Friday, May 11, 2012
Several states do permit same-sex marriage. However, in each of those states the decision was made by the courts or the legislature -- and not by the people through popular election.
As a conservative Christian it is probably not too difficult to guess where I stand on this issue. So, rather than spend time debating the issue here I thought I would make three observations that come to mind when I think of issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, and other similar social issues that we face as a nation today.
First, it is sad that -- despite our right to freedom of speech -- rational dialogue about issues like this one is nearly impossible in America today. Our politicians rarely seem to show any independence. Instead, they are apparently too afraid to depart materially from the party line. Indeed, I question whether "what's best for the country" really has any place in the public debate anymore. It seems to be all about power and partisan politics.
The news media is no help either. News is presented in small slices. "Interviews" are rarely edited to best summarize the intended message. Interviews, far too often, are edited to incite, obscure, slant and confuse.
Extremists of various kinds are also a powerful roadblock to meaningful public debate. Small minorities seem to be able to control the debate when they present views that are supported by the media. Those who disagree with them are labeled small-minded, intolerant and bigoted.
In the case of same-sex marriage, the question I rarely hear raised in the debate is the fundamental question of the nature of marriage itself. Instead, the issue from one side is equal rights for gays and from the other the morality of that lifestyle. But, isn't the threshold question whether marriage is fundamentally a religious institution or a legally recognized contractual arrangement?
The second observation I would like to make is that these types of polarizing issues seem to have a knack for bringing out the worst in the Christian community. As Christians, we are supposed to speak the truth in love. But, the "in love" part sometimes seems to get lost when it comes to these "hot button" issues.
Some time ago I saw a clip of Billy Graham on the Larry King show responding to the question of whether faith in Christ was the only way to salvation. Reverend Graham danced around the issue, and drew a good deal of criticism for doing so.
I personally do not believe for a second that Reverend Graham denies that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Nor do I believe that he responded the way he did out of a concern for political correctness. Instead, I believe that this was an overreaction to the hard-nosed approach of some in the Christian right that has had the effect of driving people away from the Gospel message rather than drawing people to it. While I don't agree with Reverend Graham's approach in this specific instance, I very much respect what I think he was trying to do.
As Christians, we need to stand up for the truth of God's word. We may or may not like what the Bible has to say about some of these contemporary issues, but we don't get a vote. The truth is the truth whether we like it or not. We need to speak it and stand up for it. But, we also need to find better ways to do that in love.
Finally, we need to recognize that part of the problem we face is that the people on the other side of these issues often do not believe in the concept of ultimate, objective truth. Because of that, love is indeed the best weapon we have.
As Christians, of course, we do believe in "absolute truth". That is, we believe that God is the creator of the universe, that the Bible is God's word, and that right and wrong are both objective and determinable.
But, many Americans no longer see the world quite that way. Oddly, on the one hand we live in an increasingly secular humanist culture that in some vague way believes that society itself is "evolving" in a positive way. On the other hand, that same culture at the end of the day denies that there is any objective standard for determining what makes something "positive" or "negative." There is no "bad or good" and no "right or wrong." These determinations are made ad hoc and are based on the will of the majority (or sometimes a vocal minority) and vague notions of natural law.
What then shall we do to reach a world that largely rejects absolutes?
The Bible tells us. The word is "love".
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