"You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." Recounted in Mark 7:8, these are the prophet Isaiah's words, which Jesus repeated to the Pharisees as they challenged him over ceremonial law. Christianity has always been a faith of both freedom and restraint albeit not always embodied rightly by Jesus' followers. In freeing humanity from bondage to sin, Jesus also calls us to a yoke of righteousness, as the ways of the Lord are wider and deeper than any civilization's passing fancies. It is sad that Christians disagree so unpleasantly about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, often playing to political pundits and media capitalization of these hot-button issues. As a nation that values freedom of speech, to vilify whoever dares disagree with us at any given moment is juvenile and wrong. This is something that has been happening at alarming rates on both sides of the equation lately.
As a moderate Baptist minister, I am troubled that in this melee it seems mere disagreement with homosexuality has become synonymous with homophobia. I am not speaking of those who curse or demean the LGBTQ community, which for Christians fails every biblical litmus test. They are no doubt supremely misguided and operating in sin. But today to express a belief that homosexuality and therefore same-sex marriage are incompatible with God's design to so many is virtually blasphemous. No matter how lovingly you articulate marriage as designed by God exclusively for male and female in opposite attraction, capable in form and function of being optimally fruitful, you are chided for promoting so-called discriminatory, obsolete theology. You are supposedly out of touch with reality, not to mention modern biblical scholarship, and in some circles can be quickly ushered to the rear of any conversation on the matter. Nevertheless, be that as it may, though in continued conversation with those of differing opinion, that is exactly where I find myself; firmly committed to being welcoming and loving, but not affirming of homosexuality. Colleagues whom I deeply respect like Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton and Rev. Dr. Adam Hamilton advocate spiritedly for the affirmation of homosexuality in the civil arena and church, and I respect their calling to that work. Both have deservedly been highlighted in The Washington Post this past year. They and others, despite our disagreements in this realm, are indeed members of my Christian family. But, like any large family, I don't want one opinion to be drowned or silenced by another perhaps simply because a political tide of new power and influence has rolled in.
As a decree to help protect us all, the separation of church and state is wonderful, but it doesn't demand the wholesale exclusion of religious conviction from influencing our sense of public policy, of right and wrong. For the greater good, we have legislated that certain behaviors, orientations, and unions are unacceptable because of their potential or definitively realized detriment to society. Pedophilia, bestiality, incest, and polygamy are examples, as is the age of sexual consent, which varies by state. These regulations have serious theological and religious underpinnings despite how they might be politicized today. We are all entitled to opinions about if and when scripture is pushed beyond the Biblical writers' original intent. There have always been and will be disagreements in this way. However, the sheer existence of a perspective different than our own is hardly adequate evidence to label someone a narrow-minded dogmatist regardless of which side of the fence they sit on. Homophobia is just as unacceptable as heterosexual derision.
I of course can't speak for anyone else, but I don't look for every societal element to reflect my values as a Christian. That simply isn't the primary point of my faith in and relationship with Jesus. Even so, like anyone else I do still have opinions about laws and morality that I think will best serve us all presently, and in the future. And I would love for my perspectives to be valued even when they are disagreed with. Unfortunately churches haven't always been the safe space that they ought to be for us in learning to listen (as existentialist theologian Paul Tillich said) and debate well, guided by Jesus' calling as peacemakers. There is no denying that we need to get better at that whether we make our home on the left, right, or smack-dab in the middle of certain issues.
Please know that not every Christian unable to affirm to homosexuality is an archaic, Biblically misguided fundamentalist. To be fair, some very much are, but not most by a long-shot. As far as I can tell, just like those in support of LGBTQ lifestyles, most of us are simply making an earnest attempt to be light and salt in a dark, unseasoned world. To that end, in love, we must all learn to agree to disagree and find common ground where it sprouts from our respective theological vineyards.
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