What Gay Marriage Obsession is Really About

Evangelicalism is unrepentantly obsessed with gay marriage. Every few months there's some new "scandal" headlined by names like Richard Stearns or Dan Haseltine that draws the rabid inquisitionists out of the woodwork.

My wife and I were pondering this the other day--why is this issue such a hot button? Neither of us could accept the easy answer, that the militant gay agenda requires an equivalent response. Instead, we think the equally militant, anti-gay agenda stems from two less reasonable obsessions.

The first is pretty obvious: sex. Evangelicals value their sexual ethics almost as much as their flawless hermeneutics. To be clear, I'm not dismissing the pursuit of a sexually holy life. I'm proud that I was a virgin when I got married at 23. That doesn't make me a better person, but it does uncomplicate my life quite a bit.

And I think it's that distinction that's missing from evangelicalism. Sexual purity does not make a person more valuable. And Paul's advocacy of it wasn't to create a social hierarchy in the church. Yet that's precisely what's happened.

photo credit: Kevin Goebel via photopin cc
I was talking to a friend recently who was looking to join another church after an unfortunate indiscretion had gone public. Instead of trying to hide it, this person approached the new church's leadership to make them aware of the story (that's called integrity). But after a tedious set of hoops and hurdles, they ended up telling this person, "well, we can't prohibit anyone from attending."

To be clear, your body is a temple, not a community center--it's between you and God, not you and your neighborhood. And Paul was preaching purity for your own sake, not for your reputation with Pharisees. The "sexually impure" are not damaged goods. They're people who have endured consequences that, unlike the rest of us, are not easily hidden.

The second obsession is more subtle: gender. Evangelicals are vehement that the Bible prescribes very clear, polarized roles for men and women. And that abandoning these roles is tantamount to spurning the existence for which we were created thereby nullifying the gospel.

This, of course, is a problem for gay people because as we all know, gender is reversed for them. And every romantic relationship, even homosexual ones, have to have male and female figures. Seriously, many evangelicals actually believe this. They believe that every gay marriage has a man who acts like a man and a man who acts like a woman. But how could they not when the Bible is so clear on masculinity and femininity?

In truth, all of these supposed prescriptions are just descriptions of the roles that existed during an era of extreme patriarchy (yes, even 1 Timothy 2--just read verse 15 if you think 11-14 should be taken literally). Also, gender is not an ontological reality; it is a relational concept designed to teach us about God. Maybe gender is such an issue because we can't accept that it's not.

Not only do we try to find our value and position in our sexual purity, we place our identity in gender stereotypes. But last time I checked, our identity was in Christ and our value came from being his. So instead of criticizing others for not living up to their end of the image of God, we should celebrate a God who created both sexuality and gender. Not to teach us how to discriminate, but how to love in the variety of ways that he does.

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