Steve Chalke, an evangelical pastor in the UK, dropped a huge bombshell recently when he came out in support of monogamous same-sex relationships. Of course, he was immediately branded a heretic, a relativist, a false teacher, etc. Chalke is no stranger to controversy; his views on atonement theory caused the breakup of a large Christian conference in Britain. While I want to tell these people to get a life (and quit trying to run everyone else’s), I have to stop and remind myself this comes from fear. We sit firmly astride a time of massive change, not just in religion, but society as a whole. Marriage is just one of those changes.
Opponents of same-sex marriage call on us to preserve “traditional” or even “biblical marriage, which really means Christian marriage. The fact that what we currently know as marriage would be eminently confusing to early Christians doesn’t seem to factor in here. In fact, the exclusivity of marriage (man/woman only) is about the only thing held over from those days. Millenials don’t seem to care about it, shown by the fact that more than half of babies born to American women under 30 occur outside marriage. More and more, young people are choosing not to get married in the traditional sense, opting for commitment ceremonies, civil unions or just plain old living together. Some church leaders are pulling out of the union with the state that marriage has forced on them, seeing it as a violation of the separation of church and state and a contravention of Jesus’ command to “render unto Caesar“. Noted evangelical Tony Campolo advocates this as a third way through the marriage argument we find ourselves in the middle of. Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, the concept of marriage is changing and there’s not a lot we can do about it.
In my post titled “Is the Spirit Moving?“, I said “…like it or not, these changes are coming and we have two choices: ride this wave and exert a little control on where we’re going and how we get there or be swept along. Because either way, we’re going wherever it takes us” and that’s just as true of marriage as it is any of the other changes coming our way. Some of us are ahead of our brothers and sisters in accepting this one, but that doesn’t make us better, more enlightened or any other nice adjective you want to stick in here; it just means we got here a little ahead of them. It also means we’re supposed to help them get here, too. You can’t do that by patting them on the head and treating them like a wayward child. We’re going to have to (and, this is the hard part) start including them in the conversation and listening to what they have to say. That doesn’t mean condoning hateful speech or exclusionary practices. Those things should be called out whenever and wherever they happen. But, in any exchange with our conservative brothers and sisters, we must remember they are afraid. And, that we are too, just of different things.