Saturday, October 18, 2008

California's Proposition 8- Gay Marriage Ban

In case you haven't noticed, there is another big issue being voted on in November out in California. Earlier this spring, the California Supreme Court ruled that it was against their state constitution to prohibit gay marriage. There is currently a proposition on the ballot that would reinstate the ban.

The rhetoric says that this is to protect 'traditional marriage' and keep it sacred. Well I would strongly disagree. First of all, there is no governmental authority in the history of the world which can preside over the holiness of marriage. The sacredness of marriage is under the authority of the church which is under the authority of Jesus Christ. So here I would say when it comes to marriage, the church needs to stop relying upon government to pass laws to please its will, but rather to be the church and change hearts from within.

Secondly, there is no such thing as traditional marriage. what most people are referring to when they say this is the two-parents, two-kids and a pet stereotype that arose after WWII. To be sure there are many families with this set-up, but there are also as many different combinations of families as you can think of. The rate of divorce in America is outrageous, with children growing up in all sorts of broken homes, or with grandparents and other relatives as guardians. When the church can't even conform to this 'traditional family' template, how can they even think about deciding others should too? I would also add that Christians are not the only people who inhabit this country and to presume that what we feel our religion teaches should be applied to all is not a good way to go about things.

Thirdly, if we are going to look at this from a biblical perspective, then I think the proponents of Prop 8 come to the wrong conclusion here too. I cannot stress enough that the Jesus the Bible reveals is one which sought to love everyone regardless of their actions (to speak against sin yes, but to love first. Always to love first), and furthermore, to seek out the lost, and outcast of society and bring them into the fold. In our day GLBT people are most definitely in that category. Anyone who would argue that they have not faced great hatred, discrimination and unfair or violent treatment in America is just not paying attention. So I do believe that Jesus would be seeking to care for them, and heal their pains as well.

This leads me to my fourth point. I believe it is possible to care for and love our neighbors as Christ and seek their welfare (i believe this is at the heart of the gospel no?) while still being true to our faith. I am not arguing that the Bible casts homosexuality in a positive light. However, it is a relatively small topic within scripture as compared to issues of caring for the poor, loving your neighbor, etc. Furthermore, I do not believe homosexuality is a sin which disqualifies one from being a Christian anymore than adultery, murder, pride or even terrorism do. Sin separates us from God, however, if it stopped there, none of us would be able to call ourselves Christians. If Jesus can offer forgiveness to Paul after the things he did, then I have no trouble offering it to anyone else. How they respond is not on my head, but even so, Jesus won't stop pursuing them with unbridled love and acceptance.

Finally, in light of the idea that we are to seek justice for our neighbors, and the outcasts, I feel a much more acceptable solution would be to recognize that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world (in our case the US government) are not intertwined in such a way that we think that passing the right laws makes us a christian nation. Here is where the separation of church and state is more important than ever. the Church cannot declare the actions of the state holy, and the state cannot have a say in what the church defines as holy. So, instead of passing bans against gay marriage, there should be two separate things which happen. First, the state should only have the authority to preside over civil unions. I believe these should be regardless of sexual orientation, but they should provide any couple the same tax rights as well as things like insurance, hospital visitation and other ways the state handles unions. It should address all of the civil rights issues of homosexuals, ensuring that every citizen of this country is equal under the law. Then, the state needs to offer protection to religious institutions which allows them to make their own decisions on whether to sanctify marriage according to their beliefs and traditions. Hate speech and thoughtful decisions based upon scriptures are two different things, and the a church's decision to decline the rite of marriage to homosexuals should not be equated with hate. Of course, for this to work, churches would have to be acting as the body of Christ among homosexuals too. It is not an excuse to dehumanize them in any way.

Obviously this solution is going to ruffle feathers on both sides of the debate, but it is one I have been seeing proposed in more and more places lately, and I truly feel that it is one which allows us to care for homosexuals, affirming their humanity, while also acting out our faith within our churches.

This post has already been much longer than I had expected and I am sure I have left out a lot of points i might normally make in conversation. Below I have posted a few ads from both sides of the issue for anyone interested.

YES on Prop 8 Ads

NO on Prop 8 ads:


Carolyn Duede said...

You have obviously thought about this very carefully. However, I disagree with your conclusion. I think that homosexuality, adultery, fornication, and divorce are all sinful and destabilizing trends in our society. Just because I can do little to fight against the latter three does not mean I should do everything in my power to fortify my cultures position on the former. I have known many good sinners and had many wonderful homosexual friends. I will always love them, as Christ has taught me. But I can never retract the truth that I know and hope that my government will join me in refusing to condone their actions.

rheimbro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rheimbro said...

Thank you for your thoughts.

By your argument though- shouldn't you pursue the outlawing of all sinful behavior, including adultery, fornication and divorce through government?

As I stated above, this is not a Christian nation. It is made up of people from all faiths as well as athiests and and agnostics. This proposition goes against the notion of equality that our country espouses.

As a counter-argument I would say that there is a difference between being a moral guardian over the culture you live in, and being a moral guardian within the church. Neither Jesus or Paul sought to judge those outside either the Jewish or Christian communities (see 1 Cor 5:12-13 for example). This is why passing a law banning gay marriage in the name of Christian values is simply mind-boggling to me. It puts one more barrier between the church and its neighbors. I don't see how it expresses the gospel to anyone who disagrees. In fact I think it reduces the chances of them taking any Christian seriously let alone stepping within the walls of a church to worship.

While I had come to many similar conclusions already, a book that has done many good things for my understanding of the church's role in society and politics has been The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd. There are simply few books I would recommend as highly as this one if you are interested in how I have come to where I stand.