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Home > 2013 > April Online Only > Gay Marriage and Christian Volatility

Agitated.

Agitated is the word that comes to mind when I think of the current debate about Gay Marriage. Agitation is everywhere, and it takes on a particularly volatile form within many church circles.

There is a lot being written right now about gay marriage. The vast majority of that writing is about which side of the issue has the moral high ground. What is not being written about is why this particular issue has induced such an explosive, emotional response.

On one hand, the church is an activist organization. This is true from its beginning: from building hospitals to big-tent revivals, from overthrowing dictators to nailing 95 Theses, from Billy Graham crusades to, well … the Crusades. The church is an organism with an activist's heart desperately looking for the next war to wage.

Is gay marriage simply the issue du jour?

Partly. But I believe the emotional drama indicates it is more than just the most available issue of the day. It is explosive. Why is that so? One important piece of this incongruent agitation is that it takes two emotionally charged issues—homosexuality and the institution of marriage, each volatile in its own right—and …

Let me see if I can paint a picture.

Have you ever heard of a binary chemical weapon? In the movies, a binary chemical weapon is a complicated bomb that houses two separate cylinders, each containing a volatile compound. It is an effective movie plotline because when the compounds mix, the resulting mixture is exponentially more powerful than either compound alone. For the audience, the expectation of these two compounds mixing creates a uniquely anxious experience.

Homosexuality and marriage are, at least for the church, two such volatile compounds. We fear what will happen when the chemicals mix.

Volatile compound #1: Homosexuality

If we rank moral and theological issues on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being highest, homosexuality is valued as a "10 issue" by the church. (Award-winning filmmaker Dan Merchant humorously expressed this fact in this YouTube short.)

But is homosexuality really a "10"? And why has it reached such a charged status recently? Well, I think it's because of how it relates to the Bible and to our church life.

Bible

Christians take great pride (as they should) in taking their beliefs and moral priorities from the pages of the Bible. The problem is, as far as the Bible is concerned, homosexuality is valued as a "3 issue," not a "10."

When looking at the moral teachings of Jesus in the gospels, homosexuality receives zero airtime. Zero. Jesus is silent on the issue. Either Jesus never felt it was a great enough priority to discuss, or his followers, who wrote the gospels, never felt it was important enough to quote. Either way, the gospels give it the same priority as Egyptian Interior Decoration: no comment.

Beyond the gospels the Bible is tepid at best as far as prioritizing homosexuality. (I am not talking about interpretation here, only the objective volume of writing.) There are a couple of verses about it in Leviticus. Paul makes brief comments in Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy. A handful of verses. Some people add a few other passages as anecdotal or illustrative, but even so, the total actual passages covering the topic represent a minuscule amount of the moral teaching of the Bible.

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Tony Kriz is a writer and church leader from Portland, Oregon, and Author in Residence at Warner Pacific College.

Related Topics:AIDSCultureHomosexualityMarriageSocial Action
Posted: April 8, 2013

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Displaying 1–5 of 94 comments

Rick Dalbey

January 08, 2014  4:13pm

Paul’s essay about lesbian attraction and gay male sex written to the Romans is rooted in this pre-levitical non-jewish natural law or moral law. How bizarre that the most powerful man in the most powerful country in the world today is a strong advocate for overturning the moral law. This is a serious concern peculiar to our time. Peter echos Jude, “He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds)” Does homosexual promotion torment our souls as it did Lot?

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Rick Dalbey

January 08, 2014  4:12pm

Jesus says nothing about Idols or Idol worship in the gospels. Must not be a concern? Jesus says nothing about rape. Yet the sin of drunkeness is mentioned 6 times. Do we conclude that drunkennesss is worse than idol worship and rape? This is flawed reasoning. The Jewish laws were so strong and well-known that these sins did not need to be addressed. He only addressed sins that were prevalent in the culture. Gay marriage was unheard of in Judaism. Conversely, when Paul addressed the Romans and Greeks the social prohibitions were not as strong. However, the sin of gay marriage and homosexuality are part of the eternal moral law hard-wired into each conscience. Jude says Sodom was a beacon warning humanity that “Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

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Marilyn Taplin

August 28, 2013  8:21pm

The word homosexuality was not invented until the 19th century: Homosexual: A term created by 19th century theorists to describe a sexual and emotional interest in members of one's own sex.... The Columbia Encyclopedia. So when the Bible mentions men with men one should be able to associate men with men with the word homosexuality. I am concerned over the impasse in Christianity to reach a shared conclusion on homosexuality. However, I feel the Church is limiting its vision and concentrating on only one component of a much larger and major moral problem. Within the framework of Christianity from its conception a definition of the first sin in Eden has never existed. When the revelation of that sin is made known, I believe it will be a fundamental factor in eliminating homosexuality from our society. The sin in Eden was oral sex. Oral sex is sin for every human being.

Marilyn Taplin

August 28, 2013  8:04pm

One must understand that Jesus is sent to the Gentiles. Isaiah 42:1, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." Then we must understand the sins of the Gentiles. Their sin was unnatural sex. So the purpose of Jesus is to put an end to unnatural sex. Everything Jesus says is about the sex God forbids, oral and anal sex. ."Walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness to work uncleanness., Eph 4:17-19." Lasciviousness is another word for licentiousness meaning undisciplined and unrestrained behavior, especially a flagrant disregard of sexual restraints. The Greek word translates as licentiousness means “outrageous conduct.” A disregard for what is right. Mk: 7:22 2 and 2 Cor: 12”21. The sin of the Gentiles is fornication, the same as the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Babylon. The definition of fornication in the Greek is: illicit (forbidden) sex, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc. This is also sin today and Christianity should be putting an end to sin. Jesus has much to say about this sin.

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Linda Webster

August 28, 2013  11:42am

I agree that the church needs to be more loving and less judgemental, but I also agree with some of the commentors who state that this is still a very important issue and the church needs to teach truth about homosexuality and about marriage while maintaining attitudes of love and grace. The Bible speaks plenty about marriage, and sexual purity and holiness that I believe brings context to the passages on homosexuality. I pray Christians will not continue to be demonized for believing marriage should continue to be heterosexual in nature.

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