Thursday, May 26, 2011

Where do we go from here?

A few months ago I became convinced that, at some point in the near future, same-gender matrimony will become a reality in the U.S. I say this as a concession, not in jubilation, as I have never believed that homosexual conduct can be of God.

I'm not the only one who believes that, either. Yesterday I read a piece on the wire at work by columnist Bonnie Erbe in which she quoted Focus on the Family's Jim Daly saying that the organization was no longer allocating resources toward fighting "gay marriage" -- it's convinced that it has already lost. Unfortunately, I think he's right.

The reason is because those of us who don't believe in it have lost every single argument in the greater society, especially among people in their 30s or younger who will be in power in a few short years.

Part of the problem is that, when Christians signed onto the "culture war" in the late 1970s, we already compromised our witness by partnering with unbelievers. That determined not so much our beliefs but the way we expressed them, often negatively -- based on fear of the "other" rather than a positive confession of foundational truth. (There was a reason for that -- Cal Thomas, vice president for communications for the late but hardly lamented Moral Majority, was once told by a fundraiser, "You can't raise money on a positive.")

As a result, we came across to gays and their allies as persecutors; truth be told, some of us became exactly that. When I was in high school the youth group leader passed out a paper saying, without any evidence, that "Homosexuals tend to recruit." (I later learned that it really meant that gay groups simply leave their literature on college campuses. Like any other group.) One interviewee on a Christian radio program referred to contracting AIDS was something that gays "deserved"; I won't go there.

What about "God's design" for marriage? Well, look what we Christians have done with it -- a higher divorce rate that the world, especially in some "red" states. And considering that too often we choose partners based on what some might call spiritualized lust, we don't have the authority to respond when someone attracted to the same gender says, "Can I help whom I love?"

And also consider the large number of family members and friends, even in the evangelical church, who are coming "out of the closet" -- at that point, it's no longer "out there somewhere." So when gay groups and liberal activists consider the right to marry as a civil right, well, it resonated. Court decisions and legislation cannot but follow.

I participated in a fast today, as my church does on Thursdays, and one of the issues we're wrestling with is how to minister to gays that may cross our path. There may come a time when, because we subscribe to a "traditional" sexual ethic, we may run into problems. Because of all the ministry we do in the community we maintain a great reputation citywide; are we prepared to lose it because we'll willing to say that homosexuality doesn't represent God's ideal? More to the point, will we and similar churches eventually experience persecution or, at the very least, be relegated to being considered "out of touch?"

But if that be the case and we do lose our standing in the 'hood, it might be good in the long run for us spiritually. After all, the early church didn't have the greatest of reputations and often found itself on the run -- and yet people were flocking to it, being drawn only by the Spirit of Christ. In that day the church took in strangers and riff-raff because it understood personally what that was. Maybe being marginalized will determine just who truly belongs to Christ -- or not.


asutton said...

I believe that a consistent witness is an attractive witness. Standing firm on God's word and promises is what sets a true believer apart from the hypocrite. If my witness changes when I am engaged in conversation with one with whom I disagree, I am a hypocrite. Nobody will continue to listen or engage with a hypocrite. There is no point in it. His opinion becomes irrelevant since it changes according to the context he is in. Jesus didn't tell Matthew or Zaccheus it was ok to be a Tax Collector. He just showed them that He was more concerned with them as a person than what they were presently doing.

Jim Wehde said...

I don't trust myself, based on past performance, to use being "a consistent witness" as an excuse not to reflect, and actually change when I realize I have been wrong in some aspect of my witness.

And I will admit, I have been wrong on the homosexuality issue - that is, believing my thoughts on the issue should dictate the laws of my secular society...believing that my beliefs about homosexuality should stop me from the compassionate move of encouraging healthy, monogamous behavior societally among that group.
The pride came, I decided, from my belief that, since the Bible is the Word of God, then my current interpretation of it is infallible. Since it does not call itself that, it was a faulty starting point