Earlier this afternoon, Christianity Today editor Mark Galli published a short article entitled “2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage.” As the overzealous title suggests, Galli’s central premise is that orthodox Christians only endorse a view of marriage that is defined between a man and a woman. Galli attempts to downplay Tony Campolo’s recent call for inclusion of the LGBT community into the Church. Additionally, he attempts to distance Christianity Today from its former editor David Neff who praised Campolo’s call.
While this article should not surprise other progressive Christians, articles such as this run the risk of widening the schism between the Church and the LGBT community & its allies. CT’s article does not aim at any sort of reconciliation. In fact, it does the opposite. Galli writes, “We at CT are sorry when fellow evangelicals modify their views to accord with the current secular thinking on this matter.” Speaking as someone involved in the conversation of LGBT inclusion, I have never seen or read any Christian argue for same-sex marriage that is distinct from their Christian convictions. While some secular arguments might be invoked (as conservative Christians do on many issues), Christians who advocate for marriage equality do so based on their commitment to scripture and God’s love. For Galli to claim the contrary is not only ignorant, but false. Consider Matthew Vine’s book, God & The Gay Christian, which specifically examines passages of scripture which deal with homosexuality. Or, in mentioning theologians and Christian philosophers who support his own position, Galli forgets to mention the shift in position from distinguished professor of Christian ethics David Gushee, who late last year came out in support of gay marriage.
The “reversal,” as Galli calls it, on sexual ethics from a Christian perspective is precisely rooted in a biblical and theological manner. The issue is that these interpretations of scripture and a definition of marriage differ from the view that has been so widely held and supported. Galli’s article lacks nuance and fails to take into account different methods of biblical interpretation, historical theology, and context. It assumes what many who oppose same-sex marriage also assume, that the call for LGBT inclusion has no Christian basis. It assumes that Christians working for equality and justice are simply bending a theological knee to some liberal social agenda. It assumes the worst instead of the best. This is the saddening reality.
At one point, Galli writes that marriage is “the most intimate of covenant relationships.” As a wise friend pointed out, this is not the case. The most intimate of covenantal relationships is the one we share with God. It’s eternal basis is superior to a covenantal relationship in time. The beauty of this type of relationship is that it can and should be imitated in marriage. It’s something each person has the capacity to fulfill regardless of sexual orientation.
Galli continues, “We’ll be sad, but we won’t panic or despair. Neither will we feel compelled to condemn the converts and distance ourselves from them. But to be sure, they will be enlisting in a cause that we believe is ultimately destructive to society, to the church, and to relations between men and women.” What Galli again fails to realize is that the manner in which he frames his article does the condemning and distancing he seemingly wants to avoid. I am left wondering what Galli would suggest in regards to “reaching out” to the LGBTQ community when his talk of avoiding condemnation and distance is embedded with those very features.
I myself used to hold a stance similar to the one Galli is advocating and using to speak for “2 Billion” other Christians. It was not long ago where it was easy for me to make sweeping claims about the lives of others in the name of truth. But when I entered graduate school, I was blessed to find myself surrounded by wonderful, godly friends, several of whom are gay.
My paradigm began to shift in two different, yet related ways during this period. (1) I began to shift in my philosophical and theological stances. Specifically, I began to recognize the role of context in biblical interpretation and theological positions. It seemed that many Christians, myself included at the time, simply equated our context with the context of the biblical authors. This is simply not the case. So while Paul may have had specific instructions against homosexuality in the context of his writings, the same may not be required today. (2) I began to orchestrate my life and my philosophy following as best I could the command to love God-love others. In this, the best way to discuss an ethical issue was to be in close proximity to others, specifically those whose lives being discussed. I began to recognize the strength of love and commitment shared between the same-sex partners I was friends with. Love existing between two people resembles the Love that Christ has for us. I also began to understand that my friends in the LGBT community can’t change who they are attracted to and who they desire to be in a covenantal relationship with. They did not view their sexual orientation as a burden, but as something to embrace as God-given from their God who loves them. Once I understood this, my paradigm shifted radically.
In the eyes of Mr. Galli, I probably fit the “liberal” or “progressive” boxes he so desperately wants to exist. Fine. Whatever labels are needed, so be it. But I do not hold these views due to some pressure from a supposed secular agenda on same-sex marriage. I do so because I see the beauty and Love of Christ emulated in the relationships of my friends who are gay. I do so because of who I believe God to be.