Caught in a Cake-War Crossfire

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The world is a confusing place to live. It’s hard to be a Christian, not just because following Jesus requires a transformation of the heart, but because the life Jesus calls us to live is founded upon values that seem upside down in our world. In our world it is hard to see how the poor are blessed. Being a peacemaker seems to bring more conflict. Doing good to your enemies seems so naive that we constantly try and figure out when not to, or when to stop loving them. Living out the ethics of Jesus is difficult. And it is time to admit that things are not as black and white as we would like them to be.

Which makes the current conversation about the Arizona law and a businesses right to selectively serve patrons based on sexual orientation difficult.

If I’m honest, I really struggle with this issue: as a pastor, as a Jesus follower, and as an American.

Each of those identities harbor their own tension, and when you combine them (because in America our politics and our religion are more entwined than we like to admit), it is downright difficult. Especially in our current context of polarizing voices and lack of dialogue. This is an issue that has few middle ground voices. The loudest voices are people who are extremely supportive of the bill in Arizona and against same-sex marriage, or equally loud and supportive of same-sex marriage. Personally, I feel trapped in a somewhere-in-the-middle position, and with the loud voices on either side, afraid to say anything because I will get caught in the crossfire of both sides.

But maybe there are many who share my position and need a safe voice to dialogue with; and so let me be a voice whispering into the fray.

If I were a baker, and two men came into my bakery asking for a cake to celebrate their wedding, I would probably bake it. I would not feel that I was being complicit in their sin, or enabling them to commit a sin. Some people may, but it would not rest on my conscience. Regardless of one’s conscience on this issue, one has to admit that we can’t know what every cake is being used for, and along the way we may have sold a cake to a guy who then took it to his mistress for her birthday. Acting as the morality police to ensure every cake is being used in a way that does not compromise Christian morality is exhausting and impossible.

If friends of mine who were gay decided to get married and have a party, I would probably go and celebrate with them. Not because I support their lifestyle, but because they are my friends and I would want to celebrate their joy and I support them as people.

But, and here’s where it gets sticky, if they asked me to officiate the wedding, I would have to say “no.” I do not believe that same-sex marriage is a part of God’s intended design. I believe marriage is a covenantal relationship intended for a man and woman. On the basis of religious conviction I would not perform a marriage ceremony.

Which then leads me to, “If I wouldn’t officiate the ceremony, why would I celebrate or bake a cake? Isn’t that hypocritical?”

Honestly? I don’t know. Maybe it is, but when I pray and think and check my spirit, this where I land. I could not officiate the wedding.

I know many will jump as say, “How can you say that and say that bakers should bake the cake?” For me, and I believe this deeply, there is a vast difference between providing goods and services and presiding over a religious ceremony that is covenantal in nature. I really don’t have profound arguments to expand on that, so I will leave it at that.

Many of the current issues, like same-sex marriage, are so overly politicized that the pastoral questions at hand get lost in the conversation about what laws should be enacted. Which I hate. For the most part I am theologically conservative and pastorally progressive. This makes it difficult to talk about the pastoral implications of friendship, celebration, sin, loving broken people, supporting without condoning, and all the other issues that are not as black and white as we would like them to be. The minute you start talking about those issues and trying to nuance it, follow the spirit, raise questions, and dialogue you get lumped in with some political agenda.

“So you’d bake the cake and think that might be the Christian thing to do? Why do you hate marriage?” Seriously, that kind of faux conversation is what is frustrating a large, moderate group in America who are desperate for honest dialogue to enable us to ethically navigate our way through the current cultural context while holding to religious beliefs. But when we are treated like straw men rather than an actual person, we just remain silent because that fight is exhausting.

But these are actual people. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, LGBT are real people who deserve real conversation. They deserve more than our silence.

So I’d bake a cake. I’d celebrate with them. I wouldn’t officiate. And I don’t know if that means I’m trying to avoid a hard decision either way, but I just can’t shake the feeling that the whole thing is more grey than we like think.

I’m hoping there are a few like me who are looking for good conversation. Who are interested in figuring out how to love our neighbors well, follow Jesus, and not feel like it is dangerous to do so.

In hopes of that, I’m starting this conversation.

photo credit: chotda via photopin cc

  • Jessica

    I just said to my husband, “finally, someone put to print what I’ve been thinking”. Thanks, great points. And yes, you will probably come under fire. **sigh**

  • MorganGuyton

    I don’t think that’s hypocrisy. If I had friends who were of a different faith, I could attend their wedding and celebrate with them, but if they asked me to officiate, I could only give them a Christian wedding. If I were asked to participate in some kind of interfaith worship service and they wanted to do something that was quasi-communion-like but wasn’t the body and blood of Christ, I wouldn’t do it. If someone who was baptized Catholic but never did anything with it had really come to Christ at my church and they wanted to be rebaptized, I wouldn’t do it. One of the things that hit me as I was thinking about my own ambivalence about church hierarchy and tradition in the church is that without law, there is no sacred. The laws are what delineate clean and unclean, sacred and profane. While I land in a different place than you on this particular issue, I can appreciate the difference between guilt by association and messing with God’s sacraments. Also, I don’t think you have to call it pastorally “progressive.” It’s just being pastoral.

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      Thanks, Morgan. I really appreciate some of the example you gave and found them helpful.

    • livingmartyrs

      Morgan, I appreciate where you’re coming from, but this doesn’t quite do it for me.

      1.) The example of people of a different faith falls apart if the same-sex couple shares the same faith. All through the Bible, I see evidence that grace is greater than moral differences, even sin.

      2.) Peter’s vision seriously messed with his understanding of the law, including its intentions and prohibitions. At least on the grounds of food and race, clean vs. unclean is rendered, shall we say, somewhat unpredictable.

      3.) As I read it, marriage is not God’s sacrament, it is mankind’s. People were not made for the law, but the law was made for people. Therefore we choose our meanings and our changes with care and prayerful deliberation, but also with freedom.

      4.) Jesus came to fulfil the law — and he shattered expectations! In him, we have a character who did things with or for tons of people generally feared or despised in that day — some even specifically identified as unclean. He even broke the Law by healing on the Sabbath. He busted up systems of systemic oppression, even physically.

      Now, I am not trying to make a case insisting pastors perform same-sex weddings. When it violates conscience, I think it would be wrong. What I am driving at though, is that we must reduce the rhetoric that makes it sound like any pronouncements are being handed from “The Church”, and are self-evident — instead giving our answers with gentleness and respect.

      I believe that people should generally have the freedom to live out and interpret life’s meaning as they see fit. Which means I support same-sex weddings, and pastors unwilling to perform them. Which puts me squarely into the uncomfortable paradox of freedom.

      And that’s why I believe even more in grace. :-)

      • TallTexan2

        “I believe that people should generally have the freedom to live out and interpret life’s meaning as they see fit.”
        You sound like the new pope … easy on the ears, but not Biblical. No where does scripture tell us to live life as we see fit. Yes, Christ is freedom from the Law, but He’s also Lord and Master … we, as Believers, are to live according to His word and the Holy Spirit’s lead. Not by our own judgement as to what is and is not right.

        • livingmartyrs

          Hey there, TallTexan2. Probably the biggest problem we’re going to have is that you think comparing me to the new Pope is an insult. :-)

          You have said that we are not supposed to lead by our own judgement — what you are missing is that that is a paradox: *you* are exercising your own judgement. Indeed, there is no possible way that we can understand anything — including the Bible — without leaning on our own understanding.

          So if everything requires interpretation, then I believe it is appropriate for us mortals to hold our ideas and interpretations loosely. Willingly submitting to God’s living revelation. Constantly aware that his thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

          A verse like John 21:22 indicates to me that other people’s lives and journeys aren’t within my jurisdiction. I feel Jesus has been asking me the “What is that to you?” question a lot recently! To me, at least, hearing that question is part of accepting Jesus as Lord and Master.

          It’s fine if you don’t agree with me. I wouldn’t have agreed with me years ago, either. But I would like to point out that I’ve included a lot more biblical examples/evidence than you have, and you are the one calling me “not biblical”. That is remarkable.

          • TallTexan2

            I wasn’t being insulting, just making reference to another professing Christian who decided that atheist and other non-believers will indeed find themselves welcomed into Heaven if they follow their hearts and conscience. Of course his proclamation is in direct contradiction to 2,000 years of church teaching and the understanding of the vast majority of Christendom that only those who accept Christ as Savior will gain entrance.

            I never said you were “not biblical” … I said your comment, “I believe that people should generally have the freedom to live out and interpret life’s meaning as they see fit” was not Biblical. Hopefully you can see the difference.

            I agree that we Believer far too often find ourselves driving in someone else’s lane, where it really isn’t any of our business. However, in this case the situation and question was posed: should I attend a party celebrating the same-sex union of gay friends? Thus, we were invited into the other lane.

            Christ did not rejoice or celebrate sin while He walked this earth. He did love the sinner and because of that love (and His righteousness) he offered mankind an escape from the ultimate end of their sin – death. ONLY those who accept this gift will receive that grace. He told those who sinned to go and sin no more – he didn’t head off to a party to celebrate their continuing in sin.

          • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

            I wasn’t being insulting, just making reference to another professing Christian who decided that atheist and other non-believers will indeed find themselves welcomed into Heaven if they follow their hearts and conscience.

            Pope Francis never said that. If you’re going to use someone’s remarks as a critical comparison, it would be helpful to get the remarks right. What Pope Francis said (and what a combination of unbelievers, poor readers, poorly versed readers, and anti-Catholics then wrote nauseatingly much about) was that even atheists are redeemed by Christ: Christ redeemed all of the world. That is not the same as salvation, and it is a perfectly longstanding and Christian understanding. Man was made in the image of God and fell away from that. The redemptive work of Christ, which is not the same as salvation and the inheritance of eternal life in Heaven, is for everyone: not just Israel, not just the descendents of this specific line or that, not just people coming from one background or another: for everyone. He said that atheists could follow their God-given consciences down a path to meet others, including believers. He did not say that this would save them. There still remains the matter of ultimately finding eternal life through Christ, and Pope Francis’s controversial remarks did not contradict or challenge that.

            Given how little most folk, including many Christians, actually know or can distinguish between the redemption of the world and the salvation of an individual, perhaps Pope Francis chose his words somewhat ill-advisedly. Of course, plenty will misunderstand no matter what. Nonetheless, it is worth stressing, he never said that atheists just need to do good in order to get into Heaven. That would be contrary to Roman Catholic dogma as well as the dogma or doctrines or a good many other Christian denominations.

          • TallTexan2

            I think it comes down to our different understandings of what the Pope meant by his words … but you are correct that he did not say that athiest would go to heaven if they followed their conscience. That is what I took, however, from his comments that if they follow their conscience they will do good works – which, contrary to your statement, the majority of Catholics do believe will get one to heaven, or at least into purgatory.

            I also don’t see him as speaking about the world’s redemption here, though I know he has spoken of that at other times. Of course Christ shed his blood for ALL the world, but we’re told that the pathway to destruction is broad … the path to righteousness, narrow. That certainly implies that there will be a far greater number of humanity lost than saved. Many of those will remain lost because they chose to follow their conscience … to stay true to their believes and lifestyles. Doing so has them turning from Christ and ultimately rejecting Him.

            If the Pope is alluding to atheist staying true to their conscience – and that conscience being of God’s doing and direction and thus leading them back to Him, then I would agree with that point. However, realizing our hearts are “desparately wicked,” with a body that seeks pleasure and non-constraint, then the Pope needed to make it crystal clear what happens to those atheist when they don’t “stay true” … when they don’t come to Him. He’s failing to do so, and the fact that he was so ambigious as to what he meant by his “staying true” comment, I would suspect most of the world, particularly the lost, understood him to have said what I “heard” – thus, what a vast majority of folks around the world have reported … your accusations of either bias or reading disorders notwithstanding.

          • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

            That is what I took, however, from his comments that if they follow
            their conscience they will do good works – which, contrary to your
            statement, the majority of Catholics do believe will get one to heaven,
            or at least into purgatory.

            You cannot actually know what the majority of Catholics may wrongly believe, but the Roman Catholic Church does not teach this. For example, “If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the
            law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.” That’s Canon I of Session 6 of the Council of Trent.

            Now you can try to transform this into some discourse on how Pope Francis should have been more careful (because, of course, every statement he makes in any situation should have footnotes handed out to the press and an extensive discourse explaining the terminology and the history of Catholic doctrine to unbelievers) and then put all or most of the blame on him for how biased or ignorant listeners (and a great many are the former, by the way) misconstrue him, but let’s all remember that that wasn’t how you brought him into this. You just said to livingmartyrs, “Hey dude, you like totally sound like that Christian doctrine changing new pope, man” (or words to that exact effect), which was both, despite your denial, an insult or harsh criticism of both livingmartyrs and Pope Francis and, as it turns out, false about the Pope, and now (since you’ve broadened it to the majority of Catholics—I presume, since you’ve surveyed some representative sample of the one billion or so or them, or, in the alternative, because you really, really understand Roman Catholic dogma) you extend the criticism to some hundreds of millions of others and very possibly to the history of the Church. As I said in my previous comment, perhaps Pope Francis should have spoken with more care, but (as I also said) there is no amount of care in the world that will eradicate stupidity, ignorance, and bias, and, I’ll be candid, I detect some combination of at least two of those here.

          • TallTexan2

            “…there is no amount of care in the world that will eradicate stupidity, ignorance, and bias, and, I’ll be candid, I detect some combination of at least two of those here.”

            Don’t be so hard on yourself, Virgil … we’re all just human.

          • TallTexan2

            The “Church” believes in grace + works … not grace alone. I don’t need to query millions of Catholics to determine that. The “Church” also believes that only those in the Catholic Church will be/can be saved. Again, I don’t need to poll millions of Catholics to determine that. And we all know what “Church” history has to say, don’t we?

          • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

            We do indeed. You have bested me, sir, with your scholarly and yet succinct explanation of Roman Catholic dogma. I defer to you.

            I note, however, that the email update of your comment said that it was made by TallTexan2, and yet here now it says only “Guest.” I admire your humility, TallTexan2: clearly, after a moment’s reflection, you decided not even to take credit by “name” for this masterful refutation. You are my better in so many ways.

          • TallTexan2

            Don’t know why it registered me as “guest,” but it certainly wasn’t a ploy. I’ve been very open and coridal. You, on the other hand, have shown contempt, mockery, and denigration. It looks like we at least agree on one thing: indeed, sir, I have bested you … in so many ways.

          • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

            All right, just so we’re perfectly clear about how this played out, TallTexan2. You criticized livingmartyrs by comparing him to Pope Francis on the basis of something Pope Francis never said. I corrected you. Your response was to say, Well, no, the Pope never said that, but he might as well have, and he’s probably leading people down the path to damnation with his choice of words, and anyway most Catholics believe that works get you into heaven. I corrected you on that, even citing Roman Catholic doctrine, and you then said, Well, Catholics believe in grace plus works. Now think about that. Your initial criticism of the Pope and your following criticism of what you think most Catholics believe was not “grace + works.” It was just works. I didn’t get into this to debate whether “grace + works” is a legitimate Christian dogma: I got into it to correct you about your assertion that the Pope and most Catholics believe works get you into heaven, and yet, when you were corrected about that, you changed the topic to save face and find some means of criticizing the Pope and all of Catholicism, and that means of criticism was not what you started with. Rather than simply owning that you were wrong about this, you doubled down by saying, Well, the Pope may not have said what I said he said, but he and all Catholics still believe something else that is wrong, even though it’s not what I criticized livingmartyrs for.

            On top of this, your last set of remarks, putting the word Church in scare quotes and concluding “And we all know what ‘Church’ history has to say, don’t we?” brought out quite plainly what was already visible enough: your thinly veiled contempt for (and, as it turns out, poor knowledge of) the Roman Catholic Church. Your methods in this conversation were insult and misrepresentation from the get-go—to both livingmartyrs and Pope Francis and, later, to the majority of Catholic believers—and then consistent evasion. If I wound up at the end dealing harshly or facetiously with you, I have no shame over it, because my experience is universally that there is no reasoning or level of politeness or delicacy that is effective in conversing with one who shows the attitude you have. I thought I was exposing your poor understanding and contempt, but you wound up exposing them quite nicely yourself.

          • livingmartyrs

            Of course Christ did not celebrate sin. But one of the sins that he called out most consistently was religious self-righteousness. For a lot of my life, I have been on the wrong side of that equation. I have been called out on it, and have felt mightily convicted for it, both. Now when I look at a Christ who insists on leaving the tares in the wheat to prevent killing them both, I would rather let people live their lives and let God work in them however he sees fit, rather than ever risking that my words and actions would bar their door to God altogether.

            That doesn’t mean that I don’t get to ask good questions, but my new emphasis is on relationships, not being right.

            You’ve used the lane metaphor — I want you to more deeply consider who is inviting you to be in their lane. Being invited to a celebration is not the same as being invited to pronounce judgement on a person’s identity or most intimate choices. This is even more true when it comes to offering a commercial service to the public. If we are humble, then how we are perceived is more important to us than our motivations. And in that framework, any time we are perceived to not be showing the fruits of the Spirit, we are impeding the cause of Christ.

          • TallTexan2

            My metaphor was addressed to the author of this blog, not the gay friends who invited him. He says he is torn as to what to do about his gay friends inviting him to celebrate their same-sex union. He poses that dilema to those in this blog and asked for feedback. That’s the lane I’m speaking about.

            No, I dont think that a commercial bakery should refuse service to anyone – except, of course entering the premise without shirts or shoes. :) But I also think that a pastor who speaks out against same-sex marriage shouldn’t then turn around and head off to the party that celebrates the union. That was the question being posed … the quandry the young pastor found himself facing.

  • Sarie Fischer Norval

    I am going through a very intense struggle with the idea of silence as a Christian. I don’t think it is ok to remain silent, and I don’t think we are to end up on the side of history that is condemning people who truly believe they are born gay. I am really struggling with why we feel we need to be against homosexuality. We aren’t moving legally to eliminate divorce. We aren’t moving legally against greed. These are things that Jesus actually verbalized as wrong. I am really open to anyone who wants to try to explain this to me, because when we get to the end of our days, I really don’t want my children to look at my life and see that I stood silent loving the sinner and hating the sin. I don’t want them to think that I stood by and allowed bigotry. I am in a dear friend’s wedding next year as the matron of honor. She is marrying a woman. In my heart I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this, but I feel like as a Christian, I am somehow supposed to think there is something wrong with this. I am growing weary of the politics of it. I am very open to discussion.

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      Thanks for the comment, Sarie. I think you bring up a great point. I think this is where the state’s involvement confuses the issue. As you say, we don’t try and legally remove greed – in fact it is encouraged in some regards.

      A friend recently pointed me to France’s system, which is to make all marriages civil unions in the eyes of the state, and then people can later have a religious ceremony. I think that is an interesting idea.

      I’m also really glad you are supporting your friend.

  • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

    Don’t you think that I Corinthians 8 gives you some guidance in this? If you, with this discernment to celebrate with your friends or bake the cake for the same-sex couple while understanding that it is not a bona fide marriage (just as some stronger believers back in the day may have been able to eat at the idol’s temple without their own injury, because they knew that the idols were false), choose to do any of these things, which are visible acts, do you not produce confusion for those of your fellow believers who lack your discernment and ability to divide activities so discretely? The language of the “stumbling block” is just about the most abjectly misused in contemporary Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestant Christendom (and the term is in I Corinthians 8), but here we have an example that is actually right on point. We live in a time where same-sex marriage is becoming very rapidly accepted, even among Christians. With this cultural tide, it seems fewer and fewer are holding on (and the younger and younger less likely even to grab a hold in the first place) to an understanding of the God-given state of marriage—a state whose “one man, one woman” nature you say here you believe in. Is it too much of a stretch for you to imagine—and even to consider with a bit more care, since, as a pastor, you are a teacher and thus possessed of the greater judgment for your words and deeds—that what you say here as well as what you do with cake baking or same-sex ceremony party going might confound the weaker consciences of those who are not so sure as you about what truly constitutes a marriage?

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      I think there is some weight to that. However, applying that logic to this one case opens up even more because Christians vary on so many issues. Drinking, swearing, going to rated-R movies, being friends with muslims, being a pacifist, marrying previously divorced couples, being rich, owning a gun – all of these could be, and are, stumbling blocks for other Christians. So it doesn’t seem as cut and dry as stated.

      • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

        But those things you list have two problems here: (1) they’re not the matter you’re addressing and stating your own clear view of, which is the divine meaning of marriage, and (2) they’re probably all good examples, unlike what’s in your post, of just how badly “stumbling block” is taken out of context and made to mean something that is not in the text. Just from the phrase “stumbling block” alone, one can—and many do—condemn any kind of association with things that are not deemed Christian, since anything can be a stumbling block to someone. But did the Apostle Paul say avoid anything that could be a stumbling block of any kind to a weak brother? No, of course he didn’t. For goodness sakes, he’d be chiding the Lord Himself for having visited with sinners. He was talking about partaking of something that was dedicated to sin, eating food sacrificed to idols, and the parallel couldn’t be more striking: providing services dedicated to a same-sex marriage or participating in a celebration dedicated to a union that is false in the eyes of God.

        I chose the Corinthians text, because I wanted to address my comment specifically to how you’ve framed this. Here, it scarcely matters whether Christians differ on whether drinking or R-rated movies or pacifism are sins. If you yourself said that you thought same-sex marriages were valid and divinely ordained marriages, I wouldn’t have cited that text, and I probably wouldn’t have commented. But, regardless of what anyone thinks on any of those other topics, you’ve made your own position on this one plain: “I believe marriage is a covenantal relationship intended for a man and woman.” That the false marriage is akin to the false idol is beyond argument, when you say that you yourself regard the only true marriage as that between one man and one woman. I’m not arguing whether same-sex marriage is righteous or evil, true or false: I’m only trying to speak from what your view of it is, and your position on it compels a more serious consideration of how participating in any devotions to it contradicts the Apostle Paul’s admonition. Not because it is broadly a stumbling block (an insipid reading that leads to all manner of foolishness), but because it is precisely the kind of stumbling block he was talking about.

        • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

          My apologies, because I think I lost you and I want to be clear about this.

          Are you using the 1 Corinthians 8 text on account of my conscience, or for the conscience of other Christians?

          Because if you are talking about my conscience, then 1 Corinthians 8 doesn’t really apply, and my guess is you know that.

          And if you are talking about the consciences of other Christians, it may apply. But I don’t see a direct correlation. 1 Corinthians 8 is about the consciences of Christians who likely, because they are Corinthian converts, would have sacrificed to the idols and thus be compromised and tempted to sin by the eating of the meet. Craig Bloomberg, professor of NT at Denver Seminary says about 1 Corinthians 8 “To apply to a cake-baking situation, you’d need a weaker brother saying that if they saw you selling cake for a gay wedding, they were going to not only bake a cake but go commit some sin. Somewhere in the world of 7 billion people, there might be someone like that. But I don’t think so.”

          This is how I am approaching the 1 Corinthian 8 text. Are you seeing it differently? What am I missing?

          • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

            I’m not sure how you think that I may have started reversing the conscience roles, Pastor Pyle, but, no, I am not putting you in the position of the brother with the weaker conscience. Your conscience is material to the passage as a conscience that regards those with weaker faith, but it is the weaker who are the chief concern of being swayed in the wrong direction. As I noted in my first comment, consider the cultural tide. Many believers of middle age and beyond are letting go of commandments against homosexual behavior and the understanding that marriage as ordained by God is between one man and one woman, and younger believers are coming up in a culture (and in many cases taught by their parents or pastors or other authors or teachers) that places them in that position ab initio.

            So let’s think about the quote from Professor Bloomberg, and how the last two sentences of it seem to give that pretty short shrift. Surely we are not being so absurd as to say that, if you are seen baking a cake for a same-sex marriage, a person inclined towards heterosexual sex is going to run out and commit a homosexual act or marry a member of his own sex. But what of those whose understanding of what marriage means is much weaker than yours? There can’t be any doubt that, in this culture and with the tide of youth being raised to think that homosexual unions, marital and otherwise, are perfectly normal and even to construe Scripture to support the notion, a good many are of these weaker consciences: weaker specifically on this issue. If they see you lend yourself in some way to an act or event that is devoted to a same-sex marriage, this is precisely like lending oneself to the meal devoted to an idol.

            Again, rather than arguing about what the definition of marriage is or whether homosexual behavior is a sin, I am approaching this strictly from what you have stated is your view of marriage. (To be sure, I have unambiguous views of these other things, but such debates on the Internet tend to be futile, and in any case I don’t think those arguments are material to your post anyway.) You have put it forth clearly that you hold with some strength to a particular and godly view of marriage, and that same-sex unions are not a part of it. Many of your fellow believers are a great deal weaker in this conviction or lack it altogether. Your example is just more of what they need—and indeed are getting enormously from our culture—to stray or stray further from the very godly understanding that you yourself profess. That’s why I Corinthians 8 is right on target here.

          • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

            Thanks for taking the time to reply and help me understand. I did not really think you were referring to me, but was having a hard time figuring out how you were using the passage.

            This makes sense to me, and I have not considered the passage in this way. I will continue to think and pray through this perspective.

            This is also exactly why I wants to frame the post as a conversation.

          • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

            Happy to have conversed, Pastor. Best to you in reflecting on it further. Thanks for the exchange.

  • http://www.gatebeautiful.ca bekka

    Interesting. I don’t think you’re being hypocritical to say you would celebrate with your friends, but not officiate their wedding ceremony.

    There’s a big difference between believing the law should treat people equally (in the case of same-sex marriage), and believing that you should be responsible for officiating same-sex wedding ceremonies.

    These days I keep coming back to Luke 6:27-35, and the conclusion I keep reaching is that repeatedly doing good for our “enemies” might have the end result of us finally seeing “them” as people, too. We might finally recognize that we share more in common than we initially thought. Fears, insecurities, desires of our hearts may ultimately look very similar and how might our hearts be formed more like God’s if we saw our common ground as humanity?

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      Yes! I am most challenged on controversial issues when I stop to consider the humanity of the person holding the opinion I disagree with. Recognizing the humanity of the “other” helps slow down the rhetoric and changes the posture.

  • Graham Ware

    I’m in the boat with you Nate. So if it’s hypocrisy, then at least you’re not alone in it. Part of the issue I struggle with is the legal side. The government, which is technically a non-religious entity hands out marriage licenses. For most of history, the state had no actual role in marriages, so the Church (or other religious institution) governed these things. So, political decisions have legal implications for clergy (Christian pastors/priests, as well as Rabbis, Imams, etc). So the conflict is inevitable. In Canada, when SSM legislation was passed, the gov’t did consult religious leaders, and did include a clause which guaranteed the right of the religious leader to decline without fearing legal action for discrimination/hate crime. But the tension is still there for many of us.

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      Thanks, Graham. It’s nice to know I’m not alone!

    • TallTexan2

      But those same pastors in Canada risk arrest and imprisonment for condemning same-sex relations as being sinful. And while, for now, pastors are exempt from having to perform SSM ceremonies, marriage commissioners are not. Trust me, it will not be long before it will also be illegal for pastors not to conduct same-sex ceremonies. That’s why it’s called the slippery slope ….

  • Evan Coleman

    I appreciate your honesty in this post. Growing up, black and white were mainly the only colors that I was taught. It was not till college that these things began to come into question. Issues, like this one, caused me to realize that following Christ is much more complex then anyone had led me to believe. That was a difficult realization to face.

    Now, as far as the main topic of this post, I have viewed this situation in terms of who we are called to serve/love. It seems that our love for “sinners” has become nothing more than telling them that they are wrong. While I think this can be an aspect of loving someone, it is not the only aspect of it. And if it becomes the only aspect, then I would argue it is not love at all.

    I think Christ is an example of this. He did not spend his entire time on earth telling every individual person why they were wrong and sinful. Again, he did spend some of his time doing this, but I would argue that he spent more of his time serving and loving others, especially others who disagreed with him. Isn’t that what the cross is? The ultimate sacrifice/service for all; for those who agree and disagreed with him that they might be saved.

    That brings me to this AZ situation (and the Duck Dynasty controversy). If we are not serving/loving those who we are telling are sinners, are we loving them at all? Somehow, the full scope of loving someone has become us telling them that they are wrong, which I find to be incredibly unfaithful. I think we, like you said, must learn how to engage them. We must learn the ways that, within our own Christian restraints, we can serve/love them. We must learn how to be the fullness of Christ’s love for them; doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they do, but it does mean that we love and accept them no matter what.

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      Thanks for the comment. I think it can be loving to tell the truth, however, that is used too often in my mind. We need to learn how to engage in our differences so that love isn’t just spouting what we believe to be true.

      Or another way to say it, we need to be in relationship with people.

  • http://danstringer.net Dan Stringer

    Thanks so much for voicing this, Nate. As you said, the whole thing is more grey than we like to think. Moderate voices don’t speak up as loudly, but that doesn’t mean we’re not engaged and actively wrestling through these complex issues. There are so many angles to this, including the pastoral, which you captured well here:

    “Many of the current issues, like same-sex marriage, are so overly politicized that the pastoral questions at hand get lost in the conversation about what laws should be enacted. Which I hate.”

    I’m someone who is increasingly choosing silence when topics like this come up off the cuff. If someone truly wants my opinion and will listen, I’ll gladly share it. But I don’t feel obliged (even as a pastor) to weigh in every time controversial topics are mentioned informally. A lot of times, people are simply venting their anger, which is important in its own way.

    And while It still bothers me when others assume I automatically agree with them by virtue of being a Christian pastor, I’ve made the mistake too many times of casting my best pearls before those who aren’t remotely in the mood for nuance.

  • TallTexan2

    Jesus is not okay with sin, whether it be in our life (where we’re the most comfortable and forgiving of sin), or in the lives of others. God calls sexual relations between those of the same sex to be an abomination to Him. Frankly, that’s pretty stern language and certainly not something that leaves me wondering what God thinks or feels about it. There are also other sins that He, too, labels as an abomination to Him. Should we also be accepting of those sins … even celebrating the result of their manifestations in others?

    Many evangelicals have desperately tried to straddle the fence on this issue of same sex relationships. Some have even jumped over the fence and joined in with those who are vocally supportive of people engaging in this sin. I simply can’t find any scripture that leads me to believe that is what God desires of us … or how such behavior could possibly reflect our being the “salt of the earth.”

    The Bible is replete with example after example of what happened when people disobeyed or when Believers started acting like non-believers, and it was NEVER good. There was always a price to be paid. Always. The same applies today.

    • Tim

      Thank you tall Texan 2, and Virgil Morant for your honest stand with what is clearly stated in the scripture. It is not our right to ever “water down” truth in order to pacify our human desire to be accepted by other humans who have chosen to believe only the portion of God’s Word with which they can agree. This has been going on since the fall in that garden long ago. Virgil, I especially appreciate the honest thinking & clarity you brought back into this discussion. I have noticed that most responses have been of the “my feeling” type. It is sad when truth is sacrificed to the changing nature of a humans emotion & feeling. Thankful for true grace & that God does not change….otherwise how can we believe any of it, or know what stands & what we may ignore, all because we each have different feelings? Sometimes it really takes guts to stand with God when the culture calls you “intolerant”.

      • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

        For me, this isn’t an issue of watering down truth – at least I hope not. My friends know where I stand, and there are certain lines I can not in good conscience cross.

        1 Corinthians 5:9 comes to mind where Paul writes, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” The question then is, how do we relate to people of the world who do not share the same religious convictions while at the same time not compromising what is reveal in scripture? That’s what I am trying to work out in this post.

        • Tim

          Here is how it would go…….”As you are dear friend’s of mine, I hope you will understand my dilemma ……I so appreciate the invitation to your celebration & am honored you would want me to be there. In this situation I am tested because I value your friendship, but I am unable to celebrate a union which my faith, my God makes clear is not what He intended. My 1st allegiance has to be to my unchanging God.
          Down the road I would be honored to share more deeply with you both about why I take this path.

          Of course it is a hard thing for a redeemed “sinner” who now has much mercy for other fallen image bearers, to have to stand with the truth when we are afraid it will cause that man to think of us as “judge mental harsh Christians”
          We can love them, but we cannot “celebrate” their continued path away from their creator.
          People want something to believe in that is above their changing feelings.
          This is just the a changing social norm of the moment, their will be more to come & this one will be forgotten……..so where do we stop following the world, & trying so hard to make a “lost” man except us & our God, at the expense of watering down who God is………He is the thrice holy, unchanging “I Am” we are losing this view of God! When we lose this, we also lose the Amazement for the cross.
          Love for your same sex marriage friends will be evident by your continued care & interaction with them, not by you confusing them by “celebrating ” a union you have just told them you could not officiate because your faith & your God did not intend for it.

          • TallTexan2

            Excellent!

  • BreakingBadventist

    Oh my gosh, thank you so much for posting this. The past week or so I’ve just wanted to scream….maybe cry a little…and then scream all over again. It’s been so frustrating with the constant bombardment of NOISE on both sides of this issue. Your post here was like a breath of fresh air! Personally, I’m probably a smidge more right of center than your position, but your questions and points you brought up…. YES!

    The other night I went back to Romans, which I know the right has been using Chapter 1 as a club because Paul was pretty clear there about the gay/lesbian (yup, both) relationships. But apparently Romans has more than one chapter (I too was SHOCKED). And wouldn’t you know, Chapter 2 starts out saying that while we might THINK we can judge and condemn all the folks in Chapter 1….yeah no, because we’re just as guilty as they are of sins. You know, like what Jesus said about the sawdust in your brother’s eye for the plank in your own?

    I do think there is both right and wrong in the world, and even if it’s not popular sometimes you do have to say no or take a stand, but what I think gets WAY to lost in the conversation is the simple fact that we are ALL screwed up, just in different ways. Why not take a breath, admit that, and maybe work together on building better relationships, with God and each other?

    Anyway, all that mess just to say thanks for posting this, I really really needed it tonight.

  • Liezl Pienaar

    “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold, a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!” Matthew 11:19

    “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

    I feel like most of the time when us Christians “stand on our rights”, we really alienate the rest of the world. I think many of us Christians would be offended today with Jesus if we saw who he hung out with.

    I believe that if we walk in absolute love and integrity towards all people, we will find that the Lord will uphold our rights and our integrity. Does this mean we condone sin? Absolutely not. Grace is there to keep us from sinning, not to condone it.

    Thank you for a thought-inspiring blog. I find myself agreeing with your point of view.

    • TallTexan2

      Jesus loved the sinner … he met with and mingled with sinners. However, he NEVER condoned their sin. He told the woman caught in the very act of adultery to “Go and sin no more.” What if the story had not ended that way, but rather had Christ telling her, “hey, I’ll meet you and your adulterous partner for dinner and we’ll celebrate your union?” Wouldn’t happen. Christ would not be attending this same-sex celebration … there is no difference.

      • Liezl Pienaar

        Exactly :). I just think sometimes Christian’s judgmental attitudes scare unbelievers away…and sadly many, many Christians would never dream of intentionally being friends with/mingling with unbelievers. As a missionary living in Africa (and I’m pretty sure it’s the same in the rest of the world), I have seen time and time again that it is through being RELATIONAL that people are drawn to Christ in us. To me the question is not so much “Do I bake, or don’t I bake?” or even “Do I attend or don’t I?”, but rather, how can I be Christ to this person in their situation, without compromising my beliefs.

  • Roger Williams

    I am not sure that even knowing that a cake will be used to celebrate something against our conscience would preclude us from selling it. What if we sold mattresses or homes? Would we refuse them to an unmarried heterosexual couple living together (also engaging in sexual immorality – according to the semantic range of porneia)? I think we would see that we are not causing a sin or even being complicit in it.

    Do I want to live in a church culture that would chastise people for freedom of conscience? Probably not.

    Do I want to live in an American culture where people are legally forced to do something against their conscience? Probably not.

    One modifier to me would be 1 Corinthians 5:9-11. It does seem to pose a whole other set of responses if we are talking about folk who claim the name of Christ.

  • Alan

    Dear Nate, I want to thank you for your thoughtful and gentle treatment of this, as well as so many other issues that challenge us to live in a more Christ-like manner. I can absolutely identify with your struggle to choose the “right” path with an issue as charged as this one, but more than that, I respect and appreciate your desire to create a space for dialogue and openness. As Christians, we are often caught between our desire to strive towards holiness and our call to love our neighbor as ourselves, and it is much too easy to side with those who would polarize everything and see no gray areas, no tension, and no struggle to love, even in the face of disagreement.

    Being gay as well as Christian myself, I have often known the experience of being seen as the “other” from both sides of this particular discussion, and it is not an enjoyable place to be. In some sense it’s easier to understand why, being Christian, I would sometimes face discrimination from other gay individuals, but this is the case far less often, and it is far less hurtful than when I experience discrimination, “correcting,” and other sorts of dehumanizing treatment from other Christians because I’m gay. The reality is that, even as Christians, we all have differences in belief, and even differences in the way we view what it is to live a life of faith. If someone falls this way or that on any particular issue, it is my job, as a follower of Christ, to love that person, to wish the best for them, and to point them more towards Christ. It is their job then, not mine, to reconcile whatever it is they believe with God. Any disagreement we may have is an opportunity for me to love them, not to come at them with demeaning judgments and self-righteousness. Jesus said in Matthew “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

    So how is it then that we can create space for our neighbor, who may believe differently than we do, for the one who has been hurt one too many times, for the one who believes the same as we do, but is full of anger, or for the one who is so caught up in their own belief that they’re unable to see the human on the other side of the argument? How did Jesus do it? By sharing humanity, giving of himself, and committing to love people. I’ve seen myself in each one of those who I could now consider “the other,” and if realizing that doesn’t teach me about humanity, about our shared experience, and about God’s love for all individuals doesn’t make me want to set aside differences and see others as God’s beautiful sons and daughters, then sadly I don’t think anything will.

    Sometimes it is tiresome, sometimes I feel so drained from trying to love (and usually failing) that I think I can’t go on. But thank God that I can turn to him, that his grace is unending, his favor lasts a lifetime, his strength is made perfect in our weakness, and his joy is made new every morning. As it says in Isaiah: Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

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  • http://jennainabudhabi.wordpress.com/ Jenna Griffith

    Thank you for your honest comments. I totally agree that so often any point of view has to be pegged into a political or religious agenda. I find that I too fall somewhere in the middle – and I feel that I haven’t made my mind up about where I stand. It’s really hard to find a safe place to just ask questions and get honest answers or just plain safe dialogue. I feel like our society has stopped the process of questioning, and truly exploring issues. Like you said this is such a grey area and we can’t have these black and white answers – quite frankly the black and white answers I find to be hypocritical, excluding, and exhausting. Give me real people, with real questions, and empathetic hearts. Your post reminds me that I’m not alone in feeling stuck somewhere in the middle. Thank you.

    • TallTexan2

      Jesus has a term for those “stuck in the middle” – He called it “lukewarm.” And He said that He would rather have us either hot or cold as lukewarm makes Him spew it from his mouth. The Bible is not ambiguous about whether or not same-relationships are wrong. As I stated earlier, when God labels something an “abomination” unto Him, you can rest assured that he considers it to be a black and white issue. Our problem today is that far too many Christians have listened to the siren call of the media, public opinion, and even from other so-called Christians who have decided that God is wrong in this regard … that the Bible is “outdated” or otherwise not relevant in today’s world. Sin is sin and when we decide to not call it that anymore, we, as the Bible declares, deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. This is what is real, Jenna: what will you do with Jesus? It does not get any more real than that.

      • http://jennainabudhabi.wordpress.com/ Jenna Griffith

        Let me just add that the Bible also calls the following an “abomination”: eating anything from the sea that doesn’t have fins or scales (like lobster, shrimp, or oysters), divorce, love of money, perversity, liars, troublemakers, and arrogance. Should we also not serve these people cake? Should we also not show these people friendship? Jesus says to love your neighbor – if you neighbor was gay would you not show him love and grace and humanity? Because Jesus would. TallTexan2: what will you do with Jesus? I say let him without sin refuse to sell the first cake!

        • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

          Since I just got this email update, I’m going to take a moment out of my morning to jump in on this one. It’s really not an honest reading of Scripture to cite the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament like this. The Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) disposed of the vast majority of them: Christians are not obligated to follow the dietary rules of Judaism. The commandments against fornication, however, were not abrogated: they were in fact affirmed.

          As for the rest of those sins or any others, surely we are all able to understand the difference between generally associating with or providing some service for this type of sinner or that, on the one hand, and lending one’s services directly to a sin or a celebration of it. Does someone go to a cake baker and ask, “I’d like you to bake a cake that will help me to divorce my wife” or “I’d like to celebrate having an affair with a woman other than my wife with one of your delicious cakes, and, after I’ve placed my order, I’m going to hire Elaine Huguenin to take photographs of my mistress and myself carrying on our affair. We’re gonna frame ‘em.”

          I’m being a bit comical about this, but the criticism I’m poking fun at is a bit on the absurd side. Everyone of us is a sinner. If you stopped serving sinners, you’d go out of business, and, more important, nothing in Scripture commands that we render no service to sinners anyway—quite the contrary. Giving an adulterer or a liar or a troublemaker a birthday cake is not the same as dedicating a cake specifically to any of his sins.

        • TallTexan2

          Jenna, I make no mention of ‘serving cake” … what I would not do is make them a cake (or attend their ceremony, encourage them) to celebrate their deciding to live a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s word. That’s the point I’m concerned about. Of course we are to show our neighbors the love of Christ. Love thy neighbors is a commandement, not just a suggestion. But Christ is talking about loving them for the kingdom … not joining in and celebrating their sin. You seem to be confusing the two. We as Christians can love ALL people and by doing so, hopefully showing them the way to Christ. I do that by being kind … being gracious … and by undertaking works that exemplify the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. I don’t do that by joining with them in their celebration to live together as a married couple. Their actions violate God’s desire for us. I hope this clarifies ….

  • TallTexan2

    Frankly, I am puzzled as to why so many in this Forum believe that same-sex relationships are a “gray area” … “hard to find a comfortable position – caught in the middle.” I find the Bible to make it crystal clear – man is not to lie with man as with a woman. Period. I also find the Bible to make it crystal clear about how God feels about this act: He calls it an abomination. Nothing “gray” about that … no sense of being “caught in the middle.” Same-sex relationships are a sin. Doesn’t matter what the media says. Doesn’t matter what this association or that association has to say about the matter … doesn’t even matter if denominations have decided that the Bible (aka God) is wrong, outdated, or bigotted.

    I’m sure some in here will label me as intolerant … hateful … even “un-Christ like” for my comments. The Bible is a sword … cutting asunder the word says. Very little cuts more to the bone than being told we are sinners … that we are not worthy of Christ’s love, much less his death. Yet, He shed His blood … gave His life … all so that we could be sanctified. Why would we dare defile or otherwise minimize what He has done by condoning (supporting is condoning, by the way) an act of sin? Yes WE ALL have sinned. But God tells us to repent (turn away) from that sin … to run from sin. Not to embrace it, celebrate it, or minmalize it, either in ourselves or in others.

    I submit that we need to take inventory about our Christian walk. Are we, as the Bible calls us, a “peculiar people … salt of the earth?” or are we more like those in the Bible who compromise their beliefs, who disobey God? The choice is ours. Will we take a stand even as the world screams that God is dead, or at least wrong? Or will we, too, cajole, try to get along with, or even support sin?

    • chrisvstar

      I personally find it difficult to ‘judge’ homosexual behaviour so strictly when I think about how badly we christians have shone as examples of marriage when it comes to things like marriage and divorce.
      This issue of the sanctity of marriage I guess you might call it.
      Sure God allowed for it in the bible, and as an example, someone like King David (who God clearly loved) performed badly in my opinion, but Jesus himself said that divorce was only allowed because we had such hard hearts or maybe we could never live up to having marriage the way He intended (or something to that effect – Matthew 19).
      I don’t have stats to quote but I have read that divorce rates for christians/church goers are rather high.
      (I might also add that I’m separated and not living with my wife for over 2 years now)

      If the church had a much cleaner slate in terms of marriage, then I’d be more inclined to accept that we should stand more firmly on not supporting same sex marriages.

      and even if it was legal everywhere, ultimately it comes down to us – members of the church – will we live by the law of man or the law of God?

      It seems to me that the church are putting an overly high emphasis on homosexual marriage being a lot worse than it really is.

      • TallTexan2

        Chris, it’s God who has judged same-sex relationships to be an abomination – mankind doesn’t get to set the “rules.” Pointing to bad behavior by others in an attempt to justify bad behavior by others, as you have done here, is a non-starter. We are ALL sinners. We are to judge people by their fruits, not by what sins they’re committing. I agree that there are some in the church who are putting too much emphasis on this issue, but that is what happens when an issue such as this is pushed upon the church and Christians in general. You can’t turn on a tv, computer monitor, go to the show, or pickup a newspaper without being bombarded by articles/stories about same-sex relations. It’s in vogue now and the whole nation is talking about it. God hasn’t changed … He still calls it sin and tells sinner to “go and sin no more.” He forgives only if we turn away/repent from our sin.

        • chrisvstar

          I’m not trying to justify bad behaviour, rather, I’m thinking more about if many christians are in fact ‘qualified’ to judge or speak out regarding ‘proper’ marriage, when many Christians divorce and cannot shine as lights to the world as an example of what a ’till death do us part’ marriage should be.

          Is that a fair comment? I mean, If we fail in a sin then is it actually reasonable for us to preach to others about not committing the same sins?

          Separately now – I’m feeling a bit unsure about us using the term, ‘abomination’.
          How to put this…
          Are same sex relations of equal importance for us as those that cheat in their business practices or those who lie? Liars and cheaters have been labelled abominations too. Our politicians often lie, but there are not so many in the church voicing their concerns and wanting to keep them accountable to their election promises if/when they are broken, but a lot of christians get very vocal over gay marriage.

          I mean, when did we see christians frequently hold our elected representatives accountable to scripture for a broken election promise and call them an abomination?

          Yet we love using the abomination card to make a strong and convicting, authoritative case to condemn homosexual relations.

          • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

            Is the importance of speaking out against same-sex marriage really so hard to grasp, especially in contrast to such examples as the ones you give, cheating in business and lying in politics? Those latter things have always been recognized as wrong, and plenty of people complain about them. On top of this, one need have no recourse in our culture to specifically Christian texts, since pretty much every serious person of any religious or irreligious persuasion agrees that deceitfulness is immoral. So it is not a uniquely Christian notion or a notion that Christianity holds onto in the face of widespread opposition. No one is proposing that we encourage businesses to cheat or that politicians ought to lie to their constituents. And I think that plenty of people complain about and act against deceptive business practices and political deeds: they just don’t particularly need to be led from the pulpit or cry about it in their churches (although it’s not like preachers have nothing to say on these topics). Civilization also agreed about same-sex marriage—agreed, that is, that there was no such thing—for thousands of years … until now. Now that bit of morality is being radically challenged Really, I think the difference between these things is quite striking.

            You may be right that abomination is thrown out as a term of convenience here: even though it is also used a good many times in Scripture in reference to things besides homosexual activity, those other things don’t get the abomination treatment so much. So then let’s get past the word and those who use it bombastically. Do opponents of same-sex marriage still, without such terminology, put “an overly high emphasis on homosexual marriage being a lot worse than it really is,” as you say in your prior comment?

            We have this bizarre notion these days that marriage is a creation of the state, which is absurd and historically false. One might as well say that charity is a creation of the state, since it is subject to particular laws of taxation, or that the state invented automobiles and driving. The union of man and woman and its inherent and inescapable consequences existed before the state, and the uniqueness of the relationship was inherent to it and easily recognized. It is an “invention” of nature. One need not even argue the point to an atheist with reference to God. By its very nature, heterosexual activity yields children, and this gives rise to further relations and duties and keeps the species in existence. It is the primary means of transmission of life and culture and society through the generations. The state takes account of such things. The same cannot be said of homosexual relations, which, in order to imitate heterosexual relations for anything but their individually pleasurable or emotional qualities, have to have calculated intervention: you can be sexually attracted to or romantically love anyone, but it will never lead to children unless you get some that came from their only source: heterosexual union. And yet now, besides being asked to upturn a vast length of time’s worth of moral and spiritual understanding of human sexuality, we are asked to treat as materially identical two relationships that are materially quite different.

            People get all of that. Even if they don’t think about it in as much detail as I’ve just laid out, they get it intuitively. What is happening is a radical change. And how many times has it been said, “This shall go no further” (as in, for instance, ministers or religious bodies will never be punished for their scruples on this issue), and then, whaddya know, things go further. People get that too. Quite regardless of whether one is in favor or opposed, it really shouldn’t be a mystery why it’s a big deal to a lot of people.

          • chrisvstar

            Cheers Virgil, “an overly high emphasis” – yeah, i guess I was specifically thinking about this use of the word ‘abomination’, used to seem more powerful (seems we have discussed this a lot now).

          • chrisvstar

            and it seems you get what I’m saying – so now I’m still interested in this idea of whether we are really ‘qualified’ as Paul put it – in telling people how marriage is supposed to be.

            I’m not suggesting homosexual relations are ok, but I think our wanting to engage in such discussions regarding what is right and wrong, if we take a good look at ourselves (the church), i think it’s fair to say we have failed miserably and are not good examples to the world with divorce rates in the church, yet we are desperately trying and over-emphasising (when using terms like abomination) to preach against homosexual marriage – let’s face it, this is a marriage issue.

          • http://lostreef.blogspot.com/ Virgil T. Morant

            You said in another comment you’ve left that you’ve been looking for “divorce rates.” I have heard, and it would not surprise me if true, that Christians have about the same likelihood of divorce as non-Christians. As for overall “rates,” I would caution that these are troublesome statistics. It is impossible to measure the incidence directly for a good many reasons, so these statistics are in their own ways more troublesome than just some survey of a sample of the population. I’ll spare the comment thread a discussion of what makes this difficult to measure.

            As for qualifications, I think my own remarks yesterday actually addressed this, although I didn’t spell it out. The cultural change in our world, which is also taking place in a good many churches, represents a radical and severe change in what many regard as dogma and what almost certainly just about all regard as morality. It scarcely seems especially noble or intelligent to say, “Well, we should sit this one out, while the culture and our very churches are radically transformed, because some, oh, thirty or forty percent of our own first marriages end in divorce. Let’s get those divorce rates down, and then, after the moral and spiritual landscape around us has been transformed, we’ll try to deal with those other things.” Surely it is troublesome if one individual Christian, mired in sin within his marriage and doing nothing about it, decides to confront and deride a practicing homosexual (and probably using words like abomination), and such behavior would in fact be contrary to Scripture, but a church, faced with something such as this radical transformation of our understanding of sexual morality, surely does no inherent wrong in trying to have a voice in the controversy.

          • TallTexan2

            I believe the point you’re missing is that the same-sex issue is not on par with a politician lying. Yes, they’re both sins, but I don’t have a politician trying to force his sin upon me as being an acceptable lifestyle … or wanting to charge me with hate speech for speaking out against his sin … or working to change the definition of lying, as gays/lesbians have done with marriage. Unfulfilled campaign promises, or even outright lies, by politicians will not normally undermine the family unit … that cannot be said of those pushing for states to recognize same-sex relationships as marriage.

          • chrisvstar

            great reply!

            My other question still remains unanswered by anyone regarding our qualification, and in general the way the church looks after marriage now.

          • chrisvstar

            reading back over what I was saying now throughout this thread – it seems to have been only responses to me regarding whether divorce is ok or not, and me having a go at ‘abomination’, but please read my posts again – I have been trying to discuss predominantly this issue of how the church treats marriage now.

            (I can find many articles online that talk about divorce rates but how can I know which are the best source of information?
            Plenty of them seem to share the view that christians divorce rate is not a lot different to those who are not part of a church or christian faith.)

            I feel like I’m just repeating myself again in this latest post.

            The church is fighting so hard for keeping marriage between a man and a woman, but it seems the church is rather more worry free regarding divorce.

            It’s a bit like we are saying, yeah, let’s do marriage God’s way, the way we are told to in the Bible, but divorce, oh, that’s not so bad – but this feels to me like a double standard. The classic case of taking the bits of the Bible we believe more strongly in and pushing those views, but not taking other issues as holding the same importance.

            (that’s also kinda why I bought up a comparison of abominations too – why is one more of an abomination than another).

            Maybe I’m talking too much. I don’t know how to get this message across.

  • Joel M

    I’m way late to the party, but I think I’m at more or less the same place you were when you wrote this post. I’m really not sure where I’d draw the line between being a decent human being to my fellow human beings and assisting or endorsing something I believe God forbids. So, this post is nice to read after hearing so much that makes it out to be more clear-cut than it is to me.

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  • LGBT Alumni of CN

    It bothers me that you would not officiate a same-gender marriage. Look, I fully understand that the vast majority of your information concerning God’s wishes for mankind comes from the Books of the Bible. However, the various books and letters that make up scripture are only one of several tools we should be using when it comes to understanding what God wants for us.
    So many gay Christians can go back to a specific time in their lives where we spoke DIRECTLY to God and learned of His love and acceptance of how He made us.
    There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God fully intended for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals to be a part of His plan and creation.
    As a heterosexual pastor, I’m guessing that you never had to face the spiritual dilemma that comes with being gay. So many of us have heard over and over that God loves us–but doesn’t love our orientation and attractions. LGBT people have been chased away from their love of God because this message has been pounded into our heads from a very young age.
    But there are those of us who went to God for guidance–went directly to the source to hear from Him on the matter.
    We know where God stands on the issue. We just don’t understand why there are those of you who claim to know about this issue better than us.
    We have listened to spiritual leaders for centuries–telling us how God feels about homosexuality. Now, it may be time that you listened to us–those who have had to struggle with it–those who have gone to God directly about the matter.

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      Thanks for reading and posting. I’m sorry my belief on this bothers you. I understand why it would. The question for me is, “If you are convinced of your beliefs and I am of mine, how do we co-exist?”

      • http://lgbtalumniofcn.wordpress.com tomcogburn

        One of us has to be right. This is a black and white issue. Either you believe that God created gays and lesbians or you do not. And if you believe that God created gays and lesbians, then you have to believe that God wanted us to be happy in the same way as heterosexual individuals.
        Science gives us some insight into the issue of homosexuality. As we do in so many instances, we can look at the animal kingdom and see that scientists have identified countless other species that engage in homosexual behavior–some of them mating for life.
        Furthermore, there has been overwhelming testimony from the LGBT community that indicates that same-gender attraction emerges psychosocially just as opposite-gender attraction.
        Finally, since the 40’s and 50’s psychological science has shown that heterosexuals and homosexuals are equally functional in their abilities to work, recreate, worship, raise children, contribute to society, and so on. In fact it was these early studies that eventually led medical and psychological scientists around the world to drop homosexuality from the various lists of medical and mental health disorders.
        Contemporary society no longer views various races or ethnic groups as being only partially human. All humans, we hold, are created equally.
        Ancient civilizations did not hold these beliefs. Slaves were considered to be animals or tools who simply knew how to speak as human. Aristotle said, “…for a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.”
        So, if we can hold that scientific knowledge is capable of overturning the beliefs and practices of ancient Hebrews and Christians with regards to slavery, then we should also be able to hold that science can overturn our beliefs and practices with regards to the LGBT community.
        You are holding onto ancient beliefs that simply cannot be supported by contemporary findings.
        If you find yourself having trouble wrapping your mind around the scientific conclusions of today, look at it this way… Christ commanded you and I to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. You want to be married in the eyes of God. You want your marriage to be legally recognized. You want all of the rights and protections that marriage provides loving couples in this and other countries.
        If you want these things for yourself, then you should want them for me.
        There is no scriptural passage that indicates you CANNOT marry a couple of the same gender. For you as a pastor to refuse to officiate a same-gender marriage, you are taking quite a leap with regards to what you believe God wishes for you to do (or not do, a the case may be).
        Your question to me was, “How do we co-exist?” And my answer is that in spite of the discomfort that I feel when I read that you would not officiate a same-gender marriage, we must co-exist. There is no way for this to play out other than to allow time for social, political, and religious beliefs to catch up with scientific understanding and acceptance of gays and lesbians.
        But you have to be willing to listen to gay Christians who have gone to God with these issues and come away KNOWING that not only did God create us as He saw fit, but He also wishes for us to be happy. And a major part of our happiness is based in being FULLY accepted by people such as yourself.
        Sometimes I wonder if God hasn’t allowed this issue to be raised during a time of global communication, so that Christians can be reminded that not only do they need to love one another unconditionally, but also to send a clear message that He loves all of his creation–including his gay and lesbian children.
        I so firmly believe that God continues to interact with mankind; that ancient writings and scripture should not be THE go-to method of understanding God’s will. I watch as state after state and country after country change their laws and policies with regards to LGBT issues and rights. To me these changes provides a crystal clear example of God’s almighty handiwork.