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Posts for August, 2010

Marin, Chambers, Others Respond to Prop 8 Decision

Jim Burroway

August 10th, 2010

Christianity Today has a roundup of responses from various Evangelical leaders to last week’s decision declaring California’s Prop 8 unconstitutional.

The most interesting response, to me, comes from Andrew Marin, who is often credited as being a “bridge builder” between Evangelicals and the gay community. Interesting, only because I’ve been listening to hours of his talks trying to figure out what he really believes, and I don’t think I’m any closer to understanding what he wants to accomplish than when I started, since he won’t just come right out and say what he really believes. In response to the Prop 8 decision, Marin told Christianity Today:

We can continue to politically fight a drawn-out battle with a government that is not governed through an evangelical worldview, producing more casualties for Christ. Or we can learn right now what it means to live in relation to, and relationship with LGBT people as gay marriage is legalized—continuing to actively show Christ’s compelling nature regardless of state or national policy. The choice is ours.

Trying to understand Marin’s position on same-sex marriage (or whether homosexuality is a sin) is like trying to deconstruct the latest statements from the Federal Reserve. When asked directly whether he thinks gay people should marry, Marin adamantly refuses to answer and instructs his followers to do the same. Which, to me, blows his whole bridge-building exercise out of the water. After all, who wants to walk onto a bridge when they don’t know where it goes?  So without a map, we’re left hunting for clues and here we find another: the government is not governed (as evidenced by this decision) through an Evangelical worldview. Many LGBT people might find cause to dispute that — we can’t marry in 9/10ths of the country — but as a self-proclaimed evangelical himself we at least now have an indication that marriage equality doesn’t fit that shared worldview. Take that hint for what it’s worth.

Alan Chambers, of Exodus International responded:

We cannot avoid the glaring scriptural truth that there is, and will always be, a right way and a wrong way concerning just about everything we can imagine. And, yet, I believe that our attitudes towards people (internal and external) are just as important as our positions on the issues at hand. … I firmly believe that if we had spent as much money, time, and energy battling for people’s hearts as we did fighting against their agendas, the gay rights battle would look very different today.

In a recent statement condemning Uganda’s proposed draconian legislation to impose the death penalty on gay people under certain circumstances and to virtually outlaw knowing or providing services to LGBT people, Chambers acknowledged that part of his motivation for waiting sixteen months before adequately addressing the March 2009 anti-gay Kampala conference which started the whole mess was due to the fact that LGBT advocates were calling upon him to do so. That was, I think, a startling and welcome admission. It also marks a change from 2007 when he spoke before a group of anti-gay activists in Florida and characterized the gay community as following an “evil agenda” and actively lobbied Congress against hate crimes legislation and other issues important to the LGBT community. And yet, even in those times, he would offer messages to other broader mainstream audiences similar to the one above. So whether this change is episodic (as others have been) or enduring remains to be seen. (Update: Alan reaffirms that “Exodus isn’t returning to politics, but it was a good venue for talking about having compassion for our neighbors whether we agree with them or not.”)

Other interesting reactions include Timothy George of Samford University:

Christians who thought they would be able to just sleep through this issue will not be allowed to. At stake in the debate is the very nature of marriage itself. Thinking biblically does not allow us to regard marriage as merely prudential or preferential (I like strawberry, you like pistachio), but as a covenantal union of one man and one woman established by God for a purpose that transcends itself. Marriage is not a “right” to be defended or exploited…

Gerald R. McDermott, professor of religion at Roanoke College:

Social science has shown that children do best in a home with two parents of the opposite sex in a low-conflict marriage, and gay marriages make that impossible for their children and less likely for society generally. More children will be created by artificial sperm donation, which in many cases forever cuts the children off from knowing both their biological parents. Gay marriage will also encourage teens who are unsure of their sexuality to embrace a lifestyle that suffers high rates of suicide, depression, HIV, drug abuse, STDs, and other pathogens.

McDermott, a relatively minor figure in anti-gay politics, nevertheless remains unchastened over pushing discredited researcher Paul Cameron’s bogus statistics. His 2004 Christianity Today article, “Why Gay Marriage Would Be Harmful,” was the basis for one of the earliest reports by Box Turtle Bulletin.

Glenn Stanton of Focus On the Family was equally direct in his response:

The gospel is deeply serious while Judge Walker’s decision is a jumbled mess of sloppy thinking and accusation. He asserts religion is the cause of violence against gays. Jesus, when asked a tough legal question about marriage, explained, “God created them male and female.” This dual identity of humanity is no small thing for us nor our Lord because male and female image the invisible God, creating a full human communion. But Judge Walker says, “Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage.” The Christian’s allegiance is clear.

Gender was a major focus on the 2008 debate hosted by Box Turtle Bulletin between anthropologist Patrick Chapman and Glenn Stanton on Stanton’s white paper, “Differing definitions of marriage and family” (PDF: 80KB/10 pages).

And finally, I’d like to highlight Mark Yarhouse, of Regent University:

I don’t know that there is one response to the Proposition 8 decision that will reflect the depth and breadth of the gospel in the life of believers today. A gospel response is shaped by many factors, including how one views Christ and culture. Some Christians will see appealing the decision as part of the gospel response, drawing upon legal avenues and hoping it will be overturned upon appeal. Other Christians will prayerfully consider alternatives to legal means to be a witness to a rapidly changing culture. I think younger Christians, in particular, are more likely to explore such alternatives.

Yarhouse collaborated with Wheaton College’s Stanton Jones in an ex-gay study that found very little change among the study’s participants. Because of the study’s results, Yarhouse has since downplayed the possibility of sexual orientation change.