The EFM Feature

Now the New York Times is reporting that the Alliance Defense Fund (ever heard of ‘em?) is suing New York governor David Paterson — on behalf of several state legislators — for his recent move regarding gay marriage. I guess that might make today a good day to look at why what’s going on there, and in California, is a big deal.
I must confess — when I was first converted to Christianity, I didn’t understand why so many of my new brothers and sisters were so hepped up about stopping gay marriage. I was in college and had imbibed pretty deeply from the culture there of — depending how you want to put it — either libertarianism or libertinism. I knew I was certainly not interested in ever being a part of a gay marriage, but I didn’t see what business it was of the state’s if someone else did. (You might call this the Rudy Giuliani position.) And I am positive I wasn’t alone in that. Polls show that most young (I mean in total years, not necessarily years in the faith) evangelicals today are much less opposed to gay marriage than their forebears. This is distinct from issues like abortion, where we are largely on the same page as our elders.
To be honest, I am still uncomfortable with the tone many conservative evangelicals take while discussing gay marriage. Often, we do not sound like people speaking the truth in love. Rather, we sound like people who have forgotten that we are sinners too — and have never met anyone who disagrees with us. That is, we proclaim opposition to gay marriage as if it is singularly evil and ridiculous — as if we are on the side of the angels, and anyone who doesn’t see that is crazy. In point of fact, I think we are on the side of the Bible’s teaching, which I guess means the angels are with us, too. And there may have been a point at which this approach worked, namely when we had much more of a cultural consensus against gay marriage. Perhaps fifty years ago people thought “gay marriage” was an oxymoron.
But if those days ever existed, they are certainly gone now. The Bible’s teaching about sexual mores in general is, I think it’s clear, less accepted than ever. We can’t just go around proclaiming it as if it’s self evident. It isn’t to most people, anymore. Even though the law is written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15), we seem to be doing a better job than ever at closing our eyes to it. We don’t like the idea that we’re not supposed to have sex outside of marriage. We don’t like the idea that we are not permitted to look at certain Internet sites, magazines, TV shows, and so forth. And we sure don’t like the idea that some people are enjoined in the Bible not to express their sexual preference in physical activity at all. This strikes us as outmoded, even as exclusionary.
What’s more, evangelicals just aren’t credible on this point. Studies show that we really stink at living out our values — we’re much better, it seems, at voting for gay-marriage prohibitions than adhering to our so-called convictions in our own lives. In the church, divorce is just as rampant as it is in the culture at large. Pornography is also a huge problem. And I would add — while I don’t have a study to back it up — that so is something that’s also extremely important and may be the source of these other problems, namely disrespect for the institution of marriage. While we go around telling people how important it is — and voting to confine it to one man and one woman — so often we do not treasure it. We refer to our spouses in derogatory terms. We treat our marriages like obligations, not like blessings that are meant to mirror the unity of God in the Trinity. And you know what? The God who knows all our thoughts cares about this. I believe it offends him deeply.
That went on much longer than I intended, so I’ll stop about here for today. I hope this diatribe has made clear that I’ve been through a bit of an odyssey on this issue — and that I’m definitely aware that we evangelicals are certainly not without sin on the marriage issue. In the next post I’ll try to lay out a bit more of how, even with this desolate backdrop, I’ve come to stand beside folks like David French in the cultural dispute over what marriage is and what it ought to look like in the law.

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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