The movie “Milk” is based on the true story of a homosexual activist from the late 1970’s named Harvey Milk. Among other things, the movie depicts Milk’s fight against Proposition 6 (a ballot measure aimed at keeping homosexuals from teaching in public schools), a measure which seems to parallel the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California.
If you watched the Academy Awards last night, then perhaps you saw the two speeches from the two winners who were related to this movie. The first winner was Dustin Lance Black who won the award for Best Original Screenplay, and second was Sean Penn who won the Best Actor Award. In their acceptance speeches, both artists took a hard-line in favor of gay-rights.
Black directed his remarks to children, telling them that it’s okay to be gay and that their parents and churches who tell them otherwise are wrong. He concluded with this, “No matter what anyone tells you, God does love you, and that I promise you, very soon you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.”
Penn set his sights on those in California who supported the recent ban on gay “marriage” that was passed in the form of Proposition 8. He said, “I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”
Anyone who regularly reads this space knows that I couldn’t disagree more with Black and Penn’s remarks. That being said, however, I am not writing now because I think this a good opportunity for Christians to cluck their collective tongues in rabid protest of the Oscars. Rather, I am writing because I think that Black and Penn’s remarks give us a glimpse into a worldview that Christians need to understand and to respond to.
In this worldview, gender is viewed as a social construct that has nothing to do with what it means to be human. Notwithstanding the accidents of biology, male and female are totally interchangeable in marriage and in society. The normalization of homosexual relations flows naturally from this view, as does advocacy of gay “marriage.” When male and female are interchangeable, almost any sexual arrangement can be normalized. Both Black and Penn put this worldview on display in their acceptance speeches.
I think that Black and Penn represent a point of view shared by many people both in America and in other western countries. Yet this worldview is in fact in irreconcilable conflict with biblical Christianity. According to the scripture, God created human beings in His own image as male and female (Genesis 1:27), each of whom has their own distinct roles to play in marriage (e.g., Gen 2:18; 1 Cor 11:2ff; Eph 5:21ff). According to Paul, the union of a man and woman in marriage has a deeper, gospel meaning. The “mystery” of marriage has always been to image-forth Christ’s love for His bride, the church. In other words, the innermost meaning of marriage is the gospel itself. A distortion of marriage equals a distortion of the gospel. For that reason divorce, adultery, fornication and all other deviations from the biblical norm are consistently portrayed in scripture as grave offenses. Thus homosexual acts too fall outside of what the Bible allows as acceptable behavior for humans created in the image of God (e.g. Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10).
Black and Penn’s remarks at the Oscars reveal just how much the ambient culture stands in opposition to this Christian worldview. But the response from Christians to that opposition should not simply be just to curse the darkness and to retreat from culture. Rather, what the culture needs more than anything is for the Christian church to engage the culture with proclamation and a wholesome living-out of the truth about human sexuality. The Christian church should be a counter-culture that images forth an alternative set of priorities. In other words, the church should be a place where marriage is held in high esteem both in living and in teaching and discipline, and it should be that way because of its commitment to the gospel.
The movie “Milk” and speeches by Black and Penn are not the main problem. They are but a symptom of a larger system that is set against Christ and His purposes in the world (1 John 2:15-17). And what our friends and neighbors need more than anything is for Christians to set forth a faithful counter-witness when it comes to marriage and sexuality. The messages coming from the “Oscar culture” are clear. The church’s should be even more so.