Hot Topics 2014
PART 1: Same-Sex Marriage
12 Jan 14
(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)
Main Hot Topics page: http://bethelkingston.com/hot-topics-for-a-cold-month/
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
As a small group discuss the following images:
In what way do these two images contrast each other?
What adjectives come to mind to describe these two pictures?
Is it fair and balanced to only see Jesus through the filter of this scene? Why or why not?
When it comes to the gay issue in our culture has the church tended to have a servant model approach or a Rambo model approach?
What characterizes a servant model approach?
Check out 1 Peter 3:15,16. Note key words and phrases like, “set apart Christ as Lord”, “be prepared,” “ gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience”…
What are words and phrases that might characterize a “Rambo” approach?
What makes it hard to be gracious, kind and respectful on issues we may disagree on?
When it comes to the issue of same sex marriage what image best defines your response?
The same-sex marriage issue which is the focus of this Touching Base is hot for several reasons.
It is hot because at times the Church has been guilty of being hateful, armed with bible verses, locked, loaded and ready to fire. Rambo!!
However, it is also hot because those on the other side have also been guilty, at times, of using inflammatory language, stereotyping and painting all Christians with a broad brush. Rambo!!! Two Rambos make a rumble! No one is squeaky clean!
It is also hot because we have changed the definition of “tolerance”. The result is that if you disagree on this issue, you can get labeled with some pretty nasty titles - bigot, hateful, angry, narrow minded. But tolerance does not mean we agree with every idea. The classical definition of tolerance is in keeping with what Voltaire said,
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”
We tolerate people, we discriminate against ideas. What we have today is that we discriminate against people and ideas. This approach inflames the conversation.
Have you seen the discrimination (attacking, name calling) of the person in our culture because they disagree with his or her idea? When is this ever justified?
Q. So how do we approach this issue as Christ followers who want to engage with people from the LGBT community? Many of us have friends who are gay, or are who heterosexual and endorse same-sex marriage.
For the sake of this message I am assuming that we are supporting the position that the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Sometimes, however, our starting point might not always be Scripture. Now don’t get me wrong - I believe the Word of God is clear on this issue and has authority. However, what do you do when talking to someone who has no regard for the Scriptures? Like Bill Maher, comedian, television host, and political commentator, they say,
“I think that people who think God wrote a book called the Bible are just childish.”
I think the words of 1 Peter – be prepared, gentle, respectful are words and attributes that help me to think deeply about the person I am talking to. Be prepared to address… who? Be gentle towards…who? Be respectful of….who?
Perhaps as I think about them I need to do what I can to remove the perception that my view is rooted in hate, bigotry and close-mindedness. That is a major relational hurdle.
Perhaps as I think about them I need to realize that the starting point of the conversation cannot be based in Scripture - a text they might give no validity to - but on more common ground like history, science, logic and observation. I am not minimizing Scripture, but respecting the proper starting point with a particular audience.
We are not talking this morning about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of same-sex orientation. Christopher Yuan helped us address that.
We are not talking about a gay person’s right to a civil union, their rights and protections.
We are not endorsing that being gay is the worst sin in the Bible.
We are not saying that heterosexuality is the perfect model. Just check out those who are in the heterosexual community and you will see brokenness.
This is not about winning an argument, but about removing negative stereotypes - sometimes deserved by the church - in order to build bridges.
What might be your talking points? My definition of a talking point is a line of logic that is not bulletproof but gets the conversation started.
1. We hold a position that is rooted in widely-held observations made throughout all of history.
“There is simple and decisive evidence that the conjugal view is not particular to religion, or to any religious tradition. Ancient thinkers who had no contact with religions such as Judaism or Christianity - including Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Musonius Rufus, and Plutarch - reached remarkably similar views of marriage.” (What Is Marriage? Pg10)
In C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man, he lists moral codes of many cultures across the ages. They are strikingly similar at key points: honoring parents, being faithful in (heterosexual) marriage, not stealing, not murdering, not lying and so on – a moral awareness, an internal guidance system.
An overarching theme of history demonstrates that when the institution of marriage is compromised, societies suffer.
“British anthropologist J.D. Unwin studied eighty-six civilized and uncivilized cultures spanning five thousand years and found that the most prosperous cultures were those that maintained a strong marriage ethic. Every civilization that abandoned this ethic, including the Roman, Babylonian and Sumerian empires, experienced demise soon after liberalizing their sexual practices.” Joseph Daniel Unwin, Sex and Culture (London: Oxford University Press, 1934).
Someone might say, “but correlation doesn’t always indicate causation.” Yes, but it often does, and when you take eighty-six civilized and uncivilized cultures spanning 5000 years and see similar patterns, conclusions about causation are well founded.
“As a group, as a rule and by nature men and women produce the next generation.”
So marriage is not something that was defined, like green means go and red means stop (these are social constructs), but rather described, not a social construct but the observation of how things work.
Many governments have seen what is observable through history and set up certain protections for the institution of marriage. Marriage has been a uniquely-protected institution because of its direct connection with the health, wealth and sustainability of a culture.
So would it be bigotry to hold to a view that marriage is between a man and a woman based on observations of our history? Does this make us bigots?
Does our observation of history make this position correct? Not necessarily. Past cultures have come to a number of conclusions that were wrong – a flat earth, the role of women, racism, donuts are good for you… but past cultures have come to some astonishing sound, true conclusions.
2. What do we understand about uniqueness and thus influence in the family structure?
Are moms and dads interchangeable?
Does it matter if a child is raised by her mom and dad or two moms and two dads?
Does it matter if a child is lacking one of their biological parents?
We need to understand that believing that there are differences between a mom and a dad, and that a child benefits from both parents is not rooted in bigotry, or closed mindedness.
There is great debate these days about what the evidence is showing regarding the importance of a mom and dad. There are those that hold to the “no difference” position. They believe that two mommies or two daddies are just as good as a mom and dad. See below for the data on this research.
The American Psychological Association, in an official publication in 2005 which was intended to influence the legal debate, claimed that “the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children’s psychosocial growth.”
The issue, they say, is a loving home not sexual orientation.
However because there is a debate, that means there is data on the other side. See below for resources. You can (gently and respectfully) push back with academic integrity.
“The best available social sciences suggest that children tend to do best when reared by their married mother and father. Studies that control for other factors, including poverty and even genetics, suggest that children reared in intact homes do best on the following indices:
Educational achievement: literacy and graduation rates
Emotional health: rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide
Familial and sexual development: strong sense of identity, timing of onset of puberty, rates of teen and out of wedlock pregnancy, and rates of sexual abuse
Child and adult behavior: rates of aggression, attention deficit disorder, delinquency, and incarceration
(What Is Marriage? Page 42)
A mom and a dad bring something unique to the family equation. Two flesh produce one flesh and that one flesh is best nurtured by his/her biological parents.
“As absentee fathers and out-of-wedlock births become common, a train of social pathologies follows, and with it greater demand for policing and state- provided social services. Sociologists David Popenoe and Alan Wolfe’s research on Scandinavian countries shows that as a marriage culture declines, the size and scope of state power and spending grow.” (What is Marriage? Page 46)
Dr Popenoe goes on to say….
“We should disavow the notion that “mommies can make good “daddies” just as we should disavow the popular notion that “daddies can make good mommies.… The two sexes are different to the core, and each is necessary - culturally and biologically - for the optimal development of a human being.”
(When It Comes To Raising Kids, Same-Sex Marriage Isn’t the Same,” Boston Globe, January 23, 2004)
University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox finds much the same:
“Let me now conclude our review of the social scientific literature on sex and parenting by spelling out what should be obvious to all. The best psychological, sociological, and biological research to date now suggests that on average men and women bring different gifts to the parenting enterprise, that children benefit from having parents with distinct parenting styles, and that family breakdown poses a serious threat to children and to the societies in which they live.”
(What is Marriage? Page 60)
Does what I have just written win the argument? I don’t think so. What it does demonstrate is that you can hold the position that marriage is between a man and a woman and that position is not founded and rooted in bigotry and hate but science, research, observation and careful study. If I am hateful and bigoted then that is a sin I need to confess.
Is it wise and founded on unquestionable scientific data to state that there is no difference between a same sex marriage and a heterosexual marriage?
Is it wise to promote same-sex marriage as on equal footing with heterosexual marriage?
Is it bigoted, hateful to support and promote heterosexual marriage?
What about equal rights? Good question. What about the rights of a child to be raised in the best possible context for his or her wellbeing? Is it wise to promote a definition of marriage where the rights of a child to his or her biological mom and dad are, at times, ignored?
The heart of Jesus is first and foremost to take care of our own back yard (The Church). Ever noted who Jesus got really ticked off with? It was the religious leaders - it was the insiders. Perhaps if there was more integrity in the Church there would be more credibility with onlookers so we could have these difficult conversations.
I think the heart of Jesus is to build relationships with people who are very different from us. To build relationships that the establishment has long shunned. We might not agree but we can listen, learn and love. We might disagree but this topic is best addressed in the context of trust and friendship, not pulpits, bullying points and arrogance.
Lets come back to 1 Peter 3:15,16- What is our hope?
Their hope and ours is in Christ.
Jesus is the trophy of our message. In the end we want to give people Jesus. He is the foundation of faith, change, hope and transformation. There are tough issues to talk about, but there is one message that stands out above all - Jesus Christ - our hope.
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Helpful books as you dig in.
The End of Sexual Identity, Jenell Williams Paris (Ph.D., American University)
What is Marriage? (Originally published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy) Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, Robert P. George
Smart Sex, Jennifer Roback Morse
Helpful websites as you dig in.
Stand To Reason – Greg Koukl – http://www.str.org
J. Warner Wallace – http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com
Dr William Lane Craig – http://www.reasonablefaith.org
Helpful on line articles as you dig in.
A. Research that supports the “no difference” position.
B. Research that refutes the “no difference” position.