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to my Christian friends who oppose same-sex marriage

To my Christian friends who oppose same-sex marriage,

First, let me just start by saying that I don’t think you’re a monster.

I don’t think you’re a bigot.

I think you’re my sister or brother.

Know that I love you deeply, and so does our good God.

I was where you are for so many years and I hated that people called me intolerant for merely teaching what I found the Bible to say.

This fight has a way of polarizing the two sides, making devils out of all of us – even the rhetoric each side uses to argue their agenda is strikingly exclusive (“defenders in the war on marriage” on one side and those “fighting for basic human rights and justice” on the other).  Surely we can all admit that the conversation is more nuanced than we’d like it to be.

But I digress.

My friends, six months ago, I too got upset every time I heard about the intersection of Christianity and LGBT issues in the news.

I remember how I felt when everyone was protesting Louie Giglio speaking at the inauguration.  I remember my confusion at the Chick-fil-A fracas before that.  I remember my inner conflict as Rob Bell came out in support of same-sex relationships last week.  I remember how upset I was at Alan Chambers of Exodus International for saying that gay people could possibly go to heaven before that.  I too have ridden the waves of anger, frustration, shock, and indignant social media statuses that have accompanied each of these controversies.

I think I know where you’re at right now because a few months ago I too would have shaken my head at the misguided folks who jumped on society’s bandwagon and made their profile pictures a blasphemous pink and scarlet = sign.  I would have been especially disgusted with those sharing the photo that said “this Christian supports marriage equality.”

I fear I may lose some of you here, but please stick with me: I believed that the Bible only had one view on homosexuality for many years, and that actually changed recently.  I came to believe the whole conversation should be more complicated than the black and white discussion we’ve been having.

But that’s not what this post is about.

Right now, I’m not talking about whether or not Christians should approve of homosexuality. Whether or not you believe the Bible condemns committed, monogamous same-sex relationships is completely irrelevant in this discussion.

Hear me out: even if you are against the morality of gay relationships, please consider how your actions against same-sex marriage are being perceived by gays and lesbians in and outside the church.


left to right: my mom’s partner Pam, my mom, David Batstone, and I.
(didn’t mean to drag Dave into this – this is actually the only digital picture I have of me with my mom and Pam!)

Think about why the number one “trait” of Christianity, as reported by 16-29 year olds outside the church, is not “compassionate” or “forgiving” or “generous” but “anti-homosexual.”

That’s an enormous shift from the early church, groups of believers living in small communities and working to serve and love the city’s poor.  That’s a far cry from Jesus Christ, who spent the majority of his time hanging out with society’s rejects.  My friends, do not be deceived: are our communities bringing anyone to Christ by trying to legislate our personal convictions onto the lives of nonbelievers?

Back when polygamy was a common practice in the Mormon Church, we would not have wanted it written into federal law even if Mormons were the social majority. Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, yet we should not support a contemporary law that moves to ban alcohol even if Muslims became the majority in this country.

How is this so different?

For does not Christianity spread by fascination, not coercion?  By the movement of the Holy Spirit and acts of radical generosity and love, not by human law and legislation?

For the Law does not change hearts.  Grace does.

Does Jesus call you to write your personal religious beliefs on marriage into a pagan society’s laws?  Or does he call you to another empire, into living the reality of what he called “the Kingdom of Heaven” – a realm for the human and the broken that’s found right here in our midst.

I will close with this:

Even if your interpretation of the holy scriptures compels you to believe that homosexuality is “less than God’s best,” I plead with you to consider how showing love to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters might look.

Would the radical, Christlike love you are called to look like picket signs and dismissive Facebook statuses?  Like bumper stickers and cruel blog posts?

Would it look anything like fighting a battle to forbid tax benefits, rights of visitation, power of attorney, and adoption privileges to gay couples?

I pray this is not your answer.

May such love instead look like you not dismissing but returning to the Bible and finding within it the call to truly put yourself last – and to love the last, the lost, and the least at least as much as you love yourself.

22 Comments Post a comment
  1. Emily Otnes #

    This is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful! I am very proud of your ability to express your view on such a controversial issue.

    March 28, 2013
    • Thank you, Emily. I appreciate your friendship and hope all is well with you 🙂

      March 28, 2013
  2. The problem that I have with your train of thought here, is that it misses the point about Laws in our country. What are laws based on? And why do laws change over time? Answer: Because a society’s laws always reflect a society’s morals. Because that is the case, and because America is made up of vast groups of people with competing sets of morality, then we should expect exactly the kinds of public demonstrations and debates that we are see, especially when the laws at hand are those that touch upon the most fundamental of all human concerns — sexuality and a commonly agreed upon definition of marriage.

    Now if America were a kingdom with a single ruler who’s views and statements constituted the law of the land, then Christians who believe strongly that the Bible labels homosexual behavior sinful, would have no choice but to do as your post suggests — recognize that society is fundamentally pagan and make peace with that while maintaining their own beliefs privately. But in a democratic republic like America, where each citizen is called upon to shape the laws of the land through the exercise of their vote for their congressional representative, then we should expect that a Christian — like a non-Christian — would vote for someone who shares their own particular set of morals and ethics. And we should expect that a Christian — like any other person in this land — would have the hope and expectation that their representatives, if in the majority, would pass laws that reflect their moral beliefs. After all, laws are codifications of moral sentiment.

    Being a good citizen in America means voting one’s conscience, and one’s conscience is formed and informed by one’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof). So I don’t think that Christians in America should just throw up their hands and say, “This is a pagan country, and we Christians living here have no right to legislate our morality on anyone else. So we should just keep our beliefs to ourselves.”

    The folks who are support same sex marriage would have to stop their activism for the exact same reason, if your premise is true — they shouldn’t be trying to legislate their morality on the rest of the nation, especially since a majority of Americans have traditionally not shared such morals (though I hear that recent polls have shown a change here).

    What we all need to remember in this whole debate, is that Laws do not represent unalterable absolute morals or ethics. Law represent what a majority of Americans at any given time favor, OR what a minority are able to legitimately get passed into law. If Gay Marriage is recognized by the Supreme Court, or by Congress, it doesn’t mean that Natural or Religious Law has changed; it simply means that the country currently recognizes value in such a law right now. People must accommodate their behavior — not their beliefs — to fit that reality. But it doesn’t mean that they have to stop their legal and/or moral challenges to the current laws.

    March 28, 2013
    • well said, friend! thank you for sharing, I’m sure others will find your comment insightful as well. I definitely need to do some thinking about this.

      In terms of civic engagement, perhaps it is good for Christians to get involved. But I should have mentioned the next few statistics on the Barna group list of Christian traits are “overly-involved in politics” / “too political.” I don’t typically see a call to involve ourselves or swear allegiance to the political, social, and cultural institutions of our day in the life and teachings of Christ, but I could be wrong on this. Please let me know if you draw a different conclusion. I tend to think of Jesus, who avoided the political and religious parties of his day, and certainly did not pursue righteousness in a bureaucratic manner. Given, He came among a people with limited rights living under foreign occupation. But certainly, some parallels can be drawn?

      For what it’s worth, believe the government has little business being involved in sacraments as sacred as marriage, the public proclamation of a loving, covenantal relationship before God and community. But what is so lovely to us should not remain so through legislative protection, but by the continued presence and propagation of loving relationships and marriages; I do not see an imperative to prohibit same sex marriages as innate/inherent to this dynamic.

      In that sense, it could be said that legislating against someone else’s marriage and thinking it’s an act of self-defense is kind of like trying to ban others from buying peanuts just because you’re allergic to them.

      March 28, 2013
      • Yes, but then your own moral views are shaping what you think Gov should and should not do. You just prove the point — laws codify morals. Why should your views of marriage be the law of the land?

        Re: Jesus and His society: In America we are very used to the idea of separating religion from politics/government. This wasn’t the case in the day and age of Jesus (nor is it universally the case in many parts of the world today). What Jesus had to say about morality was very much tied up with politics. For example: The Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by citizens and by government religio-polical leaders would result, said Jesus, in the complete destruction of the temple — and by extension of the nation. That happened in 70 A.D. So when evaluating Jesus’ relationship with Government, it’s much more complicated than just saying, “Jesus didn’t concern himself with politic, only with religion/morality.” And let’s not forget that the Roman Empire was completely transformed by Christianity. So while Jesus didn’t institute a new political theory or political party, it isn’t true that Christianity will have no impact on society.

        Jesus DID say that marriage was grounded in God’s giving of Eve to Adam. I doubt very much that if Jesus were here today and were asked specifically about marriage between partners of the same sex that He’d say something like, “Whatever! The only that that matters is that two people who love each other commit to each other and promise to love each other forever.” Jesus is all about love, but he doesn’t let love become a basis for overthrowing God’s holy Law. He fulfills the Law — a Law that He Himself intensified beyond anything the Jewish Rabbis had ever taught (See Matt 5 through 7) — He didn’t destroy the Law. So making “love” the sole basis for our morality, divorced from everything else that Jesus said, or that the Holy Spirit said through the Prophets and Apostles — isn’t following the Biblical idea of love; it’s following our own ideas of what love is and isn’t.

        With all of this as background, let’s return to what it means to be a Christian in America today. To be a good citizen is to obey the laws of the land and to vote. This is the most basic definition of good citizenship. We vote our conscience when we vote. Our vote shapes the government that in turn makes and defends our laws. What forms by consciences? My beliefs. So if I believe that the Bible does not condone homosexuality, then will I really support politicians who believe that homosexuality is fine? If a law is passed recognizing homosexual marriage, will I simply accept that, or will I work to have that law overturned — either through the exercise of my vote, or through legitimate political activism? This is how America works.

        Now, because this is the case then it is also true that in America things run on ideas that are expressed. Since laws reflect the morality of the majority, then the way to get laws passed is to use persuasion to convince the majority of the rightness of one’s position. Thus debate.

        So, for example, your post is really your attempt at persuasion — trying to persuade your readers of the moral uprightness — from a Christian viewpoint — of supporting same sex marriage. So you’re engaging politically with your brand of faith. Expect the same from the opposing point of view.

        April 1, 2013
      • Eric,

        Well said.

        Here are a few resources on why I believe despite our personal opinions on the morality of homosexuality, we should not oppose same-sex marriage legislation.

        I think this is a good, more impartial place to start the consideration of whether or not we are morally obligated to ban gay marriage.

        Make allowances on who you’re willing to not persecute (but not your interpretation of the Bible!) or continue to wage this war at great cost, my friend.

        April 1, 2013
      • Ryan…I don’t persecute anyone. I do believe that marriage is for one man and one woman. However, I haven’t been arguing that case per se. I’ve just been trying to show from where the tensions that we see in play today are based. And I’ve also been trying to show that the very arguments made against those who oppose same-sex marriage must be respected by those making those arguments, too. Can I see the writing on the wall? You betcha (as they say in MN). Do I know why the tide has turned against opposition to same-sex marriage? I think I do. Americans have an ingrained sense of justice based on our understandings of equality and freedom. Many decades ago the homosexual activist community decided to follow the playbook of the Civil Rights movement. In dressing itself up as an issue of civil rights, the movement has been able to appeal to that sense of equality and freedom that is so ingrained in Americans. So many Americans support same-sex marriage based on the framework of civil right — “equality for all and fairness for all.” Unfortunately our American sensibilities of equality and freedom are rather short-sighted and not always right when measured by a standard that is more objective than “personal equality and personal freedom.”

        April 2, 2013
  3. I have a really good article that you should read, regarding why we Christians that don’t agree with this initiative, and think it’s wrong. I hope you read it and can glean the other side more clearly. Love in Him, Shazza

    March 28, 2013
    • thanks for the comment, Shazza 🙂

      I’m making my way through it now!

      March 30, 2013
      • Awesome I hope it blesses you. 🙂

        March 30, 2013
  4. Brett Tucker #

    I’ve read this so many times. I still find myself coming back to this post. Thank you for sharing my friend.

    March 30, 2013
    • Love you bro. sorry I just got around to responding to this now. Thanks for your words, they mean a lot 🙂

      May 21, 2013
  5. Hey Ryan. I appreciate both the tone and many of the ideas in this post. I wrote a post myself that largely responds to and interacts with some of the claims here. I’d love to get your thoughts on it!

    March 31, 2013
    • Kief, sorry I just got around to responding to this now. thank you so much for writing a post in response to my post. I really appreciate the tone and your points. It’s been so long since I’ve had constructive conversation in this manner. Do you mind if I share your post on Facebook at some point?

      May 21, 2013
  6. It’s been nice posting with you, Ryan. Best of luck in all things my friend!

    April 2, 2013
  7. Bryant Kuramitsu #

    Did you read the remarks I sent you from James?

    April 11, 2013
    • I read some stuff, not sure if I read them yet – I’m really behind!

      April 11, 2013
  8. what we are presented with when we arrive is ‘space’, it was here before we were born and then most importantly the potentiality for habits of the heart. That’s it!

    November 9, 2013

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  1. I want more atheist friends | A Real Rattlesnake Meets His Maker
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