One of the troubling, but nonetheless fascinating realizations of the moral revolution has been the number of professing Christians who deviate from traditional and clear biblical teaching on sexuality and gender. It seems like we steadily see new groups, leaders, and people come out of their theological closets to declare their support for such things as same-sex marriage. Myself, I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback via this blog, social media, and even in person of people who try to persuade me away from being such a theological dinosaur.
Our Thirst for Respectability and Relevance
In thinking about this quite a bit over the last several months it occurs to me how gripped Americans, particularly religious Americans are by honor and acceptance. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. The slogan for the state is “Nebraska Nice”. Did you catch that? We are nice here. I grew up in Massachusetts. I am not going to say that people in New England are mean, but they are, in the words of Megamind “less nice”. We didn’t exactly take pride in our niceness. If someone complained about people being rude we would generally think you were a bit too sensitive. But here, if you say that Nebraskans are not nice it is like you said something about their mom. It is one of the worst things you can say to a native Nebraskan. It seems to me that one of the worst things you can say to American Christian, whether in academia, church leadership, the pew, …
This is a strange time for patriotic American Christians. On the one hand, we will observe the 4th of July this weekend. Most of our neighborhoods are ringing with fireworks and are adorned with symbols of American pride. Many will celebrate the 4th with family, friends, and an open grill. At the same time, our stomaches are still turning by the fresh reminder that we and our Christianity are increasingly not welcome here. This is truly a strange confluence of emotions.
Feeling Unwelcome Here
In talking with a number of Christians last week I was struck by how the Supreme Court decision to legalize same sex marriage brought such an unsettling clarity to their perspective. Any morning fog that lingered in our minds that this was a nation that was at least neutral towards biblical Christianity was quickly eradicated last Friday. With the court’s affirmation, the chorus of celebrations on the news and in our neighborhoods, and then the White House being lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate the decision, it seemed to bring clarity. Most Christians knew this deep down but for some it did not home until last week. At some point they looked up and said, “I’m not welcome here.”
What Not To Do
What do you do about this?
Marriage is all over the news today and we as Christians are cringing. And this shows how much things have changed. All of the marriage chatter, in previous generations, would have been a reason for celebration, but is now an occasion for face-palming. Of course, we know this is not because Christians have fundamentaly changed in our understanding of marriage but because the cultural stream is rushing ahead at white-water speed in its redefinition of marriage.
Who has Authority to Regulate Marriage?
When marriage is discussed in the public square there is a question that routinely gets bypassed. “Who has the right and authority over it? —Who is in charge of it?”
The assumption with marriage, as with the rest of our lives, is that, well, we are! Whatever makes us happy and whatever the majority or the most influential people want to do…this is who has the right to authoritatively speak about marriage. It really is this question of authority that has paved the way for the present moral revolution. Even if it is rarely noticed or acknowledged, authority, like rebar on a highway road, undergirds all of this contemporary debate about marriage. The authoritative answer today is: We have the authority to regulate marriage.
But, this is fraught with a number of problems; I’ll highlight two.
I have not been in ministry for a long time (10 years) but I have seen a very big shift. The number one question I have gotten in the last 3 years has to do with homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I don’t think that in the previous 7 years combined I’ve had as many conversations about this topic as in these last 12 months. It seems that everyone is talking about it, whether inside and outside the church.
People often ask for resources or more information on the topic, but most of the real good stuff out there is pretty dense and off-putting to the curious church member or biblical illiterate. I’m thankful that Kevin DeYoung has brought his pastoral heart and lucid pen to this subject. In his book What does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? DeYoung writes a most helpful book on this subject.
The book breaks into two parts. Part 1 deals with what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. DeYoung shows that the Bible teaches unequivocally that homosexuality is a sin. And, that this is the teaching throughout the Bible and not limited to some obscure, non-applicable portion of the Scripture. In doing this he helps to educate his readers that it is not just the expression of sin that God is opposed to (though he is), but the depravity of the heart, the nature that is rebelling against God’s rule. I thought Kevin was particularly helpful in his careful lexical work to show the continuity between Paul’s …
When you read the news lately it seems like we are caught up in a playground battle of “one-upping”. Like kids swapping tales by the swings, news agencies pushing out stories that say, “Oh, yeah, have you heard about…?”
Each day we read of new developments in this moral revolution in America. Then we read of a story in Houston that is frankly so insane that it sounds like it was made up by a kid under the monkey bars.
The city of Houston passed the now infamous “bathroom bill”. Among other things, this allows people to use the restroom of their choice, based upon their own self-chosen gender identity. This means that men who say that they are women can walk into the ladies’ room and vice-versa.
I remember talking to someone recently and they said, “Why is it that all you Christians talk about is homosexuality?” I told them, “Everyone is talking about homosexuality, not just Christians.”
The topic is in the paper, in Hollywood, at the water-cooler, and increasingly, at the dinner table. Invariably, the question comes to the Christian, “Is God anti-gay?”
We have to be thoughtful in how we answer questions about God and the Bible. We are always required to be faithful, and part of this requires that we graciously adorn the gospel.
Sam Allberry has written a book to help us think through this question as well as other questions about the Bible and same-sex attraction. What makes this book uncommon is its author. Allberry discloses early on that he has lived with same-sex attraction since his early teen years. This fact enables Allberry a unique voice to speak biblically to an increasingly contentious subject.
The comments of a 67-year-old, Southern, Christian man remain national news. Phil Robertson, the star of the number one cable television show, Duck Dynasty, remains in embroiled in a controversy surrounding his interview with GQ Magazine. As nearly everyone knows by now, the controversial comments were concerning his view of homosexuality. While the choice of wording and tone were a bit strong and some might argue overboard, they were not, in their distilled sense, unbiblical.
The controversy has brought several participants into focus. My early read is that the Ducks will be fine. Here’s why.
Pastor Rick Warren was on Piers Morgan and answered a number of tough questions. In particular, Piers Morgan (as he is known to do) continued to press the issue of gay marriage. Warren, thankfully, answered tactfully, articulately, winsomely, and more important–faithfully. What a great encouragement. (Link)
In many ways the news serves to be a thermometer of the culture. Today’s headlines give us an indication of the sentiment of the world around us. This sentiment is clearly seen in the story of Jason Collins. As the first major sports professional to admit that they are homosexual, Collins is receiving substantial news attention. And he should, it is, after all, big news. It’s unprecedented. Although Collins did not finish the season with an NBA team he did play nearly half the season in the NBA.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation,” Collins wrote. “I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
As ESPN reports, the support has been overwhelmingly positive. As I checked the pulse of the social media, talk radio and print, I was surprised to hear some people lauding him as a “hero”. Whether you agree with this or not, the point is made: people are very supportive of Jason Collins.
With the amount of conversation around the issue you are bound to have someone be less than thrilled. Right?
It seems that everyone has an opinion about Gay Marriage, and these opinions are rarely ambivalent. Christians have (and rightly so) been outspoken in their opposition to a redefinition of marriage. This recasting of the institution of marriage is not, we would argue, a progressive and healthy advancement but rather a disastrous detour from what biblical, therefore, right and good.
At the same time and while marriage is on the front burner, particularly the undermining of God’s plan for it, let me ask a question. Are Gay and Lesbians the only ones who undermine God’s plan for marriage?
The answer is, “Of course not!” Just because you are hetero-sexual does not mean that you are reflecting God’s plan for marriage. You don’t get a pass just on marriage because you are not Gay. The basis of a marriage reflecting God’s plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God’s plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.
This is where it gets quite personal for us inside the Christian camp. God’s plan for marriage includes the following: