Wednesday, July 1, 2015

In Defense of Marriage

So, if you've just woken up from a early summer coma, welcome back to the world. You may not realize that just the other day, the Supreme Court of the US has made same-sex marriage bans illegal. Also, you may not know that much of the general population has been celebrating ever since. And wouldn't you know it, much of the Christian population is feeling defeated. There is also a part of the Christian population that is celebrating the SCOTUS decision. Much to the chagrin of many of my Christian friends, I find myself in this camp.

Now I understand many people will say things like, "How can you just ignore clear biblical direction? What about what Paul wrote in Romans, what about what's written in the OT?" I even saw one post shared on facebook that was something like "40 Questions for the Rainbow Flag Waving Christian". I understand these questions, and even though you may not believe me, I have wrestled with these questions myself before landing on my stance. And, because I'm me and you're not, I believe that I have a greater grasp on these questions than the ones asking them. (Have I mentioned that sometimes I struggle with pride?)

Ok, so I'll try and keep this post short, but inevitably it will be lengthy and cover a number of different complex things, because the topic of same-sex marriage (especially the stance against it) is a complex issue and cannot be boiled down to one short post (or even 40 ill-directed questions).

What this isn't is a critique on the author of the Gospel Coalition post. I don't read his stuff (I stumbled upon this one), I don't know the author, and based on him leading a reformed church I know that I disagree with him on a lot of things. The article did an amazing job at listing the exact wrong question to be asking because as much as the opponents of the SCOTUS decision want to make the ruling about marriage, it isn't. As much as opponents want to say the ruling will destroy the sanctity of marriage, it won't. And as much as it feels like a slap in the Christian's face, it's not.

In the last couple years there have been a number of different surveys to quantify the LGBT population. Each study has seen a result as low as 1.6% up to 6.8%. Experts say that the average generally hovers around the 5% range. That means this marriage destroying ruling will affect one in twenty of your friends. As far as numbers go, not that significant. As far as people go, extremely significant for your gay friend.

Now here is why the ruling opponents are wrong, or misguided, and why they are wrong about it perverting the sanctity of marriage. According to the American Psychological Association, "...about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher." Some stats have that number down around the 30-35% range. But what is interesting is that the Barna group has stated, "when evangelicals and non-evangelical born again Christians are combined into an aggregate class of born again adults, their divorce figure is statistically identical to that of non-born again adults: 32% versus 33%, respectively." Now I understand that this info is a bit dated from seven years ago. But it doesn't seem to be the type of information that would go the other way. I don't think that the information would go from 40% to 25%. These types of statistics tend to get worse over time. Which means there's at least a one in four chance that you have been divorced, maybe a one in two depending on which study you read. Which then means that while your gay friend wants nothing more than to have the same rights as their 19 heterosexual friends, you (or your best friend) are in the process of signing divorce papers.

So why do I bring up divorce? We're talking about same-sex marriage and how it will destroy the sanctity of marriage. We're talking about how gay and lesbian marriage will infect the next generation with bad juju, or something, right? It's about marriage, it's about the kids, it's about acceptance of sin and the annihilation of our God fearing, Biblically sound society....right? Wrong! If it were about the sanctity of marriage, the greater battle ground would be legislation against divorce. Divorce has affected at least a third of our population, maybe half. I bet you could list off a series of people that you know that have had their lives changed by divorce directly or indirectly. Divorce has shaped the Millennial generation far more than anything else. So much so that now it is commonplace for single parents to celebrate both Mother's Day and Father's Day. AND THEY SHOULD. Single parents have had to shoulder the child-rearing responsibilities at an ever increasing frequency in the past century. But it's homosexuality that will destroy the coming generations? Seriously? The sanctity of marriage will be destroyed by two loving same-sex individuals joined in a monogamous relationship that's recognized by the state, but multiple marriages and divorces doesn't? You quote Romans, what about Matthew 5:31-32? Mark 10:11-12? Romans 7:2-3? Deuteronomy 22:19? And these are just a couple that I did a quick Google search on. Where are the Christians condemning divorce? Nowhere, that's where. Why? Because it's socially acceptable, it's common. Did we give up that fight that will influence our closest circle of friends to fight something that kind of, distantly, doesn't really affect us at all? That's cowardice. That's shameful. That's hypocrisy. Why is it ok for you to cherry-pick sins, but not me? But I'm not actually cherry-picking theology. More on this later. Now on to morality.

Let's just assume homosexuality is immoral (I'm not saying it is or isn't, I'm just setting up an argument). Are we okay with our government legislating based on morality? I understand the argument is then, "Murder is a moral issue, should we legalize murder?" Of course not. Murder, across all theologies, ideologies, and rational thought is wrong. Christians (not extremist Christians), Muslims (not extremist Muslims), Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, atheists, agnostics, even your crazy aunt Jean think that murder is wrong. But many schools of thought are on the fence with homosexuality, it's not a universal belief that homosexuality is wrong or immoral. With such a diverse field of beliefs, how can our government legislate this particular moral principle or another? They can't, they shouldn't. But what about justice?

This is a justice issue. This is an issue of legalized discrimination. Discrimination: the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex. This is the simplest thing to understand of this issue. If states were allowed to ban marriage of same-sex couples, they are banning marriage benefits, hospital visitation privileges, insurance benefits, parental benefits, not being looked at strangely when I hold my wife's hand at a restaurant, basically everything I take advantage of when I say or think, "Oh, it's ok, she's my wife," solely based on a person's sexual orientation. It is discrimination and discrimination has been illegal since the 70's. It is unjust, and this sort of ban based on legalized morality have no place in our legislation.

Now on to the theological side of us "Rainbow Flag Waiving Christians". Those of us that are okay with the SCOTUS decision look at the gospel on the macro level. Many of the questions I've been asked have to do with, "How do you handle this verse? What verse makes you overlook this other verse? What verse do you use to counter Paul's verse?"

I can answer all of these with the following reasons:

a) Jesus said, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' And the second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment other than these. (Matthew 12:30-31) Legalized discrimination has no place in me loving my neighbor as myself. And if Jesus said it, it generally holds a lot of weight in the scriptures. You know, that whole God-breathed thing.

b) Jesus is God. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:16-17) How can the (whole) world be saved through Christ if we drive a wedge between us and those that need to hear the gospel? But what about 'in the world and not of it'? Do we sacrifice our morals to appease the masses? No, I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that why would we be so against this and start each and every conversation behind? Think about what is implied by the people we're trying to reach and teach in love when we tell them we're Christian. Hypocrite, bigot, sexist, arrogant, Republican. I quit telling people I was a Christian because they automatically put a face on when interacting with me. What happened to love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, etc? Imagine the impact we could have on the world if we were known by the fruits of the spirit. How does refusing basic human decency to someone that is different fall into the fruits of the spirit?

c) God is love. The most condemning verse in the Bible is 1 John 4:8, "The one that does not love, does not know God. For God is love." Love veiled in a cloak of self-righteousness is not love. Taking a stand against something that has no affect on you is cheap, it's weak, it's easy. Love is not easy. Love requires personal investment in someone else. Love is the long road. Tough love is the short road that leads to a dead end. Love changes lives over the course of a lifetime. Tough love shows how little you care for someone and reassures the person's pain.

Imagine a world where Christians were more concerned about a person's heart instead of how they fit into our preconceived Christian mold. What if we actually invested ourselves in other people's lives instead of yelling criticisms from the sidelines? How much does our stance on this issue and others like it tell us about ourselves? Do we really think that same-sex marriage will corrupt the next generation more than divorce has over the last half century? If not, where are the protests and facebook infographics about how God hates divorce? Are we so insecure in our own marriages that we need to keep others from entering into it? The statistics say that about half of us apparently are.

Marriage and the next generation are under fire. But not from same-sex marriage. What the next generation needs to learn is that there is such a thing as unbridled love. The next generation needs to see that people can live in unity and love and it doesn't always end in chaos. How do we teach that? I teach my kids by example. We need to be the example. Go, be the best husband. Go, be the best wife. If there is a same-sex couple that can teach the same lesson to their kids, so be it, more to ya! Because after everything else falls away, love has, does, and will continue to remain (that's from 1 Corinthians 13).

Friday, June 27, 2014

One Man

You, are only one man. 
You are ONLY one man. 

The cry of the defeated
Echoes through the halls of the mind of the depleted
Is it true? Am I stuck?
Do I quit pushing forward and just give up?

The histories show contrary
Late nights and failed plights adding block to the foundation of the sanctuary

So am I defeated?
Have my ambitions receded?
Should I lay down my arms and embrace the green ribbon I thought I needed?

You are only ONE man. 

Old lies, false ties
Comply to my demise
But my savior screams contrary-wise

You are only one man...
But I am with you. 

Confront your anguish!
Confront your pain!
Confront the parts of you that are dying or lame

Grab hold of your weakness
Corral your insecurities
Extinguish those black flames and make way to ignite your new destiny

Embrace strength in your left hand 
Embrace wisdom in your right
Let the fires of ambition take hold and burn in the night

Set your eyes to the horizon
For a new dawn is on the cusp
New motivation, new ambition
A new plight that you can trust

For dawn is here, so let the night be the night
Darkness gone, oh how I long
To reside in the light 

One step, then two
Farther up and further in and to him I clutch
Because, I am only one MAN
But together, we can accomplish much!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Campfires and Candles

I love campfires. I love starting them with a little aid from some petroleum products, striking the match and then the big WHOOSH that forces the air past you.  The power, the strength, the heat.  I love sitting there with the fire and a poker and tooling around in the coals.  I love stoking the fire and getting it hotter and hotter and hotter.  And then feeding it more fuel to keep the flames burning.  The worst part of a campfire is extinguishing it.  If we didn't need sleep, I would be perfectly content sitting by a fire enjoying it for a week or longer.  Sitting there, staring into the flames. Searching for understanding in front of the mesmerizing dance of the fire. But when we extinguish it, we lose the heat, the light, the relaxation that comes from a campfire.

In today's Christianity, it is common to use fire as a metaphor for being spiritually alive.  As if our faith is a raging fire consuming us and igniting those around us.  I have experienced this. And I believe it is a great metaphor.  It may be over played, but my love of fires fuels my love of this comparison.

But the thing with fires is that eventually, no matter how hot and how fierce they are, eventually they do go out if they are not fed.  This is where I'm at today.  I feel as if my faith is a small flicker of a flame and I am searching desperately for some fuel to reignite it.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not turning away or recanting my faith.  Not even close.  But my flames, which once blazed bright as day, are now but a flicker. I feel that life has overwhelmed me and have smothered my fire.  I feel that my life circumstances which require me to work as much as i have to takes me from the fuel.  Takes me from things like working with charities, studying and deepening my knowledge and faith, but most importantly taking valuable and needed time away from relationships that need nothing but time together, with family, with friends, with God.

So how do we reconcile this? How do we keep life from taking the bucket of water and extinguishing our flame? How do we keep our busyness from smothering our hearts? How do we keep life from stripping from us that which we hold most dear?

Maybe it's just as simple as remembering that there is a time for everything. A time of happiness, a time of sorrow.  A time of being empty, a time if being full. A time of raging fires, and a time for flickering candles.

Keep and hold dear that God will never forsake us.  He will never leave us. If we give him the authority in our lives, he will guide us. This is the hope that we have to hold onto in order to reignite our faith.

May God's love burn bright as the sun within all of us.