Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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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.

Manhattan Declaration Authors Criticize Aspects of Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill

Jim Burroway

December 12th, 2009

The three principle authors of the Manhattan Declaration, a conservative Christian manifesto in support of bans on abortion and marriage equality, have published a letter to the “beloved brothers and sisters of Uganda” to criticize two principle features of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that has been introduced before Parliament.

In a letter written by Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview; Dr. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and Dr. Timothy George, Dean and Professor of Divinity at Samford University and published on Mirror of Justice, a Catholic legal theory group blog, the three criticize the two main features of the Anti-Homosexuality Act — namely the death penalty and lifetime imprisonment provisions for those convicted of homosexuality. The authors takes great pains to make clear that they consider all aspects of homosexuality to be a sin, and they clearly don’t approve of LGBT people who do not “struggle to live chaste and holy lives.” And they do not address the larger issue of criminalization of homosexuality or the broader aspects of this particular act. Instead, they offer this weak criticism:

We are all tempted by the lure of sin, be it in the domain of sexuality or in other areas of our lives. And none of us is perfect in resisting temptation. All of us from time to time fall short of fulfilling God’s intention for us, and we therefore stand in need of the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. Surely, no one guilty of a single act of homosexual conduct (or fornication, adultery, or other sexual offense) should spend the remainder of his life in prison as a consequence of his sin. Such harshness, such lack of mercy, is manifestly contrary to the example of our Lord and cannot be given the support of those who seek to follow Christ. In response to a proposal to punish consensual sexual crimes with such extreme penalties the Christian must surely echo the words of Jesus: “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”

We recognize that the scourge of AIDS has been devastating to the people of Uganda. Measures must be taken to encourage faithful marital love and to discourage sexual immorality of every type. It is critical, however, that these measures be shaped in a just and Christian manner, and not in a punitive spirit. Harshness and excess must be avoided. Those who experience homosexual desire and yield to it should not be singled out for extreme measures or for revulsion. Homosexual persons, whether they struggle to live chastely or, alas, do not, are human beings. They are children of God made in His very image and likeness. They are our brothers and sisters. Christ loves them as he loves all of us. We must love them, too, even as we encourage them and all men and women—precisely because of our love for them and concern for their well-being—to avoid sexual sins and lead lives of virtue and dignity.

As this letter only addresses two aspects of the proposed legislation, the authors’ position on any imprisonment of LGBT people remains vague. In a statement issued by Saddleback pastor Rick Warren this week, he was unequivocal: ““I oppose the criminalization of homosexuality. The freedom to make moral choices is endowed by God.” In an earlier letter by Exodus International addressed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the authors say, “we believe that deprivation of life and liberty is not an appropriate or helpful response to this issue.” Colson, George and George do not take a position on criminalization of homosexuality. In 2003, Robert George argued in favor of criminalizing homosexuality as author of an amicus brief on behalf of the Family Research Counsel and Focus On the Family supporting Texas’ anti-sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas.

The letter doesn’t offer any advice except that “harshness and excess must be avoided.” Beyond that, the authors appear to tacitly approve of jail terms for LGBT people by their silence. They are also silent on the other heinous aspects of the Anti-Homosexuality Act:

  • Expand the definitions for homosexual acts, making conviction easier.
  • Criminalize “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment of seven years.
  • Criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.
  • Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • Add a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
  • Penalize landlords and hotel owners with five to seven years imprisonment for renting to LGBT people.
  • Add an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
  • Void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.