This is a photo of Andrew Marin, a Christian, hugging a gay man in his underpants at a gay pride parade in 2010, as part of the I’m Sorry Campaign where Christians held up sign at gay pride parades apologizing for the way the churches have treated homosexuals in the past.
Some Christians might be offended at the suggestion that we should apologize to sinful homosexuals. The fact, that they are sinners (like everyone else) is irrelevant if we need to apologize to them (Matthew 5:25). Christians have judged and condemned them and demanded that they repent often without dealing with the sin in their own lives. Many Christians expect gays to remain celibate while looking down on single people in the church and treating them as second class Christians.
I have argued here that the underlying cause of homosexuality is idolatry, expecting to find wholeness through homosexuality rather than relationship with Jesus. However, many Christians are just as guilty and find their wholeness and value through their heterosexual marriages and also their careers, success and possessions. This is also idolatry.
I also wrote here that most homosexuals appear to have grown up in the church, yet we have turned on them for their sin while not dealing with our own. Most Christians would not condemn people for their non-homosexual sin the way they condemn homosexuals. I have argued here that their attitude is not so much based on the handful of passages in the Bible which deal with homosexuality. They are cultural and psychological in origin.
I wrote this series of posts hoping to encourage real tolerance on both sides, that is, tolerating those we think are wrong and not hating them and wanting to take their rights away. A few weeks ago the Bible Society in Australia had a similar idea. They released a video showing two members of the Liberal Party, Andrew Hastie, a Christian and opponent of gay marriage, and Tim Wilson, a gay supporter of gay marriage, having a polite civil discussion on gay marriage while drinking Coopers beer.
I would have thought this was true tolerance and diversity in action, showing that people can still be respectful and get along, even if they think the other person is wrong – the assumption that our liberal democracies are based upon.
Instead, this was too much for some supporters of gay marriage. Some hotels in Melbourne and Sydney said they were going to boycott Coopers. A few days later Coopers issued an apology (for being part of a video which supported tolerance, respect and free speech) and proclaimed their support for gay marriage.
When I think about all the misery and suffering, which alcohol has caused Australia, health problems, sexual assaults, domestic violence, addiction, car accidents and vandalism, I find it hard to take hotel owners seriously when they claim to have a social conscience.
While writing this post I learned about the case of Felix Ngole, an African Christian student doing a Masters in Social Work at the University of Sheffield, who was expelled because he had posted comments opposing gay marriage on Facebook, which only his friends would have seen.
Twenty years ago politically correct postmodernism warned that belief in moral absolutes leads to intolerance because it leads to supressing other points of view. Critics would argue that just because one believes in moral absolutes, one does not necessarily oppress others. One can show true tolerance towards them.
Now, a new generation is more likely to do what postmodernism warned about and seeks to supress those they believe are wrong. they may be right – real homophobia and other forms of discrimination are dangerous and harmful. However, those, who carried out the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Salem witch trials, the Communist purges and the Inquisition, all believed they were right and they were protecting the community from dangerous and harmful people and ideas.
I believe that in the future in the name of tolerance and diversity there will be greater restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of religion. This does not mean that Christians should keep fighting the culture wars. The persecution which some Christians have experienced over gay marriage is still minor compared to what many Christians in the Third World suffer. The early Christians had a different attitude to persecution. They went “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His shame” (Acts 5:41). This is a striking contrast to the “How dare they persecute us” attitude and victim mentality which many Western Christians seem to have.
In the New Testament suffering and persecution were considered a good thing. It was a sign of God’s love for His people, an opportunity to depend on God more, to grow and become more Christ-like (Romans 5:1-6, 2 Corinthians 10:7-10, Hebrews 12:5-12, James 1:2-8). This is what is truly important, rather than having a comfortable and successful life or whether or not heterosexuals can keep their monopoly on marriage.
In the Roman Empire it was technically illegal to be a Christian. Christians were considered dangerous and socially irresponsible and disruptive because they would not sacrifice to the local pagan gods and risked bringing the wrath of the gods down on the community. It is similar to the way today many consider Christians to be harmful to society because of their “intolerance”.
The early Christians did not respond with an ancient version of the culture wars. They showed grace and forgiveness to the pagan society which despised and persecuted them, so much so that the pagans actually wanted to join this hated minority and eventually they won over the Empire.
I am not suggesting that this is easy. it is unnatural. Part of me still wants to fight the culture wars, but arguing with our political opponents is not going to advance the Kingdom of God. It is not easy to forgive and love our enemies and persecutors. We need to turn to Jesus for the grace and strength to do this, like we need to turn to Jesus in our struggle with other sins, including sexual temptations. Jesus suffered and died for their sins just as much as he did for ours. He wants to see them saved too so we can all spend eternity together in Heaven. That must be our goal too, rather than putting all our energy into opposing gay marriage.