What should be socially acceptable? Every few generations, a movement rises up in Western Civilization and declares new social and ideological boundaries. The 19th century saw this with the freeing of African slaves and the rise of women’s suffrage; and the 20th century with the finalization of women’s suffrage in the ’20s and the equality and Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. Towards the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st (now), a similar cause has arisen calling for the equal rights of homosexuals — in marriage, adoption, and social acceptance.
The Growth of a Movement
You may recall that the social divide between the Gay Rights movement and Christianity was brought to public attention last January when the Presidential Inauguration Committee invited Pastor Louie Giglio to give the invocation. After the offer was extended and accepted, it was discovered that, twenty years prior, Giglio had given a sermon in which he said that homosexuality was a sin. In response to the public brouhaha that ensued from activists and media alike, Giglio stepped down from his role at the inauguration.
The most recent controversial waves caused by this movement originate from inside of the Christian Church. This past week, former Mars Hill Church Pastor and pop-culture guru, Rob Bell, came out in support of gay marriage:
In the video, Bell tells us that he is for fidelity and love, “whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man.” Making it clear that he was, in fact, endorsing loving homosexual relationships, he argued that “we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
Recognition of the legitimacy of homosexual relationships appears to be the in thing to do this year. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Monday found that 44% of Americans older than 64 supported gay marriage, compared to 56% of 30-64 year-olds and 81% among 18-29 year-olds. In other words, over the next 20-40 years American society is likely to become overwhelmingly supportive of gay marriage as those 18-29 year-olds turn into 30-64 year-olds.
All of these elements help in explaining, in part, why gay marriage is becoming such a major issue. The movement not only has the majority of America’s young and the likes of Rob Bell in support, but also the power to decide who gives the invocations at Presidential inaugurations. However, the Gay Rights movement is not, as many assume, similar to the Civil Rights and women’s suffrage movements.
The Foundation of Rights and Equality
The movements for the equality of women and African Americans in the West can only find their foundation in the existence of God and absolute moral imperatives.(as I discussed in the post on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) For the hard-line evolutionist like Richard Dawkins, everything is the result of blind physical forces and there is nothing but “pitiless indifference,” so there is no justice. The Hindu doctrine would teach that the oppression of women and minorities is the result of bad karma, meaning that the oppression is deserved, and Buddhism would teach that the oppression, like reality, is an illusion.
The only true foundation for arguing that anyone needs freedom from social or political oppression is the Christian foundation. This is because Christianity teaches that God created humanity in His image (Genesis 1:27), and from the sacredness of God’s image springs equality. We are not to show partiality to people or assume superiority over them because God is the only one who can judge the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Romans 9:14-18). And since the Christian faith says God is the one who created the universe, He is the One who determines what is moral and immoral, sacred and profane.
Obviously, there is nothing sinful about being a woman or being from an African origin. However, all people are inherently sinful from birth (Psalm 51:5), so it is our nature to sin. It should be noted at this point that the Bible does teach — contrary to what Rob Bell thinks — that homosexuality is a sin. Leviticus 18:22 prohibits it, and this prohibition is reaffirmed in the New Testament in Romans 1:26-27. As is especially obvious in Leviticus 18, the Bible treats homosexuality as any other perversion of God’s intended purpose for human sexuality. Indeed, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 places this sin with all other sins in that it separates us from God.
Many who support the Gay Rights movement argue that it is wrong to discriminate against them because they are, as Lady Gaga articulates, born that way. Thus, they try to draw similarities between the plights of the homosexuals and that of the women in the early 20th century, and the African Americans in the mid-20th century — after all, you do not choose to be a woman or to be black. Yet this is because God chooses our gender and our race — those things are sacred. Even if it is true that homosexuals have those tendencies from birth, it is not true that these inherent tendencies should be recognized and treated as morally acceptable by society and government when God does not approve.
Take, for example, an article published in the Guardian on January 2 which reports that academia is currently undecided as to whether or not pedophilia is a sexual orientation. If this is true, should the government legalize marriage of older people to children? If some people were racist in their natural tendencies, no one would even consider socially affirming such people and many may even try to treat them as they would treat those with a mental illness. Or take as an example the recent efforts of nutritional experts to verify their sound suspicion that certain genetic traits more easily lend themselves to obesity than others. No one argues that we ought to embrace obese people for who they are; instead, the government creates initiatives to fight obesity and nutritionists devote their time and expertise in helping those who are obese. To affirm all the things we would do by nature would be a bad thing.
The Right to Truth in Love
In light of Rob Bell’s recent statements, a friend of his, Brian McLaren, told the Christian Post, “I think this is further evidence that we are reaching a tipping point in our culture where marriage equality will be seen in much of the way as the struggle for women’s equality and for civil rights now are seen as we look back in our history.” Today’s we seem so obsessed with avoiding the blindness of our forefathers that in the process we have sacrificed our reason in exchange for meaningless platitudes.
Jesus, unlike Rob Bell, does not affirm us “wherever we are.” Jesus calls us to repent (Matthew 3:2), accept His gift of salvation (Romans 3:21-25), and then pursue righteousness (Hebrews 5:12-14). We are called to love our fellow man on earth, in this way we are still to love those who are gay or lesbian. But to affirm their behavior is not loving; to warn them as a friend is loving. It’s the paradox of speaking the truth in love: truth is harsh, love is kind — but God calls us to them both. Indeed, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.”
While Rob Bell may say that viewing homosexuality as a sin “doesn’t bring life,” it is only by rejecting our sinful nature and embracing Jesus as our salvation that we can be brought to life.