Homosexuality and Law: A Range of Christian Views
I have been noticing a range of views by Christians in the cyber-world on the issue of legalising gay marriage. For the sake of simplicity, I thought I would condense these Christian views into 4 main categories:
1. Homosexuality is such a vile sin that all homosexual acts should be illegal.
2. Homosexuality is sinful. However, in a democratic society we legislate less around what is “immoral” and more around that which causes harm or loss to others. Consensual adult homosexual acts are wrong but should be legal: the police have more important things to do with their time than monitor sexual behaviour. However, we draw the line at “homosexual marriage”. Christian marriage is between a man and a woman, and the laws of the land should reflect this for the good of society.
3. Christian marriage is between a man and a woman. God is the Author of marriage, which existed for millennia before nation-states existed. Legal recognition of a union by a nation-state does not make something a marriage under God, (although in our society the two things are often closely linked, as the promises of exclusive, life-long faithfulness are part of a legal marriage ceremony). Because the Christian church defines marriage on its own terms, we are not terribly bothered whether the state chooses to recognise “gay marriage” or not. Because of the separation of church and state, even if the law recognises a gay marriage as legal, the church does not recognise such a union as a “Christian marriage”. We would not support denominations blessing gay unions as a “Christian” marriage. (note: within this category there are both supporters and opponents of legal gay marriage).
4. Gay orientation is not wrong, and it is not changeable. Passages in the New Testament that appear to be condemning homosexuality were almost certainly speaking against cultic sexual worship practices and the abuse of young boys (especially boy slaves by their masters). Such things were rampant in the Roman world by married men. Therefore the New Testament is “silent” on gay orientation. Both social science research and testimony of gay people tells us they do not “choose” to be gay, and methods to “fix” gay people have done huge damage. Christian gay couples who want to be married should be able to have a blessing from the church, because God’s love is unconditional, and the church should express God’s unconditional love to gay people. Such blessing ceremonies should be offered whether or not gay marriage is “legal” in society. Any move toward legalising gay marriage would be enthusiastically supported as a human rights issue, and a way of expressing solidarity with a marginalised group of people in society.
OK… so there are a hundred and one subtle and not-so-subtle variations between these 4 views. But you get the gist. To be honest, view number 1 is more there for completeness… I’ve never met anyone in recent times who thinks this is a great idea in a modern democracy.
Why am I writing about this? Well, these thoughts were triggered by visiting a Christian blog that seemed to make this equation crystal clear: anyone who supports gay marriage is a HERETIC and a FALSE TEACHER.
Which is, of course, complete nonsense. Heresy was defined by the early church in terms of our views around Christ, not by our views about social issues. There are evangelical Christians in ALL of the camps noted above. They all have orthodox views about Christ, and accept the authority of the bible. They just have differences around how to interpret scripture, and/or in how they view the relationship between the church and society.
There may be “heretics” out there who support gay marriage. There may be “heretics” out there who oppose gay marriage. It is not, in itself, a litmus test of heresy.
To be honest… I’m a bit over “heresy” discussions all round. When Jesus was asked by a lawyer about the “litmus test” that qualifies us for eternal life, he affirmed the lawyer’s reflection… it is love for God and neighbour. When the lawyer pressed him further, Jesus told a story of a needy man and a kind Samaritan, and told us to behave the same way (It’s in Luke 10, for those playing at home). I think if Christians in general were less concerned about claiming how wrong others are, and more concerned about acting as Jesus instructed day after day after day, the Christian church would be a whole lot better off.
Or have I just done this myself? What do you think?