How to discuss same-sex marriage

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How to discuss same-sex marriage

February 11, 2015 -

The number of states that allow same-sex marriage has nearly doubled since October, from 19 to 37.  After the Supreme Court denied Alabama’s request to block same-sex marriages last Monday, USA Today headlined: “Handwriting on the wall for gay marriage.”

Last Sunday’s Grammy Awards featured videos and performers proudly affirming homosexuality.  (See Nick Pitts’s Sam Smith: beautiful voice, dangerous dreams.)  Most observers assume the Supreme Court will make same-sex marriage (SSM) legal in all 50 states when it rules this summer.  My purpose today is not to discuss the merits of the issue (for more, see my 5 ways to debate same-sex marriage).  Rather, it is to prepare us for the opposition we face.  If you affirm biblical marriage, what is the best way to discuss your views with those who disagree? (Tweet this)

First, understand their mindset.  For many, the argument is simple: opposition to SSM is discrimination akin to racial prejudice.  They view those who defend biblical marriage as bigoted and homophobic.  They see us as we might see members of the KKK—intolerant people whose beliefs should not even be considered.

Second, recognize the rhetorical battle being waged.  “Political framing” is the technical term for rhetorical renaming of the opposition.  While our concerns are grounded in compassion for homosexuals, we are framed as “anti-gay.”  When we point out research showing the health risks of same-gender sexual activity, we are branded homophobic.

And so a culture that once viewed traditional Christian faith as central, then marginalized it as irrelevant, now views it as dangerous.  The good news is that we are back where we started.  Early Christians were labeled licentious, since they befriended prostitutes; cannibalistic, since their worship included the “body and blood” of Christ; atheistic, since they rejected Roman gods; and subversive, since they would not worship the emperor.

What did they do?  Sociologist Rodney Stark: “Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent problems.  To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope.  To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachment.  To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family.  To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity.  And to cities faced with epidemics, fire, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services.”

Why did they love those who did not love them?  Because Scripture taught them, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21); “Do not be surprised that the world hates you.  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:13, 18); “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

So speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), pray for those who reject your message, and seek ways to show them God’s grace in yours. (Tweet this) As the gospel song says, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

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