In his July 3 article for PJ Media Lifestyle, “Christians Owe Gays a Particular Apology,” Christian brother Walter Hudson makes three true and extremely important claims about how American Christians have approached same-sex marriage (SSM) and responded to SCOTUS’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Concurrently he makes several claims with which I cannot agree. In some cases this is because my perceptions and experiences have differed vastly from his, even though we are both Christian American heterosexual men. In other cases, I fail to square his claims with the biblical scriptures, which (I presume) we both regard as authoritative.
Do not skip this caveat: Mr. Hudson has not wronged me, and God willing, I will not wrong him in this reply. We have no private matter to resolve, or any need to confront one another personally of sin, as Jesus requires embattled or embittered believers to do (Matthew 5, 18). Non-Christians who read further will not see two Christians airing dirty laundry or arguing finer theological jargon, but two brothers agreeing that the gospel was and is the only salve for sinners’ wounds. But like many American Christians, we assess those wounds and their causes differently.
I agree with Mr. Hudson on a number of points which can be condensed into three:
- All humans, regardless of quantity, quality, or specificity of sin, are born separated from a holy God and deserve his wrath (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
- Any Christian who has reviled someone else for sin while failing to repent of sin in his or her own life is guilty of hypocrisy and should repent (Matthew 7), certainly before God and possibly to the person he or she hypocritically judged.
- The truest and deepest urgency for all Americans throughout the SSM debate has always been man’s need for the gospel (“good news”) that “while we were dead in our trespasses [i.e., sins], Christ died for us.”
I cannot agree, however, that “our whole side of the marriage debate has been a waste” because we “neglected to address a far more important issue—sin,” or that Christians have “singled out homosexuality,” or that in sharing the gospel the church failed to identify itself as the foremost conglomerate of sinners, for which Christians in general need to apologize to gays in general.
It may be that I belong to an exceptional church, and that the constant barrage of e-newsletters from conservative Christian organizations are a set wholly different than those Mr. Hudson receives, or that when I see so-called Christians wreaking un-Christ-like havoc I dismiss them as bonkers rather than regard them as the authentic, biblical Christians that constitute “the church.”
Or it may be that Christians don’t owe gays that particular kind of apology.
From the get-go, I think the problem of sin, both for individuals and the country at large, has been a prevailing concern for Christians, most of whom know (from personal experience as sinners) that sin ruins lives, families, and communities. Having taught AP U.S. Government and Politics at a conservative evangelical high school, I admit that I eventually grew annoyed with coworkers who seemed unable to discuss the legal side of SSM without conflating it with the biblical/sinful side of the debate.
But these same Christians, whom I would be less tempted to dismiss if they would read an occasional wiki about DOMA or SCOTUS, and whom the world at large does dismiss, are actually the ones who grasped early on that laws and court rulings were never going to solve America’s SSM problem. That is why they would pray so darn much that God would call lost sinners—gay and straight—to Himself. And the colleagues I am thinking of are typical, even stereotypical. Millions of American Christians with “childlike faith” were doing this from the start while being reviled as bigots, while others were brushing up on the full faith and credit clause, and also being reviled as bigots.
I cannot agree that the Bible equates all sins in every sense. Certainly (as discussed) the Bible teaches that every man “falls short of the glory of God” and would be doomed for eternity apart from God were it not for God’s intervention through Christ on man’s behalf. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” At the same time, Jesus answers Pilate, “he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
More to our point, the Bible attaches special meaning to our sexuality, implying that we do greater damage to ourselves if we mishandle it: “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” This applies to sexuals of any prefix. I won’t bring out passages specific to homosexuality—because they are not the point. Mr. Hudson mentioned sin equality merely by way of alleging that Christians have “singled out homosexuality as uniquely abhorrent in the eyes of God.” Have they?
Certainly Christians have prayed more “against” SSM in the last decade than ever in history, just as Christians prayed more “against” abortion in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s than ever before 1973. We can assume Christians were praying more “against” slavery and racism roundabout 1863 than ever before. As we celebrate the Fourth of July, we can guess that Christians prayed more in 1776 than ever before “against” rulers who fail to dispense justice in the service of God. (If you believe sin kills people, including the sinners that are enjoying their sin, a prayer “against” them is a prayer for them.)
If such timely concentration counts as “singling out” homosexuality, then we are indeed cooked. But while I can fault myself and the church for many things, I cannot fault it for answering the door.
The truth is that I genuinely believe that were homosexuals actually to knock on the doors of most authentic, biblical Christ-followers to hash this thing out at the roots—source texts of both sides open—they would be welcomed. Would persons disagree like crazy? Of course. Would the Christian want to maintain a relationship with the homosexual to do this again next week? Probably; I’ve had three such relationships, and theologically, I’m a Pilgrim! Would both persons more completely appreciate the reasons, emotions, fears, and pain of the other’s position? Almost definitely.
But “understanding homosexuality” or “understanding why Christians who otherwise seem like non-bigots think homosexuality is a sin” is not what knocked on the door.
What knocked had nothing to do with homosexuality. Maybe that will knock later. I certainly hope it does, because then both people will be talking about the real problem, sin, instead of only the Christians with childlike faith who look like legal nincompoops because they are talking about it.
What knocked had to do with the final interpretation of certain legal rights according to laws and men. This lacked the eternal significance of sin and the gospel, which Christians would rather talk about to those who will listen, but it threatened momentous consequences for the present, which neither Christians nor non-Christians, gays nor straights, could avoid—so, off to the mattresses.
At the start of the debate 10-plus years ago, many gays felt discriminated against for lacking the newest recognized right in history. Then the tables turned. For the last several years, many straights and particularly Christians have felt discriminated against for the loss of their First Amendment freedoms of speech and the free exercise of religion. The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker are crucified for holding a belief literally as old as man, because their 2,000-year old religion does not recognize a right 15 minutes old.
For Christians not to resist such affronts—not just in prayer or proselytizing, but in Congress and before the Court—would be for them to shepherd in what they believe threatens the society in which they are called to live until God calls them home. That would be a pretty unloving sin of omission—crosswise to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” So, stay at the mattresses.
But while Christians use congresses and courts to steward the societies in which God has placed them, we do need to remember something. Christ died on a cross. So while you were sticking up for the rule of law, did you personally pass up a chance to love your homosexual neighbor? To pray for your homosexual persecutor? To share the gospel with homosexuals? If so, you sinned against God and man; repent. If you burned someone, gay or straight, go make things right—your own sin is a powerful icebreaker for lovingly, biblically confronting someone with the hard truth about their sin—even the sins of hypocrisy and homosexuality.
But please let no one assume that just because Christians “fought the law and the law won,” or rather that “same-sex couples fought the law and same-sex couples won,” the church was more interested in the Hill called Congress than in the hill called Calvary. We would rather discuss the latter hill, but if you know what happened to Jesus there, you know it has never played well in court.