PB&J and Gay Marriage

So let’s say I’m the man who invented PB&J. Mmmm. I know how it’s supposed to be made. I invented it, right?

Then I decide I’m gonna give the ingredients to a kid and tell him how it should be made. Not gonna show him, just tell him and then leave him to do it.

I come back, to find a pile of torn bread, globs of jelly, and peanut butter all over the plate. He shows it to me and says “Here’s PB&J!”

He completely ruined what it was supposed to be. Does that change what PB&J is? What I made it to be?

What if he didn’t even use the ingredients I gave him? What if he used mustard instead of jelly? What if he added cheese? What if he threw it all out and just cooked a steak and called that PB&J?

Would that change what PB&J is, what I made it to be?

Now obviously I didn’t create PB&J, otherwise my bank account would look a bit different. My point here is, the creator of a thing gets to decide what this thing is and what is included in it. No matter what anyone else says or does, if I created it and said “Here are the rules of this creation,” those are the rules.

I’ve seen a whole bunch of people, primarily Christians, talking about gay marriage lately. One of the biggest things I see them say is “God created marriage between a man and a woman, the Supreme Court doesn’t get to decide what marriage is!” Those people aren’t wrong. God created marriage to be a certain thing, and my understanding of Scripture says that is a union between a man and a woman. However, people saying this are arguing that marriage is an institution created by God that the government should not get involved in.

What they fail to realize is that marriage in America has literally NEVER been a union only between two people and God in their lifetime. Need proof? Can you go marry someone right now legally with no one present? Without a license? The fact that I need to apply for a license (and can be denied one), that I have to be married with a witness present by a state-approved officiant, and that if things go wrong I have to get the courts involved in order to get a divorce, tells me that marriage as defined by the majority of America has ALWAYS involved the government.

Now, let’s talk about that government, shall we? Another argument against gay marriage has been that our country was founded on Christian values.

Ha. Here we go.

Our forefathers came to America to escape an oppressive leadership. Protestantism was started to escape an oppressive theocracy. The Catholic church, at the time, basically ruled everything. Told everyone exactly how to live, what to eat and buy, where to work. Religion was the law. Protestants, excluding the theological disagreements they had when studying the newly mass-printed Bible, wished to escape a government that ruled their lives. Much later they came to America with Protestant views in mind. No longer would government get to tell people how they would worship. It would not even let them tell people whether they would worship or not. Regardless of how they practiced that notion when the Constitution was written, the wording says that everyone in America had a right to freely express religion.

Despite what you may believe, our forefathers were not apostles. The Constitution is not a new New Testament. Our national legislature and judges are not deacons and elders in a national denomination, and Barack Obama is not the 43rd Pope of the American Church. They are not elected to protect the Church’s interests, enforce our morals, or spread our word for us. They are here to protect the people of this country, the minority in particular. They serve to enforce some sense of agreed-upon morality by the majority, and work to protect those who are not represented in that majority. That means that they will makes laws that protect Christians and non-Christians alike.

I’m sure this comes as a shock to some of you, but our forefathers weren’t exactly model Christians. Catholics at one time massacred millions of innocent people for their “barbaric ways” (hear: unwillingness to accept their rule or pay taxes). Our forefathers were probably good “Christian” people who went to church on Sunday and sang good Christian hymns, and then went home and beat or raped their slaves. Our country was not founded as a new haven for conservative Republican Christians. It was meant to be, or is moving toward becoming, a place of political safety and freedom for all, whether those citizens agreed on everything or not. America, Western civilization in general, is very different than most of the world in our focus on the individual and individual rights. The Consitution works to protect everyone on an individual level. While I would argue a point that Jesus wants us to be concerned about our individual salvation since no one else can save us and we can’t save anyone else, there’s something to be said about the early Christian communities and how they worked to serve and care for one another. But we do not live in that culture.

Here in America, we want personal liberties, freedom of speech and religion, freedom to bear arms, but we don’t seem to want other people to have their liberties (abortion, gay marriage) because it offends our sense of morality. So many conservatives argue against gay marriage because it offends them and their sense of what life should look like, but argue that their right to have a gun affects no one else but themselves. However, your freedom to carry a gun is something that is likely to end up with someone dead, if you ever need to use that right for its intended purpose. Trust me, I know how training for a gun license works. They tell you that you shoot to stop them, whatever that means. Usually it means you shoot to kill. Your logic says that you should be able to have a method to kill someone if necessary, but a person being able to marry another person shouldn’t be legal, even though it hurts no one other than your sense of morality. A bit hypocritical that you get your freedoms, which could end up with someone dying, but someone else doesn’t get their right which at worst offends you.

You say that making guns illegal won’t stop criminals being criminals, because it’s in their nature. If that’s the case, what makes you think that gay people not being allowed to marry will make them any less gay? After all, it’s in their nature. No law will change that.

I’m not saying I think those things are good or bad, liberties are liberties after all. But you can’t force other people outside the church to live based on your sense of morality. That’s oppression as bad as the Pharisees ever had. Jesus time on Earth was spent ministering mostly to His people, the ones within his own religion. It was rare that he ever spoke to someone who was not Jewish. The apostles did, but the language they used when speaking to non-Christians is very different than to Christians.

Its important to remember that America is NOT the church. Your political views will always be influenced by your views of religion, but that does not mean that politics are grounded in some sense of spirituality. Some pretty horrible things have been legal and morally “okay” in the sight of governments around the world (mutilation of female genitals, mass orgies, putting disobedient children to death in our own heritage!). If we followed our tradition of spiritual law, we would do some things that most people, religious or not, would find morally objectionable. These things don’t match up with Jesus’ new law anymore, and the law he brought did not always (rarely) matched up with the law of the land. He brought a new covenant of mercy and grace rather than punishment and atonement.

People seem to think that our primary job as Christians is to maintain the status quo of our entire country’s moral code. They treat America like it’s the new Israel, Gods chosen people, blessed above all others, the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. That our job as Christians is to set Jesus up as our earthly ruler, to put men and even women (gasp) in office that most closely resemble our version of what Jesus looked like and acted like. Do you realize that Jesus would never run for a public office? He was basically a homeless man who lived off of donations and possibly thru his knowledge of carpentry. In fact, Jesus openly rejected the people who tried to put him on an earthly pedestal as a political leader. The people of his age were waiting for an earthly savior to come and slay their enemies and put Jerusalem back to its former glory, reinstate the nation as rulers forever. Jesus instead said that he was there to bring a kingdom not of this world. He rarely spoke of politics; same for his apostles. They mostly only said that people should pay their taxes fairly and not cause problems for their leaders, who were there to keep order and execute the law for the interest of the people.

American Christians seem to want a theocracy in place, a president who will enforce good Christian rules on Christians, “Christians”, and non-Christians alike. Jesus resisted this idea too! The Pharisees, Saducees, and Sanhedrin were corrupt and abusive religious leaders of their day. They imposed harsh restrictions on those they “ruled” over. The thing is, Jesus never said they were wrong in their execution of the law, simply that they were guilty of ignoring their own wrongdoings and that they missed the point of it all.

Everyone is quick to point out that Jesus had the right to stone the adulterous woman, but not so quick to point out that the Pharisees had that right as well. Under the law, that woman should have been put to death. Jesus spared her by convicting her accusers of their own guilt. JESUS DID NOTHING AT THAT POINT TO SAY THE LAW WAS UNFAIR. He simply had everyone look in at themselves and know they were guilty of sin as well. The guilt of the Pharisees in this instance was not in their execution of the law at that moment, but rather their eagerness to punish another while ignoring their own guilt. Jesus didn’t accept the woman’s sins, he told her not to do them anymore. But he showed her mercy against a law that would have her put to death.

We like to imagine that we’re Jesus in this situation, but more often than not we’re the Pharisees. We either jump on the bandwagon to condemn evildoers while ignoring our own sin, or we swing to the other extreme and resist judging anyone at all for fear of our own consciences convicting us. Jesus judged this woman to be in the wrong, and then loved her anyways and spared her the punishment she deserved according to the laws of the time. Our problem as Christians is not that we judge sinners. Its that we judge sin and then condemn. We judge sinners and then we decide to give them what they “deserve”, while ignoring what we ourselves deserve. On the other hand, sometimes we choose to avoid that act of condeming otherwise. However, it is not always laziness, nor is it a lack of firm conviction when we fail to execute what we believe is God’s righteous laws. It takes a strong faith to both point out sinfulness and simultaneously resist shunning that person for it. When we recognize sin and choose to embrace that person anyways as a child of the Creator, we look more and more like Jesus. We are told to approach a sinful brother about their wrongdoing and eventually shun them if they refuse to try and change. This law does NOT apply to the people outside the church. We should never turn away from someone in need.

Let’s set up a modern day version of the adulterous woman. A bunch of Christians bring a man from their congregation to Jesus who they found out was gay and say they want to kick him out for his deviant ways. They want to socially shun him and hang him as a sinner, make an example of him and how the Church will not tolerate such sinfulness.

Jesus looks up and says “Sure, we can do that. But let me ask you each a question first. Tim, how much porn have you watched this week? Joe, how many times did you curse someone under your breath while driving to work? Bob, didn’t you tell Jim’s secret to everyone after he told you what it would do to his marriage? Sue, how much money did you spend on yourself shopping for clothes this week instead of helping out that homeless guy near your job?”

“But no, you guys are right, this man is the only one in the congregation worth tossing out since his sin can be seen easily, since it affects every aspect of his life. Your burden of not controlling how much food you eat is WAY more difficult than his. Your sin is much less concerning since its a culturally acceptable action that benefits you directly.”

Would Jesus support gay marriage, officiate or even attend a gay wedding? I don’t believe so. I can’t be sure, but I don’t believe Jesus would support gay marriage. I think he spoke out against homosexuality, even if it was only one time. I can’t say He or His apostles would ever applaud homosexuality, call it GOOD or PURE or HOLY.

But he would support gay PEOPLE. He would love them. He would recognize that most of the world was broken and not living the way God intended when He created it. He would go to a gay married couples house and eat dinner, play games or watch a movie. Hed be their friend. Pray with them and for them, sincerely care about more than just their sin but their life and hardships and normal people problems too. Hed cry with them. People would talk about Jesus supporting gay people by being friends with them, accuse him of supporting homosexuality, but hed pay no mind to that talk. Hed even defend those gay people to the masses of Christians who wanted to socially crucify them. He would let them know he didn’t agree with their lifestyle, but he wouldn’t stop being a friend. And through his love he would show them a better life. He wouldn’t be concerned about changing their lives through legislature, hed do it through a personal relationship based on love. After all, he hung out with people that the religious masses of his day thought of as unclean sinners. Whos to say they weren’t just that, unclean sinners? Jesus came to tend to the sick, not the well.

I’m not saying it’s wrong for Christians to be involved in politics. Im saying it’s wrong for Christians to try to force non-Christians to have Christian values and basically live a Christian life without their knowledge or consent by forcing legislature through that tells them how to live. This is the lazy Americans solution to getting their hands dirty actually ministering to people who need it. In some ways it’s easier to go to Africa and do mission work. This is a white savior complex that grows in us, and is popular and accepted amongst Christians and non-Christians alike as a charitable action. Churches all over will fund a trip to Africa or South America. How many do you think would fund a trip for me to go represent the Church at a gay pride parade in San Francisco? Do churches spend money supporting missionaries to go volunteer and represent that church at rallies for the LGBT community, or work to invite gay and lesbian people into their churches? If there is such a thing, I have not seen it. I’m sad to say that most of what I’ve seen from Christians in reaction to the ruling two weeks ago has been hatred and anger, or blind acceptance and total support by being swept into the flow of societal trends. I haven’t had too many one on one talks about this situation, but Facebook tells a lot of stories.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud those missionaries going over seas to minister to our brothers and sisters in other continents. I’ve never worked that hard to show Christ to people who don’t know Him. You are completely necessary and are doing God’s work, whatever your personal intentions may be. I simply state what I’ve said, to say our overseas efforts have become far more popular and socially laudable than efforts within our own borders to minister to the fringes of society. We work hard to bring poor ethnic groups in third world countries to Jesus, and are applauded for it, and then turn around and try to make it our governments job to convert people here in America. We use our morality to obligate those not within our church to follow our rules. Does it make any sense to follow the rules of Boy Scouts if you are not a member? Should I follow Germany’s laws as an American? No, that makes no sense. Why should non-Christians follow our laws? Christians have begun to use the laws we pass as a way to oppress “sinners” without having to acknowledge that we ourselves are being hateful. Do you really think God or Jesus would be pleased to be associated with oppression and hatred? Do you think God would be more likely to have mercy on a gay person just because they aren’t allowed to marry? Do you really think you’re helping a person’s soul by preventing them legal access to something sinful? Isn’t it sin whether it’s legal or not? Do you think God or Jesus would be happy with a person living all the correct rules of Christianity because the law tells them to, but have no real relationship with God or Jesus? We have a bad enough problem within the church of people leading an empty Christian existence, following the rules but not recognizing the point of it all. It wouldn’t do any better for that to happen outside the church as well. Living as a Christ follower is not simply a checklist of rules to follow. Its an attitude, a lifestyle choice that asks us to point to the One who inspired us to live this way.

What conclusions am I trying to make here? Well, a few. Marriage as defined by God has not and never will change. Marriage as defined by the US government, however, has. We as Christians have to deal with that and recognize it is not the end of the world. Really though, has your life fallen to pieces after this law was passed? Have people invaded your home, taken your money away, killed your family? True, many people face discrimination lawsuits for standing up for their beliefs. That is unfortunate. That makes it more difficult to be a Christian, requires us to, at times, stand up for our beliefs against overwhelming opposition and even lose our possessions. However, if anything this is an opportunity for us to shine a brighter light in a greater darkness. My girlfriend pointed out a good point: maybe young gay teens will have some hope for their future to be “accepted” and will live on rather than commit suicide, as is common. Maybe gay adults won’t marry into heterosexual relationships and use families as a cover for their desires and eventually rip that family apart when the pressure of the life they’re living on the outside versus the inside is too much to bear. Maybe a less oppressive culture towards gay people will ultimately lead them to more openness to ideas that don’t agree with their own, and give them more time in life for us to show them they are loved. They can spend less time thinking of how they will need to explain themselves to others, be less afraid, and spend more time listening, which is something we ourselves could do better.

It isn’t easy to consolidate being a Christian with being American. Believe it or not, those two words are not synonymous. It is important for Christians to remember that our loyalties lie with Christ before anything else, and that any other loyalties that conflict with that one cannot be sustained. Rather than spin your wheels in the mud about this new legislature, rather than alienating an entire community of people by publicly demonizing them, maybe it’s time you quietly accept that Jesus still rules, that His word will be spread best when there is pressure against it, and that the best place to represent Christ is amongst a nation that doesn’t really know Him. It’s time to show the world what Love winning really means.

As for me, you might see me eating a PB&J with the gay couple down the street.