Note: This is an opinions blog. The views asserted in this blog do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Ichthus, nor its staff members as a whole.
President Obama has been a lot of “firsts” for Americans, and his newest “first” was last week’s announcement on same-sex marriage. His public support of same-sex marriage has resulted in a number of speculations on his motives for doing so (focusing primarily on electoral gains) and how this will impact the 2012 elections, as well as rekindled the same-sex marriage debate.
Not only a highly politicized, but also a personal and emotional topic for both sides, this is a topic that must be treated with care. There is certainly a way to dialogue about this issue respectfully.
However, in this blog post I wish to address the usage of “Christianity” that has been thrown around in the general media regarding this issue rather than addressing the issue as a whole.[i]
An article from the Huffington Post[ii] put it this way:
One of the most striking aspects of Obama[iii]‘s revelation on Wednesday (May 9)… is that he invoked their Christian faith to support his views. In past years, Obama — as many believers still do — had cited his religious beliefs to oppose gay marriage.
The article goes on to note the ability of the “Golden Rule” to build across various divides —
In a sweeping study of U.S. religion, “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” published in 2010…, authors Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell elaborated the so-called “Aunt Susan Principle” — the “Aunt Susan” in all our lives, “the sort of person who epitomizes what it means to be a saint, but whose religious background is different from our own.”
Increasingly, just as we find it impossible to consign Aunt Susan to eternal damnation because of her differing beliefs, so too American believers — including the Obamas — struggle to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians who try to live upright lives, which would include a monogamous marriage.
In everyday life, this means that believers can invoke the Golden Rule in order to respect others, like gays and lesbians, while maintaining their particular religious views, which may or may not endorse homosexual relationships (emphasis mine).
Firstly, it appears that based on his religious beliefs, President Obama has asserted two different opinions on same-sex marriage. Beyond President Obama, this extends to a common critique of Christianity — “Christianity is contradictory (or inconsistent). Christians are hypocrites who do not live out what they preach.” (Unfortunately, one runs into the same critique even when one does not change one’s mind).
Secondly, the struggle of believers to reconcile society with faith and the religion of “love.”
In this limited scope, Christians are left with two options:
1. Oppose gay marriage and face ridicule along the lines of being “backwards” or being “hypocritical”
2. Support gay marriage and read the Bible selectively
Neither are viable options.
The Bible both says:
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
[We humans have] exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator . . . . For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts. (Romans 1:25–27)
It would be naïve to say that the aggregate actions of Christians toward the homosexual community has been loving or accepting. This is something that definitely needs to be addressed by the Christian community as a whole. Nonetheless, the only decision open to those who share this sentiment is not to throw the other Bible verses out the window. It is just as naïve to think that the Bible’s statement of loving your neighbor as yourself is open to personal interpretation discrete from other Biblical passages.
As I see it, same-sex marriage is neither a challenge for the Republican “Christian right” nor a call for religious leaders to gather electoral support for Romney, as supposed defender of the Christian worldview. It is a challenge for Christians to ask themselves why we hold the view that we do. We cannot simply respond “because the Bible says so” without reading the text for ourselves and coming before God in acknowledgement of the difficulties of the issue in humility. We cannot pick and choose the verses that fit in with the popular rhetoric of the age.
I see this as an opportunity for the Christians.
I do not claim to have the answers.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
Let’s start there.
[i] For this blog post, it is not my intent to address nor comment on the 2012 elections or advocate for a certain political party.
[iii] It is not my intent to specifically advocate for nor criticize President Obama’s faith, his leadership, or presidential candidacy.