Mike Jones on Gay Marriage...

On a recent post concerning a NY Times editorial on gay marriage, Mike Jones commented:

Good thoughts. After reading through these postings, I thought I would share my perspective.

The primary focus of our non-profit counseling office, Corduroy Stone, is to address the subjects of homosexuality and heterosexuality from a biblical perspective. Thus I have put considerable thought to the questions and concepts surrounding civil unions, marriage, and gay marriage. I often write that if we could first separate the legal construct of marriage from the Christian concept of marriage, and then separate the function of using churches and having pastors officiate marriages when both parties are not Christians, from Christian marriages whether in church buildings or not, we would go a long way in understanding the complexities of the thrust of civil unions and the value of Christian marriage that is differentiated from gay marriages that are proposed by supportive social and pro-gay Christian components of society. I am in support of civil unions, including those where people are heterosexual and don't want to bring in a Christian concept of marriage into their legal definition of being together in the society.

I don't support gay marriage from my theological perspective on marriage, but I think people who are committed to be together, (maybe for more or less years than the typical heterosexual marriage today), should have the same social rights as people who are in a Christian marriage, where the state honors that as a legal union. It feels like we don't address the negative components of Christian marriage in our culture when we address the subject of civil unions and gay marriage.

Thanks for your input Mike. It seems obvious that if more conservatively-minded Christians were able to approach this issue as you do, we'd have far fewer problems with so-called "culture wars." Far less collateral damage.

That said, I still wrestle with the theological perspective on marriage. Obviously, the Bible never says "One Man + One Woman = Marriage" or whatever the bumper sticker reads. But I acknowledge that the cultural and historical reading is implicit. Nonetheless, being in relationship with people changes the way we understand truth and context. I have a close friend who leads an "ex-Gay" ministry that seems similar to yours. I find him to be compassionate, kind, balanced, in love with Christ, and quite conservative. I have another close friend who is an "out" lesbian. She, too, is compassionate, kind, balanced, in love with Christ... but quite liberal.

As a straight (though not very macho - I used to take ballet classes) dude, do I really need to make a choice? Can I get away with literally "accepting" (dangerous word, I know!) them both?

Or is Christianity confined by a list of True/False statements which demand our subscription?

I don't take these questions lightly. I'm just not satisfied with easy answers.


Josh Mueller said...

Peter, what did you mean by that question about "accepting both"? Both people? Both positions/interpretations?

If it's the former, I think we all already know the answer to that one.

If it's the latter, I have a hard time believing that God simply doesn't care one way or another. If that was the case, we should expect much less rigid statements regarding morality (sexual and otherwise) in Scripture across the board.

It seems to me that the real problem here is the fear to lose relationships over taking a clear stand what conclusions you have come to on that particular issue. Am I wrong?

Mike Jones said...

Peter and Josh, Good dialogue... I present the difference between support and accept to my clients. Support means that you agree with the person's position and will work towards advancing their position. Accept means that you clearly understand the person's position, and you work to honor and respect that position, while you might not agree with it (partially or in its entirety). This allows you to be authentic and to stay in active relationship.

My clients don’t seem to want people to support them if they can’t authentically do that and they appreciate understanding the difference between support and accept so that they don’t cheapen what acceptance can mean coming from someone.

I often say to people that I am called to be the best trial lawyer I can be, both for the defense and for the prosecution, but I never get to play the role of the judge.

Peter said...

Josh, good questions - and straight to the heart of things. I'm not afraid of taking a stand on these issues, so much as I'm afraid of taking the wrong stand, or perhaps taking a stand when one is not needed of ME.

You said, "If it's the latter, I have a hard time believing that God simply doesn't care one way or another."

I agree. I think God does care. But does aligning myself with God's vantage necessary, or even possible? And does God care the SAME in all situations? Or does God see a lot more than we?

There are millions of believers on each side of this issue: who's right?

Do heterosexuals need to have a clear position on this matter, or can a non-position be a position?

Can we be "consciencious objectors" here? As Christians, we're generally "serving" on one "side" or the other. But maybe we choose not to kill. We acknowledge that both sides have legitimate claims, and illegitimate actions (violence against the other).

Maybe I am just trying to weasel my way out of making a stand. But what if I choose my stand here: I honor your journey, and exhort you to listen for the Holy Spirit, and seek the face of Christ." That's a stand I'll take with every believer.

Now the world don't move
to the beat of just one drum
what might be right for you
may not be right for some

Cuz it takes diff'rent strokes
to rule the world, yes it does.

Damned relative truth ;)

Peter said...

Mike, this is great:

"...both for the defense and for the prosecution, but I never get to play the role of the judge."

How very wise!!

Josh Mueller said...

Peter, you asked, "But does aligning myself with God's vantage necessary, or even possible?"

Well, it may become necessary if someone struggling with the issue is aking you for help or advice. We're not talking about giving unsolicited opinions to people who never cared to hear them in the first place.

And is it possible? Certainly not in the sense of seeing the complete picture as God does. But sooner or later we can't avoid being transparent about our own journey of understanding and what is at THIS time the best we can offer according to our limited knowledge and insight.

The necessity to give a straight answer may evolve within the context of the church if a Christian gay couple asks me to bless or marry them; it may also come up if one of my own children wants to talk about the issue.

Since our personal opinions can never be the final word on the issue, why are we so fearful to express what we've come to believe? The exhortation to listen to the Holy Spirit rather than just taking our word for it, still remains.

So, I'm not saying you're trying to weasel your way out of it (especially if you haven't been able to make up your own mind yet) but I'd rather be wrong than saying nothing definitive or defer responsibility back to the one who is asking.

Mike Jones said...

Josh, I fall in line with you on this one.

Point in case, my clients, whether they do or don’t desire to pursue same sex sexual behavior, would rather that I be clear about what I have come to believe. This actually gives them more freedom and they feel safer with me.

Peter, you also presented the concept that the Bible never says one man + one woman = marriage, while you see the Bible to state this implicitly. Polygamy first appears in the Biblical texts in the seventh generation after Adam, and there without corrective comment by the author. Almost similarly with the Jewish kings and their multiple wives and concubines – yet we generally understand that even the institution of a king over the nation of Israel was God’s concession to Israel after their rejection of the prophets. And here too we can see an implicit corrective statement about multiple wives even for the nation’s kings, in what we see in the strife that ensues between the children of the various wives of the king. I think just another good example to view the biblical texts as a whole.

I have always seen it as a stretch to say that the Genesis text alone supports the institution of marriage, but likewise the statements that loving, long-term committed same sex relationships are only a construct of this present society is a stretch as well, given what authors have written about same sexual expression in the cultures surrounding Israel. While the nation of Israel itself had a long list of vices that triggered the Lord God’s critique, it doesn’t appear that same sexual behavior was a strong issue inviting frequent commentary, as would the more extensive expression of such behavior in the surrounding societies, especially during the time Jesus walked on the earth and Paul’s letters were written. We see a full range of same sex sexual expression in societies within Paul’s exposure, including sexual expression connected with feeling in love.

As to people being compassionate, kind and balanced, I think Jesus would say Peter was fairly much this way as well (adjusting for his particular temperament). Yet, Jesus didn’t hesitate to be corrective with Peter when he felt the need. Peter still retained the freedom to reject Jesus’ input. I think we could go even further and say that Jesus felt a friendship between himself and Judas. Even in Judas’ last days, Jesus appears to be quite respectful of him, while being clear (in his own style of wise craftsmanship of words and constructs).

Also, the pitfall of many who lead ministries/organizations in the general vein as ours is in incorrect use of vocabulary. The phrase, ex-gay, doesn’t need to be put in parentheses, (as you did) because the concept of the term, ex-gay, should simply be struck from people’s vocabulary completely, as likewise should terms such as: cure, fix and change. They do not hold a fixed definition in our culture, and are almost always used to mislead or distort. Even the word, gay, has so many fluid definitions in our culture that without specific definition in the given framework in which it is used in, it also is deceptive and manipulative in nature.

Thus, true and false statements are most difficult to make, not as much because of given concepts we are trying to address, but because of ineffective language used to try to describe those concepts. Within Corduroy Stone, we encourage the use of the term, significant change, instead of just the word, change, in order to invite conversation about what the concept of significant change might mean in a particular setting. Likewise when I see the word, cure, used it is use to imply a greater degree of change than what is most often intended by such organizations that are being critiqued through the use of the word, cure.

I agree, easy answers are less meaningful than carefully thought through answers that may be complex and yet which stimulate further reflection. And always remember, a slam dunk in basketball is basically just ballet with a ball and droopy pants. The crowd loves it. And likewise, most football players rather secretly study ballet to pull off those great moves we love to see on the field.

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