Archive for July, 2015

What I Write, How I Write It, and Why

Photo credit: zen / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Credit: zen / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

I write my message on issues. I craft my message on hunches.  I hope with my message to make a difference.

These past few weeks have presented me with no shortage of blog-worthy issues to write about. Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner. The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. On the heels of a horrific racist shooting in Charleston, a fight erupted over whether and how to display the Confederate flag. And a secret video of a Planned Parenthood executive talking casually about abortion and the sale of aborted fetal tissue was posted on YouTube. It’s been a busy few weeks.

As I’ve been thinking about the crush of big stories that have occupied my thoughts, something struck me regarding two of the stories about which I had written. When writing about the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, my tone was gentle and measured – concerned about ethics, but much more focused on people. When writing about Planned Parenthood, my tone was considerably more straightforward and even somewhat brash. Why?

I write my message on issues. I craft my message on hunches. I hope with my message to make a difference.  I just had a hunch that the legalization of same-sex marriage needed to be handled more delicately and interpersonally than the revelation that Planned Parenthood is allegedly selling aborted organs for possible profit. So I crafted my message accordingly.

Ontologically, of course, what advocates of same-sex marriage and Planned Parenthood promote is very similar. Both tout what one author has referred to as “erotic liberty” – that is, freedom to have sex with whom you want, when you want, and how you want without having to consider or confront the natural and reasonable entailments sex brings with it. Sexual desire and autonomy, in this view, cannot be impeded by gender or pregnancy.

But even though these two issues share a great deal in common ontologically, they are perceived in very different ways epistemologically in our broader culture. In other words, the nature of these things in and of themselves may be quite similar, but how people think and talk about these things is very different.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, there is a tension between what people know and what they believe. Most people know that Christianity places certain ethical restrictions on sexual expression. But many cannot bring themselves to believe that these ethical restrictions are reasonable or loving. In a world where it is increasingly difficult – and, I would add, unnecessary and unreasonable – not to have friends, relatives, coworkers, or, at the very least, acquaintances who are in same-sex relationships, believing that such relationships deserve anything less than a full-throated endorsement is a hard pill for many to swallow. After all, so many of these relationships seem healthy and loving. So even if many know what Christianity teaches about sexual intimacy, they have a hard time believing it’s right.

Likewise, when it comes to Planned Parenthood and abortion, there is also a tension between what people know and what people believe. In this instance, however, the tension is inverted. The problem is not so much with what people intuitively believe as it is with what people intellectually know. Most people – regardless of their political sensibilities – can’t help but be viscerally repulsed by Planned Parenthood executives who talk casually about a “‘less crunchy’ technique to get more whole specimens” of aborted organs for medical research and how, when performing an abortion, you have be “cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax … I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” It is hard to escape a nagging belief that this is not an outright assault against human dignity and life. This is why, when I address abortion, I quickly strip away sterile terms like “dilation,” “curettage,” “aspiration,” “evacuation,” and “Intrauterine Cranial Decompression” to write in frank and sometimes startling terms about what abortion really is: the ending of life in utero. Intuitively, people already believe this. I want people to intellectually know, however, just how grave the situation really is with Planned Parenthood.

In the case of same-sex marriage, people often know what Christianity says about sexual ethics, they just have a hard time believing it. When it comes to Planned Parenthood’s practices, there are a great number of people, including those who publicly support abortion, who believe what Planned Parenthood has done is wrong.  They just don’t always know how to express their concerns in ethically rigorous ways.

It is this distinction between knowing and believing that shapes how I have written over these past few weeks. When I write about same-sex marriage, I know I am diving into deeply held and tender beliefs about love. So I address these beliefs tenderly. When I write about Planned Parenthood, I know I am up against a whole host of euphemisms meant to obscure what people actually know about abortion. So I cut through the euphemisms with candor. In the first instance, I’m trying to persuade people to believe a little bit differently. In the second instance, I’m trying to bring attention to something I think people need to know more about.

When we address today’s cultural issues as Christians, it is important to ask ourselves: What are we trying to do? Are we trying to change a belief? Are we trying to share important knowledge? And how do the ways in which we address broad concerns actually make things better?

Though my approach to addressing society’s issues du jour is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive, I hope it proves helpful – at least in a limited way.  Frankly, it is born out of a concern that, all too often, when addressing cultural controversies, many of us who are Christians wind up doing little more than beating our chests in self-righteous indignation at our culture’s ills. The problem is, even if this makes us feel better, it does nothing to make our world better. Our world needs gentle persuasion when it believes wrongly. It needs frank facts when it lacks knowledge. But most of all, it needs people who are devoted not only to being right about issues, but to doing good for our world. This is why Jesus, during His earthly ministry, wasn’t just right in what He said, He was righteous in how He said it. And thanks to Him, the world has never been the same.

May Jesus’ legacy be evident in our lives.

July 27, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

What Planned Parenthood Wants You To Believe About Sex

Planned Parenthood“Planned Parenthood.” “Selling.” “Aborted Baby Parts.” When a friend first texted me a link with these words in the URL, I knew I was in for a wild ride. The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released a video, recorded in 2014, of two of their operatives, posing as employees from a biotech firm, having a discussion over lunch with Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Research. The Center for Medical Progress claims the video blows the whistle on the trafficking of aborted baby organs. Planned Parenthood disputes these claims.  Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood’s Vice President of Communications, issued this statement:

In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases. Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different. At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does – with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards. There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood.  In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.

In the video, however, Ms. Nucatola seems to contradict Mr. Ferrero’s statement when she explains:

I think every provider has had patients who want to donate their tissue, and they absolutely want to accommodate them. They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, “This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this.” I know in the Planned Parenthood world they’re very, very sensitive to that. And before an affiliate is gonna do that, they need to, obviously, they’re not – some might do it for free – but they want to come to a number that doesn’t look like they’re making money …

I think for affiliates, at the end of the day, they’re a non-profit, they just don’t want to – they want to break even. And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they’re happy to do that.

Ms. Nucatola’s slippery language is striking. She never asserts that Planned Parenthood is not, as a matter of fact, making money off organs from abortions, she just says Planned Parenthood doesn’t want it to “look like they’re making money.” She even admits, “If they can do a little better than break even … they’re happy to do that.” In other words, Planned Parenthood does make money off selling organs from aborted babies according to Ms. Nucatola, they just don’t make a lot of money off it.

It sounds like Planned Parenthood may be gaming federal law. 42 U.S. Code § 289g–2 states:

It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce … [which] does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.

Selling fetal tissue for profit is illegal. Getting reimbursed for expenses associated with shipping and processing fetal tissue, however, is not. It seems as though Planned Parenthood will take any money they can claim as reasonable reimbursement for the costs of transporting and processing aborted organs, and if these monies are slightly more than what the actual costs are, so be it – as long as they’re not exorbitant enough to look like “profit.”

Planned Parenthood may not have gamed federal law as well as they thought, however. In the video, Ms. Nucatola links Planned Parenthood to an organization called StemExpress, a company that bills itself as providing “qualified research laboratories with human cells, fluids, blood and tissue products for the pursuit of disease protection and cure.” StemExpress also explains to potential allies that “by partnering with StemExpress, not only are you offering a way for your clients to participate in the unique opportunity to facilitate life-saving research, but you will also be contributing to the fiscal growth of your own clinic.” I’m not sure how “the fiscal growth of your own clinic” can be construed to be anything other than profit for your clinic. And considering the prices StemExpress charges for their fetal organs, if StemExpress does indeed share some portion of their proceeds with Planned Parenthood for the “fiscal growth” of their clinics, it seems awfully shady for them to claim they are not, at least indirectly, profiting, perhaps handsomely, off fetal tissue.

This is really bad. But it gets worse.

In the conversation, Ms. Nucatola also talks about intentional steps clinics will take during abortions to keep a baby’s organs in tact so they can be sold later:

You’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex, because when it’s vertex presentation, you never have enough dilation at the beginning of the case, unless you have real, huge amount of dilation to deliver an intact calvarium. So if you do it starting from the breech presentation, there’s dilation that happens as the case goes on, and often, the last, you can evacuate an intact calvarium at the end.

This is all deeply disturbing. What is allegedly happening is not only potentially illegal; it is profoundly immoral. In what world is it okay to turn a baby breech so you can smash its legs, kill it, and then harvest its organs for profit? Is there any conceivable scenario where this is okay? Have we decided that a baby, growing in its mother’s womb, is so devoid of any rights and is so unable to be considered life in any meaningful way that it can be stripped of its dignity limb by limb – literally?  This is self-evidentially morally repugnant.  And if you can’t see that, we no longer need to have a conversation about abortion.  We need to have a conversation about nihilism.

This is not to say Planned Parenthood doesn’t have its supporters, even if supporting the organization is a little untenable right now. Amanda Marcotte, writing for Slate Magazine, admits:

As someone who is squeamish, it was extremely difficult for me to listen to Nucatola talk about extracting liver, heart, and other parts to be donated to medical research. (I nearly fainted when a friend showed me the video of her knee operation once.) But people who work in medicine for a living do, in fact, become inured to the gore in a way that can seem strange to those of us who aren’t regularly exposed to it. She also thought she was speaking to people in her profession who would be similarly accustomed to this sort of thing.

Abortion is gross, no doubt about it. It becomes grosser the later in a pregnancy it gets. But so is heart surgery. So is childbirth, for that matter.

Behold, the fallacy of false equivalence. How one can equate the grossness of abortion to the grossness of heart surgery or birth is beyond me. Two of these things sustain life. One of these things, as more honest abortion supporters will admit, ends life. As any child who watches Sesame Street could tell you, “One of these things is not like the other.”

In researching for this blog, I went to Planned Parenthood’s website. I was greeted by a banner that said, “Worried? Had unprotected sex?” It is here that we find the real reason behind Planned Parenthood’s existence.  This organization exists to promote sex-on-demand, divorced from any of the entailments that come with it like, in this instance, children. Sex with whom you want, when you want, and how you want is Planned Parenthood’s holy grail.  And it is so sacred that they will kill for it – again, literally.

In other posts on this blog, I have painstakingly sought to not flippantly dismiss or diminish the desires and struggles people face when it comes to sexuality. I want to be as sensitive and empathetic as possible. These are, after all, confusing issues that deserve compassionate thought rather than self-righteous ire. But this is not about these issues.  In fact, this is not about individuals and abortion.  This is not about the woman who has suffered through the trauma of an abortion, though I grieve for you and, I am afraid, many times, with you.  This is not about the woman who went too far and is now pregnant and scared and is contemplating an abortion, though I would encourage you to seek guidance and help from people committed to alternatives to abortion.  You are in genuinely confusing and painful situations and have my concern, my compassion, and my prayers.  This is not about you.  This is about Planned Parenthood and their pack of twisted lies that unashamedly promotes the sacrifice of life for sex, which, I should point out, is the precise opposite of what sex is meant for and, by its very nature, is designed to do. Sex is not meant to take life. It’s meant to give it.  This is not about personal sexual confusion.  This is about an organization’s out and out corruption that has expressed itself again and again in the most macabre of ways – this time, in the sale of aborted organs.

At the risk of being offensive, I think it’s time for us to ask ourselves a few frank questions: Is indulging every sexual impulse in ways that transgress the sanctity of marriage and the security of family really our best strategy for intimacy?  Is this really the legacy we want to leave our children, our children’s children, and so on?  Is this really the evolutionary ethical curve we want to ride? Is it really beneficial for us to do what we want, when we want, and with whom we want and then use any means necessary to impede the entailments of our actions, even when impeding the entailments of our actions includes ending lives in utero? Is sexual self-control – even when it is difficult and involves some emotional pain – really that out of the question? Have we become that banal? Is Planned Parenthood’s view of human sexuality really the banner we want to wave and the worldview we want to adopt? And does it really take deceitful operatives from an anti-abortion organization secretly videotaping a conversation with Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Research, which itself presents us with a whole other set of legal and ethical difficulties, to get us to ask these questions? Shouldn’t we be thinking about the weighty ethical implications and aberrations of abortion even when there’s not a titillating video making its rounds on the Internet?

Ms. Marcotte was right about this much in her article for Slate:

This latest attack on Planned Parenthood is not just about abortion, but about demonizing an organization that makes sex safer and easier, while making it possible for women to plan when they have children.

This is exactly what Planned Parenthood is all about. They’re all about “safe sex,” which, if we’re honest, is just a euphemism for what Ms. Marcotte refers to next: “easy sex” – sex without responsibility, commitment, or offspring. So really, Planned Parenthood is about easy sex – even when easy sex involves dismembering babies and selling their organs. So let me ask:

Is the easy sex worth it?

July 20, 2015 at 5:15 am 6 comments

On Edge…About Everything

FearLast Wednesday morning was an unexpectedly frenzied one. Within the scope of a few hours, all United Airlines planes were grounded, the website for the Wall Street Journal went dark, and trading at the New York Stock Exchange grinded to a screeching halt. The problem in each instance? Computer glitches.

It didn’t take long for people to begin to fear that we under some sort of cyber attack. Lester Holt, anchor of NBC Nightly News, opened the newscast that night with an honest acknowledgement of the anxiety so many were feeling:

A lot of us got that uneasy feeling today when within hours of each other separate computer outages grounded all United Airlines flights and halted trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Uneasy feeling, indeed. What happened was so startling, it got the attention of Homeland Security.

In the end, it was discovered that United’s problems stemmed from “a failed computer network router that disrupted its reservation system.” Trading on the New York Stock Exchange went down because of a “botched software upgrade” the night before. As for the Wall Street Journal, though no definitive explanation has been offered for its problems, some are speculating that the trouble at the Stock Exchange drove people to the Wall Street Journal for updates, which, in turn, crashed the website. Cyber terrorism had nothing to do with anything. We had no need to fear. But we did.

Fear is plentiful these days. It doesn’t take much to make us apprehensive. Sadly, fear is just as prevalent – if not more so – in the Church as it is in wider society. I have talked to Christians who are wringing their hands over what could very well be an erosion of our religious liberty. I have talked to Christians who are terrified by what is happening oversees – and, for that matter, close to home – with ISIS. I have talked to Christians who are anxious about our nation’s economic path. I have talked to Christians who are frightened by just about everything.

For Christians who are full of fear, this description of who we are as the Church from Pope Benedict XVI strikes me as timely:

Is the Church not simply the continuation of God’s deliberate plunge into human wretchedness? Is she not simply the continuation of Jesus’ habit of sitting at table with sinners, of His mingling with the misery of sin to the point where He actually seems to sink under its weight? Is there not revealed in the unholy holiness of the Church, as opposed to man’s expectations of purity, God’s true holiness, which is love – love which does not keep its distance in a sort of aristocratic, untouchable purity but mixes with the filth of the world, in order thus to overcome it?[1]

This is an impressively clear, cogent, and, I should affirm, broadly, even if not comprehensively, correct ecclesiological statement from the former leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church, Benedict reminds us, is incarnational in her character and missional in her charter. She goes to places no one else would dare to darken – filthy places, impoverished places, wicked places, sinful places. As the Church ministers in sinful places like these, she, like Jesus, in the words of the former pope, can “actually seem to sink under [sin’s] weight.” But, of course, when Jesus sank, He didn’t sink for long. Three days is all sin got of Him. So it is with Christ’s Church. “The gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18), Jesus promises. Sin may attack the Church, but it will not overcome her.

When we, as the Church, become afraid of the sinfulness in our world, we stop acting as the Church should for our world. We become so scared of sinners because of what they might to do to us that we forget to love sinners as Christ has loved us. The fearfulness of the faithful, it turns out, can be just as dangerous to the Church as the sinfulness of the world, for it stymies the Church in her mission.

In 1931, Swedish theologian Gustaf Aulén published Christus Victor where he wrote of how Christ “fights against and triumphs over the evil powers of the world, the ‘tyrants’ under which mankind is in bondage and suffering.”[2] To this day, his book is a standard-bearer for discussions about Christ’s work and accomplishments on the cross. But we must always remember that Christ’s victory is also our victory. Christus Victor is the promise of Ecclesia Victor.

Do not, then, be afraid. Instead, be the Church. The world needs us.

______________________________

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Introduction to Christianity, Second Edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 342.

[2] Gustav Aulén, Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, A.G. Hebert, trans. (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2003), 4.

July 13, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Obergefell v. Hodges

Arguments at the United States Supreme Court for Same-Sex Marriage on April 28, 2015When the Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges[1] a little over a week ago, the verdict was not a surprise, but the reaction was fierce. Facebook profiles and even the White House went rainbow. Crowds gathered to celebrate and shed tears of joy. Others were not nearly so jubilant. Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, issued this statement:

This decision is the most egregious form of judicial activism of our time, overriding the votes of over 50 million voters, including millions in Texas. The freedom to democratically address society’s most fundamental institution is central to ordered liberty. The Court has taken that freedom from the people.

This decision has no basis in the text of the Constitution and will never be accepted by millions of Americans and Texans that understand that marriage, by nature and God’s design, can only be the union of a man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father. No decision by five judges can ever alter this fundamental truth.[2]

As Christians, it can be hard to know what to say or where to stand. The day the Supreme Court’s decision came down, I offered some initial reflections with the promise of more to come. These are those further reflections.  Though these reflections will not address every concern, they will hopefully give us a way to begin to think theologically and pastorally about what has transpired and help us live together peacefully and in love.

What Scripture Says

As I said in my original blog on the Supreme Court’s decision, we need to remain committed to what Scripture says about all our relationships and, specifically, those that are deeply intimate in nature. But we also must remember that our understanding of Scripture can prove fallible. It is easy to fall prey to foolish and sloppy readings of what the Bible has to say on sexual ethics, making assumptions that are based more in our cultural biases than in careful exegetical study. As William Eskridge explains in an article for The New York Times:

Biblical support for slavery, segregation and anti-miscegenation laws rested upon broad and anachronistic readings of isolated Old Testament passages and the Letters of Paul, but without strong support from Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels … The current … view that God condemns “homosexual behavior” and same-sex marriages comes from the same kind of broad and anachronistic scriptural readings as prior support for segregation.[3]

Although Eskridge’s assumed contradiction between what Jesus taught and what the rest of the Bible has to say is problematic, he does have a point: we have not always gotten things right.

So how do we avoid misreading Scripture on gay marriage? To begin with, we must never handpick proof texts without context. Arguments made in this way against gay marriage are not only not persuasive theologically, they’re also not solid methodologically.  A better hermeneutical case for traditional marriage can be made by looking at the sweep and scope of Scripture. Scripture begins (Genesis 2:24) and ends (Revelation 19:7) with the wedding of a bride and her groom. Jesus affirms both God’s creational and eschatological pattern for this staid institution as one that involves a husband and a wife (Matthew 19:4-6). Furthermore, when this pattern for marriage is abandoned, the results never seem to be good (e.g., Genesis 29:30; 1 Kings 11:1-4; Proverbs 6:32; 1 Corinthians 5:1-2).

The Bible does not seem to be nearly so concerned with condemning gay marriage specifically as it is with affirming God’s design for marriage generally – and not just because deviating from God’s design is morally wrong, though, in fact, it is, but because it is personally hurtful. Marriage has not only a moral design; it has a compassionate intent. This is why God institutes it as gracious gift (cf. Genesis 2:18).  The biblical authors do not want people to miss out on God’s gracious gift by not receiving it as God intended it.

How We Say What Scripture Says

When speaking about same-sex marriage, we must stop embracing and employing over-the-top rhetoric. A pastor who threatens, even if figuratively, to immolate himself if the Supreme Court allows for nationwide gay marriage sounds, and perhaps is, insane. A preacher who drops the Supreme Court’s ruling to the ground while holding up the Bible in the middle of his sermon may garner some applause from the faithful, but such grandstanding does nothing to contribute to civil and important conversation.

I can’t help but wonder if the reason we are sometimes tempted by such silly stunts is because we live with a kind of Chicken Little apocalypticism. We really are afraid the sky is falling. But it is not.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his dissenting opinion, writes:

The Court today not only overlooks our country’s entire history and tradition but actively repudiates it, preferring to live only in the heady days of the here and now. I agree with the majority that the “nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.” … As petitioners put it, “times can blind.” … But to blind yourself to history is both prideful and unwise.

This is well stated. As Justice Roberts notes, the ethical stances of yesteryear are by no means unimpeachable, but they are also not meant to be thoughtlessly discardable in an assumed inexorable evolutionary advancement toward ethical nirvana. C.S. Lewis would remind us that there is a “great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of [our] own age.”[4] In other words, we’re not as enlightened or as advanced as we think we are.

Thus, we need not fear. What is happening now does not mean the sky is falling. It simply means that history is marching – sometimes wisely and sometimes foolishly. Waiting and watching to see what comes of “the heady days of the here and now” is a much smarter – and, I would add, much less stressful – option than opining about the doom and gloom that lurks around the corner.

Religious Liberty and Pastoral Care

Sadly, the Supreme Court’s decision does raise real concerns over religious liberty. In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy addresses these concerns, writing:

It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.

Justice Kennedy’s synopsis of the First Amendment is interesting – and troubling. He sees the First Amendment as protection to “teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to … lives and faiths.” This is well and good. But what happens when teaching faith translates into living faith?  What happens when those living their faith intersect with others who do not share their faith? Does religious protection now extend only to what one says?

The dissenting justices are rightfully skeptical of the majority’s nod to and definition of religious liberty. Justice Thomas Roberts warns:

Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for “religious organizations and persons … as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” … Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.

It is not just paranoid, martyrly Christian activists who have concerns about the narrowing parameters for religious liberty; it is a sitting justice of the Supreme Court. So how are we to respond?

I would argue that the best way to respond to threats against religious liberty is not politically, but pastorally. This is not to say that Christians should never be involved in politics; it is only to say that politics must take the backseat to love. So rather than offering a political strategy, allow me to share a few pastoral thoughts.

What makes same-sex marriage an ethically thorny issue is that it simultaneously aches for something that deserves our compassion while also promoting something that calls for our repudiation. On the one hand, the desire to marry someone to whom you are attracted, whether that person is of the same or opposite sex, represents an ache for companionship. This is why, in the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy writes:

From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.

Such an ache for companionship not only ought to be acknowledged, it ought to be affirmed by all Christians. God did, after all, create us as relational beings (cf. Genesis 2:18). Desire for companionship, regardless of whether you are gay or straight, is perfectly normal and natural.

At the same time the Bible affirms the human ache for companionship, however, it also puts boundaries on how such companionship is expressed erotically and, ultimately, maritally. Again and again, the Bible calls upon us to control our desires – erotic and otherwise (cf. James 1:14-15). Though such a call runs quite contrary to the spirit and sensibilities of our age, Christians must continually uphold this call in their speaking and living.

Tragically, many Christians have spent so much time proclaiming that people must control their desires that they have forgotten to empathize with them in their loneliness. People who are romantically attracted to the same sex have much deeper and more profound needs than just sex. They, like everyone, need love, which we must be prepared to show, lest we defy the command of Christ: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Ultimately, we must never forget that same-sex marriage involves people. Indeed, though nearly everyone knows the Supreme Court has now legalized nationwide same-sex marriage, few know the particulars of the plaintiff who brought the case. Jim Obergefell married John Arthur three months and 11 days before John died. Jim knew their marriage would not last long because, when they wed, John was in the dying throws of ALS. Jim brought a case to the Supreme Court because he wanted to be listed as the surviving spouse on John’s death certificate in Ohio, a state that heretofore did not allow for gay marriage. Their story, then, is not just about gay marriage. It’s also about sickness, sadness, and caregiving – all universal themes to the human experience. Even as we express concerns over same-sex marriages, we must also recognize that the people in them do things that are noble and hold values that we share.

Decrying same-sex marriage with protests, rallies, and votes will not change hearts. Love, however, just might. So let’s focus on what people actually need – not a vote against them, but love for them. In today’s milieu of broad and fierce political support for same-sex marriage, it is probably our only option. But that’s okay. Because it just so happens that it’s also our best option.

_________________________________

[1] Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. (2015).

[2] William Eskridge cited by David Walls, “Supreme Court’s Marriage Ruling Is Egregious Attack On Democracy, Will Never Be Accepted,” Texas Values (6.26.2015).

[3] William Eskridge, “It’s Not Gay Marriage vs. the Church Anymore,” The New York Times (4.25.2015).

[4] C.S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” The Weight of Glory, Walter Hooper, ed. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 59.

July 6, 2015 at 5:15 am 3 comments


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