With North Carolina's passage of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, passions have run very high very fast, and I am certainly among those who has been fairly vocal and public in my opposition to this amendment. I have probably said too much; have probably argued too forcefully.
A friend of mine who pastors a church in Indiana made a blog post calling for calmer heads and more respectful discussions. He ended by using the example of Jesus, who, he says, always debated respectfully with the Pharisees. I appreciate his thoughts and I think his post is worth reading.
However, I ultimately didn't agree completely with him. Some issues require passion. Some issues even require anger and calling people to the carpet. Sometimes, that's the only way you can get people to listen. Without putting too fine a point on it, we certainly don't look back now at the 1960's and suggest that African-Americans shouldn't have been so angry. Their anger fueled social change.
Anyway, in order to explain my perspective on this, and to explain why I am so vocal on this issue, I thought it might be worthwhile to post my response to him here on my own blog, where my own readers can see it. Of course, you can also just follow the link above, read the original post, and also read my response.
On many subjects, there are opinions, beliefs, and perspectives that are equally valid. Should the government cut taxes or raise taxes to spur the economy? Which is better and why, Papa John’s or Pizza Hut? What’s the best play in sports, the Grand Slam or the Triple Double? Is the Gospel of Thomas a mid-1st century, or a mid-2nd century text? What killed the dinosaurs, a cosmic disaster or a climatic disaster?
These are all questions that have valid arguments on both sides.
But not ALL subjects are like that. Should women be allowed to vote, or not? Should slavery be legal or illegal? Should we mandate jury trials in all criminal cases, or should we be allowed to convict people without a trial? Should we have religious freedom, or should the government tell us what we can and can’t believe?
On issues like that, there is only one perspective that has any real validity or legitimacy, and if someone argues against it, they certainly have the RIGHT to their perspective, but that doesn’t mean their perspective deserves any respect, or that their perspective has any legitimacy.
For me, the issue of gay marriage falls into the latter category. You are entitled to believe whatever you want to believe. But that doesn’t mean it has any legitimacy or deserves respect.
So while I agree that we should approach this topic with humility, that doesn’t mean that there is no right and wrong. That doesn’t mean that both perspectives are equally just and equally valid. Just as there was a right and wrong over the issue of slavery, and later of civil rights, there is also a right and wrong about gay marriage. And sometimes, you have to get angry in order for people to wake up.
And this, actually, is reflected in the gospel accounts of Jesus, which leads to another point about what you said….you say Jesus debated with the experts of the Law, but always respected them. There may be much lost in translation, but it seems pretty clear to me that Jesus didn’t just “debate” with the experts of the Law, but got into heated debates with them, and even downright angry arguments.
Matthew 23 is a great example. Jesus starts off by basically mocking and degrading the “teachers of the Law and the pharisees” and going into a long exposition about what incredibly unreasonable and enormous hypocrites they are. Then he goes on to deliver the so-called “Seven Woes” wherein he basically calls these people a bunch of nasty, dirty names, condemns them to hell, and states that all the “righteous blood shed on earth” is squarely on their heads.
There is nothing kind, conciliatory, or respectful in his tone.
Jesus’s clearing of the Temple is another example, especially the version in the Gospel of John where he’s brandishing a whip!
Finally, in Matthew 15, where again Jesus is giving a tongue-lashing to the Pharisees, he seems to have gone so far in what he said that even his disciples seem embarrassed. They approach him afterwards to tell him he “offended” the Pharisees. Jesus is unrepentant and basically says they deserved it, because they are “blind guides,” and he likens them to weeds that will be uprooted by God.
Jesus, clearly, understood that sometimes you can’t “debate” with people. Sometimes, people are just wrong. And sometimes, the only way to get people to wake up is to call them to the carpet.
I believe all of these things pertain to the issue of gay marriage.