SELECTIVE OUTRAGE ON THE LEGALIZATION OF HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE

Let’s get one thing quickly out of the way.  I believe homosexuality is contrary to God’s design.  I also believe marriage is between one man and one woman. 

The legalization of homosexual marriage to some degree makes me feel like Marshall McLuhan who went to movies not to watch the movie, but to observe how other people watch movies.

Some good things have been said by Christian leaders.  Unfortunately, there are too many other Christians depressed over what all this portends for America.  This declinist narrative focuses like a laser beam on how the sin of homosexuality is to blame for a myriad of societal ills. 

My concern may be best stated by using an illustration.  Imagine that you want to start a landscape company.  You eagerly knock on your neighbors’ doors and announce the new venture.  The responses you receive range from amusement (“you can’t be serious”) to outright anger. Why?  The answer is simple.  Your yard is terribly overgrown and quite the eye sore.  You’ve received regular warnings from the Homeowner’s Association.

I’m not a cynic about the church, even here in America.  It is God’s primary means of accomplishing His will.  Some of the best people I know go to church on a regular basis.  And that includes some pastors!

However, I do have grave concerns about our laser-like focus over the horrors of legalizing homosexual marriage.  Yes, we need to say something, but I’m afraid our quickly cutting to the chase on this issue leaves many important things unsaid.  

My suggestion would go more along these lines:

We believe homosexuality is a sin.  We also believe that gluttony, gossip, adultery, sex outside of marriage, racism, unscrupulous business practices, the love of money, divorce, and a whole host of other things are sin.  Unfortunately, we have not done a very good job in communicating a comprehensive view of sin.  We have been selective.  Too many times we have been motivated by fear.  We have avoided addressing certain sins for fear our giving at church will plummet.  Too many of us have come across as both hating the sin of homosexuality and the homosexual.  We could go on with other specifics, but hopefully you get the point.  Our selective outrage has made us not act like Jesus.  We have been rather poor at modeling the “grace and truth” approach of Jesus. 

In our quest to proclaim the righteousness standards of God, I’m afraid our selective outrage presents a gospel which is no longer the gospel.  Consider another illustration.  Picture that you are driving a car.  In the passenger seat is a non-Christian.  You tune into your favorite radio station.  The problem is that you are not fully tuned in.  You are so accustomed to the static that you fail to hear it.  You turn to your non-Christian friend and expectantly ask what he thinks about the “amazing” music.  Surprisingly to you, he is not impressed.  You are baffled by his lackluster response but your habitual listening to music cum static has dulled your ears. 

I’m afraid many Christians in America love listening to music cum static and therefore think it worth telling others about.  Our penchant for focusing on some sins and not others (especially those which are common in the church) has made us tone deaf to what we believe are courageous and prophetic pronouncements, but could more accurately be labelled Pharisaical. 

During my years of doing radio interviews, I had the chance to interview Cal Thomas.  Thomas was one of the major leaders in the Moral Majority.  I was interviewing Thomas on a book he co-authored with fellow Moral Majority leader, Ed Dobson.  The title gives away the thrust of what the authors were trying to address: Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America.  It was a courageous and candid confession of zeal gone awry.  Among other things, the Moral Majority would purposely give prominence to certain social issues knowing these would increase their financial giving. 

I’ve been reading through various statements on the recent ruling about homosexual marriage by the Supreme Court. In the pages of Christianity Today Mark Galli reflects the tone that should be more widespread in the Christian church:

Another temptation now is to point the finger at the forces—political, social, philosophical, spiritual—arrayed against the church and its moral teaching. Without denying the reality of “principalities and powers” (Eph. 6:12), we do well to ponder this: What actions and attitudes have we imbibed that contribute to our culture’s dismissing our ethics? Our homophobia has revealed our fear and prejudice. Biblical inconsistency—our passion to root out sexual sins while relatively indifferent to racism, gluttony, and other sins—opens us to the charge of hypocrisy. Before we spend too much more time trying to straighten out the American neighborhood, we might get our own house in order. Blessed are the poor in spirit who mourn their sins (Matt. 5:3-4).  (Emphasis added)

In the same vein, my dear friend, Pastor Jeff Teague, likes to expose how much we Christians tend to be insensitive to our own sin.  Utilizing his considerable acting abilities, Jeff asks with faux disdain, “Why is it that Jesus only hung around sinners?”  Many bite and respond with something like, “Yeah, that’s right.  He did hang around with a lot of unsavory types.”  By their response, many reveal that they feel different and therefore distant from the sinners Jesus regularly spent time with.  Then Jeff answers his own question, “Because sinners are the only people who exist!”

So yes, be ready to share about God’s design for marriage, but realize your answer may cloud more than clarify if it does not come with some honest comments about the sins which many times find safe harbor in the church.

 

 

28 thoughts on “SELECTIVE OUTRAGE ON THE LEGALIZATION OF HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE

  1. Ben Burns

    To use your analogy, are you saying that if my yard was impeccable, yea, even the finest example in the Housing Association of yard beautification, that my neighbor with the messy yard, who does not care to improve his yard, would genuinely appreciate my insight and seek my help to improve his landscaping? Is Galli saying that if Christians lived their faith more perfectly that our culture would not dismiss our ethic?

    Reply
  2. Dave Post author

    Hey Ben,

    Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts. Much appreciated!

    As Christians our responsibility is to have our “backyards” constantly addressed. The response of non-Christians might still be the same, but we are not responsible for the response. We are called to reflect the gospel of grace in a way which truly makes all feel that it is level ground at the foot of cross. I think we have done rather poorly in that regard with our selective outrage over homosexuality.

    Reply
    1. Ben Burns

      Okay, I was thinking more of my “front yard”, which is more visible to my neighbors, but I get the idea. However, you state “we are not responsible for the [non-believers] response”, but in the next sentence you state we are called to reflect a grace-filled example in such a way to “make all feel that is is level ground at the foot of the cross.” I agree we are walk humbly with Jesus, but what does it mean to be salt in a corrupt society? You can be salt in an arrogant and hypocritical fashion, but is it not possible to be salt in a humble fashion? I may not be as out-spoken about human trafficking, but does that disqualify me from speaking biblical truth about marriage? Do you think you would have had similar comments about the church’s selective outrage about racism in the 60s?

      Reply
  3. Gib Giblin

    good article- my box is full of requests for money to fight this. We just do not obey. We do not make disciples and ones we do are often worse sons of hell than we… [yes, I am saying we are hypocrites and Pharisees]
    We are not interested in the fields white with harvest but in protecting our organizations to the death. We again face the challenge of looking inward or seeking what God is doing. Jesus is alive, at the right hand of the Father and is building His church. Building. Building. Look up, the harvest is right in front of you.
    Again, my mailbox is full of requests for money to fight this- what are we fighting? Save our rights? Save our church building? Our tax exempt status? We need to be humble, admit our failings and minister to people, ultimately making disciples. Disciples who follow Jesus, who sense and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Lord Jesus forgive us, reveal yourself to us and lead in Your way.

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  4. Dave Post author

    Hey All,

    I just saw a picture of William Carey’s tombstone in Serampore, India. Recorded on it we find, “A Wretched Poor and Helpless Worm on Thy Kind Arms I Fall.” May the world increasingly appreciate that this is truly our posture before God.

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  5. Byron Peters

    Dave,
    I think it is wise for us to distinguish same sex attraction from homosexual acts. Your analysis does not make that distinction. I’ve really been helped by the folks writing for a blog entitled “Spiritual Friendship.” They are SSA Christians committed to celibacy and can help help us understand how the church can be a home to gay Christians seeking to live out a biblical sexual ethic in the context of loving community.

    Reply
  6. Dave Post author

    Gib,

    Thanks for sharing. Important words!

    Hey Byron,

    I’ve listened to a fair bit of Wesley Hill’s testimony on this. I think he has some good things to say, especially about friendship.

    My post was designed to focus on our inconsistency rather than some of the new conversations which are taking place on this topic.

    Reply
  7. Dave Post author

    Hey Ben,

    Thanks for circling back.

    Yes, we should do what we can to make everyone believe (at least that we believe) it is level ground at the foot of the cross. They may kind of get this, but still hate we are calling sin sin even if we are honest about our own sin. Jesus and the cross are stumbling-blocks, but they alone should be the stumbling blocks. Again, we should work hard at what we can do and leave the results to God.

    As to the racism question, I sure hope so. The church’s history is littered with selective outrage and we must speak out against any and all sin.

    Reply
  8. Dennis Okholm

    Good thoughts, Dave. I have been concerned that evangelicals are quick to dismiss Jesus’ fairly clear teaching on divorce-remarriage as adultery, while castigating those who embrace same-gender marriage. (We should probably start using “gender” here rather than “sex,” given more recent developments.)

    One of the ways of addressing this issue is to press states to decommission ministers as agents of the state and require that marriages be legalized at the courthouse. Then, churches can conduct weddings that reflect a Christian approach after the marriage has been given legal status by the state. This is the situation in Quebec province where my son-in-law pastored. The state has little (if any) interest about one’s gender, fidelity in marriage, etc. (It’s been said that you can’t teach a person to walk before they are born.) But the church does. Furthermore, it makes clear that Christians of all stripes join (or should join) company with all who advocate equal civil rights, regardless of (legal) preferences regarding sex.

    Reply
  9. Dave Post author

    Hey Dennis,

    Thanks for providing that perspective. We Christians need extra discernment to know how to be both “shrewd and innocent.” (Mt. 10:16)

    Reply
  10. Bubba C.

    Dave, On point! self examination is brutal. Ouch! Here is something else we should examine, although in hind site.

    I don’t know why the body of Christ is surprised at this new governmental revelation. This should have been expected when the Body of Christ relinquished its authority to the Government over the institution of Marriage many years ago. The Government didn’t originally establish the covenant of marriage nor did it initially govern its parameters. God did! The Body of Christ should not expect any Government to hold to absolute truth in any issue since it is comprised and manipulated by mankind and Ecclesiastes continual reminds us that “there is nothing new under the sun”.

    Reply
  11. David McCoy

    I usually don’t forward things to others, but I shared this with our pastor and a friend at church who had just taught a Sunday school class on the subject. They both enjoyed it and agreed with you, as I did, of course.

    Our pastor replied that he didn’t like to pick on any one sin but preferred to offend as many types of people as the Bible would allow. I enjoy his sense of humor.

    Reply
  12. Blair Brown

    You make an interesting point about conservative Christians’ selective view of sin. A large part of the problem comes from adopting certain core outlooks of this culture— personal autonomy and Pelagianism. American culture believes that we, as autonomous individuals decide our own ethics, and Christians often adopt this style by embracing certain parts of the Scriptures and sidestepping others. We also have the low view of sin characteristic of Pelagianism, which prevents us from seeing ourselves as sinful. Yet, there’s reason for hope. Israel repeatedly fell off the wagon, yet God remained faithful to His promises. We can only hope that the Spirit of Christ will open our eyes to our dismal circumstances.

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  13. mark cotnam

    Well Dave, as you so often do, you said what I’ve try to say many times and done such a better job than I ever do. Our selective outrage as Christians is one of the most damaging portions of our “city on a hill” witness we are supposed to have to the world. We stub our collective toe there and everything else we have to say, no matter how valid, loses all it’s power. Thanks for your well thought out and expressed comments.

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  14. Bob S

    Selective outrage over sin? Well, ssm is pretty outrageous, from the vantage point of Scripture, history or reason. Even if the evangelical church can’t get the creation ordinance of a one day rest in seven straight – i.e the 4th commandment- all the while the world can’t get the creation ordinance of marriage straight – i.e. the 7th commandment .
    God didn’t destroy Sodom and Gomorrah just because of gossip or gluttony – though yes, pride, wealth and indifference did lead up to it Ezk. 16:49.
    IOW there are degrees of sin Ezek 8:6,13,15

    Just as there are degrees of accountability.
    To whom much is given, much is required, judgement begins in the church.
    Matt. 11:23,24  And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

    But judgement doesn’t stop there.
    Rom. 1:20 – 32 still paints a pretty depressing picture of the progression from thanklessness, to idolatry to sexual promiscuity to sexual perversion, if not a whole host of sins, all equally damnable in the long run, though maybe not so apparent in the short run or civil sphere .

    Still, regardless if Rom. 1:28-31 is an exhaustive list or not , we should all be able to agree that both homosexuality and self righteousness are sins, with only unbelief being the ultimate and unforgivable sin.

    Homophobia, whatever that is?
    Not so much.

    Reply
  15. Dave Post author

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    My piece sought to focus mainly on how much we as a believing community are speaking about sin within our communities. Christians are certainly not a monolith (some do speak comprehensively about sin, some not so much), but I think we could do much better in candidly addressing our own sins. Since judgment starts with the household of God, it seems like a good and prudent thing to do.

    Reply
    1. Bob S

      Hi Dave,
      I would agree, but I personally don’t buy into the homophobia label.
      Yeah, some Christians and churches may err, but let’s not compromise the Christian witness/argument from the get go by letting the world define the terms. That’s all.
      Thanks,

      Reply
  16. Dave Post author

    Bob S.,

    I agree. Not clouding the gospel message was a major motivation for writing the piece. I know some biblical and therefore balanced Christians in navigating these issues, but again, I think many of us do somewhat poorly in communicating the gospel.

    Reply
  17. Sandy L.

    You make some valid and interesting points in this article. I do think secular society in America often sees the church as hypocritical and Pharisaical. When the church tries to dictate morality in society, it backfires. If we can resist the temptation to speak out publically against so many things, many will have a less hostile attitude toward the church. We can then be known and appreciated for the good things we bring into this world.

    Even though I agreed with a lot of your article, I was distracted by your many references to homosexuality as a sin. At the beginning of your article, you stated your stand on same sex marriage and homosexuality – judging both as sinful. There were several other times throughout the article where you made reference to “homosexuality as a sin”. I think your repeated emphasis on the specific “sin of homosexuality”, ironically, demonstrated the very problem you warned against.

    The phrase, “Let’s get this out of the way quickly” was troublesome to me. Your words and implications were strong. “Homosexual people are not part of God’s design and that marriage is not an option for them, but is totally exclusive to heterosexual couples”. (paraphrase) These statements have a strong effect on many homosexual people, their friends, and their families. Their dreams and hopes about their futures are on the line. These are not things to be “gotten out of the way quickly”. Here are the many references made in your article:

    “Let’s get one thing quickly out of the way. I believe that homosexuality is contrary to God’s perfect design. Also, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.
    We all know that homosexuality is sinful, but let’s not focus on that. There are many other sins like gluttony, adultery, love of money, gossip, sex outside of marriage, unscrupulous business practices, racism, and more. Yes, sometimes we do have to speak out about the sin of homosexuality, but if we do that too much and too quickly, it leaves many important things left unsaid. I have grave concerns about our laser-like focus on the horrors of homosexuality. Our selective outrage has made us not act like Jesus.”

    Why the repetition, why the emphasis, why the “laser-like” focus? Why put homosexuality on the chopping block to make a point in your article? Why use it as the “dunce in the corner”?

    Not far into the article, you say, “WE all know homosexuality is a sin.” Who is the “we”? Are you speaking of all your readers or of all Christians? I am a Christian and I am not part of the “we” and I don’t agree with you. I don’t understand why God created some people differently. You say homosexuality is not part of God’s perfect design. Homosexuals exist. Did God fall short of his own standard? Is there anyone out there who is designed perfectly? I am sure many homosexual people wonder why God made them the way He did. I don’t have the knowledge or insight to guess what God has in store for people who have special needs. I believe if homosexuality were a critical issue with God, it would be splashed all over the pages of the Bible. I am confident that God did not make junk. The life journeys of homosexual people aren’t as easy and clear -cut as those of heterosexuals. How can we best serve our homosexual friends? I believe we can give them the encouragement to pursue God, free from our opinions and advice. We can be quiet so they can listen to God. We can believe and respect what they hear from Him. We can honor the choices that they make. Some may stay single. Some may leave it open. Some may pursue the same things we all cherish in this life – a mate, a family, and someone to grow old with. Does God ban us from giving grace to these people? In Romans 14:13, Paul says, “Not only are we not to judge others, but we should make it our purpose to not put obstacles in their way.” As I said before, I don’t know how God speaks to people born different than most. The waters are muddy, but I choose to err on the side of grace.

    I acknowledge and respect the views of people who think differently.

    Reply
  18. Dave Post author

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for posting. My post actually seeks to expand how we think about sin. Instead of just focusing on homosexuality, there are many things we should include. The church has done a pretty poor job of this.

    Grace is slung out a lot in these conversations. Grace is never at odds with any of God’s other attributes like holiness and justice. We can disagree sharply, but still be gracious. We can agree and be lacking in grace. Grace is not mere acceptance. It is a much thicker biblical reality.

    Reply
  19. Sandy L.

    Thank you for your reply.

    Your post seems to be directed toward fellow believers who are in harmony with your basic beliefs. I can see the sense in that. It’s easier to make your points and not get bogged down with too many side issues. I appreciate that and I should probably stay out of this one.

    Maybe at another time you can share your thoughts about homosexuality and we can discuss it as a separate topic.

    Reply
  20. Colby E. Kinser

    It seems to me that the fear factor is much larger than we reaiize. I believe quite a few Christians are reacting based on fear, but not homophobia. It’s a fear of theological dissonance, perhaps. The normalization of things like same-sex marriage threatens what some think the Gospel is … a very Constantinian vehicle for sin management, with a focus on who’s in and who’s out. Same-sex marriage, for example, threatens that, which is wrongly perceived as a threat to the Gospel itself. Hence, fear. We see both of the classic responses to fear – fight or flight.

    I don’t see Jesus responding that way to normalized sin. (His angry response is reserved primarily for hypocrisy.)

    Reply

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