Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thoughts on The Church and Prop 8.

Ok. I am not sure how this one will turn out so bear with me. What you are about to read is a thought process. It is not a well-researched thesis with infallible logic. It is an attempt to sort out the many different and often competing ideas swirling around in my head. This may come off as really random and without flow so I apologize in advance. I welcome any input to the conversation.

This blog was inspired by the passing of Prop 8 in California. The proposition banned gay marriage in the state.

Before I start, I want to make a few things very clear: I am a follower of Jesus. I believe he is the Word made flesh. I believe he died on a Roman cross taking the sins of the world upon himself. I believe he rose from the grave. I believe His spirit dwells within his followers. I believe the Church is his body on earth. I believe the Bible is my authority and when properly interpreted and followed, can change us in a radical way. I believe that following Jesus is the absolute best way to live for both the individual and the world. Ok?

And due to those beliefs, I believe that a homosexual lifestyle is not an appropriate way for a follower of Jesus to live. I also think that a greedy lifestyle is inappropriate way to live as well but no one really talks about that. Ok?

An overwhelming percentage of Evangelicals (I consider myself Evangelical) supported the prop. No doubt they were motivated by their beliefs in what the Bible teaches about homosexuality.

So that is the current situation we are dealing with here. Before I talk about it any further, I want to reflect on the state of the world that the Church was born into 2,000 years ago.

Rome was the most powerful empire the world had ever seen. The Roman Emperor was the most powerful man in the world. He was believed to be the Son of God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Christians were forced to be an underground sect because they refused to worship the Emperor. During the reigns of Nero and Domitian, persecution of Christians became state sponsored and totally out of control. Christians who would not bow to the Emperor could be killed on the spot. Nero used the bodies of Christians as tiki torches at his parties. Domitian required people to worship him in order to participate in the economy.

It was in this environment that the early church flourished. Much of the new testament was written during these times. Leaders of the church called believers to perseverance in the face of extreme suffering. They considered it an honor because they could participate in the sufferings of Christ.

They had absolutely no political power. And they thrived. They outlived the Empire.

Fast forward 2,000 years. Christians in the U.S. not only live in a society that allows them to worship without persecution, but they live in a society where they are a significant voting block and can sway the outcome of a presidential election (remember 2004?). Our society resembles Rome only in the sense that we are (or were depending on how you look at it) the most powerful and influential nation in the world.

That, to me, poses some problems for us in the Church. Jesus never sought political power. In fact, he called people to enter the Kingdom of God, something totally unrelated to political power. The Kingdom is where God had rule, where losing your life means finding it, where the servants are the greatest, where the first are last and the last are first. It is a place where sickness is trumped by healing. It is a place where the poor sit at the seats of honor and the rich and powerful are humbled. It is subversive. It is hidden. It is a tiny mustard seed that turns into a tree that blesses all who come to it. It is not of this world and does not operate by the same rules as earthly kingdoms and governments.

If anything, Scripture teaches us to be at the very least skeptical of governments. A common image for them is that of a beast.

So what does the Church do when we actually have political power? How do we use that power? DO we use that power? These are questions I have been wrestling with. Hasn’t history shown us that when you combine religion with political power, bad things happen? To be fair, officially removing religion form public life also has bad results.

I also think that when the Church becomes too powerful (politically) it begins to move away from the teachings and life of Jesus. His power came from God, not form being legitimized by the government. Remember, they were the ones who wanted him dead.

Many Evangelicals think that allowing gay marriage to be legal threatens the sanctity of marriage. Does it? What about people who get married and don’t believe in God? Is their marriage ok? Is the greatest hope we have for the world that everyone would be married to someone of the opposite sex? That feels like setting the bar really low and also sounds virtually nothing like what Jesus preached. What about people who get married in Las Vegas in a drunken stupor only to get divorced the next day when they realize how stupid they were. Is that marriage still sacred?

More questions:

Why does the church need to be legitimized by the Government? The church in China is illegal and it is exploding with growth. India is not super friendly towards Christians and the government often turns a blind eye towards persecution, but it is spreading like wildfire there. Why do we need to be different? Maybe if we had a little hardship and suffering, we might see our faith deepen and we might be forced to get back to what Jesus taught rather than try to legislate our version of morality.

If gay people can’t get married, should we also not allow greedy people to get married? Should people who have cheated on their spouses not be allowed to visit them in the hospital because they violated the sanctity of marriage? We just aren’t consistent. We want the government to protect something that we don’t even have a good track record with. Everyone knows the divorce rate amongst Christians.

Here is a situation that I think could work. Make gay marriage legal and allow churches to not have to do it. Why wouldn’t that work? There is a clear separation of church and state and first amendment freedom of religion. Yes, we would take a lot of heat for it but so what. I don’t get the feeling that the early Church stood outside the Roman senate and demanded that the temples where male prostitutes would go be closed because it violated their beliefs.

The American church has had a TERRIBLE time reaching out to the homosexual community and a terrible time addressing the issue in their own congregations. I am fortunate enough to be in Christian communities where I could wrestle with the issue if I needed to, but I don’t think that most people feel like they could. If you were struggling with homosexual feelings and longings, would you go to the church for help? I am just going to go guess that you wouldn’t. That is sad. How did we get to the point where the people who loved to hang out with Jesus now feel like they can’t go to church?

Again, this is a jumble of thoughts, unorganized and incomplete. I know I have more to say but I am tired and need to go to bed.

Thoughts? Leave a comment.


  1. Hey Ben-- Great thoughts. I totally agree. I especially liked your question "Is the greatest hope we have for the world that everyone would be married to someone of the opposite sex?" Listening to the Religious Right it does seem like that sometimes. Or that legally allowing homosexuals to marry would be the greatest threat to the church, or to heterosexual marriage-- I don't get that one. If evangelicals are mostly in favor of separation of church and state, why do we care so much if the government validates something the church doesn't? Hasn't it always been that way? I think our main concern as believers should be keeping our churches clean in how they deal with sin (of ALL types, as you mentioned) and yet still loving, caring for, and welcoming with loving arms the sinner.

  2. Ben, you rascal you. So many questions. And on a topic that a lot of Christians just don't want to even think about. Here's the deal for me. God asks two things of me: love Him with all my mind, heart, soul, strength; love my neighbor. Now, if I put everything I do in that context, I love the homosexual couple, whether they want to marry or not, and I love that person on the "Religious Right" that can't see much beyond his fear. The homosexual couple fear God's people because they want their sin to be validated. The RR guy fears those that don't believe the way he does because his God is too small.
    2 things God asks us to do: love Him; love everyone. That's all I want to concentrate on.

  3. Make homosexual marriage but let the church keep the right to not do it! Brilliant! more briliant than guinness!