Posts tagged Faith
Last Chance for a Win-Win on Same Sex Marriage?

In the wake of a lot of conversation without a lot of substance, I have a deep appreciation for the following blog posted by Bob Hyatt. I don't agree with all of his premises but I have a deep respect for the civility and thoughtufulness of this response:


"This week, two important things happened. First, the voters of North Carolina passed a State constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. And then shortly after, President Obama reversed his long-held position against same-sex marriage and said, “It ought to be legal.” In addition, the polls now show that the country is almost precisely divided in half for and against changing our laws on this issue.


All of which lead me to believe that we will soon reach or have already reached the last chance for both sides of this issue to lay down the all-or-nothing mentality they possess, and find a win-win scenario where each side gets the essentials of what they want.
Is it possible to have a win-win on same-sex marriage (SSM)? I think it’s not only possible- it’s imperative.


Because, at least at this point, neither side seems willing to try and see the issue from the perspective of the other and look for something other than a binary, up or down, yes or no kind of solution. And where will that lead us? Certainly no place good. Look for more protests of churches, more of those who speak out in favor of the biblical understanding of marriage to be labeled as “haters”… and fewer and fewer gay men and women even giving the Gospel a hearing because in their mind, the Church simply doesn’t care about them as people.


In order to avoid an exacerbation of this cultural war, some common sense compromise is going to be necessary- each side is going to have to give up something for the sake of the other.

On one side, the Church is going to have to realize that gay men and women, in wanting what everyone else has, are asking for something reasonable. Rights of inheritance and property, custody and visitation- all of the rights granted currently by the state in marriage are good things, things we can affirm, even in relationships that we wouldn’t necessarily endorse. After all, even if we hold a more conservative view on divorce, I don’t see many churches advocating for divorced couples to lose the right to have custody over their step-children should something happen to their spouse. We may not endorse the relationship, but we can certainly try to understand the desire of those in it to have the same legal rights as other couples. And more than understand it- I think we can advocate for it, and practically demonstrate that we do in fact “love everyone.”


At a bare minimum, those who claim the stance “Welcoming but not affirming” must come to grips with the very practical question of what that looks like not just on Sunday morning, but it the public/civic arena too.


On the other side, those pushing for SSM need to understand the depth of feeling involved in and around the word marriage- what is for many Christians a sacrament and for all Christians sacred. To have the State legislate an understanding of what is essentially a religious term, and to legislate it in a way contrary to the faith and practice of so many is profoundly offensive. This goes beyond legalization into the realm of endorsement and definition, and as such, is qualitatively different than many other culture war issues.


As long as we’re talking about “marriage” we’re going to continue to see a stalemate on this issue as those who believe in a traditional, biblical view of sexuality and those who want the basic rights afforded to others all around them each refuse to give an inch.

So what’s the solution?


The State needs to get out of the “marriage” business. It should recognize that as long as it uses that term, and continues to privilege certain types of relationships over others this issue is going to divide us as a nation, and is only going to become more and more contentious. We need to move towards the system used in many European countries where the State issues nothing but civil unions to anyone who wants them, and then those who desire it may seek a marriage from the Church. When I pastored in the Netherlands, this was the system- you got a civil union certificate at the courthouse and then a Marriage ceremony at the church. This division largely negated the culture war aspect, and allowed those churches who objected to same sex marriage on biblical grounds to not only opt out, but to be able to continue to teach their biblical view of marriage, uncontradicted by the State.

But more even than changing our system, we need to change our hearts. I don’t know how many proponents of gay marriage will be reading this, so I won’t make much of a plea to them beyond this: please stop labeling the other side of the argument as “hate speech” and bigotry. It’s not. It is a working out of deep convictions and a particular understanding of sexuality as a good gift from a good Creator, to be used within certain boundaries. Personal animosity doesn’t enter into the argument- and when it does, it deserves just as much sanction and rebuke from the Church as anything else.


And that means that in addition to rethinking how we talk about LGBTQ issues in the church, and what it looks like to actively welcome them in the name of Jesus, the Church needs to rethink its political strategies. We ought to stop worrying about ballot measures and propositions which declare same sex marriage illegal, and ought to start focusing on the new realities of this Post-Christendom world in which we find ourselves. Our efforts would better be spent on trying to get the government OUT of marrying anyone. Will this mean giving up one more piece of privilege and power in the public sphere? Sure- the Pastor’s signing of the “Marriage License,” a document issued by the State is exactly that. But if it gets us towards a place of peacemaking with a community we are not doing very well at sharing the Gospel with, isn’t laying that down worth it?


Ultimately, we in the Church need to change our hearts as well. It is our primary goal that the Gospel of Jesus be heard and understood and that the person of Jesus be esteemed. As we often say in marriage counseling, “perception is reality,” and the sad truth is that right now, the gay community in America doesn’t think much of us or our Jesus, not based on the offensiveness of our Gospel, but on the offensiveness of our fighting what they see as fundamental human rights. My fear is that we may (for a while longer at least) continue to win battles like The recent one in North Carolina… but ultimately lose the war in the hearts of a portion of our population who become convinced that the Gospel couldn’t possibly be Good News to them, based on what they do (or don’t) see in us."


You can find Bob Hyatt's blog at:

U2 in Seattle

“One day you will look back and you'll see -
You were held by this love.
You could stand there or you could move on this moment -
Follow this feeling”

(Mysterious Ways)

Last Saturday marked the third time I’ve seen U2 in concert and every time I see them I take something different away. Yes, it is a rock and roll show with world class production like nothing else on the planet. Yes, the catalog of songs they have to draw on is stunning. And I doubt there has ever been a band that could make a crowd of 60,000 feel like a small club show the way U2 can. But this time around, I was struck by the spiritual dimension of the band. I grew up in a Christian subculture that assumed that the only legitimate art forms are the ones that beat you over the head with “biblical principles”. But yet – as I looked around Qwest Stadium on Saturday night, if I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was at some kind of Pentecostal rally -- hands raised, dancing, surrender, and talk of justice, grace, compassion, and love. Bono told the fans gathered in Seattle, “…if this band has stood for anything, it is the idea that there are second chances.” My friend Tom who was at the concert posted on his Facebook page the next morning, “I went to a praise and worship service last night and a U2 concert broke out.”

In recent years, I have come to recognize the powerful effect that U2 has had on shaping in a positive way Christian spirituality in our culture. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who refer to their U2 concert going experience as “inspired” or “divine” or even “the high point of their spiritual journey.” In Rob Bell’s most recent book, he poses a question about both the necessity and the difficulty of responding to Jesus. He writes,

…It is about how you respond to Jesus.But it raises another important question: Which Jesus? ... When one woman in our church invited her friend to come to one of our services, he asked her it if was a Christian church.She said yes, it was. He then told her about Christians in his village in eastern Europe who rounded up the Muslims in town and herded them into a building, where they opened fire on them with their machine guns and killed them all. He explained to her that he was a Muslim and had no interest in going to her Christian church. That Jesus? Or think about the many who know about Christians only from what they’ve seen on television and so assume that Jesus is antiscience, antigay, standing out on the sidewalk with his bullhorn, telling people that they’re going to burn forever? That Jesus? (“Love Wins”)

In this regard, it may be that U2 may be the best advocate for way of Jesus in our culture today. U2’s Jesus looks a lot like the Jesus of the gospels – a dangerous outsider calling out the greed and corruption of the rich and powerful. The draw to this kind of Jesus is powerful. For people like myself who are church insiders, it is humbling to recognize that it is not usually the preaching that I am used to doing that changes the world.In the biblical narrative, it is the artists and poets, like U2, who are the ones imagining a new world, a new reign of the Kingdom of God, Shalom. I love the way Walter Brueggemann describes it:

The poets of the Bible use a shattering, evocative speech, the kind of speech that breaks fixed
conclusions and presses us always toward new, dangerous, imaginative possibilities…These poets not only discerned the new actions of God that others did not discern, but they wrought the new actions of God by the power of their imagination, their tongues, their words. New poetic imagination evoked new realities in the community
. (“Finally Comes the Poet")

Yeah, it rocked. And yeah, there were several times (like when Bono cried out, “uno, dos, tres, catorce”) that I thought 60,000 people were going to jump out of their skin in unison. But I also think there is something deeper going on. Something pretty significant.

Dana HicksCulture, Faith