I do not intend this post to be an endorsement for or against Proposition 8 rather to raise some issues as to how the church involves itself in issues like the one surrounding Proposition 8.
Proposition 8 is an initiative on the 2008 California General Election Ballot. If passed it would force an amendment to the California Constitution to include the statement “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
“Prop. 8 is About Preserving Marriage; It’s Not an Attack on the Gay Lifestyle. Proposition 8 doesn’t take away any rights or benefits from gays or lesbians in domestic partnerships. Under California law, “domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections and benefits” as married spouses. (Family Code §297.5.) There are no exceptions. Proposition 8 will not change this.” (This is from “Protect Marriage – Yes on 8” Campaign)
There is a great deal of heat surrounding the proposition and the Constitutional amendment. I just watched a half hour video mailed to the church free of charge from AFA (You can watch the video at American Family Association) calling on churches to inform their congregations to register and to vote for Proposition 8. The video was full of clips from homosexual “marriages” performed in courthouses soon after the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 22 (passed in 2000 by California voters) was unconstitutional and opened the door for gay marriage in California. It also made it clear that it was the duty of every pastor to get the word out to their congregations to register to vote and to vote yes on Proposition 8.
The problems raised by the amendment and the PR campaign are numerous and regardless of your position, conversation on the process is a must. Political rhetoric has its own rules and agendas. When the church gets pulled into the “silly season” process, we need to behave in a way that reflects our high calling, and avoid falling into the utilitarian methodology of “winning” elections at the cost of integrity and truth.
- The video uses imagery that is inflammatory. I counted at least 6 images of gay “marriages” where the kiss was the image used to highlight the message. I see how strategically this was the appealing video bite necessary. Appealing to emotion is effective, but not typically our best effort. This is clearly done to incite people to vote against this “abomination.” Again, language that is inflammatory and divisive is not to characterize our appeal as the church. Religious posturing for the camera is not holy. It only communicates the message: We are better than gays.
- The video used the Civil Rights Movement as a foundation for exhorting pastors involvement in the movement, apparently not seeing the inherent contradiction in that analogy. We are not the oppressed minority in this battle. We are the majority, we have history and strength of numbers on our side and no one is being restricted in their rights to marry, on our “side.” Playing the victim in this argument is absurd.
- The whole movement is based on the premise that “marriage” is at risk in this election. This too is false. Marriage is not at risk. Marriage is foundational to human existence, and this truth is self evident. Opposition to “marriage” is fringe and peripheral activity. Sometimes those voices may scream, but they are never taken seriously. The sky is falling strategy is beneath the church.
- At issue is not marriage, its viability or sanctity, rather this is now a battle between the religious and the secular communities. Much of the power of the Homosexual agenda is fueled by vociferous religious opposition to it. Is it possible that we have made more of this than we should have? Sometimes, the nonsensical should simply be ignored, which in effect becomes the strongest argument.
I don’t believe that homosexuality is a viable, satisfying lifestyle.
But I don’t need the Bible to tell me that. Most people (believers and unbelievers alike) would affirm the statement that “homosexuality is not a viable or satisfying lifestyle.” Most homosexuals would reluctantly affirm that statement. It is simple observation and deduction that tells us that homosexuality is aberrant, minority behavior. It cannot sustain humanity. Heterosexuality is a superior relationship from a purely naturalistic perspective, hence, gay people desire to adopt children or lesbians will allow for a sexual encounter or artificial insemination to have children. It doesn’t take special revelation to figure that out.
If you have listened to any of the wording in some of these gay marriage ceremonies, it is rather comical. I pronounce you husband and wife has turned into husband and husband which has turned into I pronounce you spouse and spouse. This distortion of language is further elucidation on the confusion of definition inherent in “gay marriage.”
But stop a moment and think about it. The desire that gays have to be married is a tacit concession to the superiority of heterosexuality. Marriage is superior to non-marriage; marriage is de facto a heterosexual union; therefore, my desire to be married is an admission of the deficiency of being gay! Our “enemies” are desirous of something that we have! There is no better foundation for speaking truth to people.
It is obvious that marriage is in fact a relationship between a man and a woman. Homosexual relationships can be loving, monogamous (?), caring, loyal, encouraging etc. but they are not marriages. Even if our culture ultimately concedes and redefines “marriage” in America, the church can still define marriage appropriately. And we may need to pay a price for that definition, oh well. It won’t be the first time we will have to say: It is better to obey God than man.
The Church’s Illicit Marriage to Politics
But since we have drawn the church into the argument, it no longer is simple. The clear issues of nature are now being ignored and the issue becomes about gay rights, and their right to not be “oppressed” by the church. Rights that they appropriately and already have under the constitution. In taking this political stance we have elevated the issue inappropriately, and we have muddied the true message of the church.
We don’t live in a Christian nation. We live in a pluralistic society. There are different people in America with different world views. And we have died fighting for that freedom, the freedom that people can disagree with us, to their eternal doom. The church and the state are distinct institutions, and God has purpose for both of them. My advice to the church is to keep those distinctions clear so that we fulfill our call and stewardship to God. Our stewardship is the gospel. The State’s stewardship is the sword. We need to get our hands off the sword.
So the question becomes: how does the church change culture? How does the church deal with a changing culture? The church has felt less effective in impacting culture, and we have turned to the political process for assistance. We have attempted to change those in bondage by exerting our will as the moral majority. It didn’t and doesn’t work. It won’t work here. We won’t be more moral, more Christian, or closer to a better society on November 5 with a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage. We will feel like we have won, but in reality we will have gained nothing. The church doesn’t change culture by winning elections. Taking a “strong stand” for marriage in the political arena will not strengthen marriage in the church, or make it more sacred.
Unbelievers are in bondage to sin, and are unable to deliver themselves from this bondage. The only hope for sinners in bondage to sin is the freedom that comes from liberating presence of the Spirit making effective and efficient the work of the cross and resurrection, causing a new creation. I would place homosexuality in the broader category of bondage to sin. Sinful thinking, sinful behavior, sinful lifestyles are only changed by the Holy Spirit. That is the message of the church.
Live the Gospel. There is no better argument for the viability and sanctity of marriage than good and Godly marriages