I've been writing about the gay marriage issue a lot and have been in many 'discuss and debate' conversations. The last one was a public round table at INDABA about Referendum 74. I think I was one of the only theologically conservative leaning voices at the table. The conversation was deep and thought provoking. I gained some friends and opponents, but I've also gained more insight and understanding.
One older, white woman shared what it was like to marry a black man when it was still considered wrong civilly and religiously. Her story was a profound example of an era when the church was polarized on moral and marital matters. Thankfully, I think most people agree that the church came out on the right side of that change.
These are tough matters and I feel the danger many religious leaders face right now is the challenge to give people a map vs. a compass. A map is based on what someone else has determined for you, the next steps, road numbers and street names, while a compass is more about the posture and direction one should go. Many folks want a map, especially in moral matters.
But unfortunately we humans tend to see one moral matter and neglect the other. As Jesus put it, we are great at straining gnats and swallowing camels. We are quick to reference the domino deconstruction of moral America by the homosexual agenda while we file for divorce, buy a box of condoms or watch Internet porn. We want moral answers without a moral ethic.
The provoking idea of the separation of sacred and secular or church and state was articulated by Jesus when he laid out a thinking persons response to the polarizing rhetoric of politics.
Mark 12:13-17: "And they sent to him some of the Pharisees (didn't like Rome) and some of the Herodians (did like Rome), to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar's.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they marveled at him."
The whole "should we, shouldn't we, putting to the test" dilemma is going on right now among religious and non-religious circles, as people work through how they are going to vote in Washington on Referendum 74. Those who want marriage equality for gay people want us to vote for the referendum. Those who don't want marriage redefined, want us to oppose the referendum .
Here are some of the points often raised that I'm wrestling with as a follower of Jesus who seeks to be biblically faithful, socially conservative while a politically independent, libertarian leaning constitutionalist.
The domino effect fear
How can I advocate for moral boundaries and yet not impose my religious convictions on non-religious people? Is freedom truly able to self-govern? Do adults have the right to choose how to live their lives and am I truly confident in the fruit and witness of truth even if others have competing world or moral views? Is truth stronger than error or does truth require law to prevail?
The dangerous for the children argument
Are no parents better than gay parents? Is gay love harmful to an unloved child? Is love a religious reality based on moral truth or a universal reality able to be expressed, received by all? If God is love and those who love are revealing God, does it matter for the child with no parents who loves them?
It's not a civil rights issue
In a pluralistic, democratic republic, is it fair to govern others based on religious law or conviction or should we, as public citizens, be strictly governed by the constitution while privately governing ourselves according to our own religious traditions?
Loving but not letting...is that that golden rule?
Are we truly loving others when we treat them in a way that we wouldn't want to be treated? If our place of moral power was reversed how would vote?
I find the line of reasoning articulated in the discussion with Jesus's opponents to be eerily familiar to the religious conversations and positions I have held at times and those I often hear in the current debate:
"Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful..." (Mark 12:14).
I think followers of Jesus should be 'true' and seek to put God above Caesar where required, but it should always be in a way that dignifies the image of God and the freedom of the will in our fellow citizens. Every man or woman will have to give an account for their own deeds in the body to their creator.
Revelation 22:11-12: "Let the one who is doing harm continue to do harm; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy. "Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds."
In eternity and in my conscience, I'm content to let God be the judge. In America, as long as I am able to freely worship, work and witness to the truth of God as I see it and want to live it, I will support the constitution of the United States.