Friday the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. Many people I know are celebrating. However, I don’t feel like I can join in. I feel that to do so would be to rub in the face of many other people I know. I want be cautious not to become whom I criticize. If I hate others by celebrating their misery1, even if I disagree with them because I perceived them to be hating others, am I any better? In God’s kingdom, I believe victory isn’t defeating ones enemies through force2. That is the way of the world. Victory is bringing peace where there was animosity and making friends with former enemies.
It’s too easy to reduce people and their position to something they’re not. I think this is perhaps the biggest problem with many controversial issues. It’s easy to think “I take this position because I believe all people have this right and shouldn’t be discriminated against, so anyone who takes a different position must be discriminatory, bigoted and hateful, so obviously our side is good and the other side is bad.” However, if I do this, I’ve now judged and condemned them as being a worse person than I, and I now afford myself the right to disregard and disrespect them.
To anyone who has said something along the lines of “The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.”3 please stop. What I hear when people have said this is “I can’t possibly be wrong about what I believe to be true, and since you disagree with me, you absolutely must be wrong.” This completely lacks humility in my opinion. It places the speaker in the position of judge over the truth. (And if we consider Jesus’ claim to be truth, it would therefore place the speaker in judgement over Christ as well.) I understand the Bible to be against this type of judgement. I know that people think, “I’m not the source of truth and judgement, I get this from the Bible.” The problem isn’t the Bible nor truth. The problem is the failure to separate these with our understanding of these. Too often people hold that their understanding of the Bible is the Bible and truth. When we fail to recognize this distinction, conveniently our beliefs are God’s beliefs, and now anyone else doesn’t just disagree with us, they disagree with God.
No matter how clear a person thinks the Bible is on the issue of homosexuality, the fact is that there are a wide range of beliefs about this held among devout Christians. It’s not just a few fringe voices whom are open to homosexuality in some regard. Therefore, it’s my conviction that Christians must treat this as a debatable issue, and hold our beliefs on it loosely. This means we don’t use a person’s stance on homosexuality as a test for orthodoxy, their Bible interpretation, church membership, leadership, etc. Can we be willing to be humble on this topic? Are we willing to put love in front of our beliefs? Are we willing to trust God to convict people of sin? (In other words, if we do hold that homosexuality is sin, can we trust that God will make this clear to people and that he can do so without our help?)
For my friends for whom this decision is important: I’m glad for you, I recognize the importance to you, and I want to celebrate with you. I just don’t want to do so in a way which I feel comes across as villainizing the other side. Even if I disagree with their position, I don’t agree with the notion that they are evil people, just as much as I don’t agree with the notion that homosexuals are bad people.
In summary, what I’m saying is this: my understanding of the Bible (especially the “Sermon on the Mount”4) causes me to be against judging and condemning other people and to therefore to interact with other people humbly. The idea is that we are all on the same level, all imperfect, but all loved by God.
1 I recognize that most who are celebrating aren’t doing so primarily out of spite.
2 The enemies I have in mind here are other people. See Ephesians 6:12.
3 Quote attributed to George Orwell.
4 See Matthew 5-7.
Postscript: There is probably no perfect way to address the delicate issue. I am afraid that some will feel that this is yet another in a long line of marginalizations. I don’t want it to be that way. I want to recognize that many have been deeply hurt for a long time, and that the Supreme Court’s decision is a mark of healing and acceptance. It’s just difficult to communicate this all in one short article.