Someone recently posted an article from The Gospal Coalition entitled 40 Questions for Christians Now Waiving Raibow Flags. I don't own a rainbow flag, but if you have read this blog, or had conversations with me about it, you'd know I metaphorically do, so I figured I might as well give it a shot.
As the article is obviously based from a Christian perspective I will try my best to leave out the legal side of things (expect from the obviously legal sided questions). But let me state up front, even if there was absolutely no question amongst Christians that same sex marriage is morally wrong, that means nothing when it comes to the law.
1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?
For me it was fairly early on in the marraige equality debate when I started looking into things and wrestling with the topic. I can't say that there was a time that I didn't think it should be celebrated and I had this amazing shift. There was a time where I didn't think about it, and then I started wrestling with the questions which has lead me to believe it should be celebrated.
2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?
I don't know that there were any particular verses that I can pluck out and say "see!" But I'm completely ok with that since you can basically pull any verse out of context and make it for your specific argument (like slavery). But I think the biggest shift was recognizing the context in which the Bible was written versus the context we have now.
The Bible was written in a time when the understanding of sexuality was vastly different. I'll spare the long details since this is only question 2, but one of the biggest was everyone was believed to be born straight, and any act outside of that was abnormal. We now have overwhelming evidence showing that assumption is wrong. So now we have to join in the historical struggle of incorporating a new understanding of the world we live in into our faith tradition. It's much like when we realized that the world wasn't flat, nor the center of the universe, or the big bang, or evolution. Some people will reject that new understanding, while others will not. I'm obviously one of the latter.
Having said all of that, there's some interesting paralells that I'm exploring related to eunuchs talked about in Acts and Isaiah and their inclusion in the kingdom.
3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?
The same way anyone would with opposite sex couples.
4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?
This is a fairly loaded question, couched in a patriarchal understanding of society where the men are supposed to be the leaders and the women are supposed to be submissive to their man. That's the understanding this question is getting at. With two guys, who leads and who is submissive? I'm not sure that the traditional understanding is all that great.
But, a picture where you are so deeply in love with each other that you'd lay down your life for the other, where you are fully known and perfectly loved, where you are naked and feel no shame, that's a much better picture and I think better depicts Christ and the church. And none of that is gender exclusive.
5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?
Dang, home boy really wanted to get to 40 with this filler question. Thanks Purpose Driven Life...
6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?
Because he was a good Jewish Rabbi who quoted a lot of scripture.
Like I talked about in my answer to question #2, that was the culture at the time. Should we forgo every piece of information we've learned in the past few millenia and only live life with the scientific information Jesus had available to him?
While we're on the topic of Matthew 19, there's a few things that are really sticky about this verse.
First, this section is clearly about divorce. There's absolutely no way around that. Trying to use it in this context may be a bit of a stretch. But regardless, why aren't we trying to make divorce illegal unless you can prove unfaithfulness? It's quite clear, right there in black and white, no having to read anything into it like you have to do with SSM.
Second, what about the wife? Reading the passage it's quite clear that the woman gets no say, even in the case of sexual immorality. So it's fine if the husband cheats on his wife, but if a wife cheats on her husband she's gone.
Lets say we ignore the part about women not being able to divorce their husbands. What about if the husband is beating the wife? Are we supposed to say "Sorry, Jesus didn't say domestic violence was grounds for a divorce"?
Hopefully you think those points are absurd, because that's exactly my point. God's called us further in his understanding of him. That was a major point of this passage. Jesus told these people that Moses allowed them to divorce their wives because they weren't yet ready for where God was taking them. I talk about this more here, so I'll leave this point at that.
The bigger question contained in this passage stems from "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." Can we say for sure that our LGBT brothers and sisters weren't joined together by God, and that we're now trying to seperate them? That's a pretty big question to wrestle with.
7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?
Dang, didn't think I was going to need a greek dictionary for this. Hold on, I'm firing up e-Sword.
Ok, here's a quick run down of what I could find in it's 26 occurances:
- Matthew uses it in an adulturous way. It's actually what is used in the verse above as the only justification for a man divorcing his wife. It's also translated as fornications (presumably outside of marriage), and Young's Literal Translation has it translated as "whoredoms" which is kind of great.
- John uses it once to talk about illegitimate children (We of whoredom have not been born - ha!)
- Acts includes it in lists about idoltry and the Common English Version translates it as "any terrible sexual sin"
- Corinthians expressly adds having sex with your father's wife (gross), but mostly uses it in a generic term. Although an interesting bit is when it says because of this whoredom everyone should be married. (Sorry I'm like a middle school boy giggling about that translation).
- Here's a interesting plot twist - in Galations it's included in a list with adultry, so apparently it's more than just adultry.
- The rest of the uses (all in the New Testament) seem to be general sexual stuff
Ok, a little bit more boned up (te he he). So instead of making a super long list of deviant sexual acts, like the question technically calls for [insert reference to Clerks 2 here], let's just go with sexual deviancy. I don't think I'd put sex between two loving and committed people, regardless of their gender, on that list.
8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?
Here's the passage this verse is talking about:
Ok, I'm going to give the short version here because the long version includes definitions and greek words and the like. So short version:
This operates with the understanding that everyone is straight. People exchanging their natural relationships for another. 2,000 years later the science shows that people are born homosexual. To say it another way, it's their nature. For this passage to make any sense you have to have a change. For straight people, their change would be homosexual activities. For gay people it would be heterosexual activities. So maybe the sin we should be questioning is the gay people who feel forced into heterosexual relationships.
I know a fair amount of LGBT people, or at least LG people, and they are definitely not full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice; nor any of the other things mentioned in the passage.
9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?
10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?
Since #10 is a follow up to #9 I'm going to tackle them as one since the answer for 9 dips into 10.
I think the initial question is quite flawed in that I don't think Jesus cared to much about getting into heaven. Everything he talked had a feeling of the kingdom here at hand. You don't inherit the something when you die, you inherit it when the owner dies. Jesus died, so we get the kingdom here and now. I would argue that our job as Christians isn't to get people into heaven when they die, it's to get people into the present reality of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, in the here and now.
But anyway, to the heart of the question:
So, do these verses teach that sexual sins can keep you from being an active participant in the Kingdom of Heaven? Obviously yes. Plantinga's definition of sin is "a culpable disturbance of shalom", so any disturbance of shalom - the peace of God - keeps up from experiencing the kingdom, which is in it's very nature shalom.
The phrase "men who have sex with men", which I highlighted in Corinthians, is a single word "arsenokoitēs" and was originally translated in the KJV as "defilers of themselves with mankind" which is a kind of awkard phrase. It's only used twice in the entire Bible, so it's not very common.
I've heard (but not researched deeper, so take it as such) that it was a fairly uncommon word in general and only ever really shows up a handful of times in ancient documents, and its usually in long lists of sins like this, which make its meaning hard to pin down. Although it happens to show up a lot in business type writing where it's like sleeping with someone to gain something in a business deal. Like male prostituion.
But, lets completely ignore that for now and continue within the framework that it just means homosexuals. Since our modern understanding of sexuality is so vastly different it's like comparing apple's and oranges. So for this one I'll fall back to the idea of committed loving relationship = good, whoredom = bad.
Regarding the Revelations passage, this one is a bit more cut and dry. The word the NIV translates as sexually immoral is the word "pornos", a singluar noun. Here's the definitions from Thayer's Greek Dictionary (I'm skipping Strong's since it's basically the same just structured really wierdly).
- a man who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire
- a male prositute
- a man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator
So a male prostitue. Which raises interesting questions about "defilers of themselves with mankind" thought above. And yes, I think selling yourself (regardless of gender of either participant) will keep you from properly experiencing God's shalom.
11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?
Science, and that we're talking about loving committeed people not people of whoredom. (Sorry, I can't help using that word now).
12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?
I think the entire rejection of homosexuals as some sort of deviancy is culturally conditioned from biblical times, so we're starting at a different point of reference. But ignoring that here's what my game plan would be, which is probably full of wholes since I know very little about the church in those areas, and their different cultures and practices.
I would probably start off making the point about God is taking us somewhere, like I did in #6 and the post I linked to there. I would talk about women's rights (if they have them there) or any of the probably numerous ways within their own culture that God has pulled them into something better.
13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?
The optimist in me says they were probably like me in my answer to #1, however the pesimist in my says their politicans and just went along with whatever could get them elected at the time. However, Bernie Sanders has a very long track record of fighting for marriage equality.
14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?
I think they do best when they are surronded by positive figures of both sexes invested in them. Mother and father may be best, but by no means the only way. Quick shout out to my deceased Grandpa especially, and also my Young Life leaders throughout the years. Thanks Tex, Keith, Dave, Tom, and Pat!
15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?
16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?
Yes, but not just biological parents. It has a huge responsibility to the hundreds of thousands of children that are wards of the state, and in need of a family. Since straight couples aren't filling that demand, and the one study suggesting being raised within a same sex family was a detriment to children has been discredited, its in the interest of the state to privilege the same sex house hold as well. Lest we forget, the state is also in the job of promoting equality and justice, apart from what any religion says.
There's also numerous other issues with trying to promote marriage as strictly about child rearring. What about people who are infertile, like if an old widower gets remarried well in their years? Or what about a couple who decides they don't want to have children? Should we be barring them from marriage?
17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?
Is that all there is to it? No, but a quick glance at Song of Solomon shows that's a pretty big part of it. There's also what was previously discussed about it being a picture of Christ and the Church, and all that. I remember reading somewhere, although I'm now drawing a blank, that marriage creates more love. When you're around two people deeply in love, deeply committed to each other, that you can't help but be changed by that, because it's a picture of God's love for all of us.
There's also a whole slew of economic things here that I won't dive into other than to say that the pooling of resources is incredibly good for the economy.
18. How would you define marriage?
Off the top of my head, lets go with the binding together of two people.
19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?
No, as there is scientific evidence that shows this leads to genetic abnormalities within offspring.
20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?
Within the church, yes. From the legal stand point of the state, untill there is evidence that shows an alternate arrangement is not harmful to the parties involved, also yes. However, so far we have evidence that polygimist marriage (which let's not forget is a form of biblical marriage) is harmful to the different parties involved.
21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?
Looks like I jumped the gun in my previous answer. When there's evidence and professional consencus that it would be harmful to the parties involved.
22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?
Yeah, it's a legal contract.
23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?
No, but the qualifier isn't are you gay.
24. If not, why not?
Because then I could try to marry my dog. But since my dog is unable to enter into a legal contract, cause he's a dog, it's not marriage, I just love him a lot. And he either loves me a lot or loves the fact that I give him treats a lot. Here's a handy little guide that's been floating around the internet for a few years now.
25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?
So long as they don't infringe on other people's rights absolutely.
26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?
Depends on the situation, maybe, but then again maybe not. Like I said, depends on the situation. In America we are free to express our beliefs, we are not free from the repercussions from them (as long as they are legal).
Let me put it like this. If I went into work every day and refused to do what my boss told me to do because she was a woman, and I firmly believed the biblical teaching that women shouldn't have authority over men, I should be fired because I'm not doing my job. I should also get a reputation from it that would make people not want to hire me because of it.
Let's say my doctor is board certified, because he is, and hopefully yours is too. If my doctor, from his firmly held religious beliefs, decides he's done with modern medicine and refuses to perscribe me life saving treatments and instead decides only to pray for me and annoint me with oils, then his certification should be revoked and he shouldn't be allowed to practice medicine.
Homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1974 with a special printing of version II. We're now on version 5. If a pyschiatrist or psychologist is pushing the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder because of their religion, the American Psychiatric Association should revoke their accreditation.
If I go into work every day and told everyone they're going to burn in hell for eternity, I should be fired for creating a hostile work environment. Or if that belief is strongly opposed to the organization I'm working at and it effects my performance or the reputation of the organization, then I should be fired.
If, however, I spend my days realizing that every interaction is an opportunity to put God's love on display, and I befriend people who may disagree with me, and within that friendship we have a discussion where we discuss our disagreements in a loving manner, without hostility or ill will, then no I should not be fired, and I would stick up for that.
27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?
I'd like to say yes, but in all honesty probably not. You definitely won't find me speaking out against shaming of the Westboro Baptist Chruch. But I would speak up if they got fire-bombed or something. Just trying to keep it .
28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?
Well, how about we start by taking the "gay" out of that sentence? That seems like a pretty solid first step.
29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?
If they're a member of that church, then sure. As long as they are also free to leave that church and worship elsewhere.
30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?
I don't see why it wouldn't be. Unless of course some people were trying to force their own beliefs on them and not allow them to be married. Then I would have to go with a deeply committed relationship that would be considered marriage had someone not removed that right from them.
31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?
Great question, but how about we take the "open and affirming" out of that sentence? That seems like a pretty solid first step.
Sorry, I had to make that one a meme. I know it's not technically the proper use of it, but whatever.
I guess I would say it's this crazy thing that makes you feel imcomplete with the object of that love, like finding a piece of yourself in another. It's a willingness to pour yourself out for another. It's a strange force that pulls us to act against our own self interests for the betterment of another. It's something that is bigger than words, defies definitions, and therefore any definition someone gives comes up woefully short (just like this one).
33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?
I wasn't specifically thinking of bible verses when I wrote that little passage, but there's definitely influences of John 3:16, which kind of sums up the whole Jesus story. The marriage verses about mutual submission, becoming one, etc. Maybe even that great chunk in John where he says God is love.
Also Corinthians because, its Corinthians.
34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?
That's part of the giving of yourself, the pouring yourself out. If you love God you naturally end up following the commands out of that.
35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?
Yes. However, the approach of rejection and outlawing things solely because we disagree with it is far from the picture of the God who loves us enough to give us free will.
36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?
Not really a change.
37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?
I'm not quite sure how to answer this. I don't know that I would defend all of those points, and the insane amount of baggage that comes along with them. I guess I'm not a traditional evangelical. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
But it has helped me become more passionate about the things I see Jesus talk about and do. Things like standing up for those made to be an outcast, giving a voice to those without one, extending grace and love to all, and calling others to join in the kingdom (I'm still with the evangelizing part).
38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?
The United Church of Christ.
39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?
40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?
We already taked about this in question #8.
Ok, so that turned into a much bigger ordeal than I had expected it to. Hopefully my thoughts weren't too all over the place and I managed to present my answers in a clear and logical manner.
Technical side note, if you feel like linking directly to a specific question copy the url and add
#the_number to the end, where the_number is the number of the question. So
http://aronduby.com/40-answers-from-a-christian-metaphorically-waiving-a-rainbow-flag/#8 to jump directly to 8.