Despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of same sex marriage in all 50 states, there are Americans who still oppose the concept from either a legal or religious perspective. However, there are sensible approaches in publicly expressing opposition to same-sex marriage without looking foolish or misguided.
In an article posted by Christian Today, Youthscape deputy CEO Martin Saunders argued that the Supreme Court has merely widened the definition of a "state" marriage, noting that it hasn't forced the Church or any other religious group to redefine marriage. However, he acknowledged that the opposition to gay marriage has been "loudly and easily caricatured by the media."
"This is a really hard moment for Christian witness," Saunders wrote. "In a free speech society, we should absolutely defend the expression of a broad spectrum of opinion, but I believe that Christians have to try a lot harder to say sensible, intelligent, well-reasoned things about SSM, or risk becoming caricatured as 'anti-gay' and ill thought through."
In his opinion, Saunders didn't think that "it's inconsistent to uphold the 'traditional' belief that same-sex relationships are not God's best for humanity, while being fully supportive of laws which extend the same rights to everyone without prejudice." At the same time, some Christians relied on "lazy or deferred thinking" to justify their opposition to same-sex marriage; he looked at five bad justifications and provided five approaches that would be more palatable and convincing.
"As much as Christians should honor and listen to those who have been placed in leadership above us, it doesn't follow that every church leader and self-appointed Christian commentator in the world deserves our submission," Saunders wrote about the first bad justification. "Just because a well-read theologian (who may also be heavily prejudiced) says something is wrong or right, it doesn't excuse us the hard work of working out the truth for ourselves."
Saunders thought the better approach for Christians in this line of thinking was to "do the reading and thinking for ourselves, or at least check the Bible against the soundbites of commentators on both 'sides.'" He then looked at the second bad justification, which simply stated that "the Bible says so."
"In a similar vein, it's far too easy (and not very thoughtful) to heavy-handedly grab a few of the Bible's 'clobber passages' and apply them to the issue of state-sanctioned marriage," Saunders wrote. "Even a conservative reading of these verses draws an opposition to same-sex relationships for the community of God's people, not the wider world."
In his interpretation of the Bible, Saunders thought it should not be used to turn society "into a theocracy." The Bible is merely describing (but not necessarily condoning) a world where Christians were supposed to be "salt and light."
"It might be time to be a little clearer about the various questions involved, and differentiate between what the Bible says about homosexual sex and the equal rights of gay couples, rather than lumping them all together," Saunders wrote in describing his second better approach.
The third bad justification Saunders looked at was Christians finding the idea of same-sex marriage as "unpleasant." He realized that this could be a controversial view, given that not many Christians in his experience would openly admit to holding it.
"I believe that an awful lot of Christian and conservative rejection of SSM, and of same-sex relationships in general, is rooted in an issue of aesthetics," Saunders wrote. "That is to say: I think many conservatives find the idea of sexual relations between two people of the same sex unpleasant."
To counter this bad justification, Saunders recommended for his better approach that Christians "need to check our own hearts before God, and be really honest." However, he thought it would "not be a major issue" for many people.
According to Saunders, the fourth bad justification was that same-sex marriage is "corroding our Christian morality." He drew a comparison between the Christian reaction to the practice and the dominant economic model of Western capitalism.
"Thousands of churches have mobilized across the US to oppose the Supreme Court ruling; I'm not sure I remember the last time they did that over Wall Street bonuses," Saunders wrote. "When Jesus told the Pharisees that 'you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel,' I think this is exactly the sort of blind-spotted thinking he was talking about."
Saunders believed that the better approach for this mindset was to "start getting angry about the things that really do run counter to Jesus' kingdom vision - starting with our attitudes to consumerism." He then looked at the fifth and final bad justification, which was that the practice "undermines traditional marriage."
"On the one hand, this idea seems a bit silly; my 12-year-strong heterosexual marriage isn't feeling particularly under threat by gay activism," Saunders wrote. "However, the fear among Christians that the holy institution of Christian marriage is being eroded by the world is more understandable."
Saunders wondered if it was "really any of our business" for same-sex couples to obtain a legally-recognized "state" marriage. Instead, his approach urged Christians to fix what is broken with their own marriages first.
"Divorce rates are the same inside the church as outside it," Saunders wrote. "The real challenge to 'traditional marriage' is for it to start modelling something worth aspiring to."
In his opinion, Saunders thought that Christians don't have to automatically "oppose" same-sex marriage. If they do, then the reasons shouldn't "emerge out of any prejudices we might be carrying around."
"What we can still have an opinion on, is SSM within the church, i.e. between LGBT Christians, since the picture Luke and Paul draw of the early church is a place where brothers and sisters restore and correct one another," Saunders wrote.
Saunders warned that such an approach would require Christians to "think and pray with extraordinary care" and take time "to read the Bible as a whole."
"It means getting on to our knees with great earnestness and asking God to reveal his heart - and then also taking time to listen for his response," Saunders wrote. "It means listening to the stories of people on every side of the conversation, and listening harder for the voice of the Spirit within them. Most of all, it means approaching the whole issue with grace, whatever our starting position, and in that submitting to the possibility that we might just be wrong."