TIME on Gay “Marriage” Trial

Don’t miss Michael Lindenberger’s TIME magazine article on the closing arguments of the gay “marriage” trial in California. He sums up the stakes of this case very well:

“What’s equally clear now, after nearly three weeks of evidence, is that no matter what happens, the debate over gay marriage will never again be the same. . . The trial, win or lose, has put on the dock a series of basic assumptions about what living in America should be like for millions of its citizens. For decades, governments at every level have created one set of rules for heterosexuals in America, and another set for its gays and lesbians. What the challenge to Prop 8 — California’s 2008 vote to change its constitution to ban gay marriage — is all about is gathering hard evidence about the roots of that uneven playing field. Both sides see it as a crucial test of whether society can insist that heterosexual unions are worthy of the full sanction of the law in a way that other unions are not.”

The plaintiff’s argue that the law should not sanction heterosexual unions over any other kind of union. Such a position is rooted in religious belief and thus creates and “uneven playing field.” Thus, the plaintiffs have argued that it’s a civil rights issue. The lawyers have essentially put Christianity on trial this week arguing that religious viewpoints have no place in determining public policy. You read that right. They are arguing that Christians and other persons of faith should not bring their viewpoints into the discussion at all.

Albert Mohler has written a fine response to the TIME article, and his conclusion is apt:

“By any measure, the decision in this case will be momentous — and for reasons that go far beyond the question of same-sex marriage and homosexuality. In this case, far more than marriage is on trial.”

He is right. It’s not just gay “marriage” that’s at stake. It’s whether or not religious viewpoints will be allowed at the table. The Supreme Court is likely to rule on this, and when they do it will be a watershed moment. The decision will be to the gay “marriage” issue what Roe v. Wade was to the abortion issue. That’s how much is at stake.

60 Responses to TIME on Gay “Marriage” Trial

  1. David Vinzant January 29, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    More accurately, this trial is about whether a group’s religious beliefs, even if that group constitutes the majority, should be allowed to supercede another group’s constitutional rights.

  2. Nate January 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm #

    It was a piece of legislation voted on by the people of California, not a religious group. The trial is a farce.

  3. David Vinzant January 29, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

    In our system, Nate, a majority is not allowed to trample on the rights of a minority. This is why we have a Constitution with a Bill of Rights and a court system. See Brown vs. Board of Education, 1954.

  4. andy January 29, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    Am I way off here, or is this a case of a minority of Americans imposing their will against a majority of Americans? Just trying to reduce this issue in my mind for better understanding, without all the distracting bells and whistles.

  5. David Vinzant January 29, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Oddly enough, that is exactly what most white Southerners said about about Brown v. Board.

  6. Ted January 29, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    If the pro-gay marriage position wins on the argument that there should be no “unfair playing field,” then a marriage relationship is anything goes and anything must go.

  7. andy January 30, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    I’m not suggesting that a minority is never in the right, I’m simply saying that it seems that, in this particular case, a group that represents a minority of americans is running the show in spite of the contrary opinions of the majority; whether or not the minority is right or not is secondary to the point I was trying to make.

  8. David Vinzant January 30, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    If by “running the show,” you mean “standing up for their rights,” I’ll agree. A victory by the side representing gay marriage will affect the majority far less than Brown v. Board did. Remember that no one will be forced to marry a person of the same sex. It simply opens that up as a possibility to those who desire it. Churches will not be required to bless same-sex unions. I understand from heterosexual married friends in Massachusetts that gay marriage has not weakened their heterosexual marriage one bit. In MA has the lowest divorce rate in the country.

  9. Ryan K January 30, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    Once again David no one is having a civil right restricted when it does not apply to them. In order for gays to have a civil right being restricted from them the word marriage would have to mean the union of any two adults regardless of gender. It has never meant this. So lets move past this notion we are trying to protect civil rights and equate this to discrimination of blacks, when its really about changing the meaning of the word marriage that has stood for as long as human civilization.

    If anything those married are having their rights trampled, as the institution they are a part of is being changed without their consent through judicial activism.

    Its your right David to think we should accept expand marriage to gays and polygamy (as you said in an earlier comment thread) but be consistent and don’t stop there. Why not a man and an animal? Or a woman and a tree? I am sure PETA members out there who argue for the personhood of dolphins will wonder why you would want to suppress their civil right.

  10. David Vinzant January 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm #

    So were women being denied a civil right when they couldn’t vote? After all, few, if any, societies had ever allowed women to vote.

    The rules about who can and can’t marry have varied quite a bit in history. For instance, polygamy was permissible under the Old Testament Law.

    My view is that competent, consenting adults should be allowed to marry whom they choose. Animals and trees are not competent adults and cannot give consent.

  11. Ryan K January 30, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    No David, women were being denied civil rights by not being allowed to vote (See The Declaration of Independence). So my point still stands of no civil right of gays being violated.

    Once again why are you the final arbiter of who and what should be allowed to get married. Just as recent as this month we have PETA members arguing for the person hood of dolphins and that the should be extended human rights. Why not include them? And what about incest, that is consenting adults?

  12. David Vinzant January 31, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    I was not aware that the Declaration of Independence said that women should be allowed to vote. If you mean the part about all men being being equal – why shouldn’t that apply to gay marriage?

    I never claimed to be the final arbiter of anything. The final arbiter in this case will be the Supreme Court. They may very well rule against gay marriage. I am convinced that the just and reasonable thing to do is to legalize gay marriage. I am also convinced that it is only a matter of time until it happens. It could be next year, it could be in 5 or 10 years, but it will happen. Why?

    With regard to incest, the number of competent, consenting adults who want to marry a close relative is infinitesimally small. In those cases, if both persons are sane and over 21, I would allow it. I’m curious also as to how you would define incest as it is defined very differently in different countries and even in different states in the U.S. Is marriage between first cousins incest? How about when the children of Adam and Eve married each other – was that incest?

  13. Ryan K January 31, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    David, I do mean the part about all of us being equal therefore there is a clear inalienable right women have to vote as citizens of the United States under both the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

    Second you keep making the error of trying to say equality stems to gays being allowed to change the meaning of the word marriage.

    As I said before: “no one is having a civil right restricted when it does not apply to them. In order for gays to have a civil right being restricted from them the word marriage would have to mean the union of any two adults regardless of gender. It has never meant this. So lets move past this notion we are trying to protect civil rights and equate this to discrimination of blacks, when its really about changing the meaning of the word marriage that has stood for as long as human civilization.”

    So therefore there is no inequality as gays have just as much right as you or I to participate in the institution of marriage, just not to change it.

    And yes you are playing the role of judge by making up your criteria for how far marriage should be expanded. You claim it should not be expanded to include the PETA members who argue for the person hood of Dolphins, and at the same time we should change the meaning of marriage to include homosexual unions, polygamy, and incest. You base this on your own decision that marriage should simply be a union between two consenting adults. This is you playing judge on an institution that has stood for over 5,000 years.

    All of this is quite subjective, and intolerant of those who may wish to marry an animal, consenting minor (NAMBLA) or a tree in the name of their religious convictions.

  14. David Vinzant January 31, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    Ryan said: “I do mean the part about all of us being equal therefore there is a clear inalienable right women have to vote as citizens of the United States under both the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.”

    How is it that this “inalienable right” was missed by the authors of both documents and the entire nation until 1919? In fact, this right was only guaranteed by the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, not by any appeal to the DOI.

    I think this analogy holds up pretty well. As far as I know, no society in history had granted female suffrage (at least on a major scale). Giving women the right to vote radically changed and redefined the “institution” of elections. The word “voter” had always imnplied “male voter” until this radical revision and overthrow of thousands of years of tradition.

    You also seem to keep forgetting that marriage in the past, and even now in some cultures, once encompassed both polygamy and incest. By whose authority was marriage “redefined” to exclude polygamy? The Bible never condemns polygamy. Even Augustine and Martin Luther admitted as much.

    My appeal is not to my own authority or opinion, but to the dictates of reason and justice. I think allowing marriage for consenting, competent adults is a fair and reasonable standard. Unless dolphins, trees and staplers can convince me otherwise, that is.

    On a practical level, the 14th Amendment protects the rights of citizens to equal treatment under the law. I don’t believe animals, plants or minerals qualify as citizens.

  15. Brian Krieger January 31, 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    First, I think David is right in that without an absolute standard, anything can go, i.e. I think that eventually homosexuals will be given the title of marriage (that is the ultimate goal, claiming fighting for rights is just this side of farcical).

    I suppose as far as comparing to education goes, all were not allowed the exact same law. In this case, all are afforded the exact same right, all are restricted by law in the exact same way. I think the “consenting adults” is at best a very slippery slope (give an arbitrary definition of consenting adult and it can be argued against). I agree that women should be allowed to vote, but I don’t believe that men should get to go into a women’s bath house.

    In the end, my view is informed by an absolute (while I haven’t read Augustine or Luther exhaustively, I see Christ’s definition as binding). Even so, an argument for polygamy has a razor on which to stand, homosexuality does not.

  16. Ryan K January 31, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    David just because a right is not recognized does not mean it does not exist.

    A fundamental principle of democracy, which is rooted in our DOI and our Constitution, is that all of us were created equal with the right to participate in our democracy. Just because this right was denied did not mean it was not always there. Hence why it was an injustice to not allow women to vote.

    Yet as I have stated multiple times now this does not apply to gays and marriage as they are demanding the right to redefine the word marriage. They are not restricted from participating in marriage and therefore to paint this as a civil rights issue comparative to woman’s suffrage is a faulty analogy.

    In addition, the normative marriage throughout human history has been one man and one woman. Can you point to exceptions? Yes but they only highlight what has been the standard across cultures and time periods.

    Last your claim once more that your appeal is not based on your own authority and then begin your very next sentence with “I think.” And that is exactly the problem. Why is what you think to function as the bounds or guidelines for marriage? I still have heard no compelling argument for if we are going to change the meaning of marriage to not include NAMBLA, bestiality, or for that matter why not self-marriage? The options are really endless.

  17. David Vinzant January 31, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    Ryan, just because a right is not recognized does not mean it does not exist.

    A fundamental principle of democracy, which is rooted in our DOI and our Constitution, is that all of us were created equal with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Just because this right was denied does not mean it was not always there. Hence why it is an injustice to not allow same sex marriage.

    Sadly for you, Ryan, the Constitution does not protect words from redefinition. It only protects people. Words get redefined all the time. Deal with it.

    All types of behavior was once normative – like slavery, polygamy, incest, child labor, not allowing women to vote or work at certain jobs, torture, anti-Semitism. Does the fact that slavery existed for thousands of years mean it should have been allowed to remain? Sorry – the argument from tradition is a no-go.

    All I have to appeal to is reason. You appeal to it as well when you think it is on your side. Some at this website have said that same-sex marriage should be disallowed on the grounds of reason, apart from religion. I’m just pointing out that reason is on the side of allowing same-sex marriage.

    Reason is not on the side of allowing cruelty to children or animals. Self-marriage? You’ll have to explain to me how that works.

    Unless you or someone else has something new to add – something reasonable – I don’t plan to respond.

  18. Nathan February 1, 2010 at 5:30 am #

    There is no support out there to help me build a home with someone that makes sense to ME – I don’t care what makes sense to YOU. I truly believe that most of the posters here and the author of this blog are just too dense to be able to separate a religious view from their vision of the law of the land.

    Well, I take that back, they only separate it when it favors their opinion; the Bible doesn’t “clearly” state to them that divorced people shouldn’t remarry as long as the former spouse is still alive or that the Sabbath should remain holy or that no one should worship anyone but the God of the Bible.

    So, have your “marriages” of divorced people, work on the Sabbath, and fight to the death to sustain someone’s right to worship Buddah. Pat yourselves on the back while you’re doing it, just realize tho, that we are in the same boat…

    You are no better than a homosexual.
    You are no better than someone that thinks homosexual marriage is great.
    You are no better than someone that thinks it should be given a legal status, but is still sin.

    Nor are you better OFF than those…

  19. Ryan K February 1, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    “Sadly for you, Ryan, the Constitution does not protect words from redefinition. It only protects people. Words get redefined all the time. Deal with it.”

    This is quite pugnacious David. Truth be told I am fine with the debate. I only note the hypocrisy on your part when you have to deal with the debate of not letting the word marriage being redefined go your way. Then that’s when all the crying starts about oppression of civil rights.

    Your comment here cuts both ways, not just when it seems to benefit your subjective opinion.

    @ Nathan, I would reply to your comment but I was just to “dense” to understand it.

  20. Nate February 1, 2010 at 10:57 am #

    David,

    Getting back to the issue of the post and your initial response about this legislation being about religion, the people of California are not a religous group. Hence, this legislation is not about religion, even though people of religious belief voted. But so did people of no religous faith. Furthermore, your argument that a majority cannot trample upon the rights of a minority is a misrepresentation of what took place. A vote was help by a state and the people voted. The majority tramples on the minority all the time in this country. Your argument that homosexuals already had the right to marry is spurious. The courts initially overruled the voice of the people and gave them this “right.” The people of California, using their legislative perogative, gains the votes necessary on a petition to bring a legislative vote against the court ruling and the people spoke. Now, a plaintiff is arguing that the vote was biased on religious grounds.

    So, explain to us how that is. While this court process will be played out and is certainly part of the constitutional process, only an activist judge will rule that the people of California acted religously. However, if the court rules in favor of the legislation, what will your answer be then? Will the Constitution have been perverted, or will you argue that this case must go all the way to the Supreme Court? And if the Supreme Court refuses to overrule the people of California, what will your answer be then? You’ve built a straw man from the beginning.

  21. Nathan February 1, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    Ryan (and others), sorry for the jab — honestly, maybe I’m too dense to understand.

    From my POV, the majority reaction to giving homosexuals the same legal standing and perks that heterosexuals enjoy is an emotional knee-jerk. It seems that people feel like they are giving something up personally by allowing (and in some way encouraging) this type of relationship. Do they realize that they are also taking a lot from these people by denying those things?

    What I consider to be the crux of the issue for Christians: Which biblical standards should be included in the laws of America?

  22. Nate February 1, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    “What I consider to be the crux of the issue for Christians: Which biblical standards should be included in the laws of America?”

    Any that the American people vote for. Many of them were or are already imbedded in the Constitution and judicial law. Or do you believe that our laws and statutes came from our own perceptions? Plus all laws in one way or another deny people something. If people weren’t denied things or given access to things based on laws then we would have anarchy.

  23. Ryan K February 1, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    No worries Nathan, I too struggle to not become heated in conversations like this.

    I realize this issue is messy as it is not just about the abstract but the personal. There are actual people and relationships involved here.

    Think I will bow out here as we have all said our piece.

  24. russware February 1, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    Thanks for your comments here, David. I’m not sure how far your reasoning will go with those firmly planted on the other side of this debate, but for those of us who are committed to Christian principle, but struggling with the issue of the appropriateness of the legislation of such in certain cases, your cogency in this matter is appreciated.

  25. Todd February 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    Russware, your comment comes off as a bit patronizing and elitist. It must be nice to be at the mountain top of enlightenment and able to see so clearly that it is those on the other side of the issue from you who are “firmly planted” and therefore unable to be reasoned with. Could it be your just as dogmatic and unwilling to listen to arguments that wrestle with your entrenched opinions.

  26. russware February 2, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    Todd,

    Ouch. In fact, I am deeply conflicted on this issue. I am profoundly uncomfortable with the growing acceptance of that which is clearly contrary to God’s design and damaging to our society. In that I am also ‘firmly planted.’ The question here is what to do about it from a legislative standpoint. We must draw a line somewhere in terms of which of our principles we find appropriate to legislate. That there is a line is not in question, only where it should be drawn. At any rate, I was simply offering encouragement and sincere appreciation for the time taken by David to express his thoughts. I tend to agree with his challenge in this issue, but appreciate his ability to articulate it clearly. It is certainly true that in these types of forums that he is unlikely to change the minds of the already decided. But, it is always true that such discussions is most dynamic for those whose minds are not completely made up. Like mine. So, I was stating the obvious in an effort to encourage. And, yes I do (literally) live on a mountain, but it is not called enlightenment.

  27. Brian Krieger February 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    Interesting article (and very illuminating in many ways).

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/us/29sfmetro.html

  28. Nate February 2, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    For those who believe religion and law have not or do not co-exist in the history of America.

    James Wilson, a signer of the Constitution who was appointed to the Supreme Court by George Washington, explained the relationship between religion and law: “Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. … Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The divine law as discovered by reason and moral sense forms an essential part of both. The moral precepts delivered in the sacred oracles form part of the law of nature, are of the same origin and of the same obligation, operating universally and perpetually.”

    John Jay — the first chief justice of the United States, also appointed by George Washington — wrote to Jedidiah Morse on Feb. 28, 1797: “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers. And it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

  29. Nate February 2, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    See also Harry R. Jackson Jr’s commentary
    http://townhall.com/columnists/HarryRJacksonJr/2010/02/01/freedom_forgotten?page=full&comments=true

    One excerpt.
    “Let’s be clear about one thing: the only civil right at issue here is the people’s right to vote. Those supporting the redefinition of marriage have repeatedly attempted to align themselves with the historic struggles of blacks… But redefining marriage has nothing to do with the historic civil rights struggle in this country. The civil rights once denied to black Americans included several things: first, the right to vote, second, the right to use public facilities; third, the inalienable right to a fair hearing; and fourth, the right to education in an integrated school. Let me pose the following questions: Have those supporting the redefinition of marriage been denied any of these rights?”

  30. russware February 2, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Nate,

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that religion and law have not, do not, or should not co-exist. And I particularly like the James Wilson quote.

  31. Nate February 2, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    David made that point in post #1 and Nathan posed the question in post #21

  32. russware February 2, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Nate,

    I think you reading to much into David’s comment. The question is not whether religion and law should co-exist. Of course they should. That is a given. The question is how the two should interact in a non-theocratic society. As a Christian, I believe that all good law (moral or civil) should be consistent with Christian principle. But that doesn’t mean that all Christian principle makes for good or appropriate law in our non-theocratic context. In fact, I would suggest that to overstep the boundary there can be very dangerous, and lead to laws that violate deeper Christian principles. This is the tension, and it is not always obvious where that line falls.

  33. Nate February 2, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    Perhaps (David would have to answer that) but the implication seemed to be that religous beliefs spurred the legislation, which in turn, David believes, infringes on constitutional rights of homosexuals. (See his other posts)

  34. russware February 2, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    Yes. I think that is exactly what he is saying, in this case.

  35. russware February 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    To recognize that a specific law is religiously driven, and possibly in violation of constitutional rights, is not to say that religion and law should not co-exist or even interact. This is the point I’ve been trying to make, and I have no indication that you are engaging with my argument at all. Whether you agree or not, do you see what I am saying? To question any law that can be connected with biblical principle is not to question all such laws (see again my comment #32). Your broad conclusion regarding David’s comment (regardless of his intent) suggests that you do not recognize the need for any type of line between biblical principle and what our government should legislate based on such.

    Should we make pre-marital sex a felony? Should we enact laws that call for the death penalty for adulterers? How about mandatory church attendance (at a good, Evangelical, “bible believing, church, of course)?

    If any of these laws were enacted, the argument against would be the same basic argument of a religiously driven law violating the constitutional rights of others. Would you cry foul?

  36. Nathan February 2, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    This situation is exactly what I was referring to. In my opinion laws should not be made that are supported only by religious opinion (regardless how good that opinion is).

    All sin creates harm for the person(s) directly involved as well as the innocent bystanders around the sin. Because of this, we should outlaw all sin. BUT we can’t outlaw all sin because some sin is protected by the Constitution — like the freedom to worship any or no God. I think this freedom opens a can of worms because in my opinion freedom to follow any God is freedom to sin.

    As generally stated as possible: The things that should be outlawed are the things that cause concrete and verifiable harm. That harm needs to be of a certain magnitude and it must be possible to stop the thing being outlawed.

    One may say that gay marriage isn’t being outlawed, but what is currently outlawed is laws that create unfair / unequal treatment of people. If it can be determined that the traditional definition of marriage creates unequal protection, then which should stand — the traditional definition of marriage -or- the equal protection clause in the Constitution?

    It seems that if you pick one or the other, you would be an activist judge…

  37. Nate February 3, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    “To recognize that a specific law is religiously driven, and possibly in violation of constitutional rights, is not to say that religion and law should not co-exist or even interact. This is the point I’ve been trying to make, and I have no indication that you are engaging with my argument at all.”

    It may be that I have misunderstand some of your points. I tend to want to keep things simple and therefore some might say that I am simple-minded. You would have to give me a specific case where enacting a biblical principle violates the Constitution for me to see your point.

    However, in this case, I believe there is also a misunderstanding of what I have been arguing as well. First, David in the very first post stated that there has been a Constitutional violation here. Since that statement, there has been no response as to what Ammendment has been violated, until Nathan’s last post (which I will address later). Second, I have argued that there is no line that can or should be drawn on legislation that promotes a biblical principle. Let me add for clarification that I believe this to be true so long as the 1st Ammendment is not violated, in other words, no national church established.

    To that end, any law can be voted in by the public concerning any biblical principle. To Russ’ statement about pre-marital sex. It used to be a felony in some states and was a misdemenor in others (depending on the circumstances) in the last 50 years. States have enacted legislation since that no longer outlaws the practice. Fair enough.

    Now, to Nathan’s statement that the legislation in question broke the 14th ammendment. The argument will be made, but I find it impossible to see how a homosexual has been denied the right to marry. They have the same right to marry that heterosexuals have. Their argument is that marriage can be redefined and then used as the barometer for violation of the 14th ammendment. This is preposterous since marriage has, for the history of civilization (not just religious civilization), been between a man and a woman.

    So then, my argument is that this is not a biblical legislation, nor a Constitutional violation, but the people of California’s response to a re-definition of marriage being forced upon them by a minority opinion and an activist court. The vote to ammend California’s State Constitution clarified what the definition of marriage has always meant in that state.

    But, as to whether religion and law can coexist or should, the answer is that it has, and it should, as long as the 1st Ammendment is not violated. To that end I have not seen a church of the United States formed yet. Your example of a federal law demanding church attendance would, in my opinion, violate the 1st ammendment. Death penalty for adulterer’s? You’re reaching, but it was a crime not too many years ago.

  38. russware February 3, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Nate… I actually did give you three hypothetical examples, and you addressed them.

    To say that you don’t think there is a line to be drawn, unless… is to say that you do acknowledge there is a line to be drawn. The 1st Amendment is the most obvious, one might say ‘literal,’ constitutional marker for identifying laws that might be good religious practice, but bad civil law. But, it is not the only article of the constitution that might be violated by such a law… the 14th Amendment, for example.

    It would be very nice to be able to always keep things simple in such matters, and at times that might even appear to be the way of the moral high-ground. But, in my experience, and as I get older, I have discovered that to rarely be the case. I appreciate your understanding of the damage of sin and your desire to, in a sense, mitigate the amount of damage done to our society as a result of such by legislative means. I think your heart is in the right place. I would simply challenge you to consider that simplicity is rarely the friend of understanding or accuracy in these matters. And, that the distinction between the kingdom of God and earthy governments and nations is anything but trivial. As you know, our sin problem cannot be addressed legislatively, and that is part and parcel with the core message of the scripture (OT and NT).

    Homosexuality is a challenging issue in general. The biblical message is clear, but that does not make the application simple. Missing that point is, I think, a fundamental problem with the Evangelical approach to the challenge.

  39. Nate February 3, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    I continue to fail to see this legislation as a religious issue (which is the point of the post). Moreover, the 14th ammendment has never been used before as a religious test, so that would be stretching its boundaries and would be a landmark Supreme Court ruling (as Denny notes). The argument here is not about sin in general, but an issue in particular (the definition of marriage).

    I have never argued that legislation can resolve the sin of Adam, nor would I. As I have grown older I have seen our nation fall into more grevious sin and disarray as we tolerlate it more and more. So while homosexuality is challening at the moment, would it had been so had the country and the church been so willing to look the other way for the last 15+ years?

    Furthermore, as a believer, I don’t have to condone sinful behavior to be understanding to its plight nor do I have to cede to it legislatively in order to sympathize with its victims.

  40. Nathan February 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    After homosexuals are mainstreamed in society and found not to be subversive similarly to the cases of witches, Arabs (add whatever race you want), women, etc, who is next in line? Every generation needs its bogeyman. Now really, could two men holding hands and pledging to support one another in good times and bad tear a nation apart? I just don’t get it.

    IMO, the church has sinned grievously over the last several decades; it had not and still does not minister to homosexuals in a way that is conducive to their spiritual welfare. The “don’t ask don’t tell” policy that runs rampant in churches forces people either to lie about the nature of their being or tell the truth and be stigmatized, ostracized, or utterly rejected…

    I think that’s why homosexuality is challenging today — homosexuals didn’t find restoration within the church, so they’re going to make a life without. The church had her chance and she BLEW IT.

    I wrote this about 3 years ago:
    “AIDS has ground millions of people to a pulp. There are those with poisoned blood who die a lonely death after losing a grueling fight. There are those closest to the stricken who either have their loved one ripped away -or- they cut him off themselves, dismissing him as worthless. Then, there are those on the outside who, at some level, agreed that it was good to see justice. I wonder if this is where the church lost the culture war. When the church was tested to show love and to be love, it stood in as judge instead. . .”

  41. russware February 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    Nathan, I think there is some truth in what you are saying. I continue to be concerned that our political action/voice, which so often seems driven by the fear of what we are losing in this country and our rights, is comprising our action/voice related to the gospel.

  42. Matt Svoboda February 3, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    Nathan,

    Yawn… Homosexuals belly ache and people like you pick up their cause, but the fact is they dont like their lifestyle being called sin and therefore the church never really had a “chance.”

    I know there are bad stories about how some churches did not appropriately respond to homosexuals and AIDS victims, but people like you hear those stories and chant things like “the church has sinned grievously.” Homosexuality is a sin and the church is right to call it that…

    The church needs to lovingly engage homosexuals and AIDS victims, yes, but I am tired of the belly aching of people like you. Homosexuals never wanted restoration in the church because real restoration means repenting of sin and turning to God.

    Stop this, “homosexuals gave the church a chance to embrace, but the church responded with sinful judgment.” It is utter garbage. Homosexuals wanted and still wants the church to tell them their sin isn’t sin. But it is.

    Nathan, I know it is not popular to stand for truth and when it happens we get blasted, but getting blasted is better than being an idiot and taking up arms on the wrong side based on silly myths.

  43. russware February 3, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    Denny,

    Matt’s comment #42 is a great example of why I was a bit surprised you deleted my post the other day. I probably shouldn’t have made that post, and I get it. But this type of thing stands?

  44. Nathan February 4, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    Homosexuals in general weren’t waiting for the church to embrace them.

    Nor are they wanting the church to endorse their behavior.

    They don’t care what the church thinks.

    I believe a part of this is like you say, Matt. Sinners just don’t understand the Gospel.

    BUT, I believe the church, in general, has given homosexuals an excuse — actually a pretty good reason to stay away. For me, my church, my family, my friends (all Christian) made it basically impossible to admit “it is I.” What does it mean when someone believes they are a sinner and wants help but is afraid of the seriously negative reaction he’ll receive from the Christians around him when he admits to a particular sin?

    Also Matt, you are only 21 years old. You weren’t even thought of (except by by God) when AIDS darkened my doorstep. You didn’t live through pastors declaring from the pulpit that it was a good thing that homosexuals were dying of AIDS. You didn’t hear your father tell you that you should be shipped off to an island to die. It was a full 15 years into the epidemic before I heard anything compassionate from the Christians around me. I should have said something back then, but I felt I would be labeled as one of “them,” like you are doing now.

    I agree that my choices are my own, and I can’t say where I would be now had someone indicated that they would have had a compassionate response to my situation, but I know I would be better off.

    Sorry, it’s not a silly myth. It’s my life.

  45. Nate February 4, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    Nathan,

    First, I am sorry about your experience. I am old enough to remember the 1980s and there was much fear associated with AIDs. However, to suggest that because of that fear and the difficulties and sinfulness of the church in reaching out to homosexuals, that the church should now simply refuse to speak on the issue of redefinition of marriage is preposterous. Redefining marriage and granting homosexuals the right to marry will not bring them closer to the cross of Christ anymore than granting pedophiles the freedom to have sex with children would. What other “behaviors” need to be legalized in order to enliven the ability to share the gospel?

  46. Matt Svoboda February 4, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Nathan,

    What I was saying was a silly myths was “homosexuals were waiting on the church to embrace them and the church failed.” I just wanted to clarify that.

    While I know that I am only 21 I have worked in pregnancy resource centers and I have volunteered(currently volunteering) in an AIDS clinic. I do know very well the problem of AIDS, even here in rural Nebraska.

    I am sorry that early on in your experiences you had a rough go from the church, but the church doesn’t deserve to be painted with such a broad brush. There are many christians, myself included, who give time, money, and many other things to helping homosexuals with AIDS. At the clinic in my town we provide many essentials for some of the AIDS victims and we offer free counseling and whatever else they need.

    I apologize for my harsh, over-the-top comment before. I get defensive when I see Christians get painted with such a broad brush when I am hear trying to help in every way I can.

  47. russware February 4, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    Nate,

    Once again you are pushing back against extreme ideas, I’m not sure any of which are being suggested by anyone here. This is a straw-man argument. I don’t think anyone is saying that the church should not speak on the subject of marriage as it relates to this issue. I don’t see where anyone has suggested that redefining marriage or allowing gay marriage will lead them closer to the cross. Again, this is where ‘keeping it simple’ can lead to painting with too broad of a brush, and I think that is what you are doing.

    After Matt’s comment #42 I was compelled to poke around a little on his blog and that led me to the SBC Voices blog. There I read Kevin L. Howard’s article on women in ministry. I also saw and read a number of comments there by some of the more abrasive voices that comment here, like Matt and Joe Blackmon. Then I spent a little time on Kevin Howard’s site, ‘Need not Fret.’ I read some of his thoughts there on homosexuality.

    Gentlemen, I have to say I was very discouraged. I don’t have any trouble with disagreement and good discussion. This type of thing has gone on in the Church since the Church Fathers and even the Apostles themselves. It will continue until Jesus comes back. Disagreement is not a sin. Being wrong is not always a sin, though it is always an effect of sin in a general way.

    Honest discussion and challenge is good for us and always has been.

    But, the type of attitudes and rhetoric I saw expressed on these sites last night made my heart sink. I’ve seen it a little bit here on this blog (and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it at times myself), but not to the extent of what I saw there.

    I grew up in the SBC in the 70s and 80s, and I was mostly in agreement with the move to establish the denomination’s theologically conservative values. I didn’t agree with everything coming out of the conservative camp even then, and I did, and still do have many friends that I love and respect on the ‘moderate’ side, but I found myself generally supportive of the conservatives. But, what I am beginning to see now in the SBC is deeply, deeply troubling to me. Maybe I’m getting a glimpse of a more extreme side-group, but I’m becoming more concerned that what I am observing is, or is becoming, more of the core of the denomination. This makes me very sad.

    Please understand, that while I certainly have some theological differences with the SBC in general, and especially the ‘Reformed’ wing, that’s not what I am so concerned about. Those things matter, to be sure, but not as much as our character and our mandate to live lives characterized by the fruit of the spirit.

    I probably should take a break from Denny’s blog for a bit (maybe I’ll give it up for Lent 😉 ), but I mean it with all sincerity that as I do, I am praying for the Church, the Body of Christ, which includes the SBC, the denomination in which I came to faith.

    Nathan, if you are reading this, thanks for your honesty. It reminds us that the things we are discussing, many times all too flippantly, are not just abstract principles and ideas, but real life. And that is almost never simple. I am deeply grieved at the failings of Christ’s Body, the Church, to always follow her Head, Christ, in this matter and others. God help us! I am praying for you.

    Kyrie Eleison,
    Russ

  48. Matt Svoboda February 4, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    russware,

    Please, read my last comment and go find one bad comment on SBC Voices from me… You can’t. Yes, you will find many abrasive comments from other individuals, but I cant be held accountable for their words.

    Matt

  49. Matt Svoboda February 4, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    russware,

    I just went and read through the article and comments of the post you mentioned and I did not make one negative comment, at all. I only made 1 comment total and that was a *disclaimer so people DIDNT get the wrong idea. And yet here you are misrepresenting me.

    Dont act as if I have this evil attitude and tell people you “saw it at SBC Voices” when you cant find one bad comment from me at that site. I don’t misrepresent you so it would be nice if you would return the favor.

  50. Nate February 4, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    russ,

    Excuse me for saying, but I don’t think you are reading the comments being posted. Nathan has said multiple times on this thread that he believes that homosexual marriage should be legalized (post# 18,21,36,40). You have stated that you are not sure where biblical sin and legislation cohabitate (post# 24,26).

    I have consistently argued that tolerating sin at a legislative level brings harm to the gospel and to society. Nathan and you (to some degree) feel that the church should not speak (via their votes on legislation or the support of legislation) concerning this issue, because it is now seen as “normative” in society and might be harmful to the homosexual community. This is not a straw-man. Either people of faith can invoke their beliefs into legislation or they cannot. I never said that the church should line up homosexuals and shoot them.

    If you want to say that the issue of homosexuality (legislatively) is a line in the sand you won’t fight on, fine. As for me, I don’t have to agree with you.

    And I can certainly make a statement, based on Nathan’s post #44, that a church that overlooks this issue at a legislative level, will do more harm to the gospel than good. That is my opinion. Based on Nathan’s comments, I believed he implied as much. Let him speak to that.

  51. russware February 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    Matt,

    I’ve deleted my RSS feed for Denny’s blog, and do intend to take a break. But, it is probably good to continue this dialogue because I respect you as a younger brother in Christ and I want to challenge you.

    I made not characterization of the comment you made on the women in ministry thread at SBC voices, only a note of your involvement there, so there is no misrepresentation. I did characterize you as one of the more abrasive posters here on this blog, an observation I believe to be fair, though you are certainly not the worst offender, and I have not been without guilt in this regard either.

    I would further challenge you that while you cannot be responsible for the words of others, you appear to have some type of oversight role with SBC Voices, and some consideration of what is allowed and encouraged there might be appropriate. I don’t know what the scope of your role with SBC voices is, but my point was simply that I was troubled by some of what I saw there, and that article was an example.

    My overarching concern is a general tone, and I see the connections between folks on this blog, that blog, etc… and I’m trying to articulate why it troubles me.

    You are understandably defensive, but I would urge circumspection. I’ve been in pastoral ministry for the better part of 20 years, and even my worst and most irrational critics over the years, many of whom didn’t really care about me at all, almost always brought to me some nugget in the midst of their tirades that was worth my consideration. Gradually I have learned to ask always ask the question: Is there anything here that I should consider adjusting in my attitude, approach, decisions, practice, etc… related to their concerns? I would consider this both on a macro level, and then a more personal level. Is there anything I can do to show this person that I have heard them, and that I am willing to adjust/change my actions to show them that I care about their concern(s), even if they are not justified! In the context of community it actually becomes fun to figure out how to do that in various situations without compromising leadership or legitimizing thinking on their part that may be in error.

    The fact that I am twice your age doesn’t necessarily mean I’m smarter, more Christlike, more knowledgeable, or even wiser than you. But, at the very least, it does mean that I am more experienced than you in the very context your life and ministry appears to be headed.

    In that regard, know that I am for you.

  52. russware February 4, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    Nate,

    My brother, you are a challenging guy to dialogue with.

    Let me respond to your last post. (I’ve decided to ride this thread out before I take my break 🙂 )

    I do not know what the point of your first paragraph (comment #50) is. Your statements regarding my and Nathan’s comments appear to be accurate.

    I stand by my earlier characterizing of your straw man argument. In your defense of such, you have once again shifted your terms, which makes dialogue very challenging. You originally suggested that I was arguing legalizing gay marriage would bring people closer to the cross. I did not, and would not, say that. That’s a straw man argument, simple as that.

    Further, you wrote:

    “Either people of faith can invoke their beliefs into legislation or they cannot.”

    Generally speaking, yes, we can, and should! That has never been the question, and I have repeated this over and over. The question is when and how.

    Finally, of course you are entitled to your opinion, and of course you don’t have to agree with me! I’ve changed my mind plenty of times over the years on various issues both profound and relatively trivial. I have no illusions that that process has ended and that I have ‘arrived.’ In fact, I am always aware of the possibility that I am wrong now on some things I’ve been right about in the past (which is a frustrating thought)! I can’t tell you what I may be wrong about right now, but I can assure that I am wrong about any number of things, and that I may or may not correct those views while I walk this earth. I am be wrong on the issue we are discussing.

    This is part of why healthy dialogue can be so meaningful in the context of disagreement. My challenge of your ideas and opinions should not be taken as a suggestion that you have to agree with me. To think that is to completely miss the point of this type of discussion.

    I enjoy these dialogues when they go well because every now and then I get the sense that something I’ve written or said has helped someone in their processing of the issue at hand, whether they agree with me or not. And, because such discussion always helps me flesh out my thoughts. Less obvious to others is the reality that I am always learning things from what they post, even when I push back. Perhaps I should knowledge that more.

  53. Nathan February 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    Outlawing homosexuality will not bring homosexuals closer to the cross. Withholding legal status for gay marriages, and the benefits and rights that status comes with, will not bring homosexuals closer to the cross. No form of coercion will bring homosexuals closer to the cross. Sorry, that is a fact of life. Even God “tried it” — the law doesn’t create righteousness. Perhaps you think that civil law will be a mirror to homosexuals and show them their sin. The problem with that argument is that no one gives civil law that type of authority — I don’t infer my standing before God based on my standing before man, do you?

    If you assume that laws can draw people closer or keep them from the cross, in which direction does it push people by allowing them to be a Zoroastrian?

    A Christian nation is built from the bottom up, not the top down. God’s new covenant will be written on the hearts of men only after they receive Him through faith, not by adhering to a law or other means of coercion. I think this leaves us with fighting for true Christian beliefs in a different arena than the legal one. We have to follow God’s Word ourselves and show that to our nation. We have to tell them about Christ, and pray that the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin unto repentance. Only then will they be able to follow God’s commands.

  54. russware February 4, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Nathan,

    Again, I am in general agreement with your thoughts, and they are expressed well. I struggle because I do feel that legalizing gay marriage will be detrimental to our society (I say ‘will be’ because I have little doubt it is going to happen eventually), and as a good citizen, I feel a responsibility to that conviction. And, that conviction is based on my Christian faith. However, as you have articulated well, that is not all there is to it from the standpoint of the gospel.

    I would also add that I find the term ‘Christian nation’ problematic no matter how you look at it.

    The point is that the kingdom of God is built from the bottom up, and for us, that truth should always inform how we interact with and think about earthly kingdoms.

  55. Nate February 4, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    Russ,

    My first comment concerning a post you made was in #28. My only statement concerning not bringing people closer to the cross was a response to Nathan, not to you, that he made in #44. Go back and read my comments from #2 forward and the premise you will find is that I deny this court battle is religious. I have repeatedly said that people (religious or not) have the right in our government to put forward legislation that will ban anything. If the people vote into law, so be it (as long as it does not violate the Constitution). You, on the other hand, have attempted to say that maybe we can (and I’m am assuming the we stood for Christians) pass legislation, but it is not always prudent. I get that! I have repeatedly said that I get that! But I disagree… As long as the 1st Amendment is not violated, I have no problem with any biblical mandate becoming law. The reason is because it will be put to a vote of the people. This entire court case is not about the people, but about the losers of the vote; that they didn’t like the result. Instead of attempting legislative action they have chosen to claim “religious” bias. This is utter nonsense! That has been the crux of my argument since post #2.

    Nathan and you (to an extent) moved the argument to the pros/cons of whether Christians should or should not attempt to pass biblical mandates as law. Nathan’s post about his unfortunate experience in the church is what prompted my response to him that redefining marriage would not bring people any closer to the cross. i.e. legislating sin won’t make sinners desire Christ any more or less. Nathan has responded in post #53 and I understand his response. He believes homosexual marriage will have no impact on society, I do not.

    As for my first paragraph in post #50, it was to point out what I have repeated again in my first paragraph here. You are misreading my posts. I’m sorry that I have not been clear to you, but I thought I had been crystal clear on my position.

    Finally, I am really alright with us disagreeing, I just believed myself to be have been more clear on my position that I obviously have been. Part of the problem is that these threads take on different lives as more posts are made and it becomes very difficult to follow the flow. I apologize where I have jumped into another train of thought without reiterating my original position.

  56. Nathan February 4, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    Matt, if you truly have a heart for homosexuals, find a way to show it along with your commitment to the Bible — a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver…

    Using an analogy of homosexuality being diseased tissue — the majority of what I’ve heard is a fervent “CUT IT OUT!” There was no indication of healing or physical therapy or pain medicine or salve. Nothing to allay the fears of getting cut wide open. Nothing to indicate that they could deal with the pus, the vomit, the diarrhea. Nothing to show that they would help with trips to the potty or with bathing.

    If you indicate to the sinners around you that you are in it for the long haul FOR them — and will help them as much as possible to deal with that not-so-fun stuff that is bound to come up on their “road to recovery,” then I think that you would have the best impact you can and an astronomically bigger impact than what you would get through legal bans.

    My 2 cents.

  57. Matt Svoboda February 4, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    Russ Ware,

    I greatly appreciated your comment #51. I do believe you are for me and I am grateful.

    Nathan,

    I’m not being mean, but I am really not sure if your comment#56 was for me or not. It wasnt a response to anything I said or I am completely missing it, which is possible due to the day of work I just had. Please clarify?

  58. Nathan February 5, 2010 at 12:31 am #

    Matt,

    I consider your comments in post #42 to be very abrasive. Then, in post #46, you backtracked a bit and indicated that you have volunteered in an AIDS clinic.

    My response to you (post #56) was trying to encourage you to take it down a notch in the first place. The analogy was given for ideas on how you can not only hold to the Biblical proscription against homosexuality, but also to show compassion and indicate that you have a stake in the spiritual welfare of gays beyond pointing fingers at them.

    IMO, if the _current_ church would take that tack, they would make greater headway in actually helping homos than they do by politicizing the situation.

  59. Donald Johnson May 3, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    A Gay-Marriage Solution: End Marriage?

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1885190,00.html?xid=feed-yahoo-full-nation-related

  60. Matthew Staton May 3, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    russ, it’s the community’s loss for you to step back. I appreciate your tone and the way you express your ideas. I think you consistently model how to dialog with gentleness and respect.

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