Friday, August 03, 2012

LATE POST: Gay Marriage: Political Windfall, Religious Red Herring

[Note: I wrote this post seven years ago, but somehow forgot to publish it.]

In a post-mortem discussion of the 2004 election, Karl Rove, campaign advisor to George W. Bush, said that the elevation of moral issues helped Republicans in both the Presidential and Congressional races. A poll published in the Chicago Tribune supported Rove’s claim. It revealed that 22% of voters polled cited moral values as the election’s key issue and overwhelmingly chose Bush as the candidate with the strongest moral stance. Rove cited, in particular, the role of the same-sex marriage debate. He said that Massachusetts’ move to legalize same-sex marriage had "captured and colored the national imagination."

Prior to the election, I had seen countless news reports and articles about Christian organizations and churches coming out in support of Bush, and his position against gay marriage and for the Constitutional ban of gay marriage. There were even interviews with Black pastors and parishioners, who typically skew more  Democratic, proclaiming the same support for the Republican candidate.

Most surprising to me were discussions of these news stories with my Black, Christian friends. I jokingly mentioned that Black people were on the news campaigning for a Republican candidate, en masse, without insisting that their faces be blurred. In response, I was scolded for not doing "the Christian thing" and supporting the candidate that stood for Christian values. My voting along traditional party and racial lines was considered a compromise. Stern references to Sodom and Gomorrah were bandied about.

It was these interactions that led me to develop what may be considered a radical position in the same-sex marriage debate: none. I don’t care. What’s more, I’m convinced that God doesn’t care either. As such, I think it is wrong for the Christian church to take a stance one way or the other in this debate, especially in the name of upholding Christian morality.

Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is very clear on God’s stance on homosexuality. Rarely one to mince words, God calls homosexuality an "abomination" in Leviticus 18:22, and has other choice words to say on the topic in various Old and New Testament verses. That fact established, I have little doubt that God doesn't care about same-sex marriage. Admittedly, I did not comb the Bible for a verse describing God’s position. So, my conviction is based solely on the Godly principle of logic.

The gay marriage debate is not a matter of "sin," as some would like to claim. It is, instead, one of sin management. That is, it explicitly or implicitly makes allowance for sin, by stipulating a subsequent condition or action. The position being put forth as the religious and moral imperative is essentially, "as long as you are a homosexual, you cannot get married."

According to the Bible, being a homosexual is a sin. What one can and cannot do as a homosexual is not really discussed. The reason, I propose, is that God’s only goal for a person operating in a given sin is to get them to stop committing that sin, not to inconvenience them while they are operating in that sin. It is the equivalent of saying people who commit adultery can only have sex in cars and cheap motel rooms. Like homosexuality, God is clear in His assertion that adultery is a sin. So, would God’s interest be in dictating where a couple can commit adultery or would He be more interested in their not committing adultery? The Ten Commandments say "Thou shalt not..." They do not go on to say, "But as long as thou doth..."

Speaking of adultery, for an illustration of how God would have Christians to deal with people operating in sin, we need look no further than Christ himself. In John 6, we see how Jesus interacts with a woman who was caught in the act of committing adultery. One of the reasons I love Jesus is because he had a sarcastic streak, which only came out when he was dealing with hypocritical religious fundamentalists. In this instance, they told Him they caught the woman and reminded Him that according to the Law she was supposed to be killed by having heavy rocks thrown at her. After ignoring them for a few minutes, Jesus said, (and I’m paraphrasing) "Sure, go ahead and kill her, and whichever of you has never done anything wrong gets to throw the first stone." None of them wanted to voluntarily admit to being perfect, on the record, so they all left. Once they were gone, Jesus told the woman that she was safe, he forgave her, and she should stop sleeping with men who are not her husband.

Elsewhere, namely in Romans 13:14, Galatians 6:1, and 2 Corinthians 5:20, the Bible confirms that the Christian position on any matter of sin is to be one of love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration into right relationship with God. It’s not about judgement. It’s not about self-righteousness. And, it’s not about making allowances for sin.

While I could argue the merits of the alleged Bush/Kerry dichotomy in the same-sex marriage debate, that is not my point here. My issue is with the merits of the Christian Church, as an agent of God, taking a stand on one side or the other in this debate. If neither side in the same-sex marriage debate is arguing the stated position of God – a position of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration – then the Church has no place in the debate.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lalah

This is a post I wrote September 19, 2007, but never got around to publishing. Funny that it speaks to exactly what I'm going through right now...

Last weekend I went to a concert with my friend, Jon. It was a live recording for the latest chapter of Kirk Whalum’s Gospel According to Jazz series. For those who don’t know the series, Kirk gathers a cadre of incredible jazz artists and records a jam session of great jazz music that interprets or is inspired by Gospel music.

One of the artists on the bill was Lalah Hathaway, one of my favorite singers. She sang a few songs, but one blew me away. The chorus says, “Don’t ask me how I could love you. It’s 'cause I’m love. It’s what I do.”

Whoa! Having struggled for so much of my life to feel lovable, I still occasionally ask God “why.” Why does he love me? Why would he risk/waste so much of himself on me? Why does he chase me when I run? Why does he wait for me to catch up? Why did he keep saying ‘I love you’ when he knew I wouldn’t believe him? Why did he trust me with so much?

A couple of years ago, around the middle of the Living Waters course, the light came on. I truly felt for the first time that God loved me. So, I asked him why and how. And that was his answer, “I love you because I am love.” Hearing the song reminded me of that fact.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Get Thee Behind Me, Jesus

I learn a lot about God from my friends.

Once or twice a month my friend and I go on a long bike ride. As a considerably weaker rider, I lag behind a lot. I feel bad sometimes, holding him back, but he puts up with it because he's a really good friend.

I've noticed that when he gets too far ahead for me to see him, I develop a sort of learned helplessness. I realize that no matter how hard I pedal, I'll never catch up, and I automatically slow down. These periods are a little disheartening, yet restful and comfortable.

After a few minutes, I'll see him riding in circles up ahead. I mutter a few expletives, mourning the loss of my rest and comfort. Then, I'll ride up along side him, and we head off again.

The other thing I've noticed is that when he really wants to push me, he forces me to lead. Somehow, having him behind me, being responsible for setting his pace and mine, makes me want to stretch myself to the limits. I don't become Lance Armstrong, mind you, but the speed and effort is beyond my comfort zone.

Where does God fit into all of this?

Looking back on my life, I see that often when God wanted to move me from one stage of my life to another, he put me in leadership. Being responsible for setting goals and visions for other people, for hearing from God on their behalf, for encouraging them, stretches me. It also in those times that I feel closest to God.

The other trend I see is that when God wants to move me out of a period of stagnation - often prolonged by months or years of searching for God's will - he forces me to make a decision. Rather than leading and daring me to follow, he dares me to lead and promises to follow.

It reminds me of Moses, with whom I often feel an odd kinship because of his fears and insecurities, and the roundabout route he took into his destiny. God called Moses into the realization his potential and out of a 40-year-old comfort zone by putting him in charge of a whole nation of people. God made him the leader of the most daring and dramatic escape ever.

Thinking about all of this proved a pleasant distraction on the bike ride. Seeing God use a friend yet again to reach out to me made me even more grateful for the amazing people he has placed in my life.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quick Thought: Worldly Love

It would behoove us as Christians to remember that the Bible says, "For God so loved the world...," not "For God so loved the church...." Neither God's love nor our mission starts at the pulpit and ends at the last pew.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Quick Thought: Q&A

Temptation is weird. Even if I don't do something, I still feel bad thinking about wanting to do something. But, for the sake of my spiritual sanity, I've tried to think of temptation a little differently: as a question.

Don't you want to...? Wouldn't you be happier if you...? Wouldn't people like you better if you...? Wouldn't this hurt less if you...?

Thinking of it that way, I see that condemning myself or someone else for being tempted is like calling every person who's ever been offered marijuana a pothead. I see that sin doesn't come with being asked the question, but with my answer.

Temptation is just a question. Sin is the answer to the question...and so is holiness. Whether I choose sin or holiness depends on whether or not I answer the question the same way God does.

In Deuteronomy 30:19, God puts it this way, "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses." I make this choice again and again, every time I face temptation. With every question I have the power to choose life and holiness or sin and death.

God urges me to choose life.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Quick Thought: Identity

When God, hands-down the biggest overachiever ever, offered Moses his business card to pass on to the children of Israel, it said "I AM" not "I DO".

I could learn a thing or two from him.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Quick Thought: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I think people should stop describing themselves as Christians.

A conversation with a friend confirmed that the bad rap Christianity has been dealt is due in part to the many self-proclaimed Christians who are weirdos or jerks. So, rather than discriminating against weirdos and jerks, I say that we just stop everyone from calling themselves Christians. It should be like the "n-word." Everybody can't say it, so nobody should say it.

The Bible says that the world will know that we are Christians by our love, not our labels. So, if you want everyone to know you're a "C-word," love them. Demonstrate your Christianity in your actions, in your lifestyle. And if people realize there's something different about you and ask if you're a Christian, then you say yes - kind of like an undercover cop. If the mood is right, you can even proselytize.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bug-a-boo

As it gets colder outside and inside of my house - which is apparently the nexus of insect life on Earth - I'm noticing more bugs invading my personal space. It occurred to me, as I was swatting uselessly at a gnat, that he wasn't trying to annoy me. He was cold and dying.

The gnat was just trying to stay alive. He understood that the cold, harsh environment that is my home is not conducive to his continued existence. So, he needed to seek out any source of heat he could find. His instinctual impulse brought him to me. At 98.6 degrees, I am often the warmest thing in the room.

My next thought was naturally of God and his people. The Bible speaks of our light and our love, and the way they will draw people to us and ultimately to him. Sort of like gnats.

We can all agree that our world is kind of cold and harsh. In and of itself, our world is not conducive to prolonged, abundant life. It is only God's light in this dark world that brings us joy and peace and hope and love. He is the source of our life.

We reflect that light as Christ dwells in us. Inside of us is the Life and the Light that everyone needs. So we can't be annoyed or surprised or unprepared when, every so often, some cold and dying person is drawn to our light and warmth.

Well, we can and I often am. But, we shouldn't be.

Really, we should take it as a compliment. It just means that this person has recognized that we are the warmest thing in the room.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Still Fighting It

I was walking downtown on Friday and came to the intersection of 18th & K Streets, NW. It's on one of DC's main drags for crosstown traffic and in the heart of the corporate and commercial district.

In the middle of the intersection stood a kid holding a big posterboard. I say kid because I'm older, but he was likely a college student from GWU. Just your garden-variety, work-a-day, white kid.

Anyway, his posterboard simply read "Honk if you care about my future (I care about yours)." The occasional car would drive by and honk, and he'd give them a wave or a thumbs up.

I was intrigued because he was alone. There was no logo or name on the posterboard. I'm pretty sure it was handwritten. Usually, these activist kids travel in packs, hand out flyers or packs of chewing gum or something, and make their organizational affiliation very clear.

So, as I walked across the intersection, I stopped. "So, what about your future?" I figured he'd say something about education funding reform, health care, or social security.

He said he didn't have anything in particular in mind, no party, no agenda, "Just a positive message."

K Street is also the city hub for lobbyists, so seeing someone without an angle looking to share goodwill with his fellow man was very refreshing.

I applaud him and pray that God is Lord of his future, and shows himself strong and good. I pray for miracles of faith, hope and success.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Don't Go Changin'

For all of the talk of transformation and newness in the Bible, God has invested a lot of time and energy in my life lately to make me okay with just being who I am. Plain, old me. It feels pretty good to know that the one who knows me completely believes that what I am is enough. The trick is getting me to believe it.

I’m an optimist and a realist, so I have a pretty good handle on my strengths and weaknesses. I can rattle them off at any given moment with the greatest of ease. The disconnect comes as I place price tags on all of the bric-a-brac of my character. I tend to overvalue the liabilities and undervalue the assets. So, as I tally everything, I’m left feeling like I’m always in debt. I feel like I always owe the people who care about me and spend time with me a little more than just plain, old me.

This has led to several peculiar habits. Sometimes, I’ll hold back parts of who I am, afraid that people will see the total package and draw the same conclusion that I have.

Other times, I’ll try to compensate for having too little to offer by going into giving and serving mode. My love and service to people that I care about becomes like a dowry to buy their love in return. God pointed out the irony in this tactic. My abilities to love and serve others are God-given gifts that are the very core of who I am. So, essentially I’m trying to make up for the fake or partial me that I mistakenly believe is the real me by showing people the actual real me. And, what do you know? People like him.

Ironic?

So, God says, “My grace is sufficient for you. And your need for grace is sufficient for me.” And in the end, being happy about who I am is requiring a transformation. Just being plain, old me is actually a very new thing. The Bible was right again. Next time… I get to be right.