AnnieKO'Connor


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40 Questions for Christians Upset with the SCOTUS Decision on Marriage

The Gospel Coalition posted earlier today 40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags. The questions are pointed and worth thinking through; as a Christian who has been a staunch supported of marriage equality for at least four years (sounds like a long time…sounds like not long enough) they are the kinds of questions that I asked myself that led to the beliefs I now hold.

I’m not going to answer the questions here, partly because that would easily take tens of thousands of words, and partly because I don’t owe my answers to the Gospel Coalition or to anyone other than myself and God, who led me to my current beliefs through the leading of the Holy Spirit (via prayer and scripture reading.) YMMV. (Many of my answers can be found elsewhere on this blog, anyway.)

Instead I have 40 questions for Christians decrying the SCOTUS decision. It’s often that we get entrenched in traditions and don’t understand why we continue them, or we miss new information that contradicts the reasons we hold our traditions. These questions are intended to help shed light on the topic from a Christian perspective that explores the reasons behind the traditions we have held, and asks for a Christian response to the new information that we now have.

Since I’m assuming people upset with the SCOTUS decision believe homosexuality is always a sin, even in orientation only, and even when homosexual sex takes place inside a marriage, these questions likewise assume that stance; this is for the sake of the discussion and not a reflection of my own views.

1. What is your definition of homosexuality? Does it refer to sexual activity, or the orientation itself regardless of the person’s sexual activities?

2. If you separate orientation and behavior (the way that the secular and LGBT communities do), do you believe the orientation itself is a sin, or that it is only sin is when a person lusts or has sex outside of marriage?

3. Can you make a positive case from scripture that condemns orientation without reference to activity?

4. If orientation itself is a sin, what hope can you provide to LGBT Christians to repent from this sin when 99.99% of people who have sought conversion therapy have not had success in changing their orientation, even if they were able to change their behavior?

5. How would you make a case from scripture that remarriage when one of the initial spouses is still living is moral?

5. If you cannot, do you believe that remarriage in such cases should be illegal the way you believe same-sex marriage should be illegal? Or should this be dealt with on an individual level within the church?

6. If you believe that remarriage in such cases should be illegal, then do you spend as much time speaking out about its legality as you do speaking out about same-sex marriage?

7. If you do not think it should be illegal, even though you believe it is immoral, why do you believe differently regarding the legality of same-sex marriage? What about your belief that same-sex marriage is immoral makes it worthy of being outlawed, when remarriage does not need to be outlawed?

8. What do you say to churches that will perform marriage ceremonies for remarriages when a former spouse is still living, but who will not perform same-sex marriages? Do you support churches that perform remarriages? Do you attend or run a church that performs remarriages?

9. If you believe the sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 indicate that such activities should be made illegal, do you think instances of adultery should also be illegal? Should lust be illegal? What about idolatry? Should cowardliness be illegal? Should lying, or faithlessness? What is your standard for determining which sins should be illegal, and which sins should not?

9. If you believe marriage must be male and female in order to reflect Christ’s relationship to the church, because the man and woman have specific roles, how is it possible for a man to be the bride of Christ and take on a female role in relationship to Christ? How does it not violate his gender role to become a bride?

10. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, do you hold to all their understandings of homosexuality? For instance, do you believe male-male sexual contact should be made illegal? Should it be punishable by a two year labor sentence that is likely to kill the individuals in question? Do you think LGBT people should be put to death? Do you think they should be subject to chemical castration?

11. If not, what do you understand about that Bible that the church did not understand before? What do you understand about the Bible that our own culture did not understand even within the last 100 years when some of these practices were taking place?

12. If you could travel back in time to when men were sentenced to death for same-sex sexual contact, what would you say to the Christians who made those laws to explain why those people should not be punished? And how does what you say apply to your own beliefs that same-sex marriage should be illegal today?

13. Such punishments (and harsher ones) are still practiced in many places, including Asia and Africa. Examples of these punishments include imprisonment ranging from two years up to life, 74 or 100 lashes of a whip, 17 years’ hard labor, torture, stoning and the death penalty. If you think those laws are inhumane, what arguments would use to explain to Christians in Africa and Asia that such penalties ought to be repealed the way they have been repealed in the Western world, and that your new understanding of these issues is not culturally conditioned?

14. If you fear what will happen in America now that same-sex marriage is legal, can you think of a better word to describe this fear than homophobia, since phobias are fears? Do you believe fear of a thing often leads to hatred?

15. Do you believe that children do better with a mother and a father versus two same-sex parents?

16. If so, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

17. If hypothetical systematic negative affects on children is grounds for outlawing certain parenting situations, are you as fervent in your quest to outlaw single parenting as you are to outlaw same-sex parenting?

18. If you support outlawing same-sex parenting or marriage on the grounds of possible detriment to children, how would you respond to empirical studies ranging over more than 30 years that indicate “children raised by lesbian mothers or gay fathers did not systematically differ from other children on any of the outcomes?”

19. If there can be found no empirical evidence to support the belief that children fare better with a male and a female parent, then does the state have any grounds on which to promote or privilege arrangements that put a child with a male and a female parent?

20. If there is no longer any male or female in Christ, how can gender be a factor in determining a spouse?

21. If marriage points to Christ’s relationship to the church, how can the lesser union of marriage be subject to stricter standards than the greater union with Christ, to which people may enter regardless of gender?

22. What text from the constitution would you use to support the idea that your religious doctrines are grounds for legislation?

23. If you are worried about infringements on your religious liberties, how do you intend to protect the religious liberties of buddhists who would like to enter a same-sex marriage according to their religious beliefs when there are no prohibitions against such marriages within their religion?

24. Should your LGBT siblings in Christ who disagree with your views on homosexuality based on their understanding of the Bible be able to exercise their beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, coercion, bullying, rejection from the church, and verbal, physical and sexual assault (all of which they currently experience at the hand of those who believe they need to be ‘called out’ on their sin)?

25. If LGBT individuals should not be treated in such negative and harmful ways, what are you doing to stop such behavior?

26. Do you think that the church is a welcome and safe place for LGBT people? Do you think your personal church is such a place? In determining your answer to this question, do you place greater significance on what you personally have witnessed than on the testimonies of countless LGBT individuals who have suffered at the hands of the church and Christians?

27. If you yourself do not participate in such behavior, do you think you still have a responsibility to speak out publicly against bullying, ostracizing or marginalizing LGBT individuals? If so, when are you going to start?

28. If not, why do you feel called to speak out against homosexuality but not against these harmful behaviors?

29. How much time do you devote to speaking out about the one issue, versus speaking out about the other? If there is a discrepancy in how much time you devote to each, how do you explain or justify that discrepancy to yourself? What Bible verses can you point to that support your justification?

30. In the history of the US, LGBT individuals have faced “social ostracism and cultural marginalization” at far greater rates than the church has. If you are worried about these things happening to you due to your minority belief about homosexuality, why are you only willing to defend yourself against those things, but not willing to defend LGBT individuals against those things? Do you have a greater responsibility to prevent your own marginalization, or to speak up on behalf of those who already experience marginalization?

31. Do you think we as Christians are called to speak up on behalf of the oppressed? Or are we called to view their oppression complacently, especially if helping save them from oppression might make the institution of the church less politically powerful?

32. Do you think Jesus would have been OK with Christians ignoring the fact that LGBT people are bullied, assaulted, and killed at higher rates than their straight/cis counterparts, in order to speak out against their new equality before the law?

33. Do you believe the church has had, and continues to have, a negative impact on the lives of LGBT individuals?

34. If so, what are you doing inside the church to remedy this situation? How does your speaking out against the legalization of marriage contribute to this remedy?

35. If not, how do you respond to studies that indicate the church does negatively affect the lives of LGBT individuals? (e.g. “However, unexpectedly, we found that seeking counseling from a religious or spiritual advisor had a harmful impact—it was associated with higher odds of suicide attempt. Compared with individuals who did not seek help at all, those who sought help from a religious or spiritual advisor were more likely to later attempt suicide.”

36. What is your definition of love? Does it include complicity or idleness in response to the systematic ostracization, marginalization and dehumanization of an entire demographic of people?

37. Does your definition of love include actions, or is it limited only to eliminating any feelings of animus or disgust you may have toward others?

38. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions that they make, without shaming or bullying them?

39. If you believe Christians should love LGBT individuals, how much time have you spent serving and helping LGBT people? If your definition of love includes actions, what actions do you take in order to affect their lives and ensure they are no longer subject to ostracization or marginalization?

40. How would you make a positive case from scripture that the lifting of a restriction that has reinforced marginalization is something that should not be celebrated?

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What is it to be one in Christ?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

—Galatians 3:28 ESV

You are all one in Christ. There is no male and female.

But the bulletin reads:

The men’s group is meeting in the fireside room. The women’s group is meeting at the cafe down the street. The youth group is in the gymnasium. The singles’ group is on the college campus. The marrieds’ group is at the Thompson’s (members of the singles’ group will provide childcare in the church nursery.)

We will never know what it is to be one in Christ if we don’t practice it. The problem isn’t that the church week is chock full of demographic division groups. It’s that there is never a “one in Christ” group to which everyone is invited. You may say Sunday Morning is for that, but it is not. At least, if it is it fails by discouraging of intentional conversation across demographic divides.

The church needs to practice being one in Christ by meeting in small groups with people who are different from ourselves.


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Should the Church Teach?

Donald Miller recently posted some thoughts about the church. It has caused some chatter about the purpose of the church and how/if it’s teaching model ought to be changed. Here’s my thoughts, in response to what he said.

Theologians and teachers are necessary for the protection of the truths espoused by the earliest Christian councils. These truths were laboriously identified and bantered about for the sake of understanding, for the sake of knowing God. These truths (say, the Nicene Creed) are under attack, as they have always been, from within the church and without, and must be protected. The only way they can be protected is through sharing them, by passing them from one person to another, by upholding them and teaching them.

That being said, it is important for scholars and laymen alike to turn to ecclesiology to understand the nature and purpose of the church. The church is the body of Christ. We are a bride. In case you’ve never met a person who is engaged, they suffer from a constant distraction regarding their impending nuptials. The church does not carry this same effervescence. It is our identity and purpose to prepare for our union with God.

Engaged people tend to be distracted by the material aspects of preparing for their wedding, but many, too, spend their time pondering the nature and purpose of marriage, and learning to chasten themselves for the sake of knowing and loving their spouse. To prepare for a wedding, one must book a church, buy a dress, and send out invitations. But they must also learn the discipline of love. They must prepare to be united with this person. Many pastors require marriage counseling in order to arm the couple with as much knowledge as possible for their marriage.

If the church were to abandon teaching as a central aspect of its practice, it would be as foolish as refusing to learn about your future spouse, as foolish as ignoring the weight of the relationship which will alter your identity. There are other aspects of preparing for a wedding, though, as there are other practices for the church. The church should revel in its longing for the coming day. The church should be scholarly and academic, but that is not to say it should not only be scholarly and academic.