Homosexuality is, perhaps, the single most important issue social issue facing the modern church. How the church handles it could be its end. But the obstacles to accepting gay marriage within the church are huge and I am not sure that they are insurmountable.
I must declare a bias. I grew up in just one of a handful countries that allows gay marriage, in South Africa, just as apartheid ended. My mind is coloured by the ideals of equality and freedom that the South African constitution upholds. As such, the idea of placing homosexual relationships on an equal footing with heterosexual ones seems natural to me. It is my default position. But it is based on culture more than theology.
I also suffer (as most humans do) from a confirmation bias – I easily dismiss anything that does not agree with my chosen conclusion. When I read this article about gay marriage being accepted in Sweden (the article itself is probably far from unbiased) I got a warm fuzzy feeling. And when I watched this excellent BBC miniseries with two female lovers in the 19th century I rooted for the socially unacceptable couple.
But if you’re a Christian then you must think about homosexuality and gay marriage Biblically, at least in the context of the church. The church cannot make decisions based on culture alone.
Why gay marriage should be legal
I would like to give a somewhat different perspective on the gay marriage debate. I think gay marriage should be legalised – this is not to say that gay marriage is “right” (from a Biblical perspective), but rather that it is not something the state should care about. This is similar to the way I argued about abortion (of course, I am not trying to equate the act of getting married to abortion).
Take the Bible out of the equation for a second. When you are talking about the State then you must do this. The state must be secular. By secular I do not mean “atheistic”. I mean that the state must be independent of any particular faith (or unbelief). All the arguments against gay marriage are based on religion and thus no longer count.
There does not seem to me to be any intrinsic difference between a heterosexual and homosexual union that should bias the state against the latter. Unless, of course, the state needs somehow to promote childbearing (but that could be better achieved by banning contraception) and with many alternative ways for homosexual couples to obtain children (sperm donors, surrogate mothers, adoption) this may be a nonissue anyway.
Homosexuality and Christianity
I confess, I would very much like for homosexuality to be compatible with Christianity. I want to see gay couples getting married in churches. I think this would be very good for the church (provided it is theologically justifiable). It would eliminate one of the greatest sources of criticism of the modern church. It would bring thousands upon thousands of gay men and women into the fold, people who currently feel rejected and marginalised. There would be love and acceptance rather than stern condemnation or even loving disapproval.
This is utopian. There are far too many Christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin for the Swedish situation (if it has not been exaggerated) to be replicated worldwide. And there is too little Biblical evidence to convince these people they are wrong. I cannot convince myself they are wrong, though I so dearly wish that they are.
If you look at the Bible you will see:
- At best the Bible is silent about Gay marriage
- If not silent, it has nothing positive to say about it.
- At worst, it condemns it.
For the people who are sure that the last point is the truth, I would remind you of one thing: God loves everyone. He loves sinners. Even if homosexuality is a sin (and I am not saying it is), it does not and never will negate salvation. A believer is saved. Period.
(Of course, if you have a well-substantiated opinion on homosexuality and gay marriage I would love to hear it. Please leave a comment.)
 Aside: it seems to have become fashionable to depict homosexual causes with lesbian couples. As a man I don’t mind this, but let us not be misled by pictures that do not affect us, or by pictures that do.