Christians: Marriage Equality is here – get over it.

First off, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to speak out on this issue, because it’s not an easy one for me to discuss. But I can’t stay silent anymore on the topic of marriage equality, because it’s too important for me to not join in the discussion in an up-front way.

With the passing of the Supreme Court’s judgement expanding marriage for same-sex couples across all 50 States in the U.S.A., we’ve just witnessed a milestone as significant as Roe vs. Wade or Brown vs. Board of Education. The remaining U.S. States that were holding out on marriage equality have been dragged kicking and screaming into a new reality.

I’ve watched the reaction to this decision throughout the world, and it’s been overwhelmingly positive. In contrast, the public response from my Christian friends (and Christian leaders) has been reasonably muted. I’ve seen some a few forlorn and feisty responses, but I think there’s one response that Christians really need to get front and centre: marriage equality is here, and it’s time to get over it.

I know that the “slippery slope”, “sanctity of marriage”, and “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” crowd will no doubt be unimpressed with that statement, but hear me out: if you’re still going to spend your time trying to change people’s minds on the merits of marriage equality, you’re barking up the wrong Bush. We should instead set our minds to greater things, like loving and respecting others, because the times, they are a changing.

What we’re witnessing at the moment is the continued erosion of the church’s dominance in Western culture. When the church was founded 2,000 years ago, it was the underground, subversive movement that stood up to a culture of decay around it. The church did the unthinkable: caring for orphans, widows, and outcasts. This wasn’t without its challenges, as the church in Corinthians found, but it was what Christ had commanded: the disciples had witnessed Jesus’ actions, and went about replicating what they had seen.

When Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire, it might have been the worst thing that could happen to the church. Power and influence landed in the lap of church leaders, and from then on out that power was regularly abused and misused. The church also did incredible things in culture and community, but as a structure itself, it became rotten to the core, leading to the reformation and splintering of the church down the ages. Eventually, the church’s influence began to wane, but not before Christian teachings had positively influenced many areas of everyday culture. The church continued to operate from a position of power, even as that position shifted.

Now we come to a moment in history like this, and Christians are finally seeing the tipping point of a culture that is sick of being preached at rather than being loved, and have had a gutsful of the perceived hypocrisy of a church that preaches prosperity while the world perishes in poverty and injustice around it. The Western world is now so put off by Christian actions that it won’t listen to the Christian message of grace.

The thing is, even though culture has ebbed and flowed through the ages, Christ’s message to the world hasn’t changed over the past 2,000 years; it’s still the good news that we don’t have to live our lives as slaves to sin, but can find forgiveness and redemption in Jesus. To know God is to know love; love that can never be fully realised in a human relationship, whether that’s with a man or a woman. Instead of expending all our energy telling people why they’re wrong, what if we spent our energy caring for them, showing them dignity and respect, just as we’d like them to show us the same?

We’ve all screwed up so many times in our lives, and God still loves us. As John says, we love because Christ first loved us – and we should be compelled to share this love with the people around us. Christians have done a great job of dumbing this responsibility down to only happening in church on Sundays (bring a friend), or at an unfortunately named ‘crusade’ event (really, bring a friend!).

The real call to love others is about our everyday lives. That’s the true gospel right there: love in the midst of hate, hope in the place of deepest despair. The bottom line is that we need to move on: to be here to love people no matter who they are or what they’ve done. Jesus never said “Blessed are those who are right, because they can lord it over others.” – He called people to put aside worries about appearances, and dive in to the messy job of loving people where they’re at, regardless of the cost.

So you know what? Good for you, America. Good for you, all you people who now feel dignity and value after this monumental decision. Every person in the world, regardless of their race, creed, beliefs, or situation, deserves dignity. I still want to talk to you about why I love Jesus – about the difference following Him has made in my life, but for now, I want to give you a high five and a handshake. Because no matter what decision comes next, everyone in this debate is equal:

We’re all human, and we all need grace.

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5 thoughts on “Christians: Marriage Equality is here – get over it.

  1. As sympathetic as I am to the idea that the church should be an alternative and marginal community of love and justice for the oppressed, I think you’ve misdiagnosed this one. I think it’s more accurate to say that what we’re witnessing is the erosion of set and non-negotiable patriarchal gender roles (e.g. dominant males running the public sphere and their submissive wives looking after the private sphere at home). This erosion is affecting both the church and other parts of society. 30 years ago almost nobody supported same-sex marriage in either the church or secular society, and now a majority of society do, and an increasing number of Christians (including evangelicals… I’ve been compiling a list of prominent pro-gay-marriage evangelicals and it’s getting pretty long by now).

    It is true that the secular society has been a decade or two ahead of most churches on this change, just as it was a decade or two (or six or seven, depending on the church) ahead of most churches on other gender questions. This is probably largely because the church has more of a stake than the secular society in retaining traditions (of course, the church also has a stake in reforming society towards justice, and, as you say, we’ve positively affected the rest of society in this). It’s only because we’re in a stage while the churches are catching up with the rest of society that it seems like it’s church vs. society, instead of what it is: patriarchal gender roles vs. flexible gender expression without gender-based restrictions on social roles.

    Secondly, I think the narrative of “anti-gay is counter-cultural like the early church looking after orphans and widows and resisting emperor worship” has many serious historical, sociological, logical, and rhetorical problems, which I won’t go into here, but in reference to what you discussed in your blog, I will just say one thing: I think the movements of justice for non-men and queer people are more in keeping with the radical Kingdom message of justice for the oppressed, rather than the opposing movements that seek to retain and legitimate enforced (and ultimately patriarchal) gender roles. Feminist and LGBTI movements are becoming more and more mainstream (though still have a long way to go) and support for same-sex marriage is now the majority in the West. But just because anti-gay Christians are in the minority doesn’t mean they’re a radical counter-cultural justice movement, any more than those Christians who stayed committed to slavery long after it had fallen out of vogue were somehow radically counter-cultural.

    • I think – just correct me if I’m wrong here – that my main reply would be I’m not calling out the church to be counter-cultural in how we react to this decision. My main emphasis is that we should be counter-cultural in how we love.

      • I would definitely agree with that, and perhaps my “Secondly” response was responding to people other than you, and probably wasn’t necessary.

        I should have preceded my comment by quoting the sentence I was directly responding to (“What we’re witnessing at the moment is the continued erosion of the church’s dominance in Western culture”) and noting that that was one aspect of the blog rather than its main and admirable point.

      • Ha. Well, you raise an interesting point about the transformation of culture around the church – one that it’s most certainly missed. So gender roles: absolutely. I passionately advocate for women in ministry (why would you not?!) but have found this issue a very different prospect which is much harder to wrestle with. I think Tony Campolo hit the nail on the head when he put the emphasis on Jesus’ words about how we’ll be judged – how did we treat others? That’s the bottom line. The church’s treatment of homosexual people has been nothing short of shameful – we need to see a change here.

  2. Yep, just not that bothered about some of my friends choices. So if people choose their doings without negative impact, cool. Seems all there is to it and judgement, if it occurs, is not up to us anyhow. If a someone, a friend or otherwise reaches out for support and guidance then that is the best we can give them. Sex is kinda boring anyway and I’m really not interested in others bedroom antics. We can only be responsible for our own example…

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