Monday, August 21, 2006

Deed and truth

In November 2000 I posted an essay called “A Conservative Christian Case for Civil Same-Sex Marriage” on my Musings On site, in which I argue for the legalization of civil same-sex marriage in society, even though I oppose same-sex marriage in the church. In the article I try to demonstrate how someone with religious convictions and a degree of sympathy with social conservatism could take this position for reasons that are still consistent with his or her values.

Gay and lesbian readers have responded favorably to the article for obvious reasons. But fellow Christians have often been more intent on knowing what my motivations were for writing it. Some people think I have a secret agenda to introduce gay marriage into the church. Others think I just like to stir up controversy. A few have even hinted that maybe I have personal issues, like maybe I’m a closet lesbian. As one might expect, most of these speculations have come from people who have never met me.

For the record, my main motivation for writing the article was to defend the Christian faith. Before I wrote the piece, I was disturbed by the general sentiment among gay and lesbian people that believing in the Bible, embracing faith in Jesus Christ, and being involved in the Christian church somehow transforms you into an unloving, unthinking, narrow-minded jerk. I wanted to know why gay people felt that way, and as I tried to listen to their reasons on various Internet discussion boards, I began to take a closer look at myself. I wasn’t ready to claim that I was completely innocent of the charges. However, I did know for certain that no follower of Jesus Christ should ever come off as hostile and uncompassionate, and the fact that many of us apparently were gave me pause.

My first instinct was to try and reassure gay people that I really and truly did love them with the love of Christ. That ought to dispel their ill-feelings toward Christianity. But then I saw that most Christians were already using these words to no avail, mainly because the catch phrase “hate the sin but love the sinner” was coming off as double-talk. Thanks to that unfortunate cliché, all talk of Christian love was being rendered completely meaningless in the ears of gay and lesbian hearers. I realized how completely empty and unconvincing words can be, as the apostle John tried to tell us long ago: “Little children, let us not love with word or tongue, but in deed and truth.”

You can’t just use words, you have to speak with your actions. Got it. Taking action, I started to read more about the social issues gay and lesbian people were concerned about, and I became convinced through reading Andrew Sullivan’s Virtually Normal that I ought to support the legalization of gay marriage in society. I wasn’t easily convinced. It took writing to Andrew two long emails hashing out my thoughts before I came to the conclusion I did. Then after that exhausting ordeal was over, I realized something else. This was one of those “deed and truth” moments. If I cared about gay and lesbian people, the thing to do was not merely to talk about love, but to act upon it, right? So being the Bible-believing Christian that I was, I wrote and posted the article. Because if you care about someone you ought to throw in your lot with them, especially for a cause that would greatly improve their lives in society. But closer to my heart, I wrote it because I wanted people to really know and truly feel the love of Jesus Christ through me, like the apostle John said.