Christians and Gays Part Three Gay Marriage and Freedom of Religion

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I have little interest in the gay marriage or marriage equality debate. Gay couples can already register their relationships and enjoy all the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples. They just cannot call their relationship a marriage. Any gays who want to get married are presumably already living together and doing it. I assume they are not saving themselves for marriage. 10 years after gay marriage had been legalized in the Netherlands, only 10% of gays had got married (Bill Muehlenberg, Strained Relations, Freedom Publishing, Melbourne, 2011, p 99). Gays make up about 2% of the population, so in practical terms nothing much should change if gay marriage were legalized and around 0.2% of the population had a gay marriage. If the media did not go about it, we probably would not notice the difference.

Christians have much bigger problems of their own to deal with. According to some reports, the divorce rate among evangelical Christians in the United States is equal to or higher than the divorce rate of non-Christians when we would surely expect it to be significantly lower (Andrew Comiskey, Strength in Weakness, InterVarsity Press, Illinois, 2003, p 51).

So what do many evangelical leaders do about this moral crisis in the church? They are obsessed with stopping gay marriage. What do they think Jesus meant when he told his followers to take the plank out of their own eye before they take the speck of dust out of someone else’s (Matthew 7:1-5)? If Christians are really so concerned about preserving the institution of marriage, they should lead by example and work on preserving their own marriages.

Banning gay marriage will not prevent the break-up of heterosexual marriages. Unless your husband or wife is going to leave you and marry someone of the same gender, gay marriage is not a threat to your marriage. On the other hand, if that is the case, then banning gay marriage is not going to solve your problems.

It is a bit late for Christians to complain that gay marriage brings the institution of marriage into disrepute. Heterosexuals have already done that. In Australia the rot arguably began with the introduction of no-fault divorce in the 1970s, making a marriage contract the only contract one side can potentially break without any consequences, i.e. pretty meaningless.

According to a 1994 survey 83% of heterosexual couples were monogamous, while only 2% of gay couples were (Strained Relations, p 17). A 2013 study of gays in New York revealed that 58% of gay couples were monogamous. One of the contributors to What Some of You Were wrote,

“Just before I came out of homosexuality, a friend and I sat down one Saturday afternoon, and had a very sad but enlightening conversation. We came to the conclusion that we knew no-one who was in  a faithful relationship. The couples we knew had sex with others as well as their partners.” (Christopher Keene (editor), What Some of You Were, Matthias Media, Kingsford, 2001, p 24-25)

If gays do not like the idea of “forsaking all others”, why do they want to get married? I suspect some of it has to do with the status of saying you are married in  a society which looks down on single people. That is how some heterosexuals think. Also, if gay marriage were legalized, I suspect some gay couples would get married to make a political statement, rather than hoping to live together monogamously for the rest of their lives. Anyone, straight or gay, who gets married, should do so for the right reasons.

Fear of loneliness appears to be a more legitimate reason why some gays want to get married. They are not looking forward to be lonely old men. Heterosexual single people face the same problem. In earlier posts here and here I discussed how many churches do not treat single people very well. Being married with a family is held up as the ideal while single Christians are regarded as second class Christians with something wrong with them. I argued that this is idolatry because their worth and value is based on their marriages and families, not their relationship with and worship of Jesus. If Christians want gays to remain single and celibate, they need to work on their idolatry and stop rubbing their marriages and families in the faces of single people (straight or gay) in the church and treat them with greater respect and value and appreciate the sacrifice they are prepared to make in obedience to God.

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Opponents of gay marriage, such as David van Gend in Stealing from a Child, The Injustice of Marriage Equality, say they are concerned about the impact of gay marriage on the children in the marriages. Regardless of whether or not they are right, there are many more children in abusive and dysfunctional heterosexual marriages. If Christians are so moved about the well-being of children, they should be making more noise about the plight of those in heterosexual families and not single out gay parents.

In Australia some Christians want a referendum on gay marriage. This is strange since according to every opinion poll it is clear that the majority of Australians have no problem with gay marriage. We would lose.

I actually think the best thing that could happen for the church is for the government to just get it over with and pass a gay marriage bill. Christians need to wake up and realise we are no longer a Christian nation, if we ever really were one, and more and more of the population no longer share our values. Instead of using politics to turn back the clock, we should be thinking about how be witnesses and communicate the Gospel in a post-Christian society which is increasingly hostile to our values, that is, the sort of environment in which the early church began and thrived and in which many Christians in Third World countries live today.

If Christians want to see society transformed and return to Christian values, they need to be transformed themselves and first repent of the sin in their own lives (2 Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 5:13, 7:1-14).

A referendum on gay marriage would be a lose-lose situation  for the church. Even if we did “win” and the referendum were defeated, the debate would have been so nasty (there are bigots on both sides), that what is truly important, the Gospel that we can all find forgiveness in Jesus, would have been discredited.

The arguments against gay marriage are often not defences of traditional marriage. They are warnings about how legalizing gay marriage will be used to infringe on the human rights and freedoms of those who do not believe in it. There are concerns that if gay marriage were legalized, Christian ministers would be forced to marry gay couples.

However, the recently released report of the Senate Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill points out that under the proposed gay marriage legislation, ministers will  have the right to refuse to solemnise gay marriages if they conflict with their beliefs (p 10, 51, 57). Churches can already refuse to marry people. The Catholic Church does not usually marry divorcees. Some churches only marry their own members. No one has been complaining to the Anti-Discrimination Board.

Organizations, established for religious purposes, would also have the right to refuse to participate in gay marriages if they conflict with their beliefs (p 55-56). However, civil celebrants do not appear to have the same right to refuse to conduct gay marriages (p 58-63).

Christians in Christian organizations will have the right to refuse to participate in gay marriages, but it looks like Christians in non-Christian and secular organizations and businesses will not have the same right to refuse to participate in gay marriages if they conflict with their beliefs.

In the United States there have been several cases of bakeries, which have been operated by Christians, which have been sued by gays because they did not want to bake a wedding cake for their gay wedding (Ryan Anderson, Truth Overruled, Regnery, Washington DC, 2015, p 85-104). These do not appear to have cases where they refused to serve gays at all. They presumably would have no problem baking a birthday cake for a gay man. (How would they know?) They do not want to bake a wedding cake for them because that would appear to be condoning gay marriage.

In an article “Would you bake a cake for a gay wedding?” Karl Faase says,

“The problem in the current combative culture of the west is that the gay lobby has an agenda in approaching service providers. They are not seeking a service or product but rather they have the motivation of entrapment. Many in the gay lobby are trying to make “examples” of people who refuse them service due to what they believe are bigoted and intolerant worldviews.”

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Christians do not have a monopoly on bakeries. A gay couple could find plenty of bakeries who did not have a problem baking their wedding cake. This controversy begs the question, would you marry someone (straight or gay)  who goes out of their way to find someone who disagrees with them and seeks to entrap them and drag them before the courts?

In July 2016 SBS reported that Darrin Morgan of Human Rights Advocacy Australia had complained that some churches, which held their services on school grounds in NSW, had been preaching “homophobic” sermons, i.e., they think homosexuality is wrong. The offensive passages included, “God’s good sex within marriage is between one man and a woman.”

It looks like he did not attend these churches and heard these sermons. He went through their websites, looking for something to take out of context so he could get them into trouble.

In 2015 the Catholic Church in Australia  issued a pastoral letter “Don’t Mess with Marriage” to Catholic schools explaining their opposition to gay marriage. Some parents were offended at the idea that their children received Catholic teaching at the Catholic school they sent them to.

The booklet said about marriage, “their union made them whole” (p 7). This is a strange thing  for (supposedly) celibate priests to say. They are basically saying that single people, like themselves, are incomplete. As I have argued here and here, we do not to be married to be complete; we need Jesus (Colossians 2:10).

It also said, “The Catholic tradition teaches that every human being is a unique and irreplaceable person, created in the image of God and loved by Him. Because of this, every man, woman and child has great dignity and worth which can never be taken away, This includes those who experience same-sex attraction. They must be treated with respect, sensitivity and love.

The Catholic Church opposes all forms of unjust discrimination. We deplore injustices perpetuated on people because of religion, sex, race, age, etc.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls for understanding of those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies for whom this may well be a real trial. “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” ” (p 3)

In September 2015, Martine Delaney, a transgender woman, lodged a complaint with the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner demanding that the Catholic Church apologise for issuing the booklet. She later withdrew the complaint.

I would have thought the booklet sounded reasonable and tolerant. It argued that we should try to co-exist and show compassion to those we think are wrong, but this is too intolerant for some gay activists. To just believe someone is wrong is considered hateful, intolerant and homophobic. As mentioned earlier before, some people want a referendum on gay marriage, but how can there be a referendum when one side is not allowed to express its views?

More examples of gays using anti-discrimination legislation against Christians in the United States can be found here.

In theory, all these problems should be unnecessary. It should be possible for supporters and opponents of gay marriage to co-exist, stay out of each other’s way and just live and let live, rather than go out of their way to get other people into trouble.

I do not believe in gay marriage, but I am in the minority and my belief is not oppressing anybody. I am not stopping them from doing anything.

If you know one bakery would not want to bake you  a wedding cake, just avoid them and take your money to one who will.

If you don’t want your children to hear Catholic teaching about marriage, you probably should not send them to a Catholic school. It’s just a thought.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s when some Christians called for the censorship of books or films which they found offensive or blasphemous, the response was if you don’t like it, don’t read it or watch it. Now, calls for censorship seem to come more from the politically correct Left, rather than Christians, but the advice is the same.

If you do not want to hear a sermon supporting traditional marriage, don’t go to that church, and don’t go through their webpages to find something you don’t like.

We live in a multicultural, pluralist society. People believe different, irreconcilable things. They think other people are wrong. Deal with it.

This is pretty much what supporters of gay law reform in Tasmania said they wanted in the 1980s and 1990s. They said they were not hurting anybody else so what they did in private was nobody else’s business. There was talk about “Police looking in people’s bedroom windows”. They didn’t, but it was good rhetoric.

Since then, there has been a transformation in the gay rights movement, from being libertarian in philosophy into something more authoritarian. They do not want to co-exist and live and let live; they increasingly want to control what is said and silence dissent. This is what opponents of gay law reform warned would happen back in the 1990s when they talked about the “Gay Agenda”.

They may think they are doing the right thing and suppressing intolerance and homophobia, but not only are their definitions of intolerance and homophobia unrealistic,  a lot of bad things in history have been done by people who though they were doing the right thing. The Stolen Generation of  Aboriginal Children in Australia was carried out by people who really thought they were helping. Many totalitarian governments believed they had the truth on their side and they were doing the right thing and protecting society from evil influences when they suppressed human rights.  Taking away basic human rights of other people, freedom of speech and freedom of religion, is not likely to produce the greater good.

Some might suggest that this is “payback” for the way Christians treated homosexuals in the past. However, as I argued here in the 1980s the majority of those opposed to gay law reform in Tasmania were not Christians. Moreover, Christians did not use the law against homosexuals in the 1980s the way that homosexuals use it today against Christians. During the gay law reform debate Christians did not go around reporting homosexuals to the police. During the years of debate in Tasmania I only ever came across two people, neither attended a church, who actually wanted to see homosexuals charged and imprisoned. In 1994 Rodney Croome handed himself into the police with a statutory declaration describing his “illegal” activities, but he was not arrested. Homosexuals could not get arrested for homosexuality in Tasmania even when they tried.

In my previous post I quoted the Penguin Macquarie Dictionary saying that tolerance does not mean not believing other people are wrong. It means accepting and not using power to prohibit those you think are wrong. When you compare their actions, it looks like Christians in the 1980s were more tolerant towards homosexuals than homosexuals are towards Christians today.

 

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Christians and Gays Part Two Homophobia and Tolerance

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Since my previous post on Christians and Gays I have read Getting Away with Murder by Duncan McNab about gay bashings and murders in Sydney  and the attitude of the police during the 1970s t0 1990s. McNab  writes,

“In some instances the perpetrators are young men unsure of their own sexuality and rather than dealing with this, they direct their confusion at gay men.” (Duncan McNab, Getting Away with Murder, Vintage, Sydney, 2017, p 33)

While Fred Nile gets a mention, there is no suggestion that the perpetrators of gay violence  were motivated by the Bible. Furthermore, no one has ever accused the NSW police of being influenced by the teachings of the Bible.

As I argued in the previous post, Australia is not a particularly Christian place, so I do not believe homophobia in Australia in the past can be largely blamed on the handful of passages in the Bible which condemn homosexuality. There are other psychological and cultural factors, namely young men who are insecure about their masculinity. Mainstream society’s attitude to homosexuality has shifted and Christians are arguably being scapegoated for what the majority of non-Christians once believed, but the underlying cause of homophobic violence – male insecurity – has not really been addressed. I also noted that those, who are most likely to carry out homophobic violence, young males, tend to be under-represented in most churches. They have no time for Christianity.

It is often overlooked but many of the countries, which persecute homosexuals, also tend to persecute Christians. There are exceptions but if we compare the first map from the website Erasing 76 Crimes showing countries where homosexuality is illegal to the second map  from Open Doors showing countries where Christians are persecuted, there is a clear overlap.

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Countries where homosexuality is illegal
Countries where Christians are persecuted
Countries where Christians are persecuted

Nevertheless many assume that Christians are homophobic because they believe homosexuality is wrong. A 2005 report Mapping Homophobia in Australia by the Australia Institute says, “Homophobia refers to the unreasoning fear or hared of homosexuals and to anti-homosexual beliefs and prejudices.”  However, it largely ignores its own definition  and seeks to identify who is homophobic if they agree with the statement “I believe that homosexuality is immoral”. This definition of homophobia, as believing that homosexuality is immoral, is widespread today.

In an article “The Homophobic Zone” on the Tasmanian Times website Rodney Croome wrote,

“Tasmania has the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights laws in Australia. It has the best anti-homophobic policies in education, health, tourism and policing … But according to the Australia Institute, Tasmania remains Australia’s most homophobic state.”

Surely this paradox must mean there is something wrong with their definition.

This understanding of homophobia and intolerance has its roots in postmodernism. Postmodernists claim there is no such thing as absolute truth or moral absolutes (yet it is somehow true that there are no absolute truths). They believe that to believe any belief is wrong is intolerant. Of course, if a postmodernist believes that Person A is wrong and intolerant to believe that Person B is wrong about something, by their own standard that makes the postmodernist intolerant of Person A (Romans 2:1). Postmodernism is clearly self-contradictory and unviable.

Nevertheless, postmodernist thinking appears to be behind the assumption that Christians, who believe homosexuality is sinful or immoral, must be homophobic and intolerant.

Some of the time this is clearly true. I have met Christians who seem obsessed with homosexuality and could be described as homophobic. As I will explore in future posts, many Christians have double standards.  They believe homosexuals in the church should repent and change their behaviour while often ignoring the heterosexual fornication and adultery and pornography addiction in the church. They want to “save marriage” by opposing gay marriage while not addressing the divorce crisis in the churches. This double standard is based on prejudice against gays.

However, believing a person is wrong does not necessarily mean you are intolerant of that person. It just means you think they are wrong. As one of the comments to Rodney Croome’s article “The Homophobic Zone” put it, “I find shoplifting immoral, am I kleptophobic?”

Most of us understand this. We do not hate everyone we disagree with. Australian multiculturalism and pluralism is founded on the assumption that people can believe different things and still get along. Most of the time it works.

The Penguin Macquarie Dictionary defines “tolerate” as “to allow to be, be practised, or to be done without prohibition or hindrance; permit” and “to bear with without repugnance; put up with”. It does not say that to tolerate someone  means not believing they are wrong. It has to do with how you treat those you believe are wrong.

There is nothing virtuous about tolerating someone if you agree with what they believe or do and they are just like you. Real tolerance is when you accept and tolerate and allow opinions and behaviour which you disagree with.

It is often presented that Christians have two choices – they can believe homosexuals are sinners, a special class of exceptionally evil sinners, or they can believe that homosexuals are not sinners at all, which would mean that being gay will get you into Heaven.

For Christians to tolerate homosexuals does not mean Christians should not believe homosexuals are sinners and rewrite Romans 3:23 so it says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, except homosexuals”. It means Christians should still love and accept them in spite of their sinfulness.

In my previous post I mentioned how the Tasmanian Council of Churches  believed homosexuality was sinful but still called for the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1977 when the majority of the population was still opposed to decriminalization. Were they tolerant or intolerant?

I would think the Tasmanian Council of Churches were truly tolerant because they supported decriminalization and greater rights for homosexuals in spite of their belief that homosexuality was sinful. However, they would still meet the Australia Institute’s criteria for homophobia.

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In his 1997 book What’s So Amazing About Grace Philip Yancey gives the example of Dr C. Everett Koop, a Christian and Surgeon General of the United States,

“Koop always expressed his personal abhorrence of sexual promiscuity – consistently he used the word “sodomy” when referring to homosexual acts – but as Surgeon General he lobbied on homosexuals’ behalf and cared for them. Koop could hardly believe it when he spoke to twelve thousand gay people in Boston and they chanted Koop! Koop! Koop! Koop! “They gave unbelievable support – in spite of what I say about their practices. I guess it’s because I’m the person who came out and said, I’m the Surgeon General of all the people and I’ll meet them where they are. In addition I’ve asked for compassion for them, and for volunteers to go and care for them.” Koop never compromised his beliefs – even now he persists in using the emotionally charged word “sodomy”  – but no evangelical Christian gets a warmer reception among homosexuals.” (Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Strand Publishing, Sydney, 2000, p 170)

But again, the Australia Institute would probably classify Everett Koop as homophobic and intolerant.

It appears to be easier to tolerate and accept those you disagree with if there is some relationship with them, you see them as people and do not dehumanize and demonize them as the enemy.

This does not always work. A 2014 article in Rolling Stone “The Forsaken: A Rising Number of Homeless Gay Teens Are Being Cast Out by Religious Families” describes several cases of conservative Christian families throwing out and cutting off their children for being gay.

This is not very logical. Their middle class teenagers were probably not having that much gay sex while they were living at home. So what do they do? They kick them out, force them to live on the streets where they often have to engage in high risk behaviour in order to survive.

On the other hand, if the same conservative Christian families had caught their teenagers in sinful heterosexual behaviour, I doubt they would have thrown them out. Being gay is not the only problem which arise between parents and teenagers. Other solutions or compromises are used rather than throwing them out.

If Christian wonder how to relate to any homosexuals they know, the answer is – the same way they relate to any other non-Christians they know. Anything different does not come from the Bible. As I have said in the previous post, the Bible says very little about homosexuality and does not discriminate or single them out. It says we are all equally sinners before God. Even if the homosexuals were straight, they would still be sinners. The difference between Christians and non-Christians is that Christians believe that Jesus paid the price for their sinfulness and made it possible for them to be reconciled with God.

Jesus spent much of his time around people who were marginalized and considered immoral. This presumably means that if Jesus were around today, he would spend this time with homosexuals. If any Christians find that offensive, they have not really understood the Christian message. The real problem with this argument is that homosexuals are becoming more mainstream and can no longer be considered immoral, despised and marginalized.

In a 2 December 2016 in The Australian “Push in schools to fight “modern” homophobia” the goalposts have been moved again. It says,

“Educators are being urged to look out for a new form of “modern homophobia” – characterized by disinterest, disingenuous support, or “sham tolerance” – as part of efforts to promote sexual diversity in schools.”

Disinterest? So now I’m not homophobic if I hate gays  and bash them or think they are immoral. I am homophobic if I  am not interested and I have got better things to do then be interested in homosexuality