A Moderate Evangelical Response to Gay Marriage
Now that the Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage throughout the entire United States, it puts moderate evangelical Christians like me between a rock and a hard place. There are certain things I cannot affirm, and others I want to celebrate, and I see so many different angles to this prism of an issue.
In the Church
I remain firm in upholding the traditional view of marriage being between one man and one woman, and that marriage is a sacramental covenant with both spouse and God. It is a reflection of Christ and His church, husband and wife, and is a Christian ceremony celebrating the union of two faithful persons for life. In other words, this ruling should not affect the church in any way.
On Civil Liberty
On the one hand, I affirm that, as a civil rights issue, a gay couple should have the same rights to tax breaks, hospital visitation, retirement benefits, etc. as a straight couple. I understand that, just like blacks in the 60’s and 70’s, gay couples are not second-class citizens and the freedoms offered by the civil state of the USA are not just for those who live according to Christian social values. In this manner, I stand with the gay community in celebrating this freedom.
On Christian Conviction
On the other hand, I am called as a Christian to not only live a certain lifestyle that is counter-cultural to the world, but to call, encourage, and challenge others into that same truth. To openly embrace gay marriage as right and normal is also to deny that God’s original and good design for human union is between a man and woman.
Of all the biblical texts opposing gay marriage, none rings more profoundly to me than Genesis 1-3. If God’s original good creation in Eden was for man and woman to be united, and everything was corrupted after the Fall (whether allegory or literal), then redemption and restoration through Christ must be understood as a journey back to the good, right, and perfect status of things in Eden – the new creation. Applied to today, I can’t affirm a social issue that is moving us in the other direction. This is not the same thing as racial equality, women’s rights, or slavery – those all bring us back to the goodness of creation. But gay marriage does not.
On Impending Social Issues
While I said earlier that “this ruling should not affect the church in any way”, the reality is that it does. Churches are part of the social order in America, registered as non-profit religious institutions with the federal government. Because of this federal mandate legalizing gay marriage, it is possible that the door could be opened to “persecute” churches who refuse social services, marriage in this case, to gay couples. In other words, if a church refuses a gay couple to allow them to use their sanctuary, or a pastor refuses to officiate a gay wedding, it is possible that a) the couple could sue the church, pastor, or even denomination, and b) the church or denomination could have its tax-exempt status revoked due to discrimination.
This issue doesn’t just affect churches either. Photographers, like my wife, are also vulnerable to “discrimination” claims if refusing to offer services to a gay wedding, along with bakers, florists, caterers, planners, decorators, etc. The issue permeates much deeper into society and culture than simply offering freedom.
The other social issue to consider is the ambiguity of marriage. If any two consenting adults can get married, despite gender, then how long will it be before we see two consenting siblings, or cousins, asking to be legally free to marry? What about a father and a daughter? When will we see that marriage between only two people is a limitation imposed on society by religion in the same way as heterosexuality? Will polygomy be a civil rights battle at the end of this century?
While I understand, and in some ways celebrate, the desire for equality in civil liberty, my Christian worldview opposes embracing a progression away from the narrative of redemption and restoration. Further, I think the implications of yesterday’s ruling will be far more reaching than initially realized. Within this first year, I wager that many lawsuits will arise that will need the government to respond in a way that protects individual and institutional first ammendment rights to freedom of religion without discrimination.
As a moderate evangelical Christian, this is a tough place to be. How can I hold in tension affirming both the social equality of the gay community and the religious convictions of holiness and restoration? I pray for continued revelation and insight into this deep issue, humility to listen to all people with empathy and love, and a conviction to preach the gospel truth in love. No matter how this plays out, for better or worse, Jesus Christ hasn’t changed and never will, and the purpose of the church to bring forth the kingdom of God in the world remains the same.
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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