By George Bowers
It's taken me longer to write and rewrite this piece than any other because I know the strong feelings associated with it. It is not my desire to be either inflammatory or judgmental, but also not to be silent or disengaged. Please read this column with respect, as I have read many others.
The United States Supreme Court recently heard arguments regarding homosexual marriage and a multitude of opinions have been freely expressed in many public forums. This is one of the most explosive issues of our generation. I'd like to share a few thoughts from a Christian perspective.
I know that not everyone in our culture is Christian, however, western culture has been shaped by Christianity for thousands of years, and heterosexual marriage is an institution that crosses religious, cultural, and national boundaries indicating its ancient origin and nearly universal practice. In addition, being a Christian does not automatically disqualify one from speaking to this issue and it is important for all to know the reasons for various beliefs that are held.
As a Christian, I must first consider what, if anything, Jesus had to say about this issue. Some say he never addressed it, however in Matthew: 19 he clearly stated, "that at the beginning the creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'?" He very plainly defines marriage as between one man and one woman for life. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus was God in the flesh and therefore he spoke God's words. In addition, since Jesus lived in a Jewish culture in which homosexual practice was considered sinful, if his opinion differed, he surely would have told us.
Jesus refers us back to creation and reminds us that marriage was designed and invented by God. He made us and he knows how we work best. We would be foolish to ignore his advice even as I would be to ignore the owner's manual of my riding lawnmower provided by its manufacturer. I am free to disregard it if I wish, but I must not question the injuries and problems that arise if I do so.
I grant that heterosexual marriage is in a shambles today. This too is not God's will and is perhaps the greatest tragedy of our times. But one of the primary reasons for that is no-fault divorce, which has stripped marriage of its legal protection. The solution is not to further erode this sacred institution, but to restore some much needed legal standing. I plead with other Christians to be consistent on this point.
Sadly, research shows that homosexual relationships are even less stable and less healthy than heterosexual ones. Furthermore, if God's standard is removed, then what do we use to define marriage? One man and three women or three women and six men or whatever other arrangement would have to be acceptable if God's model is scrapped. We all experience sexual urges that, if followed, would violate God's standards. An urge or even an orientation does not justify behavior. The solution is not to change God's standard, but to invite him to help us control our desires.
In no way do I hate gays or lesbians. I know and love several practicing homosexuals. It's not hatred toward thieves to call theft sinful. It's not hatred toward the arrogant to say the same of pride. Further, it's actually unloving toward a person to accept his or her theft or arrogance as merely an alternative lifestyle. All sin separates us from God and must be confessed and repented of, including that with which I struggle. But I must not excuse it by failing to call it sin.
I'm not saying that homosexual practice is worse than adultery or other sex outside of marriage, but to not recognize it as sin is a failure to be true to God's word. Some have called Christians narrow for not changing our stance on this issue, but we cannot if we wish to remain true to Scripture. Unless God provides an amendment to what he has already revealed, we must obey what he has provided. We do not have the authority to change or override him. The Bible is not man's word about God, it is God's word about man and God cannot contradict himself.
Why can't I just keep my religion to myself? Because Christ told me not to. He told his followers to shine his light and spread his salt. As a Christ follower, I must and do care what harm comes to my neighbors and their children, and I do care about the moral climate my own grandchildren will inherit. I'm praying that heterosexual marriage will be legally protected and that the right of religious expression will not be discarded or restricted.