Talking Points About Gay Marriage

Posted by on May 14, 2012

The president has come out in favor of gay marriage. What should we say about that?

Others have offered helpful insight about how to think about homosexuality, how it fits into the larger scope of the church’s views and practices about sex, the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality, and how the church should respond. Still others have told us their stories about coming out from homosexuality.

But even when we form deep convictions about the topic (no simple task) and understand the theological implications about it (an even bigger task), we’re still left with the question, “What do we say when someone asks us our opinion about gay marriage?” Planning ahead about what we might say or not say would be worth the mental energy.

Here are some suggestions:

First, we should make initial statements (or questions) that are short and inviting. They could spark curiosity more than an argument:

“I think there’s a lot more to it than just what our president has said.”

“I’d be glad to tell you what I think. But can we try to get past simplistic clichés?”

“Do you want a bumper sticker answer or one that’s as complicated as the topic?”

“I think homosexuality is a complex issue. I personally think homosexual behavior has a lot more problems to it than most people think.”

“I don’t think being gay is all that gay.”

“I wonder if homosexuality isn’t as benign as we’ve been told it is.”

Second, we need to be prepared to “level the playing field.” Some people have pre-judged us as homophobic bigots if we hold any view different from the “Gay’s OK” mantra. Before we get to the substance of the topic, we need to change the tone of the discussion. Otherwise, we’re wasting our time and emotional energy:

“Well…are you willing to be as open minded about this as you want me to be?”

“Tolerance works both ways. You might think I’m homophobic and I might think you’re Christophobic. It sounds like we both have a challenge before us. I’m willing to dig in if you are.”

“Have you ever heard about people who say they used to be gay but now they’re straight? You really need to hear their stories before you decide what you think about this issue.”

“I’m sure you’ve read and heard lots of things about how natural it is to be gay. Would you be willing to hear another point of view? Are you willing to read some things some people have written about why they left the gay life?”

“I really care about gay people. I care about them so much that I want them to get past simplistic explanations about their desires.”

Third, we need to connect the conversation to the larger topic of sexuality in general.

“I think our society is so messed up now regarding sex that it’s difficult to just talk about gay marriage. Can we have that larger discussion?”

“Do you think there are any sexual behaviors that are unhealthy? Are there any limits about what is right and wrong when it comes to sex? You don’t think it’s OK for an adult to have sex with a child, do you? So, how do we decide what’s out of bounds? Is there some kind of objective standard?”

“It’s hard to speak about sex in our world today because it seems that anything goes. But I think sex is so powerful and so precious that it’s not something that should be done without some limits.”

“I think too highly of sex to just treat it as casually as most TV shows or movies do.”

Finally, we need to ask our pastors for help with this issue. If ever there was a time for sermons to address the topic of homosexuality, that time is now. Silence, in this case, is not golden. We need to have at our fingertips what the Bible says about homosexuality just as readily as why we believe the resurrection. We need training from our pastors about how the Old Testament laws about diet, slavery, or the need to stone people who commit adultery are different than the laws about homosexuality.

Now, more than ever, we need to be prepared for persecution. No matter what we say or how we say it, we may still get treated with hatred, scorn, and anger. Jesus told us that would happen. Many times during the history of the church, Christians have been at odds with their culture when it comes to moral issues. Whether it was in choosing not to kill female infants or not to perform abortions or having the audacity to say that adultery is wrong (remember John the Baptist!), choosing to follow Christ instead of the majority may get our heads chopped off…and “gain a better resurrection” (see Hebrews 11:35).

 

5 Comments

  1. Mike Calkin
    May 14, 2012

    Randy,

    This is excellent! I have been so frustrated as to how to talk, but have compassion and still get my opinion across. You have helped! It’s easy to say, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin,” but that sounds so trite. I know that Jesus wasn’t trite…He was loving and merciful. How long does it take us to get that way? I appreciate your being so available to help us along the way. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. John
    May 15, 2012

    Randy,

    From a fellow brother in Christ I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic. Making the notion of gay marriage a religious issue or a sex issue is all wrong in my opinion. The issue at hand is a civic one. All people, no matter race, creed, religion or sexual orientation deserve to have equal rights and if the people in question happen to be two men or two women that devote their lives to one another, it should make no difference. In the governments eye, they should be equal and given the same opportunities to live a life together that a heterosexual couple has. Unfortunately our country has blurred the line between church and state. Our great nation was founded upon the idea of religious freedom, the pursuit of happiness and liberty. Treating a portion of our population as second class citizens is deplorable. We have a government that has given a portion of the population different privileges and opportunities than another by letting a religious sacrament into the government and until the day comes where our government can remove the term marriage from their realm and leave it to the churches to marry people and the government can only offer civil unions to two people who want to have certain rights and liberties as a legal couple, I do believe that gay men and women should be allowed to get married, since in our nation, any straight couple can go to a 24 hour “chapel” or city hall and get married.

    Reply
    • Randy Newman
      May 16, 2012

      John,

      Thanks for your feedback. You wrote: “Making the notion of gay marriage a religious issue or a sex issue is all wrong in my opinion.”

      I really don’t believe that I have “made” gay marriage a religious issue or a sex issue. It already is a religious issue and it already is a sex issue. That’s the nature of sex. It bonds two people together in a religious way and in sexual ways. That’s why I believe the Bible addresses it in religious ways. (See Paul’s teaching about the religious nature of sex in 1 Cor 6 and other places. Even sex between a man and a prostitute has profound religious significance).

      To say that gay marriage is a civic issue and not a religious one or a sexual one is to misunderstand the very nature of what sex is and does. Terrible problems often arise in our culture when we fail to recognize sex as that profound. We reduce it to mere biology or merely a “civic” issue. It is far more complex than that and to not treat it as a religious issue is to demean the very nature of sex.

      Reply
    • Kelvin
      May 18, 2012

      I agree that the issue of whether same-sex marriage should be permitted is a civic one, but that by no means decides the issue in favor. Marriage predates all organized religions; it has been essentially universal in all known human cultures. .And until less than 20 years ago, it was without exception recognized as being inherently heterosexual in nature. (Not even the famously homoerotic classical Greeks ever suggested otherwise.) While religions (all of them) supported marriage with their own particular understandings of how marriage should be celebrated and experienced, marriage has never been exclusively religious in nature, and protecting marriage as heterosexual in character is not an imposition of religion on anyone, even if those most articulate in defense of heterosexual-only marriage do tend to be religious.

      It turns freedom of religion on its head to suggest that people who are religious are disqualified for advancing their views on public matters, even if their theological understanding of life informs their thinking on the topic. To be sure, “the Bible says so” isn’t likely to persuade an atheist, but the fact that murder is forbidden by the Ten Commandments doesn’t make it an inappropriate prohibition in criminal law.

      Reply
  3. Patti Turk
    May 19, 2012

    Randy,

    These are some powerful answers and we can benefit by listening intently, taking a deep breath (sneaking in a silent prayer while we are breathing), and approach our opponnent (can I use that word?) in a winsome way. While we are listening intently we need to shake off the tendency to be defensive as a natural response to the underlying judgemental attack. The saying that goes “love the sinner and not the sin”, is the way we christians are called to be, I’m afraid the “saying” has become cliche. However, we have to learn to live out loving the sinner in the way that we converse. Thank you so very much for your insight, I need to somehow take the intensity out of my intrinsic way of thinking and lighten up. Prayers for peace and confidence in the truths that I know, will help lead others to a world view that leads to salvation.

    Reply

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