Looking Beyond the Gay Marriage Issue

By now you are aware of our president coming out in favor of gay marriage. It certainly has sparked a landslide of reaction and sometimes heated rhetoric along the expected political divide. Christians, of course, are caught up in the conversation. For many Christians the acceptance of gay marriage is another alarming sign of the cultural shift that is pushing America away from the Christian values of its founding roots.

The latter is the focus of this post- not the gay marriage issue per se.

Whether or not America was ever a truly “Christian nation” remains up for debate. But an objective view of our history does reveal that at periods in our past (perhaps most of the periods in our past) traditional Christian values were respected and integrated into the fiber of our collective identity as a country. As a result Christians have historically enjoyed a seat at the tables of power. Our voice has been an influential one.  But now that is changing.

The gay marriage debate illustrates this (along with a long list of other moral and social issues in which Christians find themselves at odds with contemporary culture).  As the gay agenda gains acceptance it does so as the political agenda many Christians pursue is falling out of favor.  The seat Christians enjoyed at the table of power is now being offered to other groups.  In the overall cultural conversation, the Christian message is being systematically legislated out of the public arena.  Slowly but surely Christians are now the ones being marginalized.

It isn’t happening without a fight. We call this the “culture wars.” But try as we might, it seems that the traditional Christian perspective is losing ground. Welcome to the strange (to some) new world of “post- Christian America.”

My question is- what do we do now? Now that we are no longer politically correct; now that we can no longer depend upon the political or judicial systems to back up our agendas? Now that we no longer have that seat at the table of power?

Well, I am not convinced that having that seat was such a blessing in the first place. Somehow there is something disconnecting and inconsistent about a kingdom that is “not of this world”  which is to operate from a position of the cross partnering up with a kingdom of the world that operates from a position of empire (Don’t misunderstand me. I love my country. But it was never supposed to be the kingdom of God. It is a nation and does what nations do– typically guided by political self-interests, not God.)  And look at what that partnership has produced. Most Christians are now stereotyped as right-wing fanatics who are angry and hateful people. Sure, there are many factors (a great many unfair and prejudicial) that have produced this image, but let’s be honest- our forays into power politics have not helped.

So back to my question. What do we do now as a marginalized group of people no longer in the mainstream of cultural thought?

Here is one idea. Instead of “coercion through legislation” let’s try “persuasion through incarnation.”  This idea and quote is not original with me. It has all to do with simply faithfully living out the presence of God in our life and community- regardless of what kind of community that is.  It is not a new idea. Just journey back to the first century– to what is recorded in the book of Acts.

Here was this little fledgling group- not very well liked by the political players of the day. They were completely powerless, the definition of marginalized, and without major resources. They were far removed from the tables of power. Yet, they prevailed. Their faithfulness in God’s kingdom saw them endure persecution, overcome prejudice, stereotyping, and humiliation to take Jesus triumphantly to their world. They lived “quiet” lives- not of silent desperation but of faithful commitment and celebration. The “shalom of God” reigned in them. Through it all the unstoppable power of God was released within them and literally turned the world upside down- all without help from any political action committee and without any established cultural currency at all.

(Interestingly, when they did get this type of power- after Constantine- it got ugly. Eventually the church became the oppressor forcing people to do its bidding. We now refer to that era as the Dark Ages. This still serves as a vivid reminder of how Christianity can be corrupted by political power.)

So, maybe it is God’s will that his people operate outside of the margins.  Maybe we can better represent his values while not sitting at the table of power. Maybe we have lost something in our desire for this seat.

It is also revealing that Jesus– who not only could have claimed any power he wanted, but also had the right to do so– chose not to operate this way. His ministry was totally outside the margins. Recall what he told his disciples who were definitely thinking in terms of rule and power:

You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you  must be your slave.  (Matthew 20: 25-26 MSG)

We are facing a new reality in America as Christians. Yes, it can be alarming. But it also can be amazing. God is going to continue to reign. Opportunities to share the kingdom message of hope, joy, love, mercy, grace, truth and yes, obedience will abound. God’s Word spoken absent malice, but in love and compassion remains powerful and compelling.

Here is what we must remember: It is not our government’s job to spread this message. It is ours.

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14 Responses to Looking Beyond the Gay Marriage Issue

  1. “Slowly but surely Christians are now the ones being marginalized.”

    One version of Christianity is, anyway. There are many versions.

  2. dannydodd says:

    Thanks for the comment. I always enjoy input and the conversation that sometimes flows from it.

    Yes, culturally, there are many different versions of what it means to be a Christian.

    But one could make the case- that anyone confessing allegiance to Christ will eventually be affected by the cultural shift. That is, unless that allegiance is shaped more by cultural and social conditioning than by the traditional interpretation of the Bible.

  3. Ken Laney says:

    Danny, I think you are right on “point” with the scriptures. Well written, we thought, and I agree entirely with your conclusion and suggestions. Keep up the good work in the vineyard.

  4. […] could be swayed by their votes, that some semblance of Christian society could remain.  One blogger has described this use of political power as “coercion by legislation”.  That is to that […]

  5. dannydodd says:

    Thanks Ken. Good to hear from you.

  6. K. Rex Butts says:

    This is a great post!

  7. dannydodd says:

    Thanks Rex. I appreciate your blog efforts as well.

  8. 04roadking says:

    Good post Danny, as always you are thoughtful in your approach.

    –Fundamentally, I disagree with the idea that Christians are even close to being “marginalized”. Some examples…no president (and almost all other major elected officials) can be elected without proffering some belief in a “Christian” persuasion…. the “christian” movement has successfully (and sadly) showed up in force and defeated legislation giving gay americans equal rights under the law for marriage property and health care benefits…finally, the fact that this issue is getting the type of press it is getting shows that Christianity (in the broad sense) is still the overwhelming majority. I agree that society in general is shifting, but I think the reality is that it is not so much of a shift in belief but a shift in the ability to actually speak up and voice their contrasting beliefs. Over 75% (depending on who you read) of people identify themselves as believers…and don’t forget that many people of the same sex orientation are believers in Christ, so the comparison of “gay agenda” v “Christian agenda” is a false one for many and one that only reinforces the negative stereo-types of people who claim Christianity.

    Heck, it was a recent as 1960’s that Christians voted in droves to not allow inter-racial marriages. Claiming the Bible defined marriage between different races to be an abomination. That was only 60 years ago, and yet that changed. The fact is that no one is asking Christianity to change. People are asking for the law of the land (which shall not “respect” any religion) to recognize them in the same way for civil reasons. The law currently allows for all other types of marriages that the religious right deems unscriptural to be recognized and you won’t hear a peep from Christendom, so why does this one matter?

    –I think your approach is a good one, but I would throw some things out there for you: The negative Christian stereotypes are going to continue to grow as long as Christendom allows the evangelical, right-wing bigots to be the dominant voice that is heard in the public arena. Where are the Christian leaders uniting to condemn the “Christians” at Westboro for example? or Pat Robertson’s comments –pick one, there are so many to choose from (eg. Hati, etc) ?–or Dobson? or any one of 100 others with a TV show, political platform, etc. etc.? The more compassionate messages by people in the Christian faith frankly do not get heard, and it is sad.

    I do not count myself as a believer anymore…I love you man because you are my friend…simply put, society is always changing…it always has. Christianity calls people to meet that society where it is–the promise is that by meeting them there, it should produce a change in the people of that society. They are not called to “change society” so that Christians can interact with it on more “comfortable” terms. If more Christians would hear that part of their calling and less of the political ramblings of the mis-guided few, I think you would begin to see your desire for “persuasion through incarnation”. You would see Christians with deep relationships with people of all walks, you would see love of fellow man regardless of color, creed, belief or not, sexual orientation, or status. You would see a people that strive not to spread a message, but rather heal broken-ness that is the result of a chaotic world.

    Sorry for the long post…this issue is close to me..I have a lot of friends and family that this issue profoundly affects. They are not asking for others to abandon their religious beliefs, they are asking people to not use their personal religious beliefs to trump what many believe to be their civil rights.

    I know I am not your typical audience, so I won’t engage in an argument with anyone on this thread, just want to share my thoughts with you buddy. Heading overseas…talk soon.

    scottie

  9. Amy says:

    I agree this is a really great post. Thank you, it was nice to read something positive and encouraging. Perhaps we can be a light in the darkness once again.

  10. dannydodd says:

    Thanks Amy.

    And- always appreciate your thoughts Scottie. We need dialogue from all perspectives. If Christians are to remain relevant in the cultural conversation- we must be willing to listen, too.

    I do find your reflections interesting. Yes, I still think the traditional Christian voice has influence- just not as it once did- and even that is on the wane. This is why we are where are with so many Christians fearful.

    I love you too my brother.

  11. ozziepete says:

    Excellent concise summary. I appreciate the positive approach without the doom and gloom. It’s worth noting that the Dark Ages didn’t last forever, the Roman Empire eventually fell, and a cultural shift in the US of A (and other western countries) doesn’t signal the impending destruction of planet earth. God’s kingdom still stands.

  12. […] would like to spend the rest of this post briefly suggesting a different way forward.  In his blog, Danny Dodd wrote, “Instead of ‘coercion through legislation’ let’s try ‘persuasion […]

  13. Gean Brown says:

    Thank you, Danny, very well said!

  14. Robin Thomas says:

    Totally disagree. This is a bad time for Christianity and it is probably going to get a lot worse. It’s silly to celebrate the demise of Christian America.

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