If you aren’t one of the 26 million people who added a rainbow flag to your Facebook profile picture last week, this post might be for you. If you disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, this post is definitely for you.
I won’t try to change your mind. I’m not going to tell you why I think you’re wrong. Instead, I want to offer four things you can do in the wake of Obergfell v. Hodges.
This list is for those feeling torn between their convictions about human sexuality and their desire to love people well.
1. Focus on marriage—starting with yours.
Do not be swayed by the Chicken Little prophets of doom. For most of us, nothing changed last week. Our society’s definition of marriage expanded (which is not in itself a bad or unprecedented thing—see Loving v. Virginia). Our definition of marriage did not narrow—which means if you were already married, good news! Your marriage is just as it was before.
Your marriage is not weakened by someone else gaining access to the institution. Your marriage is what you put into it, period.
So if really want to “defend” the institution of marriage, the best way you can do that is by loving your spouse well, not by worrying about who else is now able to wed.
2. Listen to the LGBTQ community.
Just about all of us know someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. But it’s another thing to really seek to connect, engage, listen. As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s amazing what happens when we stop talking about people and start dialoguing with them.
So reach out… and just try listening.
You don’t have to debate. You certainly don’t have to try and “convert” anyone. You don’t have to get into an argument. Just listen. Ask them to share their story, if they’re comfortable doing so. Or, better yet, just talk about… whatever. Your heterosexuality is not all that defines you; their orientation or gender identity is not the sum total of who they are, either.
Try to go the whole conversation without issuing a “just so we’re clear” disclaimer. You don’t need to say it. They don’t need to hear it. Chances are, they already know what you believe. Trust me, whatever you might say to try and prove them wrong… they’ve heard it before.
3. Reexamine your convictions.
Many of our convictions are inherited rather than intentionally cultivated. We arrive at them by default, more or less.
How much time have you spent considering the arguments for and against same-sex marriage? I don’t mean, How much time have you spent defending your particular point of view? or How much time have you spent reading those you already agree with to validate what you already believe?
That’s confirmation bias, not discernment.
What I mean is, How much time have you spent studying, reflecting, discerning, questioning—perhaps even praying about your convictions? How much time have you spent testing your assumptions? How open are you to the possibility you might be wrong?
Remember, as Cindy Brandt has written, certainty can be a form of idolatry.
Here’s a good reading list, if you want to familiarize yourself with the pro-affirming argument:
- Bible Gender Sexuality by James Brownson
- A Time to Embrace by William Stacy Johnson
- God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines
- Torn by Justin Lee
Don’t assume you already know what they’re going to say. Don’t assume their arguments are “nothing new.” Hear them out. You might be surprised.
And yes, you should spend time familiarizing yourself with the argument for a non-affirming view as well. A good place to start (especially for a rancor-free presentation) is Preston Sprinkle’s blog.
4. Find the places you can come together.
Even if you haven’t changed your mind about same-sex marriage, you may be asking how you can “love without being disrespectful,” as Ben Moberg put it.
Ben has some great ideas for how affirming and non-affirming Christians can work together for the common good…
Like tackling LGBTQ homelessness, for instance. As Ben writes, “Nearly 40 percent of the youth homeless population is LGBTQ.” The church has to own that. We’ve driven more than our share of kids into the cold because we did not understand—because did not WANT to understand—because we valued dogma over people. You don’t necessarily have to agree with last week’s ruling to realize we need to repent of this and do better for our kids.
Or how about we get serious about the bullying of LGBTQ students? Or what about employment discrimination? Is it really OK that a person can be fired for being gay in 29 states? (In case you think gays have all the civil rights they could ever want or need after last week’s ruling.)
We still have a long way to go before members of the LGBTQ community are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. You don’t have to shed your beliefs about marriage to care about that.
Or as Ben put it:
For those morally conflicted about same-sex marriage, there is literally zero moral risk in advocating for justice in these issues. There is an enormous moral risk in doing nothing.
This matters because, like it or not, we are part of the same church. We have the same calling to love our neighbor as ourselves. And if we need reminding who counts as a neighbor, well, there’s a parable for that.
As Ben Moberg writes, “Good and godly people can disagree about the Bible.” And we will. Lots. Our disagreements may lead us to worship in different churches—some of us in affirming churches where same-sex unions are celebrated with joy, and some in non-affirming churches where marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples. Both sides can’t be right, but both sides can be more loving.
I’m not trying to suggest there’s some magical “third way” solution where we can all come together and pretend we don’t disagree. But disagreement doesn’t have to be the end of our story.
Again, as Ben writes, “There is so much work that needs to be done. The kingdom of God is at stake. And we can do this, together.”