The controversial Proposition 8 has been grabbing headlines for many months. It is the simplest proposition on the ballot; amend the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
A few years ago a similar controversy swept through Massachusetts when it became the first state to legalize gay marriage. Evangelical Christians and other conservative religious groups publicly spoke strongly against the ruling. However internally within the Evangelical Christian community there was not uniformity.
When I first heard of the ruling I spoke to a few people and said that this ruling is a symptom of our society moving further away from God and traditional Judeo-Christian values. And my belief, based on my faith, is that such a move will inevitably result in a fall of that society, just as I believe societies where Judeo-Christian values are growing will experience a rise in their society. When I mean rise and fall I am talking about the standard of living and general quality of life.
Since the United States was once an exporter of Judeo-Christian values I believe the Christians in this country are somewhat responsible for this decline. And one of those failings has been continually over-reacting and demonizing the sin of homosexuality. While one can come to church with many different failings, homosexuality was usually not one of them. This divide has led to a polarization between the Christian community and the homosexual community that continues to become more contentious.
As Christians we would agree that our goal is to create a society that reflects as much as possible God’s will. But should the vehicle for that be legislation or outreach? Is it better to legislate that homosexuals not become married and then go back to ignoring them? Or is it better to recognize that we have not treated homosexuals fairly, that we have shunned them at a time when they may have most needed our love and instead found it within their community? When the world sees us during these times of debate, do they see Christ?
I was watching a public debate between people on both sides of the gay marriage argument. I was especially interested because a very prominent African-American pastor was in the audience. He was eloquent, respectful and caring towards those that opposed him. One woman, who was also gracious and respectful, asked him directly, does my marriage negatively affect you? He said honestly “No it does not.”
I have realized that actively opposing gay marriage only hurts and does not bring any homosexuals closer to Christ. In fact it repels them further. From those days in Massachusetts I decided I would never actively oppose gay marriage. And over the years I have also realized that the institution of gay marriage has not hurt traditional marriage, in fact it is no fault divorce and declining sexual morality that is destroying it.
When I first learned of Proposition 8 I assumed that I would vote YES because though I am against such efforts, I still agree that marriage should still be defined as between a man and woman. But I changed my mind for several reasons.
- This is not a moral referendum. This is a legislative act. The government is choosing to define marriage and is entering unprecedented areas. If the government can begin deciding on moral values that do not have clear societal protections, what will be next? What if the government chooses to make illegal evangelism as has been done in Islamic countries? What if the government chooses to make illegal the wearing of religious icons or clothing as has been done in France? And why is the government defining marriage? Is not marriage something between a man, woman and God?
- Gay marriage does not hurt traditional marriage, at least not as much as no fault divorce and growing sexual immorality does. The church has to pull the log out of its eye and recognize that its divorce rate is as high as general society’s.
- Why do Christians insist on legislating against gay marriage but not for other Christian values? Should all Americans be Christian? Should divorce and adultery be illegal? Should working on the Sabbath be illegal?
- If this Proposition fails, most people will continue on with their lives virtually the same. But if this Proposition passes then many homosexuals will feel hated and homosexual couples that will want to marry will be deeply hurt.
The debate has brought out some ugliness on both sides. The YES side has made several claims that I believe are misinformed at best and lies at worst.
- The YES side has said that churches will lose their tax-exempt status if they choose not to marry gay couples. This is absolutely false. Currently churches can choose for example not to marry formerly divorced people w/o any danger to the tax-exempt status.
- The YES side has tried to scare parents by telling them that schools will begin to teach about gay marriage in the school. This is based on the fact that such material is taught in some parts of Massachusetts. Being from Massachusetts I am pretty sure that this was taught in some very liberal suburbs before gay marriage became legal. In California this could happen but it is not guaranteed and I imagine it will depend on the leanings of the areas. I don’t imagine it happening in Sunnyvale anytime soon.
On the NO side there has been numerous reports of NO people stealing YES signs from lawns, vandalizing homes that have YES signs, etc. In one case, two lesbians parked an SUV in front of a YES home with a message painted on the rear windshield that says: “Bigots live here.”
I fear that regardless of the outcome, the culture war will continue to become worse. And the decline of American society will continue.