As I was growing up during the seventies and eighties it was not beyond my vocabulary to refer to homosexuals in a negative light. At that time the negative view was in the culture around me. Though I grew up in the church this negative attitude was not actively promoted by my church; we just didn't talk about it. The attitude mostly came from friends and family members.
As I was growing up, there was no expressed outrage over homosexuality. It was more like an attitude that they were "oddities" or "subhuman." They lived in San Francisco or Hollywood.
After I went to work for a leading Christian organization, I began to witness and partake in the outrage that Christians felt over the issues of equal rights for homosexuals and gay marriage. "Marriage ordained by God is between a man and a woman," was the mantra.
While I still agree with the mantra; I do not agree with the outrage. After all, homosexuals are people created by God. In fact, to even label people with this term alienates them and makes them look less than human. I think that nowadays many Christians would agree with me on that.
While researching the Senate Bill 200 issue for Faith & Church, I came across an interview with Jonathan Rauch done by David Masci, senior research fellow of Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Rauch is a columnist for The National Journal and wrote a book called "Gay Marriage: Why It is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good For America," and his interview gave me some insight into the conflict between Christians and gays.
Rauch said that gays wanted to marry because like straight people it is difficult to live as an unmarried person. He said that they were asking to be part of the social contract--to be able to care for one another so that society doesn't have to. He also asked why gays were the only group in America that had to follow biblical law. This is where the interview became telling. He said, "If you do biblical marriage, then you're talking about polygamy. It's there in black-and-white. Or, you're talking about, for heaven's sake, no divorce. Jesus himself had nothing to say about homosexuality, but he's very clear on divorce. You can't do it. And what I don't understand is why gay people are the only people in America who have to follow biblical law. I don't think that's fair. We could also have other debates about what the Bible does and doesn't mean, but I think what it boils down to is that gay people should deal with the same standards as straight people. And when straight people start upholding biblical law in civic culture, then maybe gay people should consider it, but not until then."
Rauch is right. We could debate what the Bible does and doesn't mean. Just last Sunday in my discussion group at church, we discussed why God hates divorce. It's not that God prohibits divorce, it's that God hates the things that cause divorce. Jesus said that the reason divorce was allowed was because of hardheartedness (Matt. 19). From the beginning, men and women were supposed to stay together in a loving relationship of mutual respect. Divorce happens because people are basically mean to each other (Dallas Willard). All Rauch is saying that since religious people can't get it right the nation should give gay people a chance.
We could also debate polygamy, but that is beside the point. It's a shame that Christian marriages (or non-marriages as the case may be) are the laughing stock of the nation. What is wrong with us? Jesus said that everyone would know that we are disciples by the way we love each other. Why don't our relationships and marriages reflect that? Why do gay people and straight people alike label Christians as homophobes and hatemongers?
Something is wrong. The Church needs to turn things around.