On Nov. 6, the citizens of Minnesota will vote on whether or not to amend the state Constitution to define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. As with any other constitutional amendment vote in Minnesota, any ballot submitted without a vote for the marriage amendment will be counted as a "No" vote. A mid-September poll of likely voters by The Star Tribune showed that 49 percent supported the amendment, 47 percent opposed it and 4 percent were undecided.
Views | Jared Hedges for The Clarion
Jared Hedges supports the "vote yes" position for the marriage amendment. | Courtesy of the Bethel Directory
I don’t come to this discussion of the proposed Minnesota marriage amendment lightly. I’m not a psychologist, a politician, a social worker or a theologian. Actually I’m not even a Minnesotan. But I am a friend to several people who identify with or support the LGBT community, while still believing strongly that the homosexual lifestyle doesn’t square with the Christian God’s plan for our life as His creatures. As last week’s “yes” editorial focused mainly on the civic and secular dangers of same-sex marriage, I plan to discuss the profound Christian implications of the issue.
I have reached my conclusions about this issue largely from reading, listening, thinking and conversing with others. In my experience, most discussions in a Christian context begin by debating whether homosexual orientation and/or behavior are necessarily sinful. Inevitably someone mentions Leviticus 18, Romans 1 and other passages prohibiting sexual intercourse between partners of the same gender, and someone else observes that it is the activity — not the orientation — that is forbidden. Occasionally someone also points out that Jesus (as recorded in Scripture) never specifically addressed homosexuality, but this “argument from silence” is quickly countered by the fact that Christ also never spelled out that incest or genocide are sinful — or indeed a host of other wrongs.
Some may say that Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic law, and thus outmoded many of its prohibitions. Why then do we assume homosexual acts are still sinful? This is only looking at half the picture, though. Jesus indeed superseded some provisions of the Mosaic law, but in the area of sexual ethics, His “law of love” is actually much stricter. (For instance, simply looking at a woman lustfully becomes adultery.) If the conversation persists, someone inescapably remarks that homosexual acts are, after all, “just” another sin, frequently listed in the company of lying, stealing and cheating, which no one seems to take quite as seriously. Unfortunately this line of reasoning seems to me only a disturbing indicator of our diminished awareness of sin in general.
Usually at about this point the conversation peters out; neither side convinces the other, and the tensions remain unresolved. I think it is because something is missing in these discussions. In our concern with why homosexual activity is or is not permissible, we seldom bother to consider the “why.” Why is homosexual behavior outlawed in the Bible? Why doesn’t it mesh with a Christian worldview? Why is it sin? Secular pundits (and apparently some Christian commentators) posit that Christians disapprove of homosexuality because of fear (“homophobia”), prejudice (“discrimination”) or oppressive tendencies (“intolerance”). These charges, however, seem shallow in the face of deeply loving, courageous men and women of faith who nonetheless believe homosexual behavior runs contrary to God’s design as explained in the Bible. We should not be content with such easy answers.
So here are some thoughts as to why homosexuality (and by extension, same-sex marriage) subverts God’s plan for us as humans. I offer them as a Christian to fellow Christians, although ironically I have frequently found that non-Christians respect the validity and consistency of such reasoning more than fellow members of God’s family.
To begin, homosexuality unavoidably negates God’s stated design and decrees for marriage — at least in part. By its very nature same-sex marriage precludes fulfillment of God’s charge to Adam and Eve, Noah and us by extension: To be fruitful and multiply. Procreation continues as an important theme throughout the Bible — indeed, it bookends the Old Testament (see Malachi 2:15). Thus, marriage in the Bible isn’t merely a sanction for sexual activity. Throughout Scripture, marriage never takes higher priority than chastity and purity, as bioethicist Gilbert Meilaender points out. As a result, the celibacy required of the homosexual isn’t really much different from that required of the unmarried heterosexual.
Secondly, homosexuality underachieves God’s goal for human gender. It takes sexual activity out of the context of who we are biologically, and by doing so it devalues the opposite gender. By choosing a partner of the same sex for a relationship designed to make two uniquely gendered humans “one,” homosexuals suggest that their own gender better complements them, and that there is no value in gender diversity.
Along the same lines, homosexuality wreaks havoc on the sacred symbolism of marriage God uses to describe Christ’s relationship as the bridegroom to the church, His bride (or prior to that, God’s relationship to Israel, his “wife”). If Christ and His bride were the same gender in this symbolism, wouldn’t the metaphor come to suggest that either both Christ and the church are deity or that neither are? Indeed, it is because God loved those who were utterly opposite of Himself (i.e. finite, sinful creatures) that the Gospel is so wonderful. Far from mere figurative differences, this symbolism is a key facet of the imago Dei in us, which He established to reflect and tell us of Himself through our lives, society and genders. Our privileged role as image-bearers constitutes one of God’s greatest gifts to us, not something to be tweaked at will.
Finally, homosexuality decries our duty to surrender to God in favor of being “true to ourselves.” Many argue over how deeply seated homosexuality is in a person’s psyche. But even if we grant that a homosexual orientation exists, how is this tendency to “go against the grain” of God’s design different from any other aspect of our sin nature? Our fundamental dilemma as humans since the Garden of Eden, when the snake tempted Eve, has been: Do I trust that God’s forbidding of what I feel most suited to is correct, or do I “lean on my own understanding”? At this point, it becomes a trust issue. Do we say we know best who we ought to be, or do we echo St. Augustine in saying: “The Lord is good, for He often does not grant what we desire, so that He may give us what we desire even more”?
W.H. Auden was one of the great English poets of the twentieth century; he was also a homosexual who walked away from that lifestyle after becoming convinced of its incompatibility with his newfound Christian faith. He referred to it afterward as his “thorn in the flesh,” remembering Paul’s phrase in 2 Corinthians 12. Such a thorn God would neither take away from Paul (or Auden) nor would He approve of succumbing to it. The battle must continue, for it is through this “weakness” that God’s strength will be fully manifested. But it is only after recognizing homosexuality as a thorn, Auden asserts, that it can become a means for God’s glory.
So how should this affect our vote? Many feel uncomfortable with the government dictating any form of marriage. Either way the vote goes, however, the government will be putting forth one definition of marriage over another. A vote like this asks for our individual, personal input as citizens. Why not — when given a choice — try to preserve and sustain what is good? Why be content with increasing abandonment of Christian beliefs? Why allow homosexuals to harm themselves and others by misconstruing how God made humans to be in relation with one another and with Himself?
The issue before us today is a political one. But such an amendment cannot determine how we personally treat or interact with those in the LGBT community. A discussion of how such an interface should look must be saved for another day, but in the meantime Christ’s “law of love” remains, demanding we meet our neighbors and our enemies alike, with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. “Against these things there is no law.”