In the third edition of “Perspectives”, I present our third panelist – Darin Osborne of Griffin, Georgia. Darin is a libertarian and a Christian. And when you look up HETEROSEXUAL in the dictionary, it says: SEE ALSO DARIN OSBORNE. (Just a little joke, Darin.)
The Christian Libertarian
By Darin Osborne
So, I am “for” gay marriage??? Really? Most may find it odd; maybe even blasphemous, for a Bible-believing, evangelical Christian to hold such a position. Before I am burned at the stake I ask everyone to please hear me out. And I am going to ask many of you to consider a new, radical view of the Gospel based not on a top-down approach of government power, laws, and control but one of grass-roots outreach based on love, relationships, and discipleship. Because of the Church’s aggressive political campaign opposing gay marriage, we have played the role of a villainous tyrant and have alienated the very people we are called to reach. The church must be the only business that treats its customers as the Enemy.
In this blog I will present arguments of both a civil and religious nature; examine the arguments against legalization of same-sex relationships; and at the very end I will propose a compromise that is certain to displease Christians, liberals, and conservatives alike.
From a civil and non-religious viewpoint I can see little reasoning for denying the right of marriage to same-sex couples. As a Libertarian, I firmly believe the less government interference in our lives the better. Individuals should have freedom to live their lives so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. This freedom must be even extended to behaviors that many may believe is wrong. It is funny how most people will say “we need less government”; “the government has too much power” and then in the next breath say “there ought to be a law against that” or “the government needs to do something about that”. No, if we truly desire more freedom and less government control then it must be in all areas including marriage. I just do not like the idea of the government telling us who we can or cannot marry.
Again, beyond a moral or religious basis I can find no civil reason that would prevent two consenting adults from having their relationship legally recognized by the state. So then the opposition to gay marriage becomes a religious and moral one. I cannot understand why we Christians would even attempt to impose Biblical behavior on someone who does not accept the Bible or our conservative, evangelical interpretation/application of it. You cannot legally impose a personal relationship with Christ on any one nor should we force individuals to act like they do.
Yes, I do believe the Bible does not approve of the gay lifestyle (oops, just lost my liberal friends) and it is one of many sins that the Holy Spirit will convict and reprove in the Christian’s heart. But, because I think this lifestyle is wrong should it be criminalized for everyone? Is it really a good idea to use Biblical morality as a basis of civil laws? If so, why stop at homosexuality? How about gossip? Maybe a $100 fine for each incident. Greed? Thirty days in the county jail for not giving enough to the poor! Lust? Let’s not even go there!!!
And if we are using the Bible as our legal basis whose interpretation/application are we to use? Catholics? Methodists? Pentecostal? Mormon? Yes, I know the vast majority of our Founding Fathers were devout Christians but we must embrace that early principal of Separation of Church and State. The Church should not expect the government to discipline people through civil laws. Christians have been commissioned to make disciples through our lives, our words, and our deeds. When we attempt to coerce others to act like our version of a Christian even when they are not, the Church comes across no better than the Taliban.
Let us examine a few of the reasons put forth by conservatives in opposition to same-sex marriage.
Legalizing gay marriage destroys traditional family values. Really? An exactly how does this happen? If there is a gay couple living down the street from me how does that weaken my commitment to my wife and children? If family values means being committed, responsible and loving one’s family how does the state recognition of a gay relationship undermine that? But then what does destroy families? What about that crazy aunt who has been divorced four times? What about unmarried couples living together? The unfaithful spouse? The parents who neglect their children? Are not these the practices the Church should be fighting against?
God will reign down judgment on America if it allows gay marriages. While the “if”, ”when”, “how” and “why” God judges nations is a topic for another blog, let me just address a couple of points about what I call the “sin in the camp” doctrine(see story of Ai ~ Book of Judges). First, if God did want to judge this country I think we are already guilty of plenty of sins without even mentioning homosexuality. I will not begin to list all our sins but I think everyone would agree God has shed His Grace on us and would have every right to remove that grace at any time. Second, if we are opposed to gay rights to avoid God’s wrath what does that say about our motives? The anti-gay laws do not exist because of our compassion for gays but to save ourselves. This seems very selfish to me. Let’s face it, we have a good thing going here in the USA, and Christians certainly do not want some gays messing up our comfortable lives by bringing God’s chastisement down!
Has our action toward gays caused them to be more attracted to the Gospel or repelled by it? If by flexing our political muscle someone is pushed away from God then we are doing something VERY wrong. Are we trying to win a cultural war or win souls?
By allowing gay marriage we are saying we approve of the lifestyle. Let me again clarify that I am not “for” gay marriage. I am simply opposed to the Church’s political actions in opposition to it. There are countless sins and injustices in our society. Why does the church aggressively push our lawmakers to enact legislation that is perceived by many to be discriminatory? And I think we would all agree that our government already approves of many things that we find immoral and sinful. I go back to Separation of Church and State which brings me to my next point…
If we compromise on gay marriage then the gays will eventually force churches to accept gays in all areas. Here’s one point on which my conservative friends may agree with me. If gay marriage is legalized it must also be made clear that churches will not be forced to perform same sex ceremonies. Again, I believe firmly in Separation of Church and State and that separation cuts both ways. Freedom of Assembly and association are guaranteed under the First Amendment. Of course, if a church wanted to perform gay ceremonies they would have that right as well. And that leads me to the compromise I mentioned at the beginning…
The Great Compromise of 2013
I propose that the government officials (e.g. justice of the peace) only be allowed to perform civil unions. This would include both same sex and hetero couples. The civil union would be a legal recognition of a permanent, long-term relationship with certain rights and responsibilities. Marriages could only be performed by a member of the clergy and/or religious group (church, synagogue, temple, etc.).The religious groups would have the freedom to define the nature of marriage. Religious groups would be also guaranteed the freedom to either deny or perform marriages. These freedoms would include decisions on ordaining gay clergy and even whether to accept gay members or not. Again, churches would not be forced to accept or approve gay marriages or the gay lifestyle and gays would have legal recognition of their long-term relationships.
As a Libertarian, I cannot see that gay marriages infringe on the rights of others, so therefore, the government should stay out of a most personal decision. Also, as a Libertarian I believe no one person, private organization, or church should be required to accept or approve of this or other lifestyles.
As a Christian, I hope my fellow Christians will embrace a new way of spreading the Gospel. Not through the power and influence of a government and its laws but through the power and influence of humility and service. We have been commissioned to make disciples through our words, deeds and actions not by enacting laws forcing individuals to “act” Christian.
I think I see angry villagers with torches and pitchforks coming this way so I need to run. I would enjoy discussing this with anyone…unless you’re really angry, then I suggest you just contact David Allen.
A State of Confusion
By David Allen
I must admit that this Perspectives question confuses me for several reasons. I guess that my first point of confusion is this: Why would a gay couple want to be involved in a Christian marriage ceremony with a minister of the Bible? And, similarly, why would an ordained Christian minister who has studied the Bible want to involve a gay couple in a Christian marriage ceremony? The Bible (the foundation of the Christian religion) is clear that homosexuality is a sin. (Read Genesis 19: 1-11, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Judges 19: 16-24, 1 Kings 14:24, 1 Kings 15:12, 2 Kings 23:7, Romans 1: 18-32, 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11, 1 Timohty 1: 8-10, and Jude 7.) Why would a homosexual want a book of “hate speech” present at their special day? And, was the minister absent the day that they taught Bible at Bible school? As a true minister, he or she would know that marriage has always been defined as the union of one man and one woman. The covenant of marriage also predates the establishment of the law, including the U.S. Constitution. So, how can a law seek to redefine a religious practice? Isn’t this another example of government heavy-handedness (seeking to change the definition of a religious practice), and are not libertarians particularly opposed to such heavy-handedness? Once again, I’m confused.
Many argue that homosexual couples are not seeking a religious ceremony at all; they are just seeking the same legal advantages given to heterosexual married couples under the law, and to deny them these advantages is discriminatory. From their perspective, that may be true. I suspect, however, that from the government’s perspective, this is just another chance to slap Christianity in the face. You never hear about the government trying to get Islam to change its definition of marriage according to shariah law. I wonder why that is?
Today, you hear many libertarians and others state that “you can’t legislate morality”. Really? That may sound nice on paper, but that ship sailed thousands of years ago. In reality, it is virtually impossible to separate morality from law, because most law requires that a particular issue be split down the middle into a “good” side and a “bad” side. Fall on the bad side of the law and you are punished. What determines the “good” side and the “bad”side of the law? Hint: it starts with an “m”. Perhaps the most celebrated example of “moral law” for Christians and Americans alike is the Ten Commandments. 100% moral law straight from God to his people. And yet, I hear many Christian Americans reply that only the Constitution should apply to public affairs. I am often confused by the number of Christian Americans that seek to compartementalize their Christian beliefs and their American ideals. How exactly do you do that? (I fear that there will be a lot of disillusioned Christian Americans in the future millenial reign of Christ on this Earth. Talk about your legislation of morality.)
Christian moral law aside, there are many instances of other laws in this country which suggest a standard of morality, and thereby “legislate morality”. Just a few examples:
1. Prohibition – In the 1920s and 1930s, we had over a decades’ worth of “moral legislation” by our own government, which decided that the consumption of alcohol was “bad”. While many people believe that Prohibition was largely ineffective, it took several decades for the amount of alcohol consumption in the United States after Prohibition to reach pre-Prohibition levels.
2. In Georgia, it is illegal for a girl under the age of 18 to marry (without the consent of her parents) or under the age of 16 at all. What is wrong with someone’s 14 year-old daugher wanting to marry? Is there really that much of a physical difference between a 14 year-old and a 16 year-old? We feel “icky” about such things, so we write laws against it. (Ickiness= morals)
3. Similarly, why is polygamy illegal? Why do I care if my neighbor has 3 wives? Nevertheless, the government decided that any number above one was “wrong”. Those pesky morals again.
4. Many people project morals onto animals by saying that animal cruelty is wrong. The government obviously agrees.
5. Abortion is self explanatory, but in 1973 the U.S. federal government injected itself into a moral and personal issue, by saying that it was morally superior for a woman to choose the fate of a life growing inside of her over that life’s right to be born.
6. Hate crime legislation – Let us say that a homosexual man is murdered. By calling it a “hate crime” the government can lawfully add a more severe penalty to the crime of murder. I have always laughed at this one. To me, if you murder someone, the fact that it is a “hate crime” is a given. But, according to the government, if you are part of a certain group in society and you are murdered, then your murder is “more heinous” than the murder of your average joe. Isn’t that a moral stance taken by the government?
7. If gays are truly seeking the “preferred” status of straight married people (in terms of tax breaks, the conveyance of estates, etc.), that is understandable. However, it is the government itself which has created this preferred status for married people. Isn’t “preferring” the marital status over the single status a moral choice that the government has made?
I could go on, but for the sake of time I will not. I agree with Mr. Osborne that the only realistic solution to this problem is to create a process called “civil unions”. Not marriage, but a civil, legal ceremony. I’m sure that gay couples that want to be treated with respect would have no problem with that, because to seek to change marriage would be disrespectful to other groups in this country. The main problem here is not really about marriage anyway; it is about divorce. It is about an attempt by the government to divorce the religious and civil aspects of marriage. It is also an attempt by certain ministers to divorce their personal standards from the standard of their faith – the Bible. Finally, it is an attempt by certain Americans to divorce their faith from their political life.
I will close with a charge to ministers willing to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples, and a charge to the local church. For many people, two of the most important days of their life are their wedding day and the day of their salvation. A minister willing to accept the marriage of a gay couple can lead them down the aisle, but can he or she also lead the couple to the path of salvation? I fear not. Don’t get me wrong. I know several homosexual people and peacefully coexist with them. If they came to me with a problem, I would do whatever I could to help them. But if I live a life of peaceful coexistence and service alongside them and never tell them the truth about salvation, then what have I really done? And that is my charge for today’s local church – don’t confuse acceptance and true love. True love gets real with all people and tells them what is really true.