Why I won’t vote in the gay marriage plebiscite

From September 12, the Australian Government will be spending $122 million on a voluntary non-binding plebiscite on gay marriage. I believe that God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6) and the Bible says homosexuals are sinners (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-11), along with everyone else (Romans 3:10-12, 33). However, I have decided the most Christian thing I can do is not to vote at all in the upcoming plebiscite.

Those Christians and conservatives, who want a referendum or plebiscite on gay marriage, seem to assume that there is still a silent majority out there who agree with us and we would be vindicated in a referendum. All the opinion polls show this is not the case. It looks like we are going to lose. Even if we did win, the next ALP Federal Government is going to introduce gay marriage legislation so it will all be for nothing. The majority of Australians have no problem with homosexuality and gay marriage and they think we are intolerant bigots, no better than racists, for opposing it.

This does not mean we should change what we believe in order to accommodate and appease the prevailing social narrative and say that homosexuals are no longer sinners. We are all sinners. If I say homosexuals are sinners, I’m saying they are just like me.

The challenge for Christians is to keep proclaiming the eternal truths of the Gospel, that we are all sinners and we can all find forgiveness and new life in Jesus, to a post-Christian culture which no longer shares our values and thinks we are intolerant and even dangerous.

This is much the same situation which the early Christians faced in the Roman Empire. They showed grace and forgiveness to those who hated and persecuted them and eventually they won over the Empire.

A lot of the case against gay marriage is not so much a defence of traditional marriage, but is concerned that gay marriage will be used to attack freedom of speech and freedom of religion, which I have discussed here and here. Jesus told us to treat others the way we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). If I don’t want gay activists to use the law to deny my rights, then I should not use the law to deny them their “right” to be married, which is one reason why I won’t vote at all.

While many Western Christians seem outraged at the threat that they may be persecuted, our persecution is trivial compared to what Christians are already experiencing in Third World countries. They overlook that the Bible tells us that it is normal for Christians to be hated and persecuted (John 15:18-25, 1 John 3:13). It is an opportunity for us to become more Christ-like (Luke 6:22-23, Romans 5:1-5, James 1:2-5).

I agree that traditional moral values and the institution of marriage are in trouble, but lobbying the government to pass laws is not the Christian solution. In the 18th and 19th centuries there were periods of moral decline similar to our own. The churches responded by repenting of their sins, praying and God brought revival, and social and moral transformation (2 Chronicles 7:14). When the West experienced a similar moral decline in the 1960s and 70s, evangelical Christians in the United States responded, not by repenting, but by forming the Religious Right and sought to impose Christian values through legislation. The reputation of the Gospel was damaged severely.

Jesus told us to take the plank out of our own eye before we take a speck of dust out of someone else’s (Matthew 7:3-5). According to some reports, the divorce rate among Christians (including nominal Christians) in the United States is equal to or even higher than the divorce rate among non-Christians (Andrew Comiskey,  Strength in Weakness, InterVarsity Press, Illinois, 2003, p 51), and 68% of Christian men, including 50% of ministers, view pornography regularly. Instead of repenting and dealing with the sin in the churches, many Christians are more interested in legislating the morality of non-Christians. Do we really think Jesus is impressed by this?

I don’t want to vote for gay marriage. I don’t believe in it and it won’t necessarily won’t make difference. 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.

At the same I do not want to vote against gay marriage. Jesus did not give his disciples a political agenda called family values which we are to impose on others. He gave us a Gospel, good news that we can all find forgiveness and new life in himself. It is more important that non-Christians hear and understand this, than it is that heterosexuals maintain their monopoly on marriage. However, they do not want to hear this because they think we are bigots.

As I have discussed here, many Christians have made idols out of their marriages. Their sense of self-worth and wholeness is not based on their relationship with Jesus, but on being married. They expect gays to remain single and celibate while single adult Christians are regarded as second-class Christians who have something wrong with them. This may explain why some Christians do not seem to care if the Gospel suffers as long as gay marriage is banned.

Maybe, it would be better if Christians lost the gay marriage debate for the sake of the Gospel. More Christians would wake up to the fact that we are no longer a Christian nation, we do not own the culture, we need to repent of our sins, rather than pass laws against others, and work on showing humility and grace to an increasingly hostile post-Christian society so they will understand that we are not bigots if we say we are sinners who need forgiveness and new life.

So I won’t vote at all.

More of views on Christians and homosexuality can be found here.

 

 

Advertisements

Christians and Gays Part Five Conclusion

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.

A previous generation boycotting businesses because they think their owners have harmful anti-social beliefs

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.

Christians and Gays Part Four Causes and Cures


Back in the 1990s there was talk that scientists had discovered a gay gene. I thought the problem was that if there was a gay gene, how is it passed on to the next generation? Also, what would happen if a homosexual was tested and found not the have the gay gene? Would the doctor have to explain  to him, “I’m sorry, but the tests have come back and you’re not really gay”?

The gay gene hypothesis has now been discredited, Nevertheless, supporters of homosexuality still tend to believe that gays are “born that way” while opponents believe homosexuality is a result of external influences. It is another version of the nature/nurture debate.

I do not believe there is a meta-explanation for homosexuality, that is, there is not one explanation for homosexuality. There is evidence for both sides.

Many Christians believe that homosexuality can be explained by a person’s childhood. Typical of this is What Some of You Were edited by Christopher Keane, (Matthias Media, Kingsford, 2001), which was Christian Book of the Year in 2002. This book contains the accounts of six homosexuals who attribute their homosexuality  to childhood abuse and/or emotionally distant fathers. Of course, if all that is needed to become gay is an emotionally distant father, three quarters of Australian men would be gay.

The editors may have not noticed, but five of six of the homosexuals had church backgrounds.

In  Us Versus US (Navpress, Colorado Springs, 2016) Andrew Marin published the results of a survey, which had been reviewed by Dr Michael Bailey and Dr Mark Yarhouse, which concluded that 86% of LGBT had been raised in “faith communities”, which in the US usually means Christian churches.

The survey also revealed that 80% of LGBT people still prayed regularly and 76% were still open to returning to the church.

The Christian and gay communities are apparently more closely connected than most people realise. The cover of Us Versus Us reads,

“For decades now, we have found ourselves caught up in a culture war: US VERSUS THEM. The good news: There is no them. Our culture war has been a civil war. US VERSUS US.”

According to a 2007-2008 Barna Group survey, 27% of homosexuals in the US say they are born-again Christians, 58% said they has made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important” and 60% said their faith is “very important” to them. We may doubt whether they really are born again and new creations in Christ (I wonder the same the same about many heterosexual Christians), but I find it surprising  how considering how badly the churches have treated gays that so many of them still choose to identify as Christians.

Because there are fewer Christians in Australia, I assume the percentage of gays with Christian upbringings would be lower, but two high profile examples are former Assembly of God minister Anthony Venn Brown and Tasmanian gay activist Rodney Croome who grew up in the Anglican Church on north west Tasmania.

If homosexuality can be explained by childhood upbringing and environmental factors, as some Christians maintain, is growing up in a church a factor in becoming gay?

Seriously, perhaps this explains the pain and anger which so many homosexuals have towards the churches. It is not just some marginalised people over there saying they are wrong. Why would they care? It is personal, more likely based on their own experience with being rejected and condemned.

Perhaps, the churches should think of gays as prodigal children, rather than the enemy.

Torn by Justin Lee, a celibate gay Christian, changed my thinking about the causes of homosexuality. He says he has a good relationship with his father, he was not abused, yet he still has homosexual feelings and he does not know where they came from (Justin Lee, Torn, Jericho Books, New York, 2012, p 21, 49, 74-77).

Justin writes how he described his childhood experience at an ex-gay conference which did not go down well, Afterwards, he was approached by a man who said he had a cold and distant father and an over-protective mother,  yet he turned out completely straight. He tried to be the best father he could to his son and he is now gay (Torn, p 72-77). Justin also points out that attributing the cause of homosexuality to bad parenting can result in parents feeling guilty when their children turn out to be gay. It supposedly must have been their fault (Torn, p 122).

Justin is celibate. He has never acted on his gay feelings. There is a comic scene where someone quotes Leviticus at him about not lying with a man and he says he hasn’t (Torn, p 122). He believes that the Bible allows for married homosexual relationships and he really is saving himself for marriage. I think his interpretation of what the Bible says about homosexuality is wrong, but I respect his commitment to celibacy and his obedience to what he believes is God’s will. He is an improvement on all the fornicating and pornography watching heterosexuals in the evangelical churches. Yet, many Christians would ignore all the sinning heterosexuals in the church and condemn Justin for sins he has never acted on.

Two other celibate Christians with homosexual feelings, who say they come from good families and were not abused, are Ed Shaw and Wesley  Hill.

These examples would suggest that some gays are “born that way”. On the other hand, according to a 2015 UK survey, 46% of people between 18-24 years described themselves as completely heterosexual, but 58% between 25-39 years and 78% between 40-59 years described themselves as completely heterosexual.  It looks like the younger you are, the less likely you are to be completely heterosexual. Unless they started putting something in the water back in the 1990s, the “born that way” argument looks flawed. There are clearly other social and cultural factors going on.

An article “Sexuality and Gender” in the Fall 2016 issue of The New Atlantis says, “There is considerable scientific evidence that sexual desires, attractions, behaviors, and even identities can, and sometimes do, change over time.” (Part One) and “Some of the most widely held views about sexual orientation, such as the “born that way” hypothesis, simply are not supported by science. The literature in this area does describe a small ensemble of biological differences between non-heterosexual and heterosexuals, but those biological differences are not sufficient to predict sexual orientation, the ultimate test of any scientific finding, The strongest statement that science offers to explain sexual orientation is that some biological factors appear, to an unknown extent, to predispose some individuals to a non-heterosexual orientation.” (Conclusion)

When the nature/nurture debate comes up, it is usually in the context of trying to explain the origin of someone’s character or behaviour, but we do not assume that if a person’s behaviour is a result of their nature and they were born that way, that it excuses their actions or they are not responsible for them.

Many Christians believe that we are all born that way, we are all born sinful, yet we are still responsible for our actions and will be judged for them, and it is still our responsibility to turn to God and repent and change.

Some Christians believe that homosexuality can be “cured”. There are ” ex-gay”  ministries, like Exodus International, which has had some high-profile failures, such as when two of their founders left their wives for each other. Their critics claim that gay conversion programs and cures do not work at all. However, according to a study of Exodus in Ex-Gays? by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, 15% claimed to have been “converted” and were now heterosexual and 23% were celibate (Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, Ex-Gays?, IVP Academic, Illinois, 2007, p 369).

In other words, 85% were still gay, if not active.

This is probably not much different from the Christian “success rate” in general, about 85% of those, who express an interest in Christianity or put up their hands at a  service and get “saved”, later give up or “fall away”.

  • In Torn Justin Lee makes the interesting observation that gay conversion programs do not so much cure homosexuality, rather they actually treat sex addiction among homosexuals. They may become less promiscuous, but deep down, the same sex attraction is still there (Torn, p 91).

Justin also relates how a Christian friend gave him a copy of Playboy in a brown paper bag to cure him of his homosexuality (Torn, p 110). He meant well.

It may happen sometimes, but it is really not Biblical to expect homosexuals to be “cured” of homosexuality and never have any homosexual thoughts ever again, any more than heterosexual men should expect to be “cured” of heterosexual lust and never have any lustful thoughts ever again.

The New Testament says that when  we become Christians, we are given a new nature, but we still have our old nature. Paul tells us we need to put off our old sinful nature, put it to death, and put on our new nature in Christ (Romans 6:1-14, Ephesians 4:17-24, Colossians 3:1-17). Paul also admits that he still struggles with sin and does what the knows he should not do (Romans 7:15-25). The real Christian life is not one of never being tempted and sinning anymore, but one of struggling to resist to temptation through God’s grace and finding forgiveness when we fail.

Paul  also wrote about he had a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7), some unknown problem,

“Concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

God did not take Paul’s problem away. Rather, it was an opportunity for Paul to turn to God and depend on His grace and power to cope with it. In the process Paul was drawn into a deeper relationship with God.

If God had taken Paul’s problem away, his life would have been easier, but he would have been worse off because he would have missed out on the deeper relationship with God which came form his suffering.

As Christians, our goal is Christlikeness, a deeper relationship with God, not to have comfortable, happy, successful and easy lives without suffering. These things are often enemies of Christlikeness, drawing our hearts away from God and making us less dependent on Him.

In his book The Plausibility Problem Ed Shaw argues that it is a mistake to equate godliness with heterosexuality. He writes that “some of the most godly people that I have ever known are those who have experiences same-sex attraction.” (Ed Shaw, The Plausibility Problem, IVP, Nottingham, 2015, p 98)

To be clear, he is not talking about practising homosexuals who say they are Christians. Rather, he means those with homosexual feelings, but who choose to obey God and be celibate, rather than act on them. To do this requires greater dependence on God, His grace, strength and forgiveness.  Ed says,

“Nothing has given me more childlike dependence on God than my same-sex attraction – and, after all, that’s what being a Christian is all about, according to Jesus (Mark 10:15). I so often don’t know how I’m going to stay sexually pure; I am so acutely aware of the weaknesses that could lead me into scandalous sin tomorrow, that I’m forced to depend on God in prayer. It’s my same-sex attraction that has again and again made me recognize the fiction that I can live an independent life without God’s help. Same-sex attraction and godliness do mix: in fact the spiritual chemical reaction they produce (if I can call it that) is very powerful indeed.” (The Plausibility Problem, p 101-102)

I was a single celibate heterosexual Christian for many years, so I think have some business advocating greater obedience and dependence on God through singleness and celibacy. However, it is hypocritical for married heterosexual Christians to expect gays to make a sacrifice in obedience to god which they are not prepared to make themselves, and expect them to remain celibate.

Both sides need to repent of the underlying problem of idolatry. In Romans 1 Paul writes how the human race worshipped the creation or created things instead of God who created them (Romans 1:25). Next, he is condemning homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27). It was only a few years ago that I understood the connection, how he got from one idea to the other.

In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace Philip Yancey writes about Mel White, a Christian ghost writer who has written for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and others, and  his struggle with homosexuality,

“Despite these guilt feelings Mel finally concluded that his options narrowed down to two: insanity or wholeness, Attempts to repress homosexual desires and live either in heterosexual marriage or n gay celibacy, he believed to certain insanity. (At that time he was seeing a psychiatrist five days a week, and at a hundred dollars a session.) Wholeness, he decided, meant finding a gay partner and embracing his homosexual identity.” (Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Strand Publishing, Sydney, 2000, p 164)

In his autobiography A Life of Unlearning Anthony Venn-Brown, a gay former Assembly of God minister wrote about “my desperation to find someone to make me feel complete.” (Anthony Venn-Brown, A Life of Unlearning, New Holland, Sydney, 2004, p 270)

Both these Christians have apparently made the mistake of assuming wholeness was found in homosexuality, rather than his relationship with Jesus (Colossians 2:10). This is idolatry, trying to find in something created the sense of wholeness, meaning, value and purpose that we are supposed to find in God.

Of course, everybody is guilty of this, not just homosexuals. Our churches are full of idolatrous Christians who find their wholeness and value in their marriages, families, careers and possessions.

Rodney Croome said about his expectations from the church, “I was a serious young man looking to understand more about the faith of my ancestors, to be uplifted spiritually, and to find the solution to the conflict between who I was and who I was expected to be. I found none of these.”

Rodney Croome is not the first person to feel disappointed and frustrated with the church.

Since so many homosexuals grew up in the church, it would suggest the church is doing something wrong. Before church leaders condemn homosexuals, they should see much of the existence of homosexuality as a consequence of their own sin and failure to preach the whole good news and proclaim that Jesus fulfils our deepest emotional and spiritual needs and makes us whole, and any alternatives, which seek to do this, even heterosexuality and happy families, are idols. If they had, then those who grew up in the church experiencing homosexual temptations, would have been more likely to turn to Jesus for the strength to resist their temptations and to find their identity and wholeness. If they had, there probably would not be so practising homosexuals.

But that would mean confronting the rest of the church about their idols too.

To be concluded.