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Four Reasons this Christian Family Supports Marriage Equality

As a vote draws near, a few responses to some common “faith” based arguments regarding homosexuality and marriage equality...

On Thursday, the Illinois Senate is expected to vote on SB – 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.  Once passed, it will move on to the House where it will await a final vote before becoming law.  The bill, if passed, will grant same-sex couples the freedom to marry in the State of Illinois.  The bill will not, however, require any clergy to perform marriage ceremonies against their faith traditions.  I write this letter of support as a Christian lay person aware of the movement within many churches toward welcoming all of God’s children as we are, regardless of our sexual orientation.

Many of the arguments over same-sex marriage and homosexuality center on religion.  As a religious person who also believes in equality regardless of sexual orientation, this is disheartening.  However, I know that any frustration I may feel regarding this debate pales in comparison to the hurt that many of my LGBT friends have experienced over a lifetime.  It is with great respect for brothers and sisters truly at the heart of this issue that I hope to offer something constructive to the conversation.  What follows are responses to some common “faith” based arguments regarding homosexuality, and four reasons why I feel compelled as a Christian to voice support for marriage equality.

1. There are well-researched and faithful readings of the Bible that support full inclusion and equal rights for the LGBT community.  But, some will say, the Bible clearly says that homosexuality is an abomination!  Or, is it just homosexual acts?  Or is it just the Old Testament.  Wait, what did Jesus say?  Maybe it is not quite so “clear.”  While many are quick to cite a few select verses to support anti-gay beliefs, one can also find verses condemning eating shrimp (another abomination) and even condoning taking your rebellious child to the city gate to be stoned.  Thankfully, there is a stunning lack of support for this 'biblical' child-rearing tactic.  In other words, when we cherry pick or read without historical context, we can use the Bible to defend or promote any number of issues from slavery, to women's rights, to whether or not to spank our children.  The point here is that a Bible verse taken out of context can be harmful, and we must be careful to thoughtfully consider the Bible’s text in light of our experience, history and tradition.

2. The Biblical call to “go forth and multiply” is no longer as critical to the continuing of humankind.  Many argue that same-sex couples are not able to have biological children and therefore their union is not natural.  While it is true that same-sex partners cannot procreate (without donors, gestational carries, medical intervention, etc.), it is also true that 10-15% of heterosexual couples are infertile and often unable to have biological children without medical intervention.  And, many heterosexual couples choose not to have children.  Do we grant marriage rights only to those who are biologically able and/or choose to have children?  Do we recognize the commitment of these childless heterosexual couples as less than?  Of course not, that would be ridiculous, right?  With a world population of over 7 billion, humankind is likely to continue to thrive (in terms of population, at least) whether or not every married couple is biologically able or chooses to reproduce.

3. For many Christians, the call to follow Jesus leaves no choice but to treat our LGBT brothers and sisters as equalsMany feel that this is not only justified, but what is demanded by the Gospel of Jesus. While there is much debate over the translation and context of a few Old Testament verses, in the gospels, Jesus was actually rather silent on the issue of homosexuality.  However, he was very clear in his call for justice and love of neighbor above all else.  Time after time, Jesus is a champion for the oppressed, the minority, the meek.  Is it all that radical to believe that Jesus would welcome gay brothers and sisters into the church with open arms? Too radical to believe he would even go a step beyond to wash their feet as with his disciples?  Perhaps the lack of any evidence that Jesus turned homosexual followers away is evidence enough that he welcomed them in.  Let us focus our efforts on heeding that call, as demonstrated by Jesus, for social justice.  Let us be known for that.  After all, shouldn’t the church be the one safe place for us to be who we are?  Aren’t we called by Jesus to be the church? 

4. Regardless of what our individual interpretation of scripture tells us, let's look at what's happening in the present day. Let us ask ourselves the following question: What do we honestly believe to be the greater sin?  Do we stand by and watch as our society and our churches treat our brothers and sisters as less than equal, stand idle as our LGBT youth attempt suicide at a rate five times greater than that of straigh youth, and feel satisfied with a message (at best) of "we love you, but you must change.”  Or, do we commit the 'sin' of treating everyone as an equal regardless of the object of their consensual relationship, reach out - sincerely - to youth struggling with issues of rejection and self-worth, and proclaim, boldly, "Welcome.  Come as you are.  God loves you.  We love you." 

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love… 

It is my hope that our state, and our religious institutions, will be a leader for justice and work for the latter.  It is my prayer that, in my own home, we will faithfully follow the call of Jesus to do so as well. 

For other Christian voices (much more eloquent than my own) please see:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adam Hamilton and his most recent sermon on the homosexuality and the church, Bishop Sally Dyck's letter regarding Marriage Equality, and Rachel Held Evans’ blog posts, particularly here, here and here.

A final note regarding comments:  I am very aware that we feel passionately about both sides of this debate.  If you feel compelled to offer a comment, please do so in a way that is constructive, civil and helpful to the discussion.  And, most importantly, please be mindful of all of those who may be reading. Thank you.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tom Nosal February 12, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Thank you for that very great commentary. It's very refreshing to hear a Christian viewpoint on this issue that is not 100% against it. Hopefully your words can resonate with others and we can all get past our prejudices and move on.
Jim Cowan February 12, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Well written, Holli.
Amanda M February 12, 2013 at 04:43 PM
Very well written!
Dan Johnson February 12, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Thank you for your well reasoned letter in support of equal treatment under the law as promised in the founding documents and required by the 5th and 14th amendments. The Golden Rule is not just a religious belief, it is required by our constitution. Many straight people forget that gay people have lived their entire lives being denied equal treatment under the law as promised by the government. I was pleased to see you understand that fact and the needless suffering and death prejudice and discrimination cause. Hopefully the marriage restriction will be removed in the near future. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Pat Hawkins February 13, 2013 at 01:51 AM
My husband and I are members of Eun-Hye and Chris's last congregation in Chicago. It was during, and I feel, because of her leadership and strong belief in Christ's love for all that we became a Reconciling Congregation. Thank you for your clear and concise statement. God's love is for all.
Tina February 13, 2013 at 02:20 AM
Great article! I wish with all my heart more people would accept Gay men and women.Its sad that Gay marriage is even an issue! Its a right that they have been denied ! I hope there will come a time when future generations will look back on this and think what was wrong with those people? Everyone derserves to marry and spend their life with who they love.
Cheryl Henbest February 13, 2013 at 04:10 PM
Thanks Holli for your very well written letter. Cheryl Henbest
Pastor Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle February 13, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Holli, thanks for your timely blog post. I am so thankful that you and others are choosing to make your voices heard. It is important for our LGBT brothers and sisters to know that not all Christians believe what we too often hear represented in the media. There are many of us who want equality for ALL God's children and will keep fighting until we see that day happen. God-willing, it will be happening very soon here in Illinois and on the Federal level too. Thanks, again.
Plainfield resident 6 February 13, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Holli, you are awesome. Thanks for your candid and realistic way to bring this hot topic up to date. It is refreshing to hear this view point instead of the opposing one. Lauri
Jax February 13, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Times have changed but the bibles words do not. Jesus came to save us all. I have never agreed with the lifestyle but have never condemned those who are gay or lesbian cause I was unsure as to what Jesus felt about. As you pointed out he doesn't touch the topic. I enjoyed the insight of this article. I pray for understanding cause it is hard to walk in ones shoes ...thank you
Dan Johnson February 13, 2013 at 10:12 PM
It might help your understanding if you realize being gay is not a lifestyle, just like being straight is not a lifestyle. Nor is sexual orientation a choice. Most straight people will tell you they are not attracted to the same sex in the same way they are attracted to the opposite sex. Their sexual orientation; an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and physical attraction, is not a choice. Most will telly you they couldn't imagine committing their lives to a person of the same sex. Same with gay men and women. They don't have any desire to marry a person of the opposite sex. Sexual orientation, straight, gay, and bisexual, is not a choice. Even bisexual people have no choice over being attracted. While they may have a choice in choosing a life partner, their orientation does not change. Decades of evidence, including unethical studies involving torture with electric shock, emetics, castration, and lobotomies, shows orientation is highly resistant to change. A person may learn how to repress or suppress their attractions, but that does not change orientation.
Jessica Hannan February 15, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Holli, this is a fantastic article with great insight! I'm a Christian with a very strong belief that marriage equality can and should exist. Thank you for putting yourself out there on this very volatile topic.
Russ February 28, 2013 at 02:47 PM
Brilliant - and thanks for writing it. Many in the LGBT community feel that the battle lines have been drawn and it's Christians in the forefront of the hatred. Your article and the wonderful comments that follow prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are many Christians who still carry the words "Peace and Love" in their hearts and on their lips. Thanks again to all of you!!
J. Ann May 05, 2013 at 09:45 PM
God bless you and your family Holli---I would guess you are very loving people seeking to sincerely follow Jesus. I do believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, according to 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21, or "God-breathed"... and God the Holy Spirit, in authoring the first chapter of Romans, did clarify His take on homosexual behavior---certainly not on the PEOPLE involved. Nevertheless, the people getting married, or desiring to, will almost certainly perform homosexual acts---which God specifically says in the New Testament (Romans 1:22-28) --for those of you only quoting certain verses from the Old Testament to prove some point about shrimp and child-stoning, is "committing what is shameful". It clearly is in the New Testament, and Jesus said the Holy Spirit would say nothing unless it agreed with Him, so it might as well been Jesus saying it---they are One in mind and purpose (see John16:12-15). I see that every other comment was very encouraging and complimentary, and indeed you have a gift for writing, but let's not try to make those who don't see it your way as uncompassionate or unkind. We just believe what the Bible says, and some of us are Christians, some are not. Please, no hateful, mean or disparaging comments. Someday, we will all understand God and His ways a lot better, on the other side. :)
Dan Johnson May 06, 2013 at 02:33 PM
You are relying on your modern English mistranslation and misinterpretation of the ancient texts to justify ignoring the Golden Rule. The few passages that seem to condemn homosexual behavior were condemning pagan ritual orgies with temple prostitutes and other abusive practices, not committed relationships based on mutual love and respect. "What the Bible forbids is acts of lust, rape, idolatry, violation of religious purity obligations, or pederasty, but no condemnation of homosexuality in relationships of mutual respect and love. On the other hand, the Bible pointedly celebrates instances of same-sex emotional intimacy, a fact often overlooked by fearful homophobic readers." James B. Nelson, Professor of Christian Ethics, United Theological Seminary
Dan Johnson May 06, 2013 at 02:40 PM
"How does the Bible address homosexuality - the word didn't even exist until 1869? The word first appeared in Germany to describe the theory that from birth some people are predisposed toward persons of the same sex. Since the biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) had no words for heterosexual or homosexual, it is anachronistic and misleading when homosexual is used to translate a biblical text. It is wrong to proclaim the biblical view of homosexuality since there is none. This violates the integrity of the individual texts and the biblical witness as a whole. Each reference to what is today homosexuality must be read in the light of the particular literary, cultural, and historic contexts of any particular passage. If Jesus ever said anything about homosexuality, it is not recorded in the Bible, even mistranslated. He did, however, speak extensively on God's unconditional love. Yet instead of dwelling on biblical love, Christians have historically been more concerned with obscure passages of Levitical cleanliness codes and Paul's misunderstood comments in Romans. Instead of focusing on the incredible injustice and hatred demonstrated by Christians and others, tying to deny homosexuals even basic civil rights, people appear more concerned with the specific homosexual acts between consenting adults who are naturally have a homosexual orientation." (Rev. Dr. Mel White)
Dan Johnson May 06, 2013 at 03:11 PM
"Paul's words to the Christian community in ancient Rome come from his knowledge of the first century world in which he lived. His carefully tailored argument in Romans 1 is set in the specific context of Gentile and Jewish history, complete with first century illustrations familiar to first century readers." As residents of the Imperial City, ancient Romans personally witnessed thousands of statues of false gods, hundreds of pagan temples and pagan worshipers thronging the grand streets for religious festivals. Commentators who ignore the historical and religious context of Romans 1 entirely miss the point of Paul's argument against idolatry and shrine prostitution. Fertility goddess worship and shrine prostitution flourished in first century Rome and are precisely what Paul addressed in Romans 1. Attempts by nongay Christians, to divorce Romans 1 from its historical context are due more to their support of an anti-gay agenda than a desire to honestly understand Romans 1." http://www.gaychristian101.com/Romans-1.html
Dan Johnson May 06, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Several books already exist attempting to demonstrate that the Christian Bible does not, in fact, condemn consenting-adult homosexuality. But "God is Not a Homophobe" has a unique perspective in that the author has a lifetime of experience in pastoring hard-core fundamentalist churches. His former bitter opposition to all forms of homosexuality has given way to a rational, unbiased acceptance that the Bible says hardly anything about homosexuality, and what it does say cannot honestly be used to condemn consenting same-sex unions." "God is not a Homophobe: An unbiased look at Homosexuality in the Bible" by Philo Thelos
Dan Johnson May 06, 2013 at 03:25 PM
"The New Testament and Homosexuality" Robin Scroggs, Prof of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary is a serious theologian and is favorable reviewed by many theologians. He is a happily married heterosexual with no personal bias. He includes cites from Boswell and expands further especially on pederasty and concludes there is nothing biblically wrong with homosexuality. "What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality" by Daniel Helminiask, PH.D., was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1967 and is incardinated in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. From 1981-1985 was Assoc Prof for Systematic Theology at Oblate School of Theology and earlier completed his Ph.D. in systematic theology at Boston College and Andover Newton Theological School. He concludes the Bible says absolutely nothing about homosexuality being sinful when you examine the actual Hebrew/Greek texts." Baptist Rev Dr. William R. Stayton, Divinity degree from Andover Newtown Theological School and on faculty of LaSalle University's Grad program in Religious studies: - "There is nothing in the Bible regarding homosexual orientation. In fact, the Bible does not concern itself with sexual orientation. It does speak against gang rape, male prostitution for religious purposes, and pederasty. I lead bible study programs on this subject and am convinced that the Bible does not address the issue of a person's sexual orientation."
Holli Long May 06, 2013 at 06:04 PM
Great book recommendations, Dan. I have read "What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality" and a few others. I wanted to add another to the list of recommended readings: "Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christian Debate" by Justin Lee I just finished this and think it is wonderful. The author shares his experience growing up as a very devoted conservative Christian. He talks of his struggles as he realizes he is also gay. He shares his evolution (and experiences in ex-gay therapies and attending a Christian college) and how he now not only reconciles his sexuality with the Bible, but also his call and conviction to educate others and bring the divided church together. I highly recommend this book. (You can see my full review/reaction to the book here on Believe Out Loud: http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/love-sinner-read-book) Also, I've heard good things about Bishop Gene Robinson's "God Believes in Love" which is currently on my "to read" list. Again, thanks for sharing these resources. I believe they are helpful and necessary reading for all of us - regardless of where we stand on the debate.
just answer May 06, 2013 at 10:45 PM
I've read about the essential arguments in the books mentioned above as saying the that Bible does not condemn homosexual acts. It is my opinion that the books are wrong. For example, the debate over what is "natural": the argument for homosexual acts being "natural" is that some seem to have a "natural" (in that they did not have a choice; they were made that way * ) attraction to members of the same sex; this ignores that fact that homosexual acts are "unnatural" in the sense that parts of the reproductive system are not "naturally" meant to be used with parts of (another person's) digestive system. Another point that continuously seems to need to be reiterated is that people can be for equal rights without redefining marriage. In other words, lets focus on the rights not redefining a term. On the term "marriage," Archbishop Cordileone states, ``marriage seeks to create a total community of love, a "one flesh" union of mind, heart and body that includes a willingness to care for any children their bodily union makes together.'' * note however that as far as genetics is concerned, the APA has said for years: "Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors."
just answer May 06, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Until just a generation or so ago, marriage was completely understood as the deepest and most permanent of relationships. A generation ago, legally speaking and with the advent of no-fault divorce, marriage became not-so-permanent. This has had a negative impact on our society (specifically as far as children are concerned). Now with this attempt to redefinition, marriage, the "deepness" may be lost. Both heterosexual and homosexuals can "love." They can express that love in both genital and non-genital ways. Expressions of love deepen the love. Genital expression can and should deepen love for one another. The potential is greatest and natural in marriage as currently defined - between a one man and one women -- where the parts naturally go together). I'm for equal rights, but not for redefining marriage. Other links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0kCAvxF1mFA http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/21/archbishop-cordileone-gay-marriage-catholic-church/2001085/
J. Ann May 07, 2013 at 12:19 AM
@ just answer---I agree with you definition and explanation of natural. Genital and digestive do not naturally mix. My degree in biology, as well as common sense, attest to this. @Dan Johnson---I stand by what the Word of God says, as well as what the Holy Spirit in me confirms. God hates no person, nor does He fear, so true, He is not a homophobe---a really nasty label for anyone, and unloving. He (God) is also not a homophil (inordinately loving and approving of the homosexual lifestyle), as seen clearly in Romans 1, which is referring to any man with a man, or woman with a woman. Don't add or take away from the Scripture, please.
Dan Johnson May 07, 2013 at 01:12 AM
just answer. You confuse sexual orientation with behavior. Orientation is about an enduring pattern of emotional and romantic attraction. It exists even if never acted upon. It may also be expressed without the specific acts you imagine. Many gay women and men express affection, love, and bonding without the acts you imagine. You also ignore that even more straight couples do everything you imagine gay people do. You also ignore marriage is a fundamental right which does not require any religious belief. Your choice to interpret scriptue in a way that allows you to ignore the Golden Rule has nothing to do with legal recognition of a fundamental legal right. Nor does this fundamental right require any physical expression, any ability for reproduction, or even love. People who are incapable of reproduction due to age, operation, accident, physical deformity, or even incarceration, are still allowed the fundamental right of marriage. The fact we don't currently understand why gay people exist, does not alter the fact we know from the history of the world, they are a natural minority of the population. You still fail to provide any legitimate governmental interest sufficient for denial of this fundamental right to gay people.
Dan Johnson May 07, 2013 at 01:23 AM
J. Ann While your interpretation of scripture is irrelevant when considering equal treatment under the law, it is you who is adding to scripture by interpreting the passage warning against idolatry and pagan ritual lust and sex as a prohibition of relationships based on mutual love and respect. In earning you degree in biology, you probably learned same sex behavior and even pair bonding occurs in over a thousand other species as well. When the bonding responses are being expressed, a perfect fit of parts is not required. The parts work just fine, as demonstrated by the existence of same sex bonding across time and place, no matter how well accepted or how severely punished.
Dan Johnson May 07, 2013 at 01:30 AM
just answer. Marriage has taken many forms throughout time, culture, and place. Divorce is nothing new, nor does it have anything to do with treating the marriages of same sex couples equally under the laws currently in effect for opposite sex couples. Your desire to restrict marriage based on a fitness of parts, ignores that neither ability nor desire to have sex is a requirement of marriage.
Dan Johnson May 07, 2013 at 01:35 AM
Equal rights under another name is not equality. Separate can never be equal. It always results in stigmatization as worth less. "In the court’s final analysis, the government’s only basis for supporting DOMA comes down to an apparent belief that the moral views of the majority may properly be enacted as the law of the land in regard to state-sanctioned same-sex marriage in disregard of the personal status and living conditions of a significant segment of our pluralistic society. Such a view is not consistent with the evidence or the law as embodied in the Fifth Amendment with respect to the thoughts expressed in this decision. The court has no doubt about its conclusion:...DOMA deprives them of the equal protection of the law to which they are entitled."
J. Ann May 08, 2013 at 02:43 PM
@Dan Johnson---no, not true. You are truly reading into Scripture and adding to it and taking away from the inherent meaning which is quite clear---God loves all people, but the homosexual behavior is harmful and not acceptable in His eyes. Just what does it mean when it says in Romans1:27.."and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due"? Does that happen to kind and loving individuals in a committed relationship, too, or is that reserved for your "pagans and idolaters"? Don't you see the illogic in your comments? Homosexuality and its behavior is ultimately between God and the individual, and the government needs to stay out of it. It's all politics when the government gets involved, we know that. We have to get past our feelings and back to sound thinking and reality, and what is best and right and good for the whole and not just the "kind and loving" individuals. There's a trainwreck coming, and we can't see the forest for the trees. Furthermore, it really doesn't matter what some PHD's have written about it, what matters is what the Bible clearly states---but we have walked away from the Truth and are embracing the LIE (as Romans 1:25 warns of). God have mercy on our country. (please see Proverbs 1:20-33) You may use all the logic you want, but it will NEVER negate the Word of God.
Vaughn Christensen May 15, 2013 at 04:28 PM
To really know what the New Testament says you must read it in the Greek rather than a translation. Here's a website with Romans 1:27 with the Greek and English words together: http://interlinearbible.org/romans/1-27.htm

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