An Essay I Didn’t Want to Write

I’ve had a lot on my heart lately.  A lot of thoughts, issues, questions that are simmering deep inside me as I search for discernment and clarity.
Some of these you will probably read about in future essays.  Some may stay in my heart for a while yet.
Notebook and Book
This essay today, though, is one I did not want to write.  It makes me nervous and uncomfortable.  I was tempted to leave it alone.
I worry that people will think I am foolish.  I hate being foolish.
I worry that people will get angry with me. I hate having people mad at me.
Worried
I am trying, however, to value God’s opinion of me more than man’s, to desire God’s approval of my writing more than man’s.
I could come up with all sorts of worries and reasons why I shouldn’t write this, but one of the main reasons is that it is a topic about which most people don’t allow dissent. One can either agree with the speaker’s point of view or get lambasted over a fire of burning coals.  I think I just boiled together several metaphors.
Burning Coals
The topic?  Same-sex marriage.
Upset Baby
See?  You had an immediate visceral reaction one way or the other, didn’t you?  :-)
Could we agree to something within this space?
Could we agree to love each other, regardless of our opinions? Could we agree to listen to each other with open hearts and to trust that we are all trying to follow Christ the best that we can? Can we agree to value diversity of thought and to have a conversation in which we may find ourselves in disagreement?
Coffee and Conversation
I’m not sure why this topic causes so much emotion.
Even those who do not claim the name of Christ can see it:
Spiked logo
Brendan O’Neill, a self-proclaimed atheistic libertarian who is a columnist for spiked says:
But I have never encountered an issue like gay marriage, an issue in which the space for dissent has shrunk so rapidly, and in which the consensus is not only stifling but choking.  This is the only issue on which, for criticising it from a liberal, secular perspective, I’ve been booed during an after-dinner speech and received death threats.
I’m not sure why this is so, but that’s not really within the scope of this essay.  Suffice it to say, I feel nervous talking about this topic.
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Yet it is at the forefront of our American culture right now as we wait for our Supreme Court to rule on the Defense of Marriage Act and on California’s Proposition 8 (probably sometime this month), and so I feel that I need to speak.
Several popular Christian bloggers lately have spoken about this issue, both for and against, and I feel that I, too, should speak.  I am quite sure that I don’t have all the answers and I know for certain that I am probably wrong on several fronts.  Still, I have this space, this platform, for speaking and for conversation, and if enough of us can host a civil conversation, perhaps we all might get somewhere helpful.
Those bloggers who championed the gay/lesbian cause challenged the Church to stop treating homosexuals harshly, to quit excluding gays and lesbians from their congregations, to instead love them unconditionally.
With that, I agree wholeheartedly.  Sin is sin, and to heap shame and disgrace and hatred on the heads of some while extending grace, or worse a blind eye, to those who commit adultery or have sex outside of marriage or gossip about all those who do is simply wrong.  We are called to love each other and to look in the mirror at our own plank before picking at the dust in another’s eye.
And so I, for one, say to any who have been made to feel shame or to feel unloved or worthless by anyone in the Church: I’m sorry.  We all struggle with sin and with judgement.  Please look at Christ rather than at us for perfection and holiness.
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
Yet inside the Church is different than outside the Church; the atmosphere of the Church is different than the laws of the land, and I’m not convinced that legalizing same-sex marriage is wise.  When it comes to the laws of our country, I try not to consider things solely from a Biblical viewpoint, because I also am not convinced that we should impose Biblical principles on a country that espouses freedom to practice any or no religion.
American Flag
Standards of morality for believers are much different than for those who do not claim the name of Jesus.
Yet even when I look at things from a philosophical or a natural law point of view, legalizing same-sex marriage doesn’t seem to make sense.
Laws should be about advancing the public interests of society.  In every culture, children are the future, so it would make sense to incentivize  a marriage contract that can bear children, that contributes to the success of society’s future.  It may or may not be true that legalizing same-sex marriage would advance the private interests of our society, but private interests do not justify the force of a law.  No liberty is being denied to anyone who wants to live together and call it marriage.  The issue seems to be whether the state should grant incentives to anyone who wants to live together and call it marriage.  This sort of proposed law does not advance the public interests.
As long as one side is angry with me, may I now pique the other side?
Making You Mad
Same-sex marriage is not the greatest threat to the traditional definition of marriage.
Inside and outside the Church, when our highest goal is our own self-satisfaction, when we choose self over a spouse and children, God’s version of marriage is threatened more than when a free country decides to legalize same-sex marriage.  I believe that the loss of keeping a covenant before God is the greater threat to the tradition of marriage.
 Wedding Photo
Yet in the end, for those of us who claim to follow Jesus, it doesn’t much matter whether we would have voted for or against Proposition 8.  It doesn’t much matter whether we enjoy debating the matter thoroughly or we’d rather hide under a bed then speak about such things.
What matters is how we love people.  What matters is that we treat all people as men and women who are loved by God and are therefore full of worth.
We must love as Jesus loved Zaccheus and the Samaritan woman.  We must love as Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery and the men who crucified Him.
We must love as Jesus loves us.
So let’s have the conversation, and let’s love each other at the same time.  What do you say?

art credit: Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Henryk Siemiradzki

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Comments

  1. Well said, Elizabeth. My Dan has been thinking a lot of the same things. I think if we loved people in a more Christ like manner, a lot of these issues would cease to be such lightning rod issues. The people that have loved me the most in my life have often disagreed to me over choices I made, but there was grace and love spoken so eloquently by them that it reached my heart in a way like nothing else could and many times changed me. May we all seek to have Jesus teach us more deeply how to love.

    • Thank you, Nola. I think that many people speak harshly when they are not secure in what they believe. When someone disagrees, they tend to lash out in order to make themselves feel more confident and “right”. I am trying to trust in the Spirit to guide me and to be willing to listen to other opinions, knowing that God will give me discernment if I ask. Regardless of how I feel, God asks me to always love. Always.

  2. Just an added thought, while people can live together and call it a marraige, they can’t be on each other’s insurance, or be in the ICU because only family members are allowed there. There are legal reasons why people would want to be legally married regardless of their sex preference. And if we are only getting married to propagate the human race I think there is something missing in the reason for marriage. Many people choose not to have children, or can’t. This doesn’t diminish their marriage, nor does it legally nullify it.

    I do agree with your second thought in that there are many things which diminish the sanctity of marriage, selfishness being one of the prime things.

    • That is a really good point. I wonder if there is a way to separate out rights, such as you mentioned: insurance and hospital visitations, and incentives that we all must pay for out of our tax dollars. This is such a hard thing…I’m glad I don’t have to make any of the decisions! :-) It’s good for me to think about, though.

      As for only getting married to bear children, I only meant that in terms of public law, not in terms of our own personal reasons for marriage. If law is meant to advance public interests, it seems that bearing children is one of the only reasons to make laws about marriage.

  3. Way to speak out sister. I’m so proud of your willingness to step out there. I know this is a contentious issue. I know it drives a wedge between people. I also know that we are called to love others, from all kinds of backgrounds and persuasions. However, I do believe that same-sex marriage is a critical threat to society in general. God created us to worship Him and instructed us to go forth and multiply. He created us for that purpose. Selfish behavior cuts both ways and we are feeling the brunt of the loudest, most selfish people in our culture right now. Those who want to have it all and want never to have to change their behavior, because it “feels” good. Tough call. I’m still proud of you for writing this!!!

    • It is definitely a difficult issue with so many different points of view. I know just enough to know that there is so much I don’t know about this topic! (Did you get that convoluted sentence?!) I am always grateful when people can discuss opposing ideas with grace and manners so that we can all listen and learn.

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