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What Does It Mean?

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Wedding RingsIt is no secret that those who hold to the traditional classic Christian consensus on issues involving human sexuality, marriage, and family life are extremely unpopular these days, especially in the media and political arenas, in which the biblical, patristic, and orthodox consensus is frequently demonized and ostracized.  Faithful Christians (and others who hold to other traditional worldviews/ethics) are considered to be “bigots” or “purveyors of hatred” for not compromising with the modernist and politically correct definitions of love and freedom.  So how does this take place and what does it mean? How should faithful Christians respond?

These ideas are usually couched in high-sounding language of “equality,” “tolerance,” and certain libertarian ideas (it doesn’t hurt anyone right?).  Those who oppose are immediately labeled as “homophobic” (implying that one has a psychological disorder), “intolerant” (with tolerant = endorsement), or “anti-progress” (progress is inherently good).  As discussed in several other places on this site, this tactic is a favorite for the modern chauvinist, and involves even deeper philosophical assumptions that come out of late modernity.   Two articles that have recently been published from different orthodox Christian traditions help shed light on this, and should help those struggling with how to articulate why this is important, and also help those who think the historic-living church is wrong.

The first article is by Reformed Baptist pastor Jonathan Leeman who specializes in political theology, and discusses the nature of what it means to be human, and how those who argue for “marriage equality” are actually making a dehumanizing argument.  Those who argue for it are actually at root arguing for a sort of determinism, in which one’s behavior or tendencies define what it means to be human.  The Christian worldview offers something much deeper, and much more liberating than this sort of behavioristic naturalism:

“There are several assumptions behind the idea that a person with same-sex attraction might say “I am a homosexual” in the same way someone might say “I am a male” or “I am black.” First, one assumes that homosexual desires are rooted in biology and therefore a natural part of being human. Second, one assumes that our natural desires are basically good, so long as they don’t hurt others. Third, one assumes that fulfilling such basic and good desires are part of being fully human.

All the talk about “equality” depends upon these foundational assumptions about what it means to be human.

Marriage then becomes an important prize to be won for people with same-sex attraction because, as the oldest and most human of institutions, marriage publicly affirms these deep desires. Everybody who participates in a wedding—from the father who walks a bride down an aisle, to the company of friends, to the pastor leading the ceremony, to the state who licenses the certificate—participates in a positive and formal affirmation of a couple’s union. It is hard to think of a better way to affirm same-sex desire as good and part of being fully human than to leverage the celebratory power of a wedding ceremony and a marriage.

Make no mistake: The fundamental issue at stake in the same-sex marriage debate is not visitation rights, adoption rights, inheritance laws, or all the stuff of “civil unions.” Those are derivative. It is fundamentally about being publicly recognized as fully human.

Biblically minded Christians, of course, have no problem recognizing people with same-sex attraction as fully human. There are members of my church who experience same-sex attraction. We worship with them, vacation with them, love them. What Christianity does not do, however, is grant that fulfilling every natural desire is what makes us human.

Christianity in fact offers a more mature and deeper concept of humanity, more mature and deep than the person engaged in a homosexual lifestyle has of him or herself.”

The full article is well worth the read, and also discusses why faithful Christians cannot participate in this sort of revisionism: “Love and the Inhumanity of Same-Sex Marriage”

The second article is by a Roman Catholic priest, Rev. Marcel Guarnizo in response to a famous media personality, who discusses the sort of argument in the public sphere involving reason and law and those who claim “I don’t care” or “it doesn’t hurt anyone.”  One of the most dangerous things about this cultural debate is the inherently subjective nature of creating classes and categories based on behavior and tendencies, rather than actual objective realities.  In other words:

“The problem here is that if non-normative tendencies become the criteria for constitutional or state law, law itself will become biographical. This atomization of law, culminates in the inability for us to have fundamental rights, as human beings. Things are institutionalized after centuries in law and custom, because they are recognized as normative, and, in the case of marriage, as a good for society. The legal institution of marriage is the normalization of that which is de facto normative in man. Marriage institutionalized in law and by religion is the proper effect the fruit of a normative tendency in man. Heterosexual, monogamous unions were not simply admitted into the marriage franchise (to which others now seek entry), it is rather the author that produced marriage as we know it. They have as it were, authorship rights over marriage since they produced the institution.”

“Creating institutions in law and possibly at a constitutional level, using non-normative tendencies (which are many and vary greatly in our society), as the justification is unreasonable and theoretically unsound. Equality under the law in this sense is already being assaulted by post-modern philosophy, as unfair. Precisely for this reason, “the notion of “equality under the law,” is now seen by many as failing to address the biographical preferences and tendencies of all kinds of biographical groups in society.  If we continue down that path, there will be no end, except the end of what we now know as the rule of law. It is unreasonable to legislate on constitutional order in this fashion.”  Full article: A Response to Bill O’Reilly on Homosexuality and Marriage

It is important to note that both the Baptist and the Roman Catholic are passionate about (and the articles include this) reaching those who struggle with this in love, and that the church should not simply “shut out” those for which this is a real struggle.   In fact, it is love and concern for those struggling on this, and society as a whole, why these were written (and why I am writing).

After reading both articles (please don’t comment without doing so), what should the Christian response be? How active in the public sphere should Christians be in contending for the Christian worldview in love?durham Cathedral

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