On today’s podcast, Greg talks about an article discussing how people who object to radical changes in our society, like transgender bathrooms, are being bullied to abandon their reasonable sensibilities and objections. Tevin Wax has some good questions about this radical new theory of sexuality. If you’re challenged about your views, it might be helpful to have some of these fair questions in mind to try to engage in a respectful and useful discussion about these highly charged issues. The questions also constitute some very good reasons why we shouldn’t accept the new theory on human sexuality.
Continuing on the theme of yesterday’s post: Because our culture values equality, and because we (not believing in intrinsic human value anymore) think sameness is necessary for equality of value to exist, this also explains the anger many have towards the existence of gender roles in marriage. Why despise patriarchy? Because it entails one member of the marriage having a “higher” position than the other. If our value is determined by roles, and one role is deemed more valuable than the other, then the roles by nature are an expression of inequality. Equality can never exist as long as there are differences between “husband” and “wife.”
But it’s hard to deny the existence of natural gender roles when biological realities force those roles upon us. A woman gives birth, a woman nurses the child, a woman is naturally separated from the role of provider for a time. So in order to keep an equality of roles (since it’s believed equality of value depends on it), it’s argued that we need free contraception, abortion, child care, and whatever else can protect women from their unique womanly ability to have and raise children. They must be able to live their entire lives as men. That’s how equal value must be maintained in a society where intrinsic human value is rejected.
Now we come to the next step in this reasoning. If the highest ideal for marriage is sameness between the partners (not to mention barrenness), then it naturally follows that the new ideal is same-sex marriage. And in fact, I have seen articles that imply this. For example, this article from Slate argues that, unlike polygamy (which the writer considers to be a step backwards from the ideal due to increased inequality), same-sex marriage “builds upon and further strengthens the norm of spousal equality within marriage.” It does more than just “further strengthen” sameness. If sameness is the goal for marriage partners, then same-sex marriage embodies an ultimate sameness that opposite-sex marriage can never achieve, even though it strives for it.
As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has observed, marriage as it now exists is egalitarian: The spouses have become equal under law…. This is indeed a revolution in the law, and a recent one at that: Full spousal equality was achieved as a matter of law only in the 1970s. As a matter of fact, it is still a work in progress.
Marriage is only appealing to same-sex couples because marriage under our Constitution is now equal. As a union of equal spouses, marriage is very well suited to same-sex couples. And because the older pattern of gender-differentiated roles makes a lot less sense in same-sex marriages, the extension of marriage to gays entrenches its egalitarian aspect.
In other words, from a constitutional perspective that takes as its lodestar an ordered system of equal liberty, same-sex marriage is a very important but not a radical reform that builds on, extends, and further entrenches marriage’s egalitarian and constitutional character. This is why women’s groups have so long championed the cause of same-sex marriage. It is why patriarchal societies despise gay rights and know nothing of same-sex marriage.
It “further entrenches marriage’s egalitarian character” because it takes it a step further along the “historical trajectory” the writer claims marriage is on. It embodies what this Slate writer believes all marriages should aspire to—sameness. If sameness (what they call “equality”) is the ideal, then same-sex marriage is the ideal of the ideal. Gone are the differences between the sexes that might disturb that “equality,” the differences that result in fertility and its unequal demands on the two sexes, the differences that reality keeps forcing into our lives, disrupting our dream of sameness.
At the root of much of the craziness in our society today is the desire for equality. We have a deep human thirst for equality of value, but having removed its foundation, we have no way to ground it. Since we have denied the reality of God as the grounding of human equality, we must now deny many more obvious realities in order to enforce a cheaper equality of sameness.
This is the result of a secular worldview. Only within a worldview where God created us in His image can we affirm and celebrate both equal value and the diversity of reality.
Target recently stated: "We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. Everyone deserves to feel like they belong." Here are my quick thoughts about their comments and this question.
Is it wrong to discriminate against biological males by denying them access to women’s bathrooms? When I was asked about this today, I pointed to a comment I wrote years ago on the blog:
When differences are relevant, it's not an invalid systemic discrimination. For example, if two guys walk into a bar and the bartender says, “I can't serve people like you—get out!” Is that wrong? Illegal? One can’t say until one knows why the discrimination is occurring. If the bartender is saying “get out” because the guy isn’t white, then that’s invalid. Why? Because a person’s race is completely irrelevant to the issue of drinking at a bar. But what if he says “get out” because the guy is only fifteen? In that case, the age is relevant because drinking affects youth differently, they don't have the developmental ability to handle the impairment, etc. Yes, we systemically discriminate against fifteen-year-olds by law because of differences between them and adults, but it’s not invalid to do so.
I wrote that in 2008 as part of a discussion about same-sex marriage. My overall point in the comment was that just as we separate men from women in bathrooms because the differences between the sexes are relevant to bathrooms, so we ought to support opposite-sex marriage because the differences are likewise relevant to marriage. The example of the bathroom was meant to demonstrate the legitimacy of government discrimination according to sex when it comes to marriage (unlike discrimination according to race, which is irrelevant to marriage).
But instead of following the accepted bathroom logic forward to opposite-sex marriage, our society chose same-sex marriage and pushed its distinction-denying logic back to the bathrooms (as I predicted here and explained here). This is where we find ourselves now.
Is your biological sex related to what goes on in bathrooms and locker rooms, particularly when it occurs in front of other people? Yes. But so is biological sex related to marriage. As a society, we denied that was the case with marriage, and now we’re just following that reasoning to its logical, absurd conclusion.
I received an email from a college student who was struggling to figure out “if a Christ-centered, monogamous homosexual relationship is just as godly as a heterosexual one.” He had many questions. Is the Old Testament law about homosexuality really a law we still need to follow? Didn’t Jesus fulfill the law? Isn’t the Old Covenant obsolete? He had prayed, read books and blogs, and talked to numerous people on all sides of the issue, but he couldn’t resolve the conflicting messages he was getting from them. He said, “I know that this topic requires faith, but I need proof somehow.”
He closed his email with this: “I’ve tried justifying the combination of acting upon homosexuality and being a follower of Christ, but I’m really not sure anymore that there is sufficient, or any, proof to back it up. This is honestly a cry for help. I’ve lived with having a foot in both worlds at the same time, and it isn’t working.”
I’m posting my response to him below in the hope that it will reach others who are in the same situation.
First, a few questions:
When you say it “would be new” for you to believe Christ died on the cross for your sins, does that mean you don’t yet believe it?
When you say you’re trying to decide whether or not homosexuality is wrong, does that mean you’re trying to determine what you think about the matter, or that you’re trying to determine what the Bible says about it? The next question clarifies this a bit more…
If, hypothetically, you were convinced that the Bible said homosexuality is wrong, would you submit to that, or would you reject it if it didn’t seem right to you?
You need to seriously think through those foundational questions because their answers will affect how you go about answering your primary question. If you do not yet believe that Jesus died for your sins, or you do not trust the Bible enough to submit to it as the Word of God, then you might not ever get anywhere trying to answer your question about homosexuality. Those questions really need to be settled first in your own mind.
If you do believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then discovering whether or not it says homosexuality is wrong doesn’t take faith, it takes a proper study and interpretation of the text. The faith (trust) comes when you submit to what you find there even if, emotionally, you have difficulty understanding why it’s there. Since we’re fallen, we can expect that we will not always easily see what’s right. We’re affected by our sin and our culture, and our understanding is distorted. This is why God has given us a written standard by which we can measure everything.
The struggle you must go through first of all is to be willing to submit to what God says—whatever it turns out to be. You need to settle in your own mind whether or not you’re willing to do this before you figure out what God has said. That is the deeper, more important issue (see “Gay or Straight, We All Must Decide if We Love Jesus above All Else”), and as long as you are holding out on whether or not you’ll trust and obey God until you see if you agree with what He says, you’ll never come to a conclusion on this. Decide whether or not you trust Him first, and then that will take some of the emotion, uncertainty, and fear out of figuring out what He has said on this topic. If He is trustworthy, then obeying Him is the best thing to do, no matter what it turns out to be, no matter how difficult or how disappointing. Suffering is part of the Christian life because we’re in a fallen world, and sometimes we suffer for doing what’s right. Yet that’s still better than the suffering that eventually comes from doing what’s wrong in an effort to grab what God has not given to us.
As for the Law, here’s an article Greg wrote on our relationship to the Old Testament Law: “How Does the Old Testament Law Apply to Christians Today?” Though laws and penalties specific to times and places (such as ancient Israel) may change over time, the very character of God is what determines what is moral throughout time. There are laws everywhere, in every country, that continue to reflect the moral character of God—against murder, stealing, etc.
Many of the laws in the Old Testament were meant to visually represent Jesus and the gospel to the people (such as the temple, the sacrifices, the Passover, etc.). These were just shadows pointing to what would be fulfilled in Jesus. Now that we have Him, the shadows are no longer part of our covenant. And since, unlike ancient Israel, the church is not a physical nation, we don’t need the laws that separated Israel from other cultures—laws put in place by God to protect and build up a culture out of which would come the Bible and the Messiah. The purpose of those laws has been completed.
Sexual morality and immorality, however, has not changed, because it’s grounded in our nature—in the creation order—according to the character of the God who created us for His purpose. Other laws (such as the sacrificial system) are logically subsequent to creation, but our sexuality is part of creation itself. Sexual immorality is referred to in 1 Corinthians 6 as being sin against our own bodies. And what is sexual immorality? It’s anything that goes against the created order of one man and one woman becoming one flesh in the covenant of marriage. This was the understanding of sexual morality at the time, so whenever sexual immorality is spoken against in the New Testament, that includes anything contrary to this—including homosexuality. (This has been the clear understanding of the text throughout the millennia of Judaism and Christianity—until recently, when our culture began to push for the acceptance of homosexuality.)
And while laws such as the sacrificial system pointed to a gospel that has now been fulfilled by Christ, the one-flesh marriage of a man and a woman points to the marriage of Christ and the church (according to Ephesians), and this has not yet been fulfilled. The union of man and woman is still pointing to this future event. Jesus says there will be no marriage in heaven. This is likely because, at that point, the thing that marriage and the marital union pointed to will have been fulfilled in the marriage of Christ to the church. (See this N.T. Wright quote.) After it’s fulfilled by the real thing, there will be no more shadow—no more marriage. And until then, any other kind of union is a rejection of the purpose of marriage and a rebellion against God.
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in an individual verse here and there, so as you’re looking at individual verses, don’t lose sight of the big picture of God’s creation of us, our nature, and our purpose. Here are a few more relevant posts for you that touch on aspects of your email:
It’s unclear to me from your email whether you're simply trying to decide your view on this controversial topic, or if this is more personal because you're attracted to men and you desire a relationship. If it’s the latter, consider how your desire to be close to another person could be clouding your ability to understand an issue that may be more clear than you think, and try to adjust for that. Boy, is that easy to say but hard to implement! As a single person in my 40s, I know what it’s like to be alone and assume that I’ll never be married. I’ve always said that the temptation that could bring me down—the one I fear more than any other—is being tempted to a relationship that would not be pleasing to God, for whatever reason. I know well the pull of the desire to love and be loved by a partner. It is incredibly strong. I pray for God to help me desire Him and His will even above this strongest of desires, and I pray often for single Christians—both heterosexual and homosexual—who, like me, struggle with loneliness. One book you might find helpful is Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. There’s an emotional component to your question (beyond the hermeneutical question of what the Bible says) that this might help address for you.
And finally, sometimes people who have same-sex attraction try to ease their burden by deciding it’s less sinful than they previously thought. But that’s not the way to ease the burden. The burden of sin is eased not by making our sins smaller, but by seeing the gospel as bigger. The truth is that we are all desperately sinful, but Christ’s sacrifice covers all of it. All of our wrong actions, and all of our wrong desires. Everything. We rest in that, and we’re free to openly say we’ve sinned because He covers all guilt. He’s bigger than all of it, no matter how big it is. We don’t have to deny the height of our sin, because we rest completely in Him and His righteousness. Neither does this give us a license to sin, because we are new creatures in Christ.
I hope something in here brings you some clarity.
Don’t ever take this subject lightly. It affects real people and involves real pain. But don’t ever take God lightly, sidestepping Him in a misguided attempt to help someone ease that pain. Only the true God, in all of His truth, is big enough to conquer pain.
What happened in Georgia (please read Ryan Anderson’s analysis of the situation) has proved it doesn’t matter how the law is watered down or what compromises are made by lawmakers; when a law protecting religious liberty is proposed, hysteria ensues (see the track record in the links above), religious liberty is called “religious liberty” by the press, and the law is mischaracterized as a license to discriminate—even though that doesn’t remotely describe how these laws work, and as I wrote last year, “One federal law and 19 state laws exist…and yet no one can point to a single instance where a RFRA was misused to create any of the Jim-Crow-type scenarios the media are warning us about.”
But that doesn’t matter, because the people throwing their full weight against these laws are opposed to diversity. They have no interest in working out a way for everyone to live together in peace. Their goal is to crush religious liberty and force everyone to actively agree with them in word and deed, and if achieving that goal requires stirring up a little hysteria, misinformation, and anti-religious bigotry, then clearly they have no problem with that. The strategy, after all, is effective.
And don’t think Christians are immune to this strategy. In a comment I saw today on Facebook, a Christian said this, closely mirroring what is endlessly repeated to us by the media: “I see most of the current conservative fights in states for ‘religious freedom’ as thinly veiled attempts to institutionalize the biases of a narrow religious perspective at the expense of those who don’t agree with them.” (Note the scare quotes.)
The irony of his statement is that the exact opposite is true. Upholding a person’s right to opt out of doing something that goes against his beliefs (e.g., performing a same-sex marriage ceremony) is in no way institutionalizing any perspective, but using the government to force a person to act according to some other group’s beliefs (and against his own) most certainly is. That’s the very definition of “institutionalizing the biases of one perspective at the expense of those who don’t agree with them.” How did everyone get so mixed up about this?
Today’s challenge comes from an interview with Jimmy Carter:
Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things—he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.
Is this an appropriate conclusion? What can we know about Jesus’ view of sexuality? Give us your thoughts in the comments below, and then come back to the blog on Thursday to hear Alan's response to this challenge.