Why Christians Will Not Win the Gay Marriage Debate

I began to understand the truth of a major blind spot in Christian culture when I wrote an article about Christianity and gays, and an extremely thoughtful transsexual responded.  In our short exchange, I told Clare that I felt that one reason that Christians are so quick to speak loudly about gay marriage is because it celebrates something that the Bible addresses as sin.  She gently responded with this scripture:

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  Luke 16:18

Immediately I thought of so many wonderful Christian friends who have been divorced, who are remarried and are living their lives for God’s glory, serving Him together and doing great work for the kingdom of God.  Yet, there it is, in black and white.  We believe scripture.  We cling to its truth.  And there is no contextual explanation, no cultural nuance of the days in which it was written to wash away the truth.  And, this isn’t the only scripture to address divorce and remarriage.

Several weeks later I watched a fascinating discussion about the church and gay marriage hosted at Stanford University.  The speakers were gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson and a well-spoken young thinker named Gabe Lyons (founder of Q Ideas).  These two men covered many of the complex sexual and moral issues that face the church in today’s culture, and both articulated their positions incredibly well.

About halfway through the debate, this very question arose.  I’m paraphrasing, but Bishop Robinson wanted to know why Christians are preaching so loudly against gay relationships but are virtually silent on divorce and remarriage.  And, truthfully, there is no grand, simple answer to this question, except that divorce and remarriage has gradually become an accepted practice in American churches.   And, if we follow the Bishop’s thought to its logical conclusion, we must acknowledge that many, many divorced Christians remarry in the church before God and their pastor.  In fact, many pastors are divorced and remarried.

So, what are we to say when we are faced with this objection to our treatment of gay marriage?  How can we defend our position on gay marriage when we have been hypocritical in another area?  Does this mean that we should ignore scripture that relates to same sex relationships because we have seemed to do so with divorce and remarriage?

I think the clear answer is no.  True, as churches turned seeker sensitive, as divorce became more prevalent in our culture, pastors shied away from the subject of divorce and remarriage because, let’s face it, it’s a difficult teaching.  Especially in light of how many of our Christian friends have done it.  So, in our churches it became easier not to talk about it than to address the issue.

But, it simply isn’t the proper response to say, Well, we kind of brushed the divorce stuff under the rug, may as well do so for gay marriage, too.  It would make things easier.  The fact that anyone would even call for that shows a real lack of respect for the authority of scripture.  Once we start dismissing the parts of scripture that are difficult to teach and difficult to swallow, there is no stopping point.  Before long, we have undermined all of scripture, and then what Truth do any of us have to cling to?

Dismissing scripture is not a problem for those who don’t believe in the Bible’s inerrancy or for those who don’t believe it at all.  But, for Bible believing Christians, it cannot be the solution to these issues, regardless of how uncomfortable talking about them can get.

The issues of same sex relationships and divorce and remarriage are examples of the kinds of teachings that make Christianity hard.  When Jesus said that following Him is about denying ourselves, He wasn’t joking.  He said we were to take up a cross and die to ourselves.  Being a Christian is being called to the kind of Truth that you aren’t sure if you can even handle.  That you can only live out with the help of God.  This is the kind of Truth that Jesus must’ve had in mind when He said, The world will hate you because of Me.

So, here we are, in the midst of a debate where gay marriage proponents are using divorce and remarriage scriptures to bolster their arguments.  And, in it all the real irony is that they don’t believe those scriptures any more than they believe the scriptures that prohibit gay sex. Or, in Bishop Robinson’s case, they reimagine what the scripture means so that they may feel justified. So, even while they quote scripture as if it matters, the truth of it really matters little to them.  But, the truth of it matters a lot to conservative Christians, so, shocked when we are confronted with their grand divorce and remarriage argument, we say You’re right.  And we don’t feel like we have any ground to stand on.

And, that is why Christians will lose the gay marriage debate.

But, if we look at the realities of the two issues, comparing gay marriage to divorce and remarriage is like comparing a bicycle to a bowl of spaghetti.  First of all, divorce is not celebrated in churches.  No one is launching a campaign to try and get churches to teach something that opposes scripture on the issue of divorce and remarriage.  Christians who have been divorced and remarried are likely to acknowledge that mistakes were made, that they wish they had made some different choices.  They know that divorce and remarriage is not God’s best for the marriage relationship, even if they are in blissfully happy relationships now.  Secondly, Christians in America never set out to undermine the institution of marriage or to redefine it.  There was no grand plan to make everyone ok with divorce and remarriage.  It’s true that Christianity has been slow to speak on divorce and remarriage in recent years because we don’t want to offend or hurt feelings, but not because we are throwing out the truth of the scripture.

Gay marriage is a whole different bowl of spaghetti because that is exactly what the gay marriage advocates want us to do:  throw out the truth of scripture.

So, even though it stops us in our tracks when someone like Bishop Robinson brings up divorce and remarriage, we should not be intimidated.  What God says still matters, whether any of us acknowledges it or not.  But, we can do a better job of teaching the truth in our churches.  Even the really hard stuff.  Even the stuff that we have chosen not to talk about for quite awhile.  Even the stuff that makes people think all of the things about us that Jesus said they would.  And, I pray that through this process, our commitments to our own marriages will grow stronger and our respect for scripture will deepen.  Before this debate is said and done, we will be challenged to consider whether the Bible is true and whether it is the ultimate authority for our lives.

I don’t want to tell Bishop Robinson or Clare or anyone else what they should do.  But, even more than that, I don’t want to be guilty of only half-believing the word of God.  We should stick with the truth of His word, and when gay marriage has become the norm, we should remember that God isn’t surprised and our calling hasn’t changed.  We are to trust, to listen, and to obey, speaking truth with humility and kindness.  And God can sort out everything else in His way.

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15 thoughts on “Why Christians Will Not Win the Gay Marriage Debate

  1. Your argument is well put and I commend you on it. In the end, what it all comes down to is sin. Are we saved from it or not? are we persisting in it or not? We all sin and we all ask for forgiveness from our heavenly Father through the work of His Son Jesus and by the power of His Holy Spirit. Divorcing and remarriage (with the exception of unfaithfulness) is a sin, and so is homosexuality. People choose to ignore this to satisfy themselves. All we can do is pray that the Lord will open their eyes and hearts to realize what they are doing and repent. We are not dictated by culture, traditions, the times, nor laws created by governments that change constantly. God’s laws are eternal because He is eternal and unchanging. Those who change His laws and words are not fooling Him. Only themselves.
    I pray that the Lord continues to bless you with His revelations of His truth and love.

  2. I will debate your argument about divorce and remarriage. You take the position that remarriage is a sin, and sometimes it is. Divorce can be a sin also. If you look at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew this is what He says, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” Matt 19:8-9. Women COULD NOT initiate a divorce at all, only Jewish men could. The only reason they were SUPPOSE to divorce was if their wife had committed sexual immorality. So for another man to marry her, it was assumed she was a sexually immoral woman. Thus the charge of adultery. If a man divorced his wife for a reason besides her sexual immorality, it was not a true divorce and if he remarried he was committing adultery. Is there a problem with this today in the church? Absolutely. Mainly because most churches refuse to address the issue and call it the sin that it is. That does not excuse or negate the sin of homosexual marriage. Romans 1:18-32 is abundantly clear about the cause of homosexuality and its repercussions. Also, 1John is very clear about habitual sin. I would further submit to you that there cannot be such a thing as a homosexual marriage. Marriage is a covenant agreement between a man, woman and God. No such thing can take place between two people of the same sex and God. Marriage is never defined as taking place between two people of the same sex. Scripture makes that very clear also.

    • Lisa, thanks for your comment. I didn’t address the biblical exceptions where divorce is permissible, as my post was getting too long. But, I don’t think we disagree on anything here.

  3. Hey Melissa – I agree with a lot of what you wrote here. In fact, I greatly enjoy reading your blog and it often challenges and inspires me in big ways. One thing I do not understand is why Christians are shocked with a lost world acts, well….lost. But that’s a whole different discussion. One thing you said stuck out a bit and I just wanted to give a small “push back” if you will. You stated, “True, as churches turned seeker sensitive, as divorce became more prevalent in our culture, pastors shied away from the subject of divorce and remarriage because, let’s face it, it’s a difficult teaching. Especially in light of how many of our Christian friends have done it. So, in our churches it became easier not to talk about it than to address the issue.” I pastor a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Jesus-exalting church that often gets characterized as “seeker sensitive” in a negative way like this simply because of METHODOLOGY and not THEOLOGY. Willow Creek would fall into this category. Saddleback as well. Some great, godly pastors who love Jesus with all their hearts have led and pastored “seeker sensitive” churches. My question for those who use this term in a negative light is this: What should a church be instead of “seeker sensitive?” Antonyms for sensitive are “seeker insensitive” or “seeker ignorant” or “seeker indifferent.” The gospel of Jesus presents a hospitality that all people are not only welcomed, but wanted. And Jesus certainly made folks feel that way. In light of that, I’m just not sure why being “seeker sensitive” is cast in such a negative light? Again, love the blog. Just thought I’d engage and share my two cents on some oft-used terminology….My two cents plus a quarter will get you a piece of gum. That’s about it. 🙂

    • Nic, thanks for this comment. There’s nothing I enjoy more than discussing things that matter to me with an old friend. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I suspect the reason that “seeker sensitive” took on a negative connotation is because many feel like the move toward it made churches more centered on us than on God. In some cases, teaching was filtered in order to not make anyone uncomfortable. And, that led to a great lapse in good teaching in our churches. I’m not saying this is the case in all “seeker sensitive” churches. But, I do think it happened.

  4. Universal GAYety is Coming !

    Gays are found throughout history. For the first time ever – finally – they’re almost worldwide! Wow!
    This global gaydom is even foretold in the Bible – predicted by Jesus (see “days of Lot” in Luke 17 and compare with Genesis 19).
    And the Hebrew prophet Zechariah (14th chapter) says that during the same gay “days” ALL nations will come against Israel and fulfill the “days of Noah” at the same time (see Luke 17 again) – a short time of anti-Jewish genocide found in Zechariah 13:8 when two-thirds of all Jews will die.
    In other words, when “gay days” have become universal, all hell will break loose!
    Shockingly, the same “days” will lead to and trigger the “end of days” – and when they begin, human government will quickly wind down in just a few short years. For the first time in history there won’t be enough time for anyone to expect to live long enough to be able to attend college, have kids and grand-kids, save for and enjoy retirement, etc.
    One final thought. The more we see gays “coming out,” the sooner Jesus will be “coming down”!

  5. This statement really made me angry, simply because it isn’t true: “Gay marriage is a whole different bowl of spaghetti because that is exactly what the gay marriage advocates want us to do: throw out the truth of scripture.”
    The point Clare was trying to make with the divorce argument goes much deeper than just divorce – the Bible says plenty of things about slavery, women as property, and lots of other things Christians have decided no longer fit in modern society. Most Christians cherry-pick the parts of the Bible they choose to believe, and which they don’t.
    No one wants you to “throw out” your beliefs. Just acknowledge that you are flexible with these beliefs only when it benefits you personally.

  6. I agree that homosexuality is a “special” sin and God’s response against it vastly different than to any other sin. But sexual immorality, including divorce and remarriage, comes a very close second. It is therefore almost being at the same level with a homosexual for a Christian to divorce and remarry. For a minister of God (in whatever capacity) to divorce his wife, he is automatically disqualified as far as I am concerned – and don’t he talk to me about “the anointing” being on him. There are many “anointings” in the spirit world.

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