The president has come out in favor of gay marriage. What should we say about that?
Others have offered helpful insight about how to think about homosexuality, how it fits into the larger scope of the church’s views and practices about sex, the Bible’s teaching about homosexuality, and how the church should respond. Still others have told us their stories about coming out from homosexuality.
But even when we form deep convictions about the topic (no simple task) and understand the theological implications about it (an even bigger task), we’re still left with the question, “What do we say when someone asks us our opinion about gay marriage?” Planning ahead about what we might say or not say would be worth the mental energy.
Here are some suggestions:
First, we should make initial statements (or questions) that are short and inviting. They could spark curiosity more than an argument:
“I think there’s a lot more to it than just what our president has said.”
“I’d be glad to tell you what I think. But can we try to get past simplistic clichés?”
“Do you want a bumper sticker answer or one that’s as complicated as the topic?”
“I think homosexuality is a complex issue. I personally think homosexual behavior has a lot more problems to it than most people think.”
“I don’t think being gay is all that gay.”
“I wonder if homosexuality isn’t as benign as we’ve been told it is.”
Second, we need to be prepared to “level the playing field.” Some people have pre-judged us as homophobic bigots if we hold any view different from the “Gay’s OK” mantra. Before we get to the substance of the topic, we need to change the tone of the discussion. Otherwise, we’re wasting our time and emotional energy:
“Well…are you willing to be as open minded about this as you want me to be?”
“Tolerance works both ways. You might think I’m homophobic and I might think you’re Christophobic. It sounds like we both have a challenge before us. I’m willing to dig in if you are.”
“Have you ever heard about people who say they used to be gay but now they’re straight? You really need to hear their stories before you decide what you think about this issue.”
“I’m sure you’ve read and heard lots of things about how natural it is to be gay. Would you be willing to hear another point of view? Are you willing to read some things some people have written about why they left the gay life?”
“I really care about gay people. I care about them so much that I want them to get past simplistic explanations about their desires.”
Third, we need to connect the conversation to the larger topic of sexuality in general.
“I think our society is so messed up now regarding sex that it’s difficult to just talk about gay marriage. Can we have that larger discussion?”
“Do you think there are any sexual behaviors that are unhealthy? Are there any limits about what is right and wrong when it comes to sex? You don’t think it’s OK for an adult to have sex with a child, do you? So, how do we decide what’s out of bounds? Is there some kind of objective standard?”
“It’s hard to speak about sex in our world today because it seems that anything goes. But I think sex is so powerful and so precious that it’s not something that should be done without some limits.”
“I think too highly of sex to just treat it as casually as most TV shows or movies do.”
Finally, we need to ask our pastors for help with this issue. If ever there was a time for sermons to address the topic of homosexuality, that time is now. Silence, in this case, is not golden. We need to have at our fingertips what the Bible says about homosexuality just as readily as why we believe the resurrection. We need training from our pastors about how the Old Testament laws about diet, slavery, or the need to stone people who commit adultery are different than the laws about homosexuality.
Now, more than ever, we need to be prepared for persecution. No matter what we say or how we say it, we may still get treated with hatred, scorn, and anger. Jesus told us that would happen. Many times during the history of the church, Christians have been at odds with their culture when it comes to moral issues. Whether it was in choosing not to kill female infants or not to perform abortions or having the audacity to say that adultery is wrong (remember John the Baptist!), choosing to follow Christ instead of the majority may get our heads chopped off…and “gain a better resurrection” (see Hebrews 11:35).