The Problem with Christian Political Opposition to Gay Marriage

Rick Santorum speaking at an event in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

In an appearance before a crowd of college students in New Hampshire yesterday, Rick Santorum was jeered and booed in response to his opposition to same-sex marriage. The exchange, which at one point degenerated into a back and forth over whether or not allowing same-sex marriage would open the the door to polygamy, highlighted a recurring problem with the conservative opposition to same-sex marriage: their approach is wrong.

Bloomberg quoted the candidate for the Republican presidential nomination saying this in response to the criticism: “Because I believe we are made the way God made man and woman, and man and woman come together to have a union to produce children, which keeps civilization going, and provide the best environment for children to be raised.” While there is arguably some merit to the claim that children do better when raised by a man and woman living in a married relationship, Santorum (and the conservative evangelicals to which he is marketing his views) either don’t realize or aren’t concerned with the fact that the government is not an extension of the Christian Church.

Often, Christian opposition to gay marriage sounds like this: “The Bible says that homosexuality is wrong; therefore, we don’t think gay people should have the legal right to marry.”  Well, that’s all well and good, but people who disagree are perfectly legitimate in responding, “So what?”

Before going further, it might help to provide a bit of context.

As I mentioned before, the United States federal government is not an extension of the Christian Church–indeed, the same is true of all governing authority in the United States.  True Christian faith is in fact antithetical to government. Whereas the Old Covenant involved attaining righteousness through adherence to the law, the New Covenant is centered on righteousness by faith in Christ. Government is a secular institution that exists  in response to the need to provide stability in human society and establish boundaries as to what is acceptable conduct for members of that society.

Regardless of what some might say, there is a real separation of religion from state in the United States. The writers of the Constitution realized (and knew from experience, in some cases) the dangers associated with religious government. For a modern example, one need only look to the government of Iran, an Islamic theocracy. While human government arose out of a need to regulate relation and interaction between people of a society, religion is a vehicle through which humans connect to the divine. When the two are mixed, the purposes of both become twisted and grotesque.

History testifies to terrible atrocities that were committed and went unpunished when governing authorities claimed their legitimacy from a god and not from the people they govern. Such a society only functions so long as it’s people maintain their belief in the governing authority’s divine legitimacy or their belief in the divine being itself.

Granted, the United States was, for most of its early history, dominated religiously by various manifestations of the Christian Church. However, in the past century, people from all over the world and of many religious beliefs were attracted to the (mostly) tolerant and (mostly) free society that had been created in America and the nation became a multicultural stewpot. Christians, for their part, have largely yet to accept this fact. Sorry to disappoint, but America is not now nor has it ever been a “Christian nation.” In actuality, I’m somewhat confused as to how a nation can be “Christian” anyway.

What does this shift mean?

It means Christians can no longer rely on the Bible as a basis of argument in public policy debates.

Why?

Because the people they’re arguing with don’t accept the Bible as a legitimate source of truth.

So, this means that arguments like the illustration I used earlier simply don’t work except through application of brute force (i.e., ramming legislation through legislatures or using ballot initiatives to impose a “Christian” way of thinking on non-Christians). That, I’m sorry to say, is both un-American and un-Christian. I wonder if it’s ever occurred to culture-war Christians that all their efforts are actually having the opposite intended effect? Instead of doing their job of spreading the Gospel, they carry signs that say denigrating and hurtful things about gay Americans (I’m not just referring to Fred Phelps) and spend their time attempting to legislate Christian morality.

All this to say that unless conservative evangelicals can come up with legitimate and compelling reasons as to why gay marriage is detrimental to the health of society (and by that I mean more than fear-mongering and Bible-thumping), they stand to lose this fight in a way that will do lasting harm to the Church’s ability to appear as a welcoming place for believer and non-believer alike.

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9 thoughts on “The Problem with Christian Political Opposition to Gay Marriage

  1. I am a Christian and a gay man. I don’t go out and seek sexual relationships as it’s contrary to the Spirit that lives within in me. Still, I am a gay man who is attracted to men. That isn’t something I can change because it’s part of who I am.
    It took me a long time to accept that and a very difficult road to walk because I was raised in a very strict Pentecostal background and I was a boy preacher at the age of eleven.
    Roy-Gene, I’m also very familiar with Oral Roberts from way back when he had a healing ministry on TV. My grandmother followed him very closely, he has been a very influential part in the Faith movement. I say this from looking at your background.
    I respect Rick Santorum for his beliefs but he doesn’t speak out of love when he talks about gay people. He does not see them as Christ sees them because then he would not put them down as he does, nor would he support his positions that hurt the neediest of our society.
    But he, as so many of those in the Evangelical movement will find when they stand before God is that they were a stumbling block instead of a stepping stone to reach out to the lost. They will find out that God’s main purpose for them was to reach out to a lost and dying world and show the love and compassion that God showed when he sent His only begotten son to die on the cross for our sins. Instead, they show hate and push the lost away; thus a great falling away has occurred.
    Thanks for your piece, it was very well written.

      • Christian marriage cuensoling, I believe, has greater potential as an active ingredient in the healing process than any other type of therapy. Why? Because marriage between a man and woman is God’s plan so it only stands to reason that the repair procedures for an unhealthy marriage could be found in His word.My wife and I went through Christian marriage cuensoling provided a trained, licensed, minister of the faith who was exceptionally gifted in using the Word of God to help couples in the reconciliation process. These are important credentials in choosing a counselor. What makes Christian marriage cuensoling effective is the willingness of the couple to truly uncover, forgive, and die-to-self. It has to be understood that none of these things are within our human ability to accomplish alone. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to facilitate the type of radical change that must take place in one’s heart, deep down inside, in order for real change to take place. You’ll know it is happening when your focus is less on what your mate is doing than what you are doing in and with your relationship with God.Fifteen years later, my wife and I are stronger than ever. Has the road been free of bumps? No. But I have heard it said that if the mountain were as smooth as glass, you wouldn’t be able to climb it. We are still living in and by what we learned in Christian marriage cuensoling. Our marriage is not about determination and resolve to make it work; its about the freedom to love one another and let the other be who they are with full faith and confidence that what holds us together is not our resolve, but trust and assurance in Jesus Christ that He is able to sustain us through any storm that might come our way.

    • I totally agree with you my friend… It’s such a shame that so many churches put on a front as if to say ‘you must be a perfect christian to come here’, when actually we know we all have sinful hearts.
      Just look at Jesus, he hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors and all the outcasts in society… The religious leaders hated Him for it! But He died for us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS! If we can grasp that love, then living for Jesus will be a way of life. Can you imagine how easily Christianity would spread if people really grasped the truth? I’ll pray for you in your walk with Christ!

  2. In the end it’s our own choice and we must live with the results. I chose to follow after God not religion or man’s rules. We still have freedom in the United States. Seek HIM with all your heart and he will come near. Know God loves each one of us.

    • Please visit my channel for the uluoppnar truth about homosexuality.A person does not need hatred or any kind of phobia in order to acknowledge important differences between heterosexual attraction / behavior / marriage / adoption and homosexual attraction / behavior / marriage / adoption. Even non-religious people know this.Homosexual activists, with support from the media, have succeeded at framing themselves as noble victims; it’s an effective way to push a social agenda.

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