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    Can We Talk About Gay Marriage? by Sharifa Stevens

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap] hated high school. Although I was blessed with a stellar education, I barely remember my time in the classroom. Instead, I remember the time in the cafeteria, the nexus of the school that housed the social food chain. I stood low on this chain because my looks weren’t considered beautiful, I didn’t put out or drink, and I didn’t come from money. The lines were so well drawn in my high school caste system, they were almost impossible to cross. This line defined people’s ability to ignore or besiege some, and to date or befriend others.

    High school educated me on the fact that I’m a misfit. There’s no crowd that I belong to, no community that is wholly like me. I’ve learned to embrace this as an asset. After all, when I read Hebrews 12:1-3, I’m reminded that this life is not the finish line; it’s only the race. And I won’t run if I’m comfy.

    And believe me, I am uncomfortable right now with the rhetoric in my community–the Evangelical community–regarding legalization of same-sex marriage.

    Am I the only person who feels like a misfit?

    A person who loves and admires and cares about people who are gay? Wondering what role, if any, I should have in a person’s right to marry another, and how and when and whether my vote should be an act of worship?

    Feverishly desiring to know what Jesus would do (and knowing that while He was here, He drove people crazy by defying their expectations, interpreting Scripture in shocking ways, and constantly hanging out with sinners of all types)?

    Remembering that God is holy. He is holy.

    Knowing the verses that condemn the practice of homosexuality?

    Scratching my head that our community roars in defense of marriage in the face of civil re-definition, but looks the other way, constantly, with every failed marriage (covenanted before a holy God) within our community?

    Struggling to please God and not man? Failing?

    I have questions about the peculiar privileges I have as a voting Christian living in a republic (a republic that was founded–in part–on Judaeo-Christian values), and the line between voting my values, or trying to bring about a theocracy. I worry because I believe that this line can be a border and a cage. A corral for like-minded Christians to socialize unmolested by compassion or the grey areas of grace. An electrified fence that keeps seekers of God from entering in. A border policy that implicitly states that one need not enter unless they are already clean.

    I believe our rhetoric says less about same-sex marriage legalization and a lot more about how we define our salvation. The gospel is what’s at stake when we put ourselves on the side of holiness simply because we don’t have same-sex attraction, rather than because the blood of Jesus and the compassion of the Father and the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit had mercy on us sinners. Sinners, all.

    Our rhetoric, while defending the Biblical definition of marriage, can, with posters on lawns and hate speech (no, not preaching the Word, but exhorting congregants to beat the gay out of their children), propagate a false gospel that repels some of the people whom Jesus came to save. This is the opposite of the Great Commission. Not to beat a dead horse of a cliche, but if we don’t want “sinners” in “our” church, then we’re running a country club. And we’re in deep, deep denial about who we are.

    We have the right to vote our values in this country, same as anyone else. It’s so weird and good and solemn that we get to participate this way. We ought to vote our conscience. We should vote our values.

    I’m still trying to figure out the line here, since:

    1. We won’t have a theocracy without the return of Christ, certainly not through anyone who’s running for president (now or ever).
    1. Until we see people as people instead a nameless, faceless “Gay Agenda,” we have not love and are but a clanging glass or tinkling cymbal (especially because there are–yes, there are–people with same-sex attraction in our churches whom we know and love who will feel safe enough to talk to us), and (I can’t believe I’m still scared to write this)…never
    1. One can still be a follower of Jesus and desire civil rights for all people.

    I’m standing with my tray of questions, and I don’t know where to sit. And I’m asking…

    Can we talk? Can we talk and presume that we both love the Lord and want to do His will, and still grapple over these issues?

    Can we have an ongoing discussion about the institution of marriage as a whole? About what bearing, if any, the difference between a covenant made with God and a civil union has on legislation?

    Can we talk about the sanctity or profanity of heterosexual marriages presided over by judges, or Elvis impersonators, and what that means for our nation? In that discussion, can we strategize about how to tackle our own community’s persistent failure to keep our own marriage covenants?

    Can we avoid the temptation of idolizing marriage and family values above our (single, childless) Savior? How?

    What standards do we as Christians expect/desire/demand/legislate non-Christians live by in a country that emphasizes the separation of church and state?

    What does speaking the truth in love look like in this debate?

    How do we advance the Gospel with our actions?

    Can we talk? I don’t mean talking at me; I mean talking with me, because I am struggling with this, and I know I’m not alone. I struggle with whether I am a hypocrite for my spiritual-political dualism. I struggle with whether I should be cheering that North Carolina defined marriage the way Genesis 2 does. Because I love God and I believe the Bible.

    But something just feels off.

    Sharifa Stevens is a wife and mother, singer, and writer. She earned a B.A. from Columbia University and a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. She lives in Dallas.

     

    Sharifa Stevens
    Sharifa Stevens
    is a wife and mother, singer, and writer. She earned a B.A. from Columbia University and a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. She lives in Dallas.

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    24 COMMENTS

    1. Part 1:
      What point are you making? That God does not mind sin anymore? You chose to avoid saying what you truly have in mind. Should Christians not care what laws are passed? Does God not mind what laws are passed?

      God says lying, stealing, homosexuality, adultery etc are all sins.

      How would Jesus deal with a person caught in any sin? Would He say ‘It is not your fault because you were born that way’? or ‘go fight your best to make it legal so that you can then be free to do it’? How would He react if He saw people making a case for legalising stealing, lying, killing, homosexuality, etc?

    2. Part 2:

      The scriptures show that Jesus would indeed first save them but then He will send them away with a caveat – Go and sin no more.

      The homos do not accept they are sinning, but a liar, a thief or a murderer does. That is what you are missing. They are saying ‘God is wrong. What we are doing is ok. We hurt no one. It is our life and our right’. That is what you also believe but you are just too scared to say.

    3. dude, how did i not realize till the end that you were the author??? you’re very close to your writing mentor my friend- bias aside. i was about to ask you if you liked the author! am answering a resounding ‘yes’ on your behalf and cc-ing the owner of MB.

    4. Our church–universal–seems so hell-bent on the condemnation of same-sex couples that it seems to only-so-thinly veil the rampant immorality–of a heterosexual nature–occurring in our church leadership and ranks. We want to divert the attention of the sheep and the Shepherd from the hedonism and promiscuity that goes on behind closed doors–whether the sanctuary doors, the pastor’s office doors, or the hotel room doors. Somehow, when we dress our sin in heterosexual rags, it looks better–to us. The distance of our separation from a holy God is equally great however and, like it or not, we all–straight or gay–stand doomed and helpless without the saving grace of God manifested through Christ’s perfect work.

    5. Why is it the word “evolving” is being used? First by the President. Again, yesterday by the news article saying how more Americans are “evolving” in favor of SS marriage? Is there some attempt to unite pro-evolution with pro-SS marriage or to marginalize pro-creationists with being homophobic? I am against SS marriage. I think the natural body construction can be used to illustrate something’s weird, twisted about this kind of relationship. I also think there’s research to be looked at as to the tendencies that gay people shared in very early stages of life. I have bought six books to become more informed on this subject. I just cannot fathom how a man looks at another man and lusts after him (or vice versa). I would think it has to do with not connecting with the opposite sex at some critical point. Why is God so incensed at such behavior in Scripture? Why does such a large population think it at least strange, if not tragic or sickening?

    6. P. Osahon – I think your response is more or less what’s wrong with the typical evangelical response to this issue. I don’t know you, but I hope that I am misinterpreting what sounds like cold self-righteousness.

      First, your response lacks compassion. And the NT is full of verses about Jesus’ compassion. He acknowledges sin, but apart from the Pharisees and their self-righteousness, he tends to move quickly on to showing compassion towards those who were searching, hurting, rejected by the religious people of the day, etc.

    7. Secondly, your use of the word “homos” not only lacks compassion, but is offensive.

      Lastly, I don’t believe that Sharifa was making any of the points that you ask her if she’s making. I believe that the question that she’s asking is this – what does love / compassion look like in a society that has normalized sinful behavior? And it’s a good question given the divorce rate, rampant use of pornography, and abundant pride so evident in the church today.

    8. Thanks, Sharifa, for this eloquent posting. I think some are missing the point — I hear you, I hear you loud and clear. Many who proclaim to be followers of Jesus are not following Jesus. But you know it is easy, I mean so easy to judge someone else. I do not live in a theocracy, and I am 190 percent happy that I do not. I live in a democratic republic, and I wish for same-sex couples to have the same rights as hetero couples. How many times did Jesus speak out against homosexuality? I am not sure, but I know who spoke out against poverty more than once, and yet there is no rage against poverty.

    9. Yes – we can and should talk about gay marriage. and listen. and pray. The discussion won’t be easy but let’s not be cowards. I fight HARD to love my homosexual brother and walk holy before the Lord. Thankfully, there are a lot of encouraging verses for me such as: 2 Corinthians 5:19 “That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” This leaves us little excuse for walking away from relationships with people who are different from us or disagree with us, even about moral issues.

      Lastly, here’s some ideas of where to start if you want to follow Christ’s example of loving (and dying!) for people who weren’t exactly perfect: http://www.gaychristian.net/sarahsview.php

    10. I think this is why we call people to believe on Jesus Christ for eternal life first. This is their most pressing need. I think these are two different ideas/priorities.

    11. I think back to a movie twenty years ago, Philadelphia with then-rising stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington and the hot director Jonathan Demme with his Oscar for Silence Of the Lambs. I forced myself to watch this movie to understand gays better. It was an excellent movie, superb acting/writing, but I kept thinking back to Jason Robards’ character, written as a bigoted, AIDS-hating, OT-quoting former boss and mentor for Hanks’ role as a rising attorney for a top firm. I couldn’t help but feel for Robards in the film. What if the movie were written from his point-of-view as someone who had great hopes and affections only to be betrayed? It’s always the gay who gets the sympathy, plays the victim in Hollywood. Why? Aren’t there different sides of the situation going on, different lives affected when one “comes out”? Hollywood never wants to make such stories into film.

    12. P. Osahon, thank you for your post. I agree wholeheartedly with what you said. I feel that Christians today confuse loving the sinner with loving the sin. Personally, I love you no matter who you are or what your sexual preference because that is what God has called me to do. However, I don’t equate loving the sinner with loving the sin. Just as I pray for murderers but despise the act of murder, I love homosexuals but don’t support the act of being gay. This includes gay marriage. I fully believe that as Christians, we need to make the distinction between loving the sinner and loving the sin. I also feel that it’s our responsibility to make these “hard” decisions no matter how much it sets us apart from those around us.

    13. I know I’m guilty of it too, but it seems that lots of people (even non-Christians) view homosexuality “worse” than other sins. I think we as Christians should “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” We shouldn’t be approving of their actions, but instead of judging them, we should help them with their struggle.

      I have a personal experience with homosexuality-my dad left my mother, my siblings and I to live with another man. My father told my mother he’d been struggling since he was 7. He talked with one of the deacons from our church, and admitted to struggling and wanted help. My grandfather was never around for him during his childhood, either.

      (There’s more, but I might need another comment or two.)

    14. It’s amazing to me how people get all self righteous and talk about how the bible says this and that. We all sin and when we ask for forgiveness, we’re looking to God and nobody else. This is puzzling to me especially bc of the history of Christianity in the first place. The bible says we’re not suppose to eat shellfish and there’s no big debate about that. Why is everyone acting like getting marred is going to stop a show that’s going to continue anyway.

    15. I stand no ground to condemn the gay marriage or same sex relationships, for I cannot pass judgement, I am humane and one way or another I do sin and do ask my dear father in heaven to forgive me on all my transgressions. All I can do is to love and respect the people as I’d expect to be loved and bearing in mind that God loves us all alike.

    16. Gay marriage is wrong. God says its an abomination! Stop trying o force it on people. No one cares what you do in your bedroom. Why is that al that gay people are about? Dont you have anything else to talk about but what you do with your private parts?

    17. Matthew 19–Some are born eunuch. What does that mean? Isaiah 56–God says the eunuch is welcome in his house? What does that mean? Scripture interprets scripture. All the references to Sodom and Gomorrah are about judging the sodomites because of their pride, gluttony, and laziness. (See Ezekiel 16.) Romans 1–Is what is natural for one man unnatural for another? There are misinterpretations of Scripture. There is cultural bias. Are the Levitical injunctions proscriptions against pagan fertility rituals or ménage a trois or orgies? they will know we are Christians because we love–or because we don’t allow soe people to love whom they love? If same-sex relationship is so horrible, why is Jesus silent on the issue? Or was he? (See Matthew 19.)

    18. It is more difficult to separate our views of sin and sinners with some sins than others. We should be concerned with laws our gorernments enact; they should reflect our collective views. As Christians, we must try to influence those who make the laws to reflect God’s laws as much as possible. To stand back while laws are passed that go against what God has revealed, and do nothing is wrong. Because of the times in which we live, there will be more laws that are passed which go against His ways. Until Jesus returns, sin will become more flagrant, sinners more bold. To be true to living like Christ, we must accept the sinner while rejecting the sin. Remember John 3:16, God loves all of us, and He calls us to learn from Him. The Bible reveals God to us, but we must pray for guidance to understand it before we read. We have an enemy who will mislead us if we do not! The more time we spend in prayer, Bible study and witnessing the more we will reflect Jesus. God bless!

    19. Ranger, I do not know if watching Philadelphia will help you understand “the gays” better. I find it interesting that you often think back to Jason Robards’ character who was a bigoted, gay-hating man – who hated “the gays” long before he found out he was mentor to one. I do not see how he was betrayed or what great hopes were loss when a fellow professional is found to be gay. One he loved passionately and than hated with the same intensity. I think we see a lot of stories about gay people coming out getting sympathy because it still remains a hostile environment for them to do years after Philadelphia. We have pastors instructing parents to “beat the gay” out of their children, others suggesting gay people be rounded up and secluded, held hostage on a remote island surrounded by an electric fence, gay people being murdered, gay teens killing themselves., etc.

    20. Ctn’d. The reason some stories/movies that come out of Hollywood are sympathetic toward gay people is because the jeopardy lies with the gay people, not with the straight. They face the risk that goes far beyond disappointment. There is a movie, The Beginners, that looks at character learning his father is gay after his mother’s death — it is quite sympathetic to the son. Lastly, if you truly want to get a better understanding of ”the gays” I am not certain that will not happen at the movie theater. You will have to interact with them, speak to them, and if you are a Christian, and believe The Bible to be true, love them.

    21. Are we the next Sodom and Gomorrah? When did man ever have the right to say that homosexuality or any other sin is ok? By legalizing gay marriages, that is exactly what we are trying to do. Didnt God destroy sodom and Gomorrah for what was going on there? God told us as Christians to love EVERYONE, but that does not mean make their sin legal so they feel equal. We are all already equal in sin. Do we make child molestation legal so they dont feel unequal by their sin? how about murder, equality for all right? We need to love everyone despite their sins, not legalize their sins so they feel more loved.

    22. I think my whole heart and position become evident with my statement:
      North Carolina is the biggest bunch of hypocrisy unless they restrict the license to marry to those that arrive at the altar pure and virgin and un-divorced. Anything less, is plain using the Bible as a stool to stand on while pounding on their homophobic chests yelling “the law, the earthly law will draw us closer to our G-d”. Good G-d!!!

    23. My religion demands that I love all people as I have been loved. But what does love look like? I do not believe that elevating a same sex relationship looks like love if the Bible has any meaning. I have gay friends, and I love them, their struggle is surely tragic, but no different in category than mine.
      When asked, I encourage my friends, regardless of religion or persuasion, to avoid sin, simply because the Bible says its destructive and I love them. To say nothing would be bad, to condemn would be worse, but to approve would be the worst. To lovingly inform them that it’s destructive is best. A distant second, in a public context, is to simply to elevate marriage as God defined it. Sin is always destructive, mine too.
      Regardless of the government’s perspective, homosexual relationships will continue. That is not at issue, nor salvation by ballot, elevating the union God established is. It’s socially and culturally productive/loving. Why? Because God made it that way.

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