Recent conversations, many sparked by the controversy over Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s traditional marriage remarks, reminded me of problems with some of the arguments from both sides of this debate. There are some arguments that have merit such the need to address inequality in rights of inheritance, healthcare decisions, and the like. As I have argued elsewhere these are constitutional issues requiring equal application to all American citizens. These rights should benefit all those with citizenship be they male, female, black, white, Native American, Italian-American or whoever. In spite of my support for constitutional rights, however, I remain opposed to same-sex marriage as the proper vehicle for attaining them.
For my readers who are aggressive opponents of gay marriage, have you considered how its implementation could possibly be any worse for society than allowing two hungover people who barely know each other to get married at a “One Hour Marriage Chapel” somewhere, Hollywood’s notorious “quickie weddings,” or allowing people who have pledged their lives together to divorce for no reason? To imply the sanctity of marriage is broadly held in America, needing only protection “from them gays,” requires a leap in reasoning people would be wise not to attempt.
For my readers who are in the LBGT community it is not realistic to ask, “How could gay marriage possibly affect you?” when you do not know how it might affect society as a whole. Many assumed that “no-fault divorce” would not be a problem for anyone other than the participants in the marriage being dissolved. Now, decades later, a trail of ruined lives, bitter ex-family members, latch-key kids, custody fights, and family courts, it is painfully obvious that “no-fault” hardly means “no problem.”
What I’ve written below is limited if we compare to what could be written. I cannot cover every bad or specious argument made by both sides. What should be noted, though, is that bad arguments are being advanced by both sides of this debate. Here are a few:
Fallacious pro-gay marriage argument #1- Erroneous use of the Bible to claim God is not against homosexuality. This one, frankly, is badly off, though not as much blame should be attached to those gay people who believe what they say lines up with the Bible even if they are wrong; more to blame are “Christians” who do not know the Bible well enough to argue the points being made.
Many of the gay marriage proponents I have read, if they invoke the Bible for support, follow this vein:
Do you eat bacon? Do you eat shellfish? Do you wear clothes of mixed fabrics? Do you work on Saturday? If you do not do those things, then you should not condemn homosexuals. If you do condemn homosexuals, then you are picking and choosing only the verses the support your cause.
Here is the problem with that line of thought. All of those commands (collectively called “The Mosaic Law” or “Law of Moses”) were given to Jews living before the coming of Jesus Christ. None of those commands were or are given to Christians. Further, all Jews who believe in Jesus as the Messiah are released from the laws particular to the Jewish nation.
What did not change with the coming of the new covenant was God’s requirement for moral purity. Indeed, those requirements were tightened (see the Sermon on the Mount). In the beginning God created a single man and single woman. He created the woman, Eve, for the man, Adam. It did not take long for humanity to begin to abuse God’s design through polygamy, divorce, homosexual activity, incest and more. None of those abuses, however, changed God’s original plan. We know this because Jesus Himself affirmed marriage as being between a man and a woman. Through the rest of the New Testament we see this pattern (man and woman) as well.
What we do not see through the New Testament are new laws about shellfish, pork rinds, mixed fabric clothing or boiling goats in their mother’s milk. The judgment those laws required was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Fallacious anti-gay marriage argument #1- Erroneous use of the Bible to pronounce gay marriage as God’s judgment on America. This one has become egregious to me. It is so wearying to hear pastors, televangelists, Joe and Jane Christian and the Westboro cult giving solemn pronouncements that God is judging America due to gay marriage, homosexuality or lack of strong enough condemnation of them/it.
Some Bible readers like to point to Sodom and Gomorrah as the evidence of God’s judgment against homosexuality. It is true there were many male homosexuals in Sodom and Gomorrah, most of whom were aggressive and potentially violent. However, the Bible also says (Ezekiel 16:49) that God judged Sodom for pride, gluttony, laziness and lack of concern for the poor and needy. Kind of like a lot of Christians today.
The Bible lists numerous activities as abominations. You can find a few in Leviticus 11. Additionally, idols, other false gods, fortunetelling, cross-dressing, remarrying a formerly divorced wife, all qualify. As do “all who do unrighteously” (Deuteronomy 25:16). There are seven abominations listed in Proverbs 6, while cheating is an abomination in Proverbs 11:1. Those whose hearts are away from God and “lying lips” are abominations also. Spiritual adultery is an abomination according to the prophet Malachi. In the New Testament, idolatry is an abomination (the Revelation) as is the leader mentioned in the gospels who defiles the Holy of Holies.
None of this is to say that homosexual activity is not a sin. It is to say that Christians, by and large, have been lazy, proud and have often borne false witness (all abominations) while trying to condemn homosexual activity as more abominable than other abominations.
But it does not appear we have been given such a scale.
Why do so many Christians not consider the disintegration of the family through divorce as God’s judgment on America? Why is the ongoing financial crisis (which is akin to an Old Testament swarm of locust on the crops) not God’s judgment on America? Why is our enslavement to debt not God’s judgment on America? They all may be, none may be, or we might just be reaping what we have sown.
Fallacious pro-gay marriage argument #2- Homosexuality is never a choice. Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche and innumerable others who claim “experimentation” are all the evidence needed to debunk this. There are plenty of people who lived homosexual lives–some exclusively–who changed to live heterosexual lives. If it is never a choice, as many gay people claim, then no formerly gay person would ever be able to be happy and fulfilled with a member of the opposite sex. Ever. I will push it further and say that “formerly gay person” would be an oxymoron as such could not exist.
Some will jump in to claim such people are suppressing their true orientation, or are probably bi-sexual. In effect judging the sexual orientation of others in the exact way they rebuke others for judging them. Besides these we do not have space to explore all the people who repented and placed their faith in Christ, forsaking immorality–including homosexuality–to follow Him. Nor have all these people lived double lives or suffered damage to their mental health as a result.
While scientists have found intriguing biological differences between gay and straight people, the evidence so far stops well short of proving that we are born with a sexual orientation that we will have for life. Even more important, some research shows that sexual orientation is more fluid than we have come to think, that people, especially women, can and do move across customary sexual orientation boundaries, that there are ex-straights as well as ex-gays.
Fallacious anti-gay marriage argument #2- Homosexuality always a choice. Probably it is safe to say most Christians in the Deep South have been taught for years that gays should repent of their gayness and become heterosexuals. Our proclivity for shallow Bible study and following almost any bad biblical interpretation it is no wonder we have found ourselves with this as the dominant position.
This issue, in my limited experience, is one that is more frustrating than virtually any other. We as Christians must begin to acknowledge–even if we cannot understand it–that same sex attraction is not always chosen. This is not to say people are “born gay.” Claims to that effect are unproven, and no one can remember how they were born, so a person’s testimony to that effect remains unpersuasive. What we do hear and read from a large number of people is the only romantic or sexually charged feelings they have ever known are for members of the same sex.
What “Washed and Waiting” revealed to me, though, was the intensity with which some people are attracted toward people of the same sex. I cannot identify with Wesley Hill except in this way: if he, his entire life, has only known attraction to males the way that I, for my entire life, have known attraction to only females, then to accuse him of making a choice in the matter certainly does not seem very well informed.
Could it be that our lack of acceptance of these testimonies is tantamount to accusing some gay people of lying? Could it be our constant assertion “You’ve chosen this life,” has hindered us from truly ministering to those gays and lesbians who never made a choice to be attracted to a person of the same gender? As one of my friends recently asked, “I prayed and prayed that God would take this attraction away, and you think I chose to be this way?” A commenter on this post said, “I tried to ‘choose’ to be straight in high school, and it didn’t exactly work out well. Anyone who thinks homosexuality is a choice doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about.” I’ve read multiple comments with that same sentiment in the last week.
Fallacious position held in common- Boycotting helps. Not only are those on both sides of this debate not averse to using political or economic power to pursue their agendas, they seem to relish it. What makes this sad or questionable as a tactic is that boycotts have a mixed history; there have been boycotts that have succeeded. Have we all forgotten what the words “Montgomery,” “bus,” and “boycott” have in common? Over the last couple of decades numerous businesses have changed business practices (dropping porn sales, for instance) in response to consumer pressure. Even threatened boycotts can have the desired effect.
But, it seems boycotting over this issue, in the current American climate, serves primarily to widen a cultural divide nearly unbridgeable already.
Fallacious activity held in common- Contradictory support. Holding both sides of the argument when it suits you, AKA being for something when it helps your side and against the same thing when it helps the other side. Very similar to Democrats and Republicans being for and against the same things depending who is in the majority.
For instance, those who oppose gay marriage cannot argue that gay people should not boycott Chick-fil-A directly on the heels of their own JCP boycott. Contrarily, supporters of gay marriage who boycott local businesses should not criticize religious people who boycott businesses supportive of “traditional marriage.” The fact that this happens frequently is testimony to the passions involved in this debate.
Shallow arguments and broad-brushing. One example of a shallow argument is the old preacher applause line, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” It was probably 1980 when I first hear this, and it is still being repeated until today. I asked an influential evangelical blogger last week, “What is the weakest argument Christians use against gay marriage?” This was the one he named. Is it factual? If you take the Bible literally, yes, of course. God did create Adam and Eve. Is it effective in engaging hearts and minds in this debate? Not very.
Broad brushing takes place when gay marriage advocates accuse Christians of hate, of being “hate mongers,” or of being against human rights for the various reasons that we do not agree with them. Does your church accept practicing homosexuals as members? If not, you are a hate monger. Do you support groups that only support traditional marriage? If so, you are a hate monger. This is inaccurate in almost every case. Every church is not the Westboro cult, and every Christ follower is not a “Christian” named Phelps.
If we are to move forward we must stop talking past each other based on what we think the other side is saying. Attempts must be made to listen with compassion and concern. Screeching from the fringes must be ignored. Bad reporting in the media needs to be confronted by people on both sides, no matter which side benefits from the error or manipulative storytelling. Accusations of hate should be supported by evidence of actual hate, not just differences of opinions or “ratings” of left and right leaning organizations.
Christ followers should take the lead in this. We have spoken the truth for years. Without forsaking it, we should also be quicker to hear than we have been and love more in deed than in word.
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