely because the practices make ’em viscerally flinch, conservative Christians have elevated abortion and homosexuality to the position of first-rank social issues. More important than stuff Jesus actually spoke about, like feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, visiting the imprisoned, tending to the sick. Mt 25.34-36 You’d think conservative Christians would care a little more about healthcare than they do, and not just repeat the Mammonists’ fears that fixing its many problems is the same as socialism.

But I digress. And so, politically, do they: Ignoring healthcare (that is, till they themselves can’t afford it), they’ve plunged into the distraction of same-gender marriage. Remember, if you believe in civic idolatry, the fact that homosexuality is now officially, legally legitimized with all the privileges and protections granted to marriage, really outrages ’em like nothing else.

Far more than, say, a marriage between a man and woman who take marriage lightly. Who figure they’ll stay married as long as the emotions last, and end things when they move on. Likely marry a bunch of people serially. Or maybe not file the paperwork, skip the church ceremonies, and shack up. And do that serially as well. Whatever floats their boats.

Far more than pagans who refuse to believe God’s involved in marriage whatsoever; that it’s a human custom which they’re free to reinvent any which way they please. If it feels too much like a patriarchal thing, or a state thing, or a religious thing, do your own thing. Maybe try an “open marriage.” Maybe a polygamous one. Maybe take advantage of the state benefits for tax reasons, or to help a resident alien get citizenship.

Most Christians claim their beliefs are entirely based on bible. Conservatives point out God determined, at the beginning, marriage would consist of one man and one woman:

Genesis 2.24 KWL
This is why a man leaves his father and his mother.
He bonds with his woman, and in flesh they’re one.

Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Jacob and Rachel, not Jacob and Leah and Rachel and two concubines… Okay, yeah, that’s in the bible. Ge 46.8-27 But conservative Christians will quietly skip that bit, and all the other polygamous bits, ’cause of the New Testament custom of monogamy. Since it’s in the bible, and honored instead of condemned, it is by definition a biblical practice. Just saying.

I do agree with conservatives that marriage is defined by God, not human custom. The state has no business defining it, nor redefining it. Nor even recognizing marriages: At most, all marital partnerships should be recognized by the state as nothing more than legal domestic arrangements. That’s all.

Problem is, back in 1996, American conservatives decided to let the government define what marriage consists of. Even praised the Congress for it.

Seriously. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, passed by the 104th Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton, defined marriage for federal purposes as between one man and one woman. Passed because some states were knocking around the idea of same-gender marriage. Thanks to the “full faith and credit” clause in the Constitution, if one state recognizes a marriage, the others have to as well. Article 4, §1 Well, the conservative states didn’t wanna recognize a same-gender marriage, so Congress took it upon themselves to preemptively define marriage for the entire country.

Problem is, this set a precedent where government got to define marriage. And if government defines it, government gets to redefine it.

It’s why the Supreme Court was able to rule, in their 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-gender couples, same as heterosexual couples. If the government gets to define marriage, and the Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law, Amendment 14, §1 marriage can’t be limited to straights.

And just like that, the United States has same-gender marriage. The very greatest nightmare of Christian conservatives. (Well, other than over-the-counter abortion pills.) The end of American civilization as they imagine it.

But hey, it’s what they get for not thinking through the ramifications of the Defense of Marriage Act. They’re simply reaping what they’ve sown.

Hate groups?

Christianity is supposed to be about sharing the good news of God’s kingdom.

But for many conservative Christian churches, their outrage over homosexuality and same-gender marriage has near-totally hijacked this mission. They’re no longer about God’s love and grace. I mean, it’s in their church structure somewhere, recognized as important only because Jesus does. But instead of focusing on that, they’re busy fulminating against sin, and hand-wringing over the downfall of the United States.

So much so, the Southern Poverty Law Center decided to quit accepting excuses for this behavior, and simply refer to these churches as “hate groups.” These, and various Christian special-interest groups which’re likewise about spreading social conservatism instead of God’s kingdom—a mistake they make because they’re pretty sure social conservatism is God’s kingdom. Or at least they imagine you can’t have one without the other.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m socially conservative too. It’s just I recognize there’s a vast difference between my political leanings, and God’s kingdom. The kingdom is not about gaining and using political power so we can push “God’s agenda,” whatever we imagine it to be. It’s about telling the world God loves them and sent his Son to grant us eternal life. That the Son is the king of God’s kingdom. That we need to follow him. That the way to spread this kingdom is to love people into it. Y’know what doesn’t love people into it? Our politics.

Whenever I say this, I get pushback from civic idolaters. They insist I’m not practicing grace, but liberalism. They insist they’re fighting evil—’cause aren’t we Christians meant to fight evil? They claim they’re hating the sin, but loving the sinners.

Pity the sinners can’t see any difference. ’Cause these Christians’ manner of “fighting sin” tends to attack and frighten the bejeezus out of the sinners. Meaning Christianity’s no longer good news to them. It’s bad news.

So when the SPLC determines these Christians are “hate groups,” I realize it’s gonna outrage these Christians if I happen to entirely agree with the SPLC. The SPLC isn’t wrong. By their words and deeds, these groups regularly demonstrate they do hate homosexuals. They may excuse it as biblical; they may insist they’re standing up for godly principles or defending the Law; they may claim they’re really practicing “tough love” in order to convince sinners to repent. I would remind you “tough love” isn’t actually love. Love is kind and doesn’t demand its own way. 1Co 13.4-5 Tough love is just the opposite.

Yeah, in siding with the SPLC, I’m fully aware I’m gonna alienate these Christian groups. In my defense, I am trying to reach out to the lost; to pagans and to people in the LGBT community who might’ve grown up in church, but their churches drove ’em out. Like Jesus told the Pharisees, those who deem themselves “well” really don’t need any medicine from me. Mk 2.17 If these Christian groups are truly in the kingdom already, my actions aren’t gonna nudge ’em out of it. But considering their less-than-Christlike behavior, they do need to repent. Y’see, one of the requirements for Christian leadership is we have a good reputation with outsiders. 1Ti 3.7 In comparison, these folks have so destroyed any such reputation with non-Christians—and don’t care in the least what pagans think of them, even though scripture requires them to care. In defending their politics, turns out they’ve disqualified themselves from any form of Christian leadership.

Hence Christians who follow them are subtly being corrupted. We’re being taught that in the defense of certain principles, it’s okay to be fruitless. We need to stop following them. Stop funding them. Stop financing the damage they’re doing to Christians, our churches, and the gospel. I know; you may totally agree with them politically. Makes no difference. Their anger (and maybe yours) blinds them to the fact they’re wrongheadedly hindering the kingdom. They’re fighting Jesus. You don’t wanna be on that side.

One of the churches on the SPLC’s watchlist is D. James Kennedy Ministries. (A shame, ’cause I really like Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion.) Last Wednesday, 23 August, they filed a lawsuit against the SPLC to get themselves taken off their watchlist. Since fundraising organizations, like Amazon Smile and GuideStar, won’t send funds to groups on the SPLC’s watchlist, it’s hurting DJKM’s fundraising efforts.

Ideally, this lawsuit should mean DJKM has enough evidence to prove they’re not a hate group, and the SPLC is simply too broad in its definition of what a hate group consists of. It’d be nice if this were true. It’s a good bet it’s not. D. James Kennedy was notorious for claiming, “Adult sex with children has been a crucial component of the homosexual movement all along.” I’m pretty sure the ministry named for him has no problem repeating his sentiments. If it gets to court, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the SPLC’s lawyers have clip after clip of such things being said on DJKM media.

Of course if no such clips exist, ’cause no such things were said, DJKM is totally in the right. But I’m not holding my breath.

Many Christian conservatives grew up hearing this propaganda from their pastors and church leaders. I certainly did. The Christians still fully believe ’em. And that is why such watchlists need to exist, and such ministries need to be labeled as hate groups. Pity they’re unlikely to admit the errors of their ways, and refocus their efforts towards loving the lost. Christians can be just as unrepentantly stubborn as any pagan.

The Christian’s duty: Love people.

My personal view on same-gender marriage? Doesn’t matter. I’m called to love my neighbors. Not proclaim judgments which unnecessarily alienate them, and make ’em unlikely to listen to me talk about Jesus.

True, for a lot of people this answer isn’t good enough. They want me to voice my opinion. They have an orthodoxy test, and my opinion had better match theirs. Otherwise I’m no real Christian. Probably some Christian-in-name-only who’s practicing the world’s liberal values, and is hoping to get into heaven through works-righteousness.

They suspect I’m keeping my opinion to myself to dodge their orthodoxy test: I’m hiding it so I can appear more conservative than I really am, but it’s all just hypocrisy. Or I’m hiding it so I can appear more liberal, but deep down I sympathize with all the groups on the watchlists and want homosexuality driven back into the closet. Basically hypocrisy from the other political direction.

Either way, people want me to judge homosexuals and same-gender marriage. That way they can turn round and judge me. Well, I’m not playing that game. Here’s my game:

1 Corinthians 9.19-23 KWL
19 Having freedom in everything, I enslave myself. Because I could get many!
20 I become, to the Judeans, like a Judean. Because I could get Judeans!
I become, to Law-followers, like a Law-follower. Because I could get Law-followers!
21 I become, to Law-breakers, like a Law-breaker—
Not breaking God’s Law, but following Christ’s Law. Because I could get Law-breakers!
22 I become, to the weak, weak. Because I could get the weak!
I become, to whomever, whatever. Because however I could save some of them, I will.
23 I’ll do anything for the gospel, so I can be a part of it.

If you’re condemning people you consider Law-breakers, you’re too busy playing judge to concentrate on yourself. Jm 4.11-12 And you’re ruining your chances of reaching out to those people. Which takes priority, my self-righteousness or the gospel?

My duty is to love people. Every Christian’s duty is to love people. Without discrimination. The sun shines and rain falls on good and evil people alike. I’m to love people equally in the very same way, whether I deem them good or evil. Mt 5.43-48 If I can’t do that, I’m not following Jesus, and by all means stick me on a watchlist.

You might be aware that in Kingdom Come, there isn’t even gonna be marriage. Mk 12.25 Something conservative Christians see as so vitally, primarily important, Jesus figures will no longer be necessary, and he’ll put an end to all of ’em. It’s something we oughta bear in mind in this whole same-gender marriage debate: Is this even a part of God’s kingdom and the gospel in the first place? Are we sure we’ve got our priorities in order?

Me, I figure Jesus’s number two command is to love your neighbor. Mk 12.31 His will is that everyone who can, get saved. 2Pe 3.9 That I’m to share this good news with everyone, Mk 16.15 and leave conviction to the Holy Spirit, since that’s his job, not mine. Jn 16.8

That’ll do for me.