Gay marriage is not merely a culture war issue

Timothy Dalrymple’s analysis of events this week involving World Vision may be the most insightful that I have read yet. He argues that it is wrong-headed to think of the gay marriage debate merely as a “culture war issue.” He contends that regarding it as such may have been what led World Vision into the tumult this week. He writes:

The core of the mistake, it seems to me, is precisely in regarding [gay marriage] as merely a “culture war issue.” When Richard Stearns addressed the Q Conference in Los Angeles in April, he pointed to Westboro Baptists as an example of “angry Christians protest[ing] gay marriage.” He then admonished Christians to be outraged by the right things. “As far as I know,” he said, “no one ever died of gay marriage.” That statement, I think, set off alarm bells amongst some Christian leaders, and that framed how they interpreted this change of policy. Even in the letters and phone calls and statements since the reversal, the leadership of World Vision has explained that they were trying to bracket a “culture war issue.”

That’s the problem right there. This is not a culture war issue. It’s much more than that.

It’s hard to imagine any issue more profoundly moral and theological than marriage. It’s hard to imagine anything more important to the cultivation of healthy societies than the cultivation of healthy marriages.

When Stearns and his team call it a “culture war” issue, that belittles the significance of the issue. It makes the people who work for healthy families (and therefore for healthy environments for children) feel that their labors are devalued. And it shows, I think, a limited engagement with scripture and the theological tradition on the issue as well as a shortsighted vision of God’s redemption of the world. It’s extraordinarily important to serve the poor. Putting food in the mouths of children who would otherwise starve is sacred and eternally significant work.

But it’s also extraordinarily important to strengthen families so that fewer people will be poor in the first place. It’s also extraordinarily important to speak for God’s truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that more people — rich and poor alike — can enjoy a reconciled relationship with God forever. And it’s also extraordinarily important to uphold the truths and values of God, because people who embrace anything short of that are, ultimately, embracing self-destruction.

It feels as though Stearns and team, regrettably, have bought just a little into the left’s narrative that feeding the poor is driven by compassion while fighting for a biblical model of marriage is driven by anger.

It’s simply not so. God loved humanity enough to give us the sacrament of marriage. We should love enough to give that sacrament to one another. And when a secular and skeptical society raises the cost of standing up for the truth about marriage, we should love enough to stand up for the truth anyway. Not because we’re angry. Not because we’re helpful. But because we want the best for people…

The lesson is, “This was not merely a culture war issue. This too is core. This too is sacred, significant, and compassionate.” It’s not your mission, but it’s a worthy mission. Your brothers and sisters who stand up for God’s model of marriage are doing the Lord’s work too.

Read the rest here.


  • Chris Ryan

    Gay Marriage is no more, and no less, a sin than any other sin. Making it into a clash of civilization/war of worlds like we have has done nothing more than to marginalize ourselves. It makes people feel like we don’t love them. And as long as they don’t think we love them, they won’t trust us enough to listen to the Gospel. Does anyone seriously think Westboro’s tactics have won followers for Christ? Westboro has probably done more to turn the tide in favor of gay marriage than any liberal group in the country. No one doubted Christ loved them; and no one should doubt Christians love them.

    • JS BOEGL

      I love your heart for the lost and the broken, Chris. But, respectfully, your argument is comparing virtues to violations.
      If I am adulterer, I’m in sin. And yet if I were to assert that my cheating is acceptable to God and a healthy way to build a family, you would be love-bound to “pastor” me and soberly do Galatians 6 with me. Why? Because you’d be concerned that I wouldn’t build my house on the destructive premise: “Adultery is a reasonable way for me to build a healthy, Godly family!”
      You & I would be derelict as pastors if we were to endorse any one of the sins you were thinking of in your first line, as wonderful ways to live.
      I pray no pastor worth his salt, would have an issue with “embracing” someone (anyone) who’s “struggling” with homosexuality as a “sin”. But that’s not quite the question.
      The question is whether the Church should remain silent while our culture (and many in the Church) increasingly “advocate” homosexuality (and SSM) as a “virtue”.
      I bless your dialogue with Father as you go, brother.

      • Chris Ryan

        I’ve never asserted that homosexuality is anything other than sinful, but my LGBT friends don’t think I hate them. I’ve even told them that homosexuality will result in them going to hell. Its not what you believe, but how you profess what you believe. More Jesus, less Jonah.


    Thank you for this salient assessment.
    Dr. Michael Brown has also identified some sound questions & advice for World Vision – AND for WV supporters. Linked here:
    “How World Vision Can Regain Trust” (Dr. Michael Brown)

  • James Stanton

    “Your brothers and sisters who stand up for God’s model of marriage are doing the Lord’s work too.”

    It galls that people have invested so much time, money, and energy into an arena that is vastly dwarfed by the numbers of families destroyed through divorce. Our brothers and sisters have taken the easy path. Our churches have taken the easy path.

    Preventing homosexuals from marrying doesn’t change the fact that they are living that lifestyle. What then is the profit/reward from preventing a civil union (since that’s all it is) that has none of the spiritual benefits of Biblical marriage? You did not do the hard work to win a soul on an individual basis.

    Shake the dust off of your sandals. We should look to our own first.

    • Ian Shaw

      James, I think I see what you’re getting at.

      Christians wouldn’t need to decry SSM, because if homosexuality is a sin (which scripture plainly says it is), all Christians would need to to is label homosexuality a sin (just like the rest of sin) and SSM wouldn’t be right either as it’s just an extension of homosexuality. What we’re doing now is like trying to prevent 50% of a sin. If that’s what you’re getting at…

      So save the energy and effort and put it elsewhere for His Kingdom, right?

      I would agree that the church (collectively) has been near abominable when it comes to becoming secular in the notion of how it treats divorces, let alone mentoring males to be biblical men.

      • James Stanton

        It’s more like 5% of the sin but that’s neither here nor there. We’re talking about the right to a piece of official paper that has no bearing on how people are actually living.

        I think it’s right and proper to promote the Biblical standard of marriage so I don’t think these efforts are totally useless. However, the focus and allocation of resources are unbalanced.

        I understand the need to validate efforts but I’m not so sure the results are there nor that the approach is correct.

  • Curt Day

    The problem I see here is that this line in the sand mentality is both a justification of and call to try to control nonChristians in society. How is my family or anybody else’s threatened by the existence of same-sex marriages? How? And if one cannot show how it is being threatened, then why does traditional marriage need defending?

    This call to try to control nonChristians is a distraction from the Gospel. It distracts because it says that we need extra measures to control this one particular sin that we have magnified over the mass murder that occurs in our wars and interventions and the poverty and dehumanization caused by our economic system. In addition, by trying to control nonChristians in society, we put stumbling blocks in the way of the people to whom we preach.

    It isn’t right that we get so preoccupied by sexual sin that we either ignore or even support our country’s forcing violence and poverty on people.

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