Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Homosexuality and Discourse Domains

Sometimes life just gets busy and tiring and then busy and tiring and then 2 months  3 months go by and no posts (not like I've been a very prolific blog writer anyways) ... and then somehow I got more traffic in the last month than any month prior (where did that come from). If you're a new visitor/reader, welcome!

Here in New York State, many Christians are all abuzz with the new law allowing homosexual marriages. This isn't an issue I keep track of very closely though obviously this is an issue that has affected many states in recent years. Recently, I've been involved in some conversations with people on this issue.

It is common among many (but certainly not all) Christian circles to get very worked up over homosexual issues and some I know who consider it, or at least act as if, it is THE paramount sin. And of course it's common to hear some vitriolic ranting - if you don't know what I'm talking about, well, just Google it. 

Yet there are other Christians who, rightly so, try to temper such talk by framing the discussion around the selfless and indiscriminate love that the gospel requires. I would readily side with the second group and would consider that those who call themselves Christians who display such talk would do well to consider how to better live their live in light of the gospel - its call to love all, and its corollary for understanding the depths of all our sins and how much grace has been shown to us. 

What I realized recently is that, while the hatred talk is prompted by political measures, the response as given above easily creeps into the political realm. Statements summarized along the lines of "Who are we to discriminate against homosexuals? We as Christians are to love them." Or, "Homosexuality is no greater sin than any other that we as Christians don't make a fuss about" (e.g. gossip, materialism, etc.). So then, I find  many times that people's judgments about political laws are being framed, positively or negatively, around how we deal with its sinfulness.

I think what's key here is recognition that the government does not exist to enact love but to exact justice and keep order; though, that's not entirely exclusive of acts of love/kindness. This is, in this life at least, an entirely different discourse domain than that of the Christian gospel; its deeply personal, indescriminate, and affectionate love; and the necessary imperative of love for those who live under it.

In discussing politics, I think for Christians the issue of homosexuality needs to be set in light of Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:18-24 where the fundamental building block of humanity, within God's goodness of creation, is based on the social construct of marriage being of one man and one woman and realizing the blessing of recreating and ordering life in that context. To deviate from that to the point of completely eliminating one-half of the construct and thereby effectively erasing the whole relationship is of the gravest level of sins, bringing chaos and destruction to society at one of its deepest levels (read also Romans 1:18-32 and the escalation of sins and God "giving them up to..."). Under this orientation, governments reach a still-deeper level of depravity to a considerable degree when permitting the extension of marriage to that beyond one woman and one man. This level is one rarely attained by the civilizations of the world throughout history and does not bode well for our country and not something to be taken so lightly as to be simply dismissed under the rubric of gospel love.

So, the issue of homosexual marriage should be straightforward. Should the government allow homosexual activity at all? That's a much more complex issue that's not addressed by the considerations above and won't be attempted here.

At the same time, those Christians who find themselves outraged at the government and tempted to slander homosexuals would do well to place themselves back under the gospel perspective and remember that even our most tolerable sins - or "respectable sins" as Jerry Bridges calls them - aren't really any better than homosexuality. (Is it materialism? Anger? Pride?) We personally are called to live in light of the one who loved us so much as to endure humiliation to the point of death and save us from the judgment due us for even our most respectable sins. So love your neighbor, no matter what his/her sexual "preference". And to those who are outraged and shocked that the government should reach such depths: What would you expect in a fallen country that's never been Christian and is less so now than ever before? There shouldn't be any surprises here.

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