To my friends who really believe that gay marriage is an equality issue, one we should be at the fore front of:
I hear you. I really do. And there is a part of me that really wants to be in your camp. I want to be someone not opposed to what some view as a civil rights issue. But the problem is I can't let go of my belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God which guides my decisions. For many of you, the Bible holds no authority in your life and I don't expect you to buy into Biblical standards as truth. And for many of you, you also believe the Bible to be truth but you have come to see the passages regarding homosexuality in a different way than I do. (Which is not one of picking and choosing what I want to believe but is instead about Old Testament laws being established both as cultural and moral practices, with the New Testament covenant under Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament laws in a way only grace can. So truly I do not see a conflict in eating shellfish or wearing clothing of mixed fibers because those were Old Testament commands given as a part of the covenant with Israel, and are not a part of the New Testament covenant.) I have heard your thoughts and while I disagree, I do not think it makes you less of a Christian or on the road to Hell.
And I can't let go of the fact that I don't think it is the same as racial equality. No one ever said that being black is about a sin. (And I'm so sorry to throw that word "sin" into the conversation because I know for you, there is a good chance the word "sin" is a huge sticking point. I'm only using it because there is no way to make that point without using the word. I don't see this as in issue of having a greater sin than someone else or legislating moral behavior.) Yes, people did think interracial marriages were sinful or integration wrong but neither issue is specifically addressed as sin within the Bible. (Marrying into other cultures, yes, but as applicable to the Israelites. Slavery, yes. But within the context of Roman slavery which was a completely different type of slavery than what existed in the US.)
Please try to understand those who hold that viewpoint and therefore cannot see it as a civil rights issue because they believe personal choice to be involved. (As well as genetics and environment.) I am certainly no expert on being gay and I certainly will not pretend to understand, but I cannot let go of the way Ted Haggard, the disgraced preacher from Colorado described his own struggle with homosexuality as a struggle, not as something he is cured from or delivered from, but as a daily on-going struggle.
For my friends in the church who feel strongly on the issue being a moral and spiritual turning point in our country:
I also hear you. And I too wonder about the equality part as it applies to polygamy or other similar situations. I hear how you feel like it is an issue of relativism, where there there is no basis for truth, only a belief that we have to do what is right although we have no moral compass other than our own self to guide us.
But please consider your tone. Shouting Bible verses at people who are atheists or agnostic is a ridiculous idea because they don't consider the Bible to be useful for shaping laws. Beating down other believers by using the Bible to show them how wrong they are and how they are not true Christians is equally ineffective.
Saying cliches like "love the sinner, hate the sin" sound like a cloying drop of honey, ill placed and likely to make one gag even though it was meant to be flavorful. We are called to be known for our love and humility. When we engage in debates online in a tit for tat fashion (pink and red equal signs and pink and red crosses, anyone?), I'm not sure it is constructive. Rhetoric does not change hearts. Relationships and love change hearts. (And I'm not convinced that it's my job to change hearts anyway. Isn't that up to the Holy Spirit and the Father above?)
Here's the deal: I have avoided most conversations on this issue until now because it seems like just another fray that is not worth entering into in the online world. But after reading several blog posts and online articles, after watching the Facebook tide, my heart is torn.
It just seems like you have to pick a side. That you have to be for gay marriage and against the Bible and other believers or you are against gay marriage and against those who are gay.
Can I just say I'm neither?
My heart has been shaped by both mercy and the concept of the Bible as truth. When I was in college, I once caught a ride with a friend to a town about 2 hours away. While we were driving, he shared with me we were going to his aunts' house and that they were gay. I was a small town girl and honestly that was probably my first experience with an openly gay couple and their family. More than anything, I remember sitting in his car trying to match up my thoughts on sin with the fact that these were his aunts, people whom he loved. I quickly realized how complicated it gets when its someone you love is gay and that I would have felt terrible for him (and his aunts) if someone had spoken unkindly to them.
About the same time, I also read the book, What's So Amazing About Grace? by Phillip Yancy. In that book, Yancy shares about a Christian friend who left his wife for a homosexual relationship. Yancy relays how hard it was to take the idea of "hate the sin" because it just didn't seem like something someone would say to a dear friend. Yancy also tells how his friend felt like it was easier to get a hug in a gay bar than in the church. Sad truths.
But my Bible college brain has a pretty deep seeded grasp on what I believe about the Bible, sin, and grace. I cannot just say "well, God didn't really mean that when He had Paul write that." Nor can I do as one blogger suggested and separate the Bible from my political views. (See Rage Against the Minivan's The Biblical Definition of Marriage and its Relevance to Marriage Equality.) We all (Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic, whatever) have guiding principles that become our standards. We all "impose" our beliefs on others when we vote, when we share our opinions, etc.. It is not about me trying to legislate morality but instead about someone saying "I think we have to have some way to inform our decisions that is based on something other than what popular society says is right, good, orderly, etc.." And I do not think my willingness to use the Bible as my guidepost automatically puts me into the "my way or the high way, here's 100 Scriptures for you to look up, we all must believe the same way camp."
So please let me choose something that is full of mercy and love, set on the foundation of the Bible as God's inspired, inerrant words. Let me not choose the equal sign or the rebuttal cross but instead an inward slant, that focuses on the heart.