The New York Times recently reported on anosognosia, which occurs when a person with a brain disability doesn’t know he or she is sick. People with anosognosia might drive with dementia and get lost, or walk after suffering a stroke.
Watching last Sunday’s Grammy Awards, I witnessed moral anosognosia in prime time. Rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who had already won the award for best new artist, appeared on a set made to look like a church sanctuary, complete with stained glass windows. They performed their single, “Same Love,” then rap star Queen Latifah announced that 33 couples would be “married” onstage. Some were heterosexual, some were homosexual.
“Same Love” is the first Top 40 song in the U.S. to celebrate same-sex marriage. It reached Number 1 in New Zealand and Australia, and was nominated for Song of the Year at the Grammys. Here are some of its lyrics:
Queen Latifah then asked the couples to exchange rings and proclaimed, “By the power vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you a married couple!” The marriages were legal: she had been granted a temporary license to perform weddings in the state. Amid cheers from the crowd, the couples paraded off camera while Madonna sang.
I’d thought of Queen Latifah as a woman of strong faith. She recently told Good Housekeeping that her faith had sustained her through several tragedies and said she prays for God to “help me develop into the person He wants me to be.” As I watched her joy in pronouncing these “marriages” and felt the euphoria in the Staples Center, the question came unbidden: “Am I sure we’re right?” In that moment, claiming that homosexual activity is wrong and that same-sex marriages should be illegal felt so callous and intolerant.
Of course, that’s what we’re supposed to think. And it’s working. In 2004, 55 percent of Americans were opposed to same-sex marriage; today 58 percent support it. Among young adults ages 18 to 29, 81 percent support it. Even among those who are opposed, 59 percent say it is “inevitable”; 70 percent of white evangelical Protestants agree. After the Grammys, I’ll bet the numbers would be even higher.
What can we say to a culture that has become so convinced on this issue?
We probably need to begin with fellow believers. Recent studies show that 64 percent of Evangelical young adults support same-sex marriage, as do 62 percent of American Catholics. Christians should remember that God warns us against homosexual activity everywhere his word addresses the issue, whether in the Old Testament or the New. Jesus clearly taught that marriage is to be between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4-6).
And we need to know why God is opposed to same sex relations. Health risks are only one reason (example: gay men make up two percent of the American population but, tragically, 50 percent of our AIDS cases). Religious freedom is another—as more and more states legalize same-sex weddings, will pastors and churches be forced to perform and support them? Christians are facing such discrimination in Europe and Canada today. And once we redefine marriage, where do we stop? Polyamory (marriage to as many people as you wish) is quickly gaining momentum in our society.
But when people have moral anosognosia, they don’t know what they don’t know. For those who dismiss our arguments as homophobic, what can we do?
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis call for the “same love,” no matter the gender. Let’s shift the focus. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus washed the mud-caked, smelly feet of men who would betray, deny, and forsake him (John 13:1-12). Then he instructed us to “love one another just as I have loved you” (v. 34). We are to love other people in precisely the same way he loved us. So, how did he love us? How are we to love our fallen society?
First, extend the love you have received. Jesus forgave and restored a prostitute (Luke 7:50) and offered grace to a Samaritan woman who had five marriages and was now living with a man (John 4:18). Following his example, early Christians bought sex slaves on the open market, set them free, and welcomed them into their families. Jesus has forgiven every sin you’ve confessed to him. Would LGBT people say they receive such forgiving love from us?
Second, speak the truth with grace. Jesus loved people who hated him for speaking truth to them, forgiving their rejection and interceding for their souls. Following his example, early believers prayed for their rulers and showed themselves good citizens in an Empire that wanted to destroy them. We are commanded to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Would LGBT people say that Christians love them or hate them?
Third, earn the right to speak. Jesus lived so far above personal reproach that his enemies had to lie to convict him of a crime. Early believers were famous for their commitment to monogamy and morality. Jesus’ love makes marriages that stay married, people who refuse pornography and parents who never pressure a daughter to get an abortion. Would LGBT people want the love they see in our homes?
Billy Graham was once asked, “If you had a homosexual child, would you love him?” He replied gently, “Why, I would love that one even more.”