I have mixed emotions about yesterdays Prop 8 ruling. As an intentional follower of Christ, I hold a historic, orthodox, New Testament view of marriage. I am also cognizant of how we (Protestants at least) have allowed any moral authority on this issue to dissipate by collectively allowing our divorce rate to match (and some would say, exceed) that of the larger culture. If we can’t do marriage well, how can we weigh in on others? I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians that we are not to “judge” those outside the church, but that we are to judge ourselves – those of us inside the church (1 Cor 5:12). As active, intentional followers of Christ we would probably be wise to focus on removing the log from our own collective eye (Mat 7:3).
In my view, legislating morality is always Plan B. Plan A, according to my understanding of the Bible, is cultivating and growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ (personally and collectively), growing in sound doctrine, modeling authentic community, and learning how to love. (The first three, BTW, are intended to feed the fourth.)
I appreciate author and pastor Tim Keller’s approach here…In Prodigal God he quotes from The Lord of the Rings – the hobbits asking the ancient Treebeard whose side he is on: “I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side…[But] there are some things, of course, whose side I’m altogether not on.” Keller notes that Jesus’ own answer, through a parable, is similar. Jesus doesn’t pick a side yet singles out religious moralism as a particularly deadly spiritual condition (pg 13). I find religious moralism on both sides of the Prop 8 issue. I would prefer honest respectful dialogue.
In commenting on the Parable of the Prodigal (Keller would say it should be plural), Keller correctly identifies two basic ways people seek happiness: 1) moral conformity and 2) self-discovery. Each is a way of finding personal significance and worth, of addressing the ills of society, and for determining right from wrong. The elder brother in the parable illustrates the way of moral conformity, while the younger illustrates the way of self-discovery. Underneath both brothers’ sharply different patterns of behavior is actually the same motivation and aim – using their father to get the things on which their hearts are really fixed. For both, it was the wealth of the father, not the love of the father, that they believed would make them happy and fulfilled (pgs 29-39). (If you’ve found yourself asking, “Why does he title the book Prodigal God? That’s a great question…get the book.)
As I contemplate my life, I have spent various stints as both the younger and elder brother. In both, during my darker moments, I have sought the hand of God and not the heart of God.
Just last night Linda and I were reading a biography of the early church father, Athanasius (don’t ask). He defined sin as an abuse of freedom. We humans, he said, were originally given the ability to know God by looking at the creation (and seeing its otherwise inexplicable order and harmony) and noticing the image of God within ourselves. But we have turned away from the signs of God in creation and ourselves, and turned instead to the things of this world to satisfy ourselves – whether, I would add, it be moral conformity or self-discovery.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Ghandi’s encounter with a respected Christian missionary… Gandhi admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once when E. Stanley Jones met with Ghandi he asked him, “Though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?” Ghandi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Somethings just don’t seem to change. Ann Rice is another, more recent example of someone, who “in the name of Christ,” quit the church.
This is yet another wake-up call for the us (inside the church). Not to react with religious moralism, but to respond with appropriate self-reflection, honesty, repentance, love – and a willingness to dialogue. In the great political cartoon strip of its day, Pogo declared, “We have met the enemy and it is us!”
Your thinking seems Jewish in the sense that your able to have the debate and hold your ground. I listened to the Freashair NPR interview of Anne Rice in it’s entirety the other day with interest, I don’t think she was wrong, but also I think she was having a healthy dialogue in regard to her actions. It is also interesting that the “christian” comentary we often hear never mentions that issue of judging those outside the church( with your exception), so is Anne Rice in or out?haha…
I think we can observe the Prop8 scene from inside and come to the possible conclusion that if though we may dissagree with the idea of homosexuality from a biblical stand point, the mystery of attraction and connection is definately one of those questions to ask when we get there, but if allowing them to love and remain faithful to each other is at least grounds for respect.
Thanks Jason. Ya, we won’t know for sure who’s in or out till we get there. Remember what Wimber used to say? “I’m just a fat man trying to get to heaven…” I want the church to think, love, and authentically engage.
vote yes or no on Prop 8- that’s the question and please answer.
Christine – Thanks for reading and commenting. I don’t think it’s my calling to tell people how they ought to vote – or how I vote (above my pay grade…). In my post I noted how Jesus didn’t seem to take a position, but ventured under the iceberg into people’s hearts and motives. I’m quite comfortable causing that kind of discomfort – especially as it relates to the church. Having said that, I clearly stated my position. Right?
Hey Gregg, I liked your random thoughts on Prop 8. Here are mine:
As a man accused of breaking up not one, but two families, I have always in the back of my mind the bitter bile of my own moral depravity. Malachi’s pronouncement that God, “hate(s) divorce” still rings in the ears of my heart. And, although I love my wife, and our 22 year marriage continues to bloom, to this day my eyes cannot pass over Jesus’ words on divorce without once again feeling grave disappointment in the dross that unexpectedly floated up from within me. This has tempered, indeed, substantially killed my feeling of moral superiority. I have found tolerance through gazing at, and through, my own brokenness.
I have a niece that is a lesbian. Although we’re worlds apart politically and religiously, she is obviously much smarter than I am, and she has a kind spirit. And working in the City of Man (Augustine), I also have had the opportunity to work together with men who are homosexuals. Our interactions are usually brief and centered on the business at hand, but I enjoy their company, and laugh with them, not at them. I disagree with them, but I do not demean them — I am not higher than they are.
I am not a political activist, never attended a tea party event, never held a placard. But I do participate in our democratic republic through casting my opinion at the ballot box; I do vote. From time to time I vote consciously for how the outcome will affect me personally, my livelihood, my future. More often when I vote, I am casting my secret opinion on how I believe a people should be governed.
Politically speaking, I do not believe we should adopt a, “mind your own business”, “laissez-faire,” “Que Sera, Sera — whatever will be, will be attitude.”
I will not chase this issue, but if I’m given the opportunity to vote on it, I will vote to uphold the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, exclusively. I believe I have a responsibility to do what I can politically, within reason, to preserve the mores that are crumbling all around us.
Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people. (Prov. 14:34)
He changes rivers into a wilderness
And springs of water into a thirsty ground;
A fruitful land into a salt waste,
Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it. (Psa. 107:33,34)
Thanks for your honest response Byron. Your personal sin is no worse than mine. (I know you know that.) For me it’s a lot like Nehemiah, who when he heard of the condition of Jerusalem, began to repent for his own sins as well as the sins of his forefathers (1:6). I vote too, and I also think it will be most productive to lean on the church to get the log/s out of our own collective eye. Acts 11:26 – “they were first called Christians in Antioch.” I don’t want to read too much into this, but it seems they didn’t refer to themselves as “little Christs,” the people of Antioch did. While I am an active, intentional follower of Christ, I prefer to let other people tell me if they think I am “Christian.” As a Church we have a ways to go…
So we are agreed. Love your Nehemiah reference, and I agree that it’s much better that others tell us about how well we are representing Jesus Psalms 27:2. (and I know some people prefer not to share how they vote, so that’s ok too)