So much has happened in the last two weeks: the shootings in Charleston, the SCOTUS ruling on the ACA, the SCOTUS ruling on Gay Marriage. Wherever you find yourself on the political spectrum, this has been a significant week!
Though the ACA was the big news earlier in the week, I think most of us have moved beyond that conversation, at least for now, because the biggest news of the week has been about gay marriage.
I'm a pastor of a church where members are not uniform in their response to this ruling, and I actually find that to be one of the most beautiful things about our church. Some of us are putting rainbow filters on our Facebook avatars while others are disappointed in the SCOTUS decision but are holding our tongues on social media for fear or being labeled in an unfortunate way.
And both of these "sides" will show up tomorrow and worship together!
As a pastor of a beautifully-diverse church like this, I find myself wanting to offer counsel to both sides of this debate (even while lamenting the unfortunate bifurcation of this issue into two sides aligned against one another.)
For those of us who find the SCOTUS decision something to be celebrated, we should remember Romans 14, where the Apostle Paul advises those of us with less scruples to be gracious towards our brothers and sisters with more. (The "weaker" brother language is unfortunate here, because it seems to suggest one is right and the other is wrong. But, what Paul is asking the Romans to do is to not quarrel over, or judge your brother over matters of dispute.) For you, this ruling might be self-evident and long-overdue, but there are brothers and sisters who are reading the same Bible who are coming to different conclusions than you, and their voices shouldn't be excluded. Many Christians are convinced, and they're not without historical precedent, that while the church should be a welcoming place for all people, it can never be a place that affirms every behavioral choice. In their mind, the Bible speaks with a unanimous voice that marriage is a holy institution and is reserved for a man and a woman. And we should remember that some, if not most of the persons who hold this commitment would indeed advocate for gays and lesbians to possess the same legal rights that are generally accorded to married men and women, but would prefer because of biblical and historical precedent to call it something different.
For those of us on the other side, who find the SCOTUS ruling to be at best unfortunate, and at worst, a sign of America's continuing spiral into moral confusion, we should remember a few things. First, the Supreme Court is more or less codifying the will of the American people - the wishes of our friends and neighbors. This ruling is not judicial activism in the sense of forcing a minority decision upon a powerless majority. Secondly, we should remember that it's possible hold views about what the Bible teaches without necessarily advocating for the government to hold those views. If we lived in a theocracy, when the government strayed outside of what the Bible commends and condemns then there would be a need, if not a moral mandate to remind the government of it's foundational commitment to God's word. But, our government operates as a pluralistic democracy. And like God's people who were exiled to Assyria, Babylon, and Persia in the 8th-6th centuries, to expect our government to reflect our religious principles could be short-sighted. As Christians in Portland, we don't live in Jerusalem but in Babylon. So maybe, part of loving our neighbors means withholding our concern over the expansion of someone else's rights, as recognized by the federal government, and choose to wish them well in the lives they've chosen for themselves. That sort of posture might actually open up the type of conversation that we're hoping to have with our gay friends and neighbors rather than confirming their suspicions about engaging a Christian in a conversation about sexuality.
This isn't an easy conversation. Those of us on the "left" side of this conversation feel that advocating for our gay and lesbian friends puts our Christian commitments and orthodoxy into question by fellow Christians, even while we feel we're being guided by the Golden Rule. And, those of us on the "right" side of this feel that we can't hold our biblical convictions without being labeled something terrible, like a "bigot", even while we pursue loving relationship with gay and lesbian friends in our neighborhood and workplaces.
The thing I love about Intown is that people on both sides of this debate, as well as those in the middle, can find their views on this and other controversial issues being drawn up into and relativized by our union with Christ. Not only do we bring different convictions to his Table, we also bring our sins and failures, and there, if no other place, we should look across the aisle at our brothers and sisters and see equals - equally in need of grace and equally possessing the dignity of God.
Is it possible that this posture could enable us to bring compassion toward those who hold different opinions than us? And, could it cause us to inspect our own?