Thursday, March 22, 2012

Threatening the Family? Really?

Previously I have felt that although my church was not LGBT affirming, it was at least making some small steps towards building a few bridges of sensitivity to the LGBT community.

For example, a few months ago we had Christopher Yuan preach. Christopher is a Christian gay male who, for himself, has embraced holy sexuality (in practice for him I believe this means celibacy). In his message Christopher pointed out how to better speak/relate to LGBT people without causing offense. However, several weeks ago my pastor included the following illustration in his sermon:

"The family which has always been the basic structure and strength of any nation, since the beginning of time, is being threatened by same sex marriages. Two weeks ago, the new mayor of Chicago put his own stamp of approval for the legalization of same sex marriage in the state of Illinois. It is coming."

Unfortunately, if I had been a visiting LGBT person that day, I would have taken offense. How can we successfully touch the LGBT people in our community with the message of Jesus’s love when we preach insensitivity from the pulpit? Since my paster made those remarks in his sermon, I’ve been trying to formulate a response. l’m not very good at confrontation but I feel that his remarks in that context were not appropriate and I want to gently challenge him. These are my notes for that conversation.

I believe that it is perfectly acceptable within Christianity to hold a position that LGBT Christians must remain celibate. Within the Christian LGBT community, such a position is held by some. But I question whether or not it is appropriate for the church to argue against same-sex marriage as a legal contract approved of by the government for society as a whole.

Besides, inquiring minds, like mine, want to know just how the family is being threatened by same sex marriages?

➤ Which is worse for the family: same sex marriage or divorce between heterosexual parents?

The same Sunday that he preached this sermon, the worship leader was a woman who several years ago had an affair with a married man also on the worship team. The marriage broke up over the affair and the couple left the church. The worship leader participated in a restoration program with a female staff member at out church and was back participating on the worship team six months after the affair ended. Meanwhile, the wife and their two children were irreparably damaged.

(Note:  I also don’t intend to negate the power of repentance and restoration. Of course God forgives our sins, but the point is that the consequences of this sin live on in the life of the spouse and child who were damaged by the sin and have contributed. What threatens marriage? Divorce / Same-sex Marriage?)

I want to know... who has threatened marriage more... a gay couple (married in Iowa) who have been together for twenty years and are raising their two adopted special needs children or the two people on the worship team who’s affair destroyed a marriage or the Christian man who has been divorced twice, leaving children with two different wives and is now married to a third woman?

Just how does LGBT marriage threaten the family? Specifically. I want to know.

➤ Doesn’t encouraging stability in any relationship strengthen society as a whole? Isn’t it better for society as a whole for LGBT people to be in stable, committed relationships rather than be cast adrift as a single purson pursuing multiple partners?

The following quote was taken from a Huffington Post column written by Marten Weber.

"Marriage is about creating a state of government-sanctioned, stable cohabitation that, among other things, allows people to feel safe, settled, and complete. Having a mate makes us better people. It teaches us responsibility and the art of compromise, such as sharing the last of the ice cream in the fridge, taking out the trash, and upholding proper hygiene. It is a cultural tool that, ideally, makes men and women less volatile and more productive, one that makes us more civilized."

How does letting LGBT people experience this stable cohabitation destroy the family? I want to know?

➤ Legal Rights Conferred on Married Couple

I think that when Christians discuss marriage equality, it is important to remember that marriage in our society is more than a covenantal relationship between God and man. In our country, marriage is a legal arrangement sanctioned and overseen by the state that grants over a thousand rights to the individuals within a marriage. If I as a heterosexual have access to those rights, why should those same rights be denied to LGBT individuals? If they are citizens of our country why don’t they have the same rights and privileges as the rest of us?

Here are just a few of the 1000+ rights granted to married couples that aren’t given to un-married (whether gay or straight) couples:

The following quote from

"There are over 1,100 protections and responsibilities conferred on married couples by the federal government including access to health care, parenting and immigration rights, social security, veterans and survivor benefits, and transfer of property—and that doesn't include several hundred state and local laws, protections conferred by employers, or the intangible security, dignity, respect, and meaning that comes with marriage.  Excluding committed same-sex couples from marriage means shutting out families from the safety and security created by these protections and responsibilities.

Taken as a whole, marriage law reveals a social consensus about how to treat two people who voluntarily pledge to care for each other and their children. Marriage laws enable (or require) couples to fulfill the most common wedding vows:

In sickness and in health: Marriage automatically enables spouses to visit each other in the hospital; to make each others' emergency medical decisions; to share a family health plan; and to take medical leave to care for a sick spouse or child.

For richer and for poorer: Marriage means that governments, banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions will consider both spouse's incomes, assets, or debts in such matters as taxes, credit, loans, inheritance, divorce settlements, and eligibility for public housing, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits.

When a child joins the family: Marriage automatically enables the spouses to be joint parents, covering such situations as making school or medical decisions, applying for passports, passing on inheritances, or being eligible for visitation rights and child support obligations if the parents separate.

When death parts the pair: Marriage law enables a survivor to continue to care for (or be cared for by) the dead partner in such situations as making funeral arrangements, inscribing an epitaph, inheriting a lease, filing wrongful death claims, taking bereavement leave, and passing on property."

All of the above, if granted to same-sex couples, would seem to strengthen society, the family and not destroy it. In our country, marriage is not just a religious institution. It is a legal contract entered into with the permission of the government and dissolved with the permission of the government.

As Christians, whether or not we are gay affirming, it seems to me that we can still support same sex marriage because the issue is a matter of civic respect and fairness within a democratic society. A simple act of being a good neighbor.... treating others we would wish to be treated... loving our neighbors as ourselves.

And even if same-sex marriage is legal, churches can still decided on a church by church basis whether or not they want to perform a marriage between a couple (straight or gay) in their individual church. Church communities cannot be forced by the government to bless or perform any marriage.

➤ Can Homosexuals Change Their Orientation?

The evidence is growing that change in orientation is almost impossible. As reported on Canyon Walker connections, after 20+ years of trying to bring change and promising Christian LGBT people that change is possible, this past January Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, at a GCN conference, admitted publicly, in front of a packed audience of over 400 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians, their friends, families and allies, that change in orientation is NOT possible. He said:

"The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could  never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction. I think there is a gender issue there, there are some women who have challenged me and said that my orientation or my attractions have changed completely. Those have been few and far between. The vast majority of people that I know will experience some level of same-sex attraction."

Other leaders of other LGBT change organizations have also left their organizations and in one instance, John Smit formerly with Live in Action, offered a complex apology for the damaged LGBT lives he contributed to through his years with Love in Action.

The rest of society has held this position for years, but the Christian community is finally recognizing that change in orientation is not probable  and infact the organizations that promote change have harmed many of the people who they were supposed to help.

Back to same-sex marriage. If change is not possible, isn’t it cruel to deny the people who are not able to change their orientations the protections and legal rights of a marriage? Leaving the debate within the church aside, most LGBT people live a life outside the church (since we don’t welcome them in). Wouldn’t our society and their lives be better and more stable if marriage were available for them and their families? It certainly would be better if we would welcome LGBT people into our church communities.

It seems to me that is hard to demonstrate that allowing same-sex couples to marry threatens the family and destroys marriage. The arguments seem to be more fear based and comes from that place of protecting that which is comfortable and familiar. Instead of trying to walk in the shoes of LGBT people and see the world from their perspective, instead of trying to build bridges with people from the LGBT community, we Christians stridently scream about biblical definitions of marriage. However, we live in a country that, since it's inception, has promoted equality for all. Denying LGBT people the right to marry seems to fly in the face of that equality.

It seems to me that allowing people with same-sex orientation to marry strengthens our communities by providing stability to those that currently lack that stability. Since marriage is a secular/legal/societal contract authorized by the state, I believe that we should provide the LGBT community with the same protections and covenants available to everyone else.

Same-sex marriage is not a religious issue. It is not a ‘fear’ issue. It is a matter of treating all citizens in our country the same with the same rights and privileges. I believe that we can support same sex marriage because the issue is a matter of civic respect and fairness within a democratic society. A simple act of being a good neighbor.... treating others we would wish to be treated... loving our neighbors as ourselves. At least that’s how I see it.

I’m still researching my Christian theological view on same-sex relations. I can’t say for certain if the sexual behaviors of LGBT people are or are not sin. People who believe that God's Word is inerrant can and have come to different positions on this. What I do know is that God loves every LGBT person he has ever created and I do know that Jesus said that it is not my responsibility to point out the spec in anyone else’s eye. Jesus told me to work on the logs in my eye and let other believers worry about their sawdust. I know that holds true in this discourse.

I don't really expect my church or my pastor to come out in support of marriage equality. That is a place too far, but I do hope that he will be more cautious in his public words.  I've been thinking about giving him a copy of Andrew Marin's book Love is an Orientation to help him learn about building bridges with the LGBT community.

Anyone have anything else I can include? K

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