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Sunday 5 May 2013

A Weigh in on same sex marriage

One of the shows I enjoy watching is the Colbert Report; the way he makes fun of American politics and news, through the perspective of a democrat, acting as a Republican, is clever, witty, and I just enjoy it…most of the time.

One thing I do not enjoy is that in almost every episode lately (by lately I mean all year) he has taken an opportunity to make fun of those who stand against same-sex marriage, whether they be politicians, pastors, or whoever. He is entitled to his views and it is his show, so his material is all up to him, but I must say it gets to me at times.

Yet, his show gives us an insight into our post-modern world. You see Steven Colbert’s main audience is young people, and there is something more and more young people in the United States have in common: they are growing up with less and less Christian influence in their lives, and therefore less and less respect for and adherence to Christian views and teaching. Hence Colbert has a primed and ready audience for his liberal views. This is even more the case in Australia, which although it has had throughout its history a strong Christian influence, it arguably has never been a Christian nation, and certainly never has been to the degree the United States was/is. Therefore we have many younger, and indeed older people, for whom considering what the church thinks is not even on their radar.

So what does this have to do with same sex marriage? Well, as with the United States, Aussie Christians have long enjoyed, up until the later part of the 20thcentury, a privileged position in determining social legislative policy. It goes without saying that it is predominantly as a result of the church being so outspoken against same sex marriage that it has not been yet accepted as a legal institution in Australia. But there is something which I think every Christian in the country needs to realize; our country cares less and less what the church has to say on this subject, and Christians should not be surprised if same sex marriage is eventually institutionalized.  
Let me just be clear here, I do not agree with same sex marriage, I do not think it is right, nor did Jesus. When Jesus was queried about divorce in Matthew 19, he went straight to Genesis and reaffirmed that God created humanity to be male and female, and concluded, “Therefore a man shall leave his mother and father and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (v5, cf. also Gen. 2:24). From the basis of Genesis 2, the Old Testament condemned homosexuality (among other sexual sins, such as fornication), and following the teaching of Genesis and Jesus, the New Testament affirms that marriage is purely an institution between a man and a woman. The New Testament even went further than the Old Testament by discouraging polygamy (cf. 1 Tim.3:2). So when Christians speak against same sex marriage they are in line with the truth of the Bible, the single most influential book in the world, and I applaud them as correct.

However, the world does not care about our views. I have heard many Christians, as well as other people say, “People do not care what you know, until they know you care.” Recently the Church in the West has not applied this principle very well, as a whole. Something we need to realize in Australia today is that we Christians have lost much of the social capital we banked on in the past. What do I mean by this?
In the past Christians worked hard to apply Jesus’ teachings to such an extent that they received, after three hundred years of existence, such respect from the Roman Empire, that Christianity became a tolerated religion, and then eventually the state religion. Through that relationship with the state, the church’s influence spread. But since the enlightenment, the church’s influence has been declining, yet many Christians think we can lobby a secular world, that has not experienced the vast social work, alongside the gospel, which made the early church such a driver of social and political change. In other words social capital is simply having the ability to speak to society because we have earned that right through caring for the society we wish to speak to.

If the church wants to continue to be listened to we need to step off our lobbying platforms and take a leaf out of Jesus and his disciples’ book and serve the society in which we live. The church has great capacity for good, and has done, and is doing much good. But our ever increasing secular society mostly only hears the condemning voice of the church speaking against gay marriage, through the media, and does not see the incredible social work the church is doing, or the extent to which this good work could be increased.
My main point? If Christians lived the simple self-less life of service Jesus lived, spoke out against religious corruption as Jesus did, and dedicated much of their time to loving their communities, as Jesus did, then the world may care what we have to say because they will know we care.

As a youth pastor, and a brother, and a friend, I have learnt that no matter how right I am, how much I shout what is true does not matter. People usually don’t listen unless they have seen us show real and genuine care for their lives. If we wish to influence our society for good, we need to be the good we wish our society to be. The church should take an internal check, work on strengthening Christian marriages to stem the tide of divorce, and dedicate itself to bring the good news of the gospel, as well as social care to people, and then don’t be surprised if the world again begins to listen.
One last word, though I disagree with gay marriage, I am not afraid of it being formally recognized, because it will not destroy our society, as some claim. May I submit to you that the destruction wrought on society by the increased breakdown of heterosexual marriages since the so called sexual revolution is a much, much, bigger issue. The traditional family is the bedrock of society, I would love to see the church increase its efforts to help solid Christian families become what we make it into the headlines for.