I wish I could say that “change” is in the air, but it seems more like “inevitably polarizing and divisive rhetoric” is looming thanks in part to Obama’s historic endorsement of same-sex marriage today. I have to give him credit for at least taking a clear stand on the issue, something politicians usually steer clear of in an election year.
Regardless of the temptation to fall into the usual camps and talking points on this “issue,” I sincerely hope that some higher profile discussion of the very human implications of this kind of legislation will be able to move people toward a more sophisticated understanding of marriage, sexuality, and public policy. At a very basic level, this debate is not (to me at least) primarily about “defending a traditional definition of marriage.” Rather, the central issue in my mind is about equality and justice. Will society be able to grant same-sex partners– many of whom are already living in legally recognized civil unions– the same protection under the law that is afforded to heterosexual partners? Or will we continue to perpetuate a tiered system where same-sex partners are– whether in word or deed– basically second-class citizens? I am convinced that this is one of the most important civil rights questions of our day.
And especially for people of faith, there is a lot of hard, thoughtful, prayerful, considerate, compassionate work that needs to be done– relationally, theologically, and practically. You may not be ready to flip a switch and jump over to “the other side,” whatever that “side” may be. That’s fine. At the very least, you need to educate yourself and enter into conversation with others in humility and genuine openness.
I’ve spent the last few years wrestling with these conversations in various settings, and I’m not done. But one thing I’m absolutely convinced of is that Christians do not need to fight, accuse, belittle, divide, and label one another as they politicize their “position.” Why does the church feel the need to “take a position” on everything? There are plenty of things the church does not have an “official stance” on, and yet strong opinions can still be held and debated respectfully.
Ultimately, the public policy issues and the church issues are separate but overlapping conversations. And as society moves inevitably toward greater acceptance of LGBTQ persons and communities, the church must learn to bear a more faithful witness to the radical hospitality and reconciling love of Christ.