The effort to legalize gay marriage in America would seem to pit Bible-believing conservative Christians against morally relativistic, often anti-religious liberals—at least, that’s the headline. But legalizing gay marriage in America isn’t about morality. It’s about whether this issue, moral or not, should be legislated.
I’m a theologically conservative Christian. I believe gay marriage is morally wrong (and will until I hear a compelling argument from Scripture that convinces me otherwise). I also believe that we should not be legislating the morality of gay marriage, any more than we should be legislating the morality of premarital sex, marital infidelity, or divorce.
The reason for this is that the Christian position on gay marriage isn’t specifically about homosexuality; it’s about sexual sin. This point is vital to the Christian position on homosexuality. The Bible does not condemn homosexual people; it condemns the homosexual lifestyle. It does not state that being a homosexual is wrong, but rather that the practice of homosexuality is a sin. The response of the Church to homosexual people, therefore, is not to devalue the person, but rather to articulate that person’s call to celibacy. The crucial point that differentiates consistent moral conviction (which is good and right, and every Christian should have) from hypocritical prejudice and discrimination (which every Christian should avoid) is that this is the same call placed on anyone tempted to sexual sin. Whether you be single and tempted to enter into a sexual relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend (or, as may be the case in our culture today, one or more sexual partners with whom you may have a casual or even nonexistent relationship); married and “in love” with another man or woman (or, vice versa, in love with a married man or woman); or even the less common sexual sins, such as being sexually attracted to a child or a family member (see 1 Corinthians 5); the response of the church is the same: when faced with sexual sin, God calls you to purity through celibacy. Only when viewed this way is the Christian objection to homosexuality a moral one, rather than a prejudiced and discriminative one.
When I was a sports blogger, I was constantly challenging my fellow bloggers to be consistent in their views—so much so that some of them occasionally became irritated with me. “You and your consistency! Always with the consistency! Consistency, consistency, consistency!” I responded that inconsistency in their positions revealed one of two things: either they did not actually believe at least one of their own claims, or their position was one of convenience rather than principle—that is, they held that position because it fit with their preexisting bias and helped them further their agenda, not because it adhered to a principle they valued. Neither option was worthy of respect, and neither lent much validity to their position, so I insisted upon consistency.
Inconsistency reveals a lack of principle. Treating different sexual sins differently reveals that your position is based not on an underlying moral principle that is true regardless of the specifics, but rather on targeted prejudice toward a specific group.
If your opposition to legalized gay marriage in the United States is based on moral principle, then that principle must apply equally to all sexual sin. If you insist that gay marriage should be banned because it is a sexual sin, then you must also insist that all other sexual sins be banned by law as well.
Are you willing to criminalize infidelity, divorce, and premarital sex, complete with appropriate legal punishment? How about lust, which Jesus says is equally sinful? I highly doubt it. And if you’re not, then you’ve no grounds on which to advocate legally banning gay marriage.