Monday, April 1, 2013

Marriage Equality???

by Dina Sleiman

These days it seems like the number one topic on facebook is marriage equality. For. Against. Snarky. Kind. People have created the equality symbol, and the dissenting cross over the equality symbol reminiscent of the  dissenting ithacus (Jesus fish) with legs. Two polarized sides. Simple, right? Not for me. I can’t encapsulate my feelings on this issue in a pithy facebook status. And so I have created my own symbol, to sum up my feelings. One big question mark.

Marriage Equality Question
There are a few things I know for sure. First, I am a Christian. I believe the Bible is true. It is, without wavering, the standard for my own personal morality. And yet, I have absolutely zero expectations that the world around me will share my standards or beliefs.

Second, I know for sure that I love homosexual individuals. Not in a remote, philosophical sort of way. Not even as in “I choose to love them as a verb.” I love them. I have great compassion for all they have endured. I know that many have suffered intense hardship, often leading to suicide attempts, over their sexual orientation. I know that they face ridicule and hate every day of their lives, and I will not for one second risk adding to that.

Beyond that, I know for certain that Christians with homosexual tendencies must deal with questions, confusion, heartache, rejection, and loneliness that most of us will never comprehend. Many of them will wrestle with the Bible and with God, and eventually turn to a more liberal denomination with a broader interpretation of the scriptures.

But what I don’t know for sure, is how all of this should translate on a public policy level. Before homosexual marriage was ever permitted, I probably stood to the side of the line that said, “Why redefine this word?” However, now that many states have allowed homosexual marriage, it feels more like the taking away of a personal freedom. Which concerns me. Big government at work once again.

When I pray about this issue all I know is that I sense God’s aching heart. My heart aches, to the point that it feels like it’s bleeding, for the people at the center of this debate. I can’t even imagine the pain they are experiencing right now. To finally win such a huge victory, and be told it might be yanked away. Good people. Good citizens, hard workers, loving parents, wonderful neighbors. Perhaps confused. Perhaps in “sin” according to the Biblical definition which translates as “missing the mark”--but then, aren’t we all?

Don’t we all have areas in our lives where our thinking and feeling have fallen into patterns that are perhaps less than God’s best plans for our lives? Where due to some combination of biology, environment, and personal experience, what we feel deep in our hearts does not line up with the word of God? Maybe our areas just aren’t so visible. They’re easy to hide. But doesn’t human instinct bid us all to run from pain and run toward pleasure, creating pathways in our brains that can easily lead us away from God’s ideal plan. We live in a fallen world, and sometimes things get messy. But God is big enough to make something beautiful out of our messes.

When I look at the homosexual community, I just see people. Like me. People I love. I know this moves me no closer to a public policy opinion. Quite honestly, I’m glad it’s not my decision to make.

I live in the tension between the things I know for sure. Praying daily for God’s wisdom to walk out my beliefs with grace and compassion. To all my homosexual friends, I love you. I pray that God will comfort you and be a very real and present force in your life during this difficult time, drawing you ever closer to him.

So I've been brave and shared my views. What do you think? Don't be afraid to disagree, but please share your opinions in a civil manner.
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Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an honorable mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Her latest novel, Love in Three-Quarter Time, is the launch title for the new Zondervan First imprint. Dina is a contributing author at Inkwell InspirationsColonial Quillsiflourishonline.com, a part-time acquistions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, and she is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

30 comments:

  1. Excellent points, Dina. For myself, I think the most rational position on this issue is that there are two separate arenas of marriage in our nation: there's (obviously) the spiritual side, between husband and wife and God, with personal vows made in a church or at least before a church leader, to form a spiritual covenant.
    And then there's the legal, or civil, arena, where in order to be "legally" married you have to pay a fee and get a license... Much the same way we get a driver's license or a business license in order to comply with and/or enjoy the government-offered benefits of some legal role. Religion, spirituality, faith, right/wrong don't enter into that equation as long as the parties involved are "consenting adults," because it's a legal matter, not a religious one. Churches all have their owm requirements for being allowed to get married in that denomination or by a particular minister. The signing of the legal license isn't even part of the ceremony in most Christian weddings I've attended. It's more of an afterthought.
    It would be interesting to see when marriage licenses became de rigeur in this nation, and why...

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  2. I think this post, coming on the heels of Easter, and all it means, makes the struggle of this issue all the more poignant. Before anyone condemns another, we should all take a step back and think about Good Friday. And even the night before as Jesus prayed in the garden.

    Did he suffer and take the sin from one type of sinner upon himself and not another?

    I just can't take a side on this issue. I can only come back to this one commandment, which superceeds all others: Love your neighbor (fellow man, sinners just like me) as yourself.

    "When I pray about this issue all I know is that I sense God’s aching heart."

    You said it so very well, Dina.

    And Niki, I like your question about marriage licences.

    Great, thought-provoking, self-examination provoking, heart-aching post, Dina.

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  3. Thank you for clearing up that red image I keep seeing posted on facebook. I have no idea what it meant.

    I believe the bible is clear in that marriage is between a man and a woman. Ultimately I leave everything in God's capable hands.

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  4. Hi everyone. I'm on the road today, but I'll try to stop in a few times. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts on thus issue.

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  5. Over the weekend, hubby and I were at Sonic with a friend. The friend remarked how he'd been trying for two years to get the gal who served us our drinks to come to church. He even said to her, "I hope to see you Sunday."

    Let me clarify that I have nothing against inviting people to church.

    However, as I sat at the picnic bench not sharing my mozzarella sticks with the guys, I wondered if routine invites to church would sway me into attending. I no longer think Jesus can be found in the church. Oh, He can. But He can also be found outside the church.

    What it comes down to is relationships. If non-believers don't see that Jesus-followers love them and want a relationship with them, then why would they think Jesus would love them?

    Why is it so much easier to throw stones at the homosexual than at the adulterer, drunkard, abuser, glutton, gossiper, hypocrite, etc?

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  6. I think the Bible is very clear and unequivocal in what it says about Homosexuality- in this regard it is all very well to talk about "love", but what do we mean by it? Do we mean not telling people that their actions are wrong?
    What C.S Lewis said on the subject is I believe relevant: “Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal. Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved… Of all powers he forgives most, but he condones least: he is pleased with little, but demands all.”

    God doesn't say Homosexuality is wrong because he hates gay people, but rather because he hates the sin-- and they can be forgiven, but they can also change-- yet such a belief is treated as something akin to heresy by many people today.

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  7. It's such a hard topic to talk about, and even more so to write about because people can't hear the love in your voice or see it in your eyes. In person, I have a lot more to say. I do agree that God gives us laws because ultimately they are what is best for us. C.S. Lewis is always an awesome source for a balanced viewpoint.

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  8. One of the questions I think we have avoided in the discussion of homosexuality is this: Why is it wrong?

    In our modern-day, American culture, we have accepted a lie. Marriage is about two people who are in love commiting to each other. It's not. It's never been about that. When God created Adam and Eve, He created them for a very specific purpose: to be His image on this earth. A man could not bear this responsibility alone, it was too much, so God created a woman to help him meet that responsibility. Men show one part of God's character, women show another, and together (inside a marriage relationship devoted to God and each other) they are the best picture of God ever created. This is the true purpose of marriage. To bear God's image on this earth.

    God hates idolatry in every way, shape, and form. Homosexuality is one way (among about a gazillion others) we tear down the true image of God and replace it with our own version.

    And God doesn't hate idolatry because He's some petty, narcissistic guy who needs to be worshipped or He gets grumpy. He needs to be worshipped because it's GOOD FOR US. He needs to be worshipped because He set up this entire world, made the rules, and knows that we are going to be miserable if we don't go along with how He designed things to work.

    In our work within the Army, my husband and I see marriages falling apart because people have failed to follow the way God set things up. Their sin is now haunting them, tearing their hearts open, ripping their children into shreds, and grinding dreams into dust. Life is nothing but pain and heartache.

    In the same way, homosexuality hurts. It leads to pain and heartache. God isn't against it because He wants to meddle; He is against it because it leads to destruction the same way all sin does.

    Now, having said all that, how do we respond to the legal debate? I don't know. I honestly don't. Because if we outlaw this sin, do we outlaw gluttony, gossip, lying, covetousness, pride, etc? It doesn't work. The Israelites already tried it. But, on the other hand, do we give up the fight and allow our culture to further descend?

    My personal answer has been this: Love people one-on-one. The culture will only change if the hearts of the people change. Don't whitewash sin, but confront it with the same love and tenderness I ask God to use when He confronts me with my sin. This is how I love others as I love myself.

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  9. Dina, thank you so much for posting this balanced look at the debate. I've witnessed the deep pain of friends who struggled with homosexuality, and yes, most of them left the church or found more liberal churches, because the pray and you can become straight belief was not bourne out by their lives and faith. I'm left in such confusion by the debate because I know their pain. But I also know that God's best does sometimes involve sacrifice. I've experienced it in my own life - sometimes God takes the thorn away and sometimes He expects us to find His joy when the thorn is still there. It's a hard, hard message to preach though.

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  10. Becca, actually, I agree about man and woman together reflecting God's full image. There is something very powerful about that.

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  11. Rachel, I agree. Just still not sure what that means legally. There are lots of things that are legal that Christians don't particularly agree with.

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  12. Dina, you're right in that there are a lot of things that are legal that I don't agree with.

    Love doesn't have to mean tolerate sin.

    But when we confront someone about her sin, isn't she more open to hearing us if we've been loving to her prior to that moment?

    A friend of mine yesterday was complaining about a family member who was "lazy, stupid, and content with being that way." The family member wanted to join the military, but she told him there was no point; the military would kick him out. If they allowed him to join to begin with.

    Finally I said the best way to solve his problem was to give him arsenic. Put the poor kid out of his and their misery. Really. What was the point letting someone who was such a bane to her existence continue to live. He was "worthless."

    Everyone in the room stared at me in shock. Poison the kid? Had I actually said that?

    Yep.

    If his life truly had no value, and in her eyes, he had none, then why not slip him a little arsenic.

    I eventually added to my comments by saying that her viewpoint of him was something that he probably could sense whenever he was around her. Thus she was adding to his view that he was worthless and too stupid to learn.

    She couldn't change him, but she could change her attitude toward him. To be more loving and accepting. Maybe if he didn't sense hostility from her then he would be more receptive to letting her teach him how to be less lazy.

    Love first.

    If God prompts us to point out a person's sin, then we act.

    But I think too many Christians (and I include myself) feel like the Holy Spirit isn't doing His job so we doing go about the business of pointing out sin.

    What reputation do Christians have?

    Judgmental?
    Loving?

    Which was Jesus more?


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  13. Love first. Absolutely. Usually if I'm friends with a homosexual, eventually they will ask my view, but by that time they have already had opportunity to see that I love them

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  14. Okay, since you asked for comments... (Yes, the resident curmudgeon will be good.)

    First, there's a religious purpose to marriage and then there's a secular purpose to marriage. Our society is not a theocracy. Arguments about the religious purpose have to be argued in the churches. Some churches may decide to expand their definition of what they recognize as a marriage. Some faith groups recognize same sex couples. Some recognize polygamy. Traditionalist Christians stick to m-f pairs. And all will point to scripture to as the basis for their decisions.

    However, the arguments at hand is about the secular purpose of marriage. Traditionally, a marriage would produce offspring in most cases. It's just the way biology works. It takes a lot of effort for most couples to NOT have children, which is why contraceptives are a multi-billion dollar industry.

    Given that there is such a great possibility of a couple producing children, government became involved in regulating marriage to protect the children. There are LEGAL rights and obligations of both parents and offspring in a state-recognized marriage. Sure, we allow people who cannot (or don't want to) have children to marry, but that's been incidental to government-regulated marriage's primary purpose of protecting children. (I have married friends who weren't planning on having children...oops.) Such marriage is a binding legal contract, severed only with the government's permission (legal divorce), to protect children.

    What SSM does is change the purpose of government-sanctioned marriage from protecting children to joining together people who love each other. 2 men or 2 woman can never, ever produce a child together. There's never an "oops" in a SSM.

    Joining together people who love each other in a sanctioned union where they have legal rights and responsibilities sounds so good, so nice, so right. It's hard to argue against -- on an emotional level.

    However, on a rational level, once you change the government's reason for regulating marriage, how do you stop expanding what is recognized as marriage? If the purpose of marriage is now provide people in love with legal rights and obligations, any grouping of adults can (and should) demand the same legal protections. Is it my place to tell 2 sisters their love is less worthy of legal recognition than 2 more distantly related women? What if it's 3 sisters? What if it's 2 bisexual women and 1 heterosexual man?

    I recognize the pain suffered by homosexuals. However, we can't make public policy based on it emotion. It has to be coldly unemotional and rational.

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  15. Excellently stated, C.J. Divorce is rather easy when children aren't involved.

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  16. Thanks, Cj, I was curious about the history and legal precedents.

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  17. It's hard to say no to equality--no wonder it's such an explosive issue. The question is how can we expect someone who doesn't believe in God or that God is holy to understand why someone can point out someone else's sins. Unless the Holy Spirit has prepared a heart, our words fall on the ground and can sound harsh.

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  18. Right, how can we expect the world to share our standards?

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  19. Thank you Dina for this post.
    I greatly appreciate your love and compassion toward homosexuals and how you see them as Christ sees them.

    We all need to stay immersed in God's love to have His compassion and to see people around us through His eyes.

    God gave us free will but at the same time He drew red lines on the sides and clearly asked us not to cross them. We read story after story in the Bible where God judged his people because they tried to alter or manipulate His commandments.
    Because of pride they tried to build a huge tower to set themselves above His might and power and the whole tower crumbled on their heads. When they tried to exchange the normal sexual relationship between a man and a woman with homosexual behaviors He burned the whole city.

    He is a God of justice who keep His Word and never changes.

    Our love for individuals who are homosexual is one thing and breaking God's commandments is another thing. We believe in equality with them as fellow citizens and brothers and sisters in humanity, but I believe that asking for marriage equality is against God's law and teachings and with my sincere love and great respect to all our homosexual friends this step is clearly outside God's will even if governments or individuals support it.

    Again thank you Dina for your boldness in presenting the subject and for your obvious love towards His children. You asked for a different opinion and I'm offering it :)

    Tim

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  20. Dina, we can't expect the world to share our standards out of obedience to God--which means we shouldn't be arguing the policy aspects of this (or other moral issues) on faith-based grounds. I believe Christians should follow God's rules out of love and desire to please Him. However, if we go around quoting the Bible at people who don't believe ("God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" -- gack! I hate it when Christians say such things), we won't win any converts to our point of view and we may even turn away potential allies.

    That said, I don't believe God's rules are arbitrary, designed to keep us from having fun. God is not a killjoy. He gave us rules not to harass us but to protect us--as individuals and as a society. Kosher dietary laws weren't given because God got sadistic pleasure out of denying Jews bacon, but because certain kinds of meat were unsafe in a time before refrigeration, inspections, and convection ovens. (See the book of Daniel for an object lesson on the benefits of kosher dietary laws.) And that means any God-given "rule" can be argued on secular grounds as a policy that creates a better society.

    Here's an example of what I mean. When I was in college, some (many?) of my fellow students at my huge, secular uni insisted that a couple should live together before marriage to be certain they were "compatible." On the surface, that position seems eminently logical. Except that after a couple decades of such theory put into practice, the data is in, and now we know that couples who cohabitate have higher divorce rates than those who don't. It seems counterintuitive, but there you have it. If you want to decrease your chances for divorce, don't live together before marriage. Which, ah, is kinda, sorta, exactly what the Bible says.

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  21. So, Tim, how do we reconcile what you're sharing with freedom of religion? How do we prove that this is bad for society to others who don't believe the Bible? And why is it different than other sinful behaviors that are legal? Honestly, after mulling this all week, I'm wondering if the federal gov should be deciding this.

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  23. A couple of issues I can think of, one is that of equality. In the UK the issue of gay marriage has become prominent recently because if a heated debate over whether or not churches should be allowed to opt out of performing such ceremonies.

    I think eventually, the law made it so they would be, but a lot of people seemed to think that churches should not be allowed to opt out because that would be 'discrimination' which went against the principals 'equality' of a 'permissive' society.
    Yet such at attitude would seem to suggest it was permissible to effectively force and churches Christians to do something which went against their beliefs- effectively another form of discrimination.

    It also raises the question of what happens if a government requires us to do something which goes against the teachings of God or the Bible?
    Christians in the past have faced similar circumstances.

    The other thing is that some laws regarding gay marriage or equal rights may have effectively been passed as a result of pressure from certain groups- and those who are not willing to totally condone such things are finding themselves to be the ones who are hated and persecuted- even falling foul of the law.

    As said above- it is believed by some sometimes that gay people are 'born that way' so those who say that God can change any person may find themselves to the receiving end of hateful sentiment

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  24. Also, what do we mean by 'judging'? A pastor I know says that telling someone on the basis of scripture that their actions are wrong is not judging-- it is simply letting them know that God has already judged them.

    The crux of the issue is that society is almost coming to a point where we are not just expected but almost required to accept homosexuality as morally valid. People mention adultery and theft, and indeed this is sin, but we don't generally see groups of people who have committed adultery getting together an demanding that this is their 'right' or demanding that divorce on this basis should be abolished.

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  25. Interesting to here about this issue in England. I was curious about that. Thanks!

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  26. Thank you everyone for your comments. Very insightful.

    Dina,
    I believe that your article cover different areas and it is important for the readers to differentiate between them:
    1- There is the social and relationship factor where we have to love all people as Christ loves them
    2- The political issue where governments and States decide on it. Some are implementing equality like the example shared in the UK and others countries chop heads because of it. So Dina, I would put freedom of religion in this category. I think that the citizens should decide on this and believers should be very active in this arena.
    3- Spiritual or in other words the God issue

    I agree with you that we should not be stuck on this one issue as if it is the one and only major sin. But at the same time we should not downgrade it or water it down.

    Dear C.J.
    Thank you for your comments. I agree with you that we should not be chasing unbelievers quoting the Bible and hitting them on the head with it. At the same time we should not compromise or be shy about taking a clear stand on issues such as homosexual marriages. I believe Dina agree with me on this point but she was very vague and shy about it in her article. She expressed very clearly her love to the people and every Christian should follow her steps, but she mentioned God's position in this regard very briefly and in passing. God is not a killjoy and as I mentioned before He does not change his opinions and positions and he can bless and support homosexual marriages. His heart is breaking over all of these acts.

    I'm new to this post and forgive me if I'm stepping on some tows without reading more articles to get to know you more before commenting :)
    Kind Regards.

    Tim

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  27. Tim I agree with much of what you say, and, I don't mean anything against Dina personally, but I did feel the views expressed in the article were rather vague and wish-washy.

    It should perhaps be remembered that when Paul wrote what he did about homosexuality it was in a society in which it was perhaps more prevalent than it is today- ancient Rome, and to some extent Greece.
    You had 'civilizations' like Sparta in which homosexual relationships were not only accepted but even encouraged, and some Emperors who seem to have been openly gay or Bisexual (Nero, Hadrian).

    I cannot agree that God can bless and support homosexual marriages for a moment, especially considering what was said about His not changing. It is almost like assuming that God thinks something like 'Yes I said this is sin, and yes, it corrupts the union I instituted, but you know what, I'm going to bless it anyway".

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  28. Tim, you are welcome to share your views. I was really just raising questions more than anything, and welcomed attempts at answers. I'm usually more interested in hearts and minds and reaching the lost than in public policy. The fact that we're even facing this issue says to me that the church has not been doing a good job in reaching the world for many years. I admit, I'm concerned about looking hard nosed and pushing the list away from Christ. I will always default to love, but I understand we all have different gifts within the body of Christ.

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  29. Hi all. I've been responding from my phone for two days. My computer is broken, and I was out of town. Sorry if some of my messages were short or had mistakes. Like I said, I know where I stand as a Christian. The Bible does call homosexuality a sin, and although I've read and respected arguments on the other side, they have not swayed me. And I know how I feel. I feel love.

    In the public policy area I mostly have questions. Here are some of the things I've been thinking about. Polygamy is illegal, even though Islam and Mormonism both have sizable communities in this country and would allow it if they could. I've never heard anyone complain about this. That seems to indicate that government does have a right not to allow marriage. I'm not sure what that is based on, though.

    Another thought I had was that in my home state of Virginia, both oral and anal sex are illegal. Police officers have to sign something that says they don't participate in these activities. So then what happens if the federal government makes gay marriage legal? It's legal to be married in Virginia but can only be consummated if they break the law?

    From a public policy stand point, I think this would be best handled by the states. I am not in favor of big government.

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  30. Dina,

    In preparation to writing a column/blog of my own, I searched the web a bit and found yours. There are a lot of strong feelings on both sides, but don't we all want to know the truth? (Possibly not.) As Christians we are called to love, but not to love in such a way as to allow others to destroy themselves in sin. Check out this guy's column:

    http://www.boundless.org/relationships/2000/homophobia-an-unfinished-story

    And here is mine:

    http://www.examiner.com/article/marriage-equality-1

    thanks for not shying away from the issue.

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