A Coming Out (Of Sorts)

Hello, my name is Grace Hall. I am a devout Christian, and I support gay marriage. 

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You may be wondering why I haven’t blogged for about a year and a half. Well, it’s because I’ve been sitting on this very post. I’ve felt the need to write this post for even longer than that, but I’ve been struggling with how to write it and when to write it and whether it’s even possible for me to accomplish what I’m trying to do, which is this:

I simply want to discuss the topic of the legalization of gay marriage in a way that is respectful, insightful, and — above all — rational. 

I want to preface this by saying that I have grave doubts that this will be successful. I never engage in Facebook debates, I try to remain apolitical on Twitter, and (apart from one odd year in high school), I resolutely keep my personal opinions and beliefs off of my car’s bumper. I think the problem with this debate, as well as so many others in our country, is that we no longer have to look the people we disagree with in the eye. It is so easy, when you are separated by time, space, and the infinite reaches of the Internet, to speak without compassion. It is a far more difficult thing (and a far, far better thing), to hold the hand of the person you disagree with, look him or her in the eye, and temper what you say with what you hear. I’m not ashamed to support gay marriage — I never have been — but I’ve been afraid of alienating, hurting, or simply being insensate to others. So I hope you hear me say that, regardless of what you believe on this issue or a multitude of others, I care for you, I care about you, and (in the immortal words of Mr. Rogers), I like you just the way you are.

Now, how is it that I, as a lifelong member of a (quite) conservative Christian tradition, am in favor of gay marriage? My answer comes down to one simple fact, the fact that, I believe, should have ended this debate before it even started:

This is a legal issue, not a religious one.

As much as we conflate Christianity and American nationalism, they are not the same things. Thank God. Separation of church and state works just as much for the protection of the church as it does the state, and I think it’s one of the best and most important tenets of our country. You are not required to be a Christian in order to be an American citizen. There are citizens — who are just as American as any WASP — who are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or areligious. All faiths and creeds — or lack thereof — are welcome and valid. If Christianity is not a prerequisite for citizenship, then Christian morals cannot be a prerequisite for our legal decisions.

Our question is not, “What does the Bible tell us about this as Christians,” but “What do the legal documents of this country tell us about this as Americans?” And, frankly, that’s a pretty easy one. Is one consenting, adult American citizen of good standing afforded the same rights as another consenting, adult American citizen? A bit redundant, no? 

Now, here’s where I usually hear arguments about how “gay marriage is a slippery slope,” and I would like to share with you now what I tell my beginning composition students. If this is a topic you truly care about, if you feel that this issue is worth your time, your effort, your energy, and your prayers, then make a better argument. A “slippery slope” is literally a logical fallacy. Like, literally. Not figuratively-literally the way people (mis-)use “literally” these days, but actuallyliterally. If you open a textbook on composition and rhetoric, in the section under logical fallacies — those arguments that are inherently flawed and which, in the eyes of professional arguers and wordsmiths the world over, are invalid — you will find the term “slippery slope.” It is simply not a valid basis for granting or denying citizens their rights. This issue is too important — people’s lives are too important; don’t do us all the disservice by using a poor argument.

I saw an article posted on Facebook several months back that offers five reasons to not give up on banning gay marriage. Wanting to understand those who think differently than I do, I read it, and remember thinking, “Yes, those are all reasons to deny gay marriage, but none of them are remotely legal reasons.” Another post seemed to struggle with the fact that gay marriage simply isn’t mentioned in the Bible, and welcomed discussion and instruction. To these friends, I would say, “Peace.” Questions about what the Bible says and what God expects of us, and how to best understand those things in order to best demonstrate Christ’s love to others, are good questions. I love those questions. They’re simply not relevant to this issue. 

My hope is that, if you do not support gay marriage, you might now understand how a committed, Bible-reading, church-attending, serious-minded Christian might find some very valid reasons to support gay marriage. 

On the other hand, if you do support gay marriage, and especially if you are an LGBT person hoping to someday get married, I hope that you see that you have Christian allies. Unfortunately, I feel like the Christians who speak loudest on the national stage are the ones with the most hate in their hearts. We are not all like that. Christ is not like that. Whoever you are, you are my friend, my brother, my sister, my fellow child of God, and I like you just the way you are.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

– Constitution of the United States, Amendment XIV, Section 1

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19 thoughts on “A Coming Out (Of Sorts)

  1. Grace – Bravo! You are eloquent, thoughtful and courageous. I cannot agree with you more: this is a legal issue, not a religious one -Thank you for saying exactly what I was thinking, except with far more poise, eloquence and well, grace.

  2. So glad you took the time. So glad you put this out there. You’ve put into wonderfully sensitive words things I’ve been trying to formulate as well. Thanks so much!

  3. This is a great defense. I would add my ideal solution– everything under the state be called a civil union and marriage return to being a sacrament of the church. My biggest problem with the whole debate is word definitions, but I don’t think people will stop to redefine things even if it makes most of those opposing gay marriage feel better. But it really is a legal issue, even under current verbiage, and we need to understand it as that, not as an attack on Christianity.

  4. As a devout Christian, I realize the world is going to be the world and that Christians are called to live differently than the world. As Christians we are called to live radically different than the world lives because, like Jesus, our kingdom is not of this world…otherwise, like Jesus…our approach would be a worldly approach (John 18:36). As Christians we are called to value different things than the world (2 Cor 5:16). Also, as a Christian the Bible is very important to me because I believe the Bible is truth and the teachings found there are to guide me and to be a foundation for my life. That is what I do know.

    In reading scripture, I never find the Bible expecting the world to act like Christians. I don’t find Paul telling the governor that he expects him to act like a Christian. I do find Paul preaching and hoping he will put faith in Christ and then be transformed to live a Christ-like life. But Paul, John, Jesus and others realized that there is the world and its standards and then there are Christians and Christian standards, values, principles, etc.

    So here is where I am going with this. I can completely understand a devout Christian saying that they get that the world will want to have gay marriage. I can understand a Christian saying that legally (according to US laws) that you can see how gay marriage could be worked out. That is how the world works and we shouldn’t expect any different.

    But here is what I don’t understand. I don’t understand how a devout Christian can say they are actually for gay marriage…as in supporting it, condoning it, being in favor of it, etc. I don’t understand that because the Bible talks about homosexual sex as sin and I am assuming that in supporting gay marriage that you are supporting homosexual sex, unless you expect them to be celebate within their marriage…and how does that make any sense? The Bible says homosexual sex is sin. That’s not my words…that is scripture. You know the verses but I will share them if you like. So I don’t understand how a Christian can speak out in favor of the very thing God condemns.

    Can you help me understand that? Either you see the contradiction and don’t care (doesn’t seem like you are the type to do that) or you see no contradiction or haven’t studied this in scripture and are basing your conclusion on things other than scripture, or you completely disagree with my interpretation of the relevant verses (which I am willing to discuss if you ever want).

    Please read all this through the deepest love and respect for your and an appreciation of approaching the subject in a civil and respectful way. I hope this comment comes across in the most civil way possible. Thanks for listening.

  5. Hello Grace Hall – and thank you for an incredibly well written op ed on Gay marriage and Christianity. As a long time member of the United Church of Christ, I can tell you….you are welcome here. We were the first mainline denomination to ordain an openly gay man – in 1976 – and we’re proud to have continued our tradition of being Open and Affirming. I don’t know where you live Grace, but where ever you are, you and your partner/wife will be welcome at a UCC Church – just as you are. Hope your Holy week is filled with love and amazing grace. Blessings, Mary Jackson

    • Mary, thank you so much for your kind words and hospitality. Although I am not gay myself (I realize that my post’s title was probably confusing), I will certainly keep UCC in mind for any LGBT friends who are looking for a church home.

  6. I completely agree Caitlin Smith. Most marriages include a lot more than just rights, it includes ceremonies, tradition, beliefs, religion, culture, and it goes on and on in all different directions and that is why I have a strong opinion that Government should have no business on how MARRIAGE should be handled or defined! They should give rights that’s it! Give freedom to how to define marriage through personal choice and institution but NOT by law.

    Instead I believe the government should give Equal Rights “Civil Unions,” to and for EVERYONE, and not have to redefine a word that is so diverse and so complicated and so important to many walks of life.

  7. Grace- I will be praying for you that God speaks His Truth to you clearly and specifically. His Word and Truth trumps everything! Love you! Paul

  8. Thank you for your courage, and insight. I have gay friends, and have had gay relatives…love them all dearly, and know they are wonderful , loving people. That being said, when I am asked to vote on an issue, I vote with prayer and from my heart. I am a sinner saved by grace, and I try diligently to love the sinner, but hate the sin. Whatever the law becomes on this issue will probably not change a single heart on either side. In California we have voted on this issue many times, and every time the majority says no, but a year or two later it’s back on the ballot, and it seems it will continue to be until the law is changed. So, I will continue to vote from my heart (that is owned by Jesus), and keep loving and praying for those I disagree with. Grace and peace to you all.

    • Stanley Grenz had a helpful phrase when it comes to this tension, “Welcoming but not affirming”. His point was that churches must be loving and welcoming to all but that doesn’t mean that the church also must affirm every single thing about everyone’s life at the same time. What is difficult is that people have assumptions about you if you don’t think marriage be extended to homosexual couples. Some automatically assume you are hateful, arrogant, bigoted, etc. It is really sad that some won’t take the time to talk with you and find out where your heart really is on an issue like this. I really appreciate kind and loving discussions like the one taking place here. The only way to have an honest and open dialog is to be kind and Christ-like, even in disagreement.

  9. Truth!! Of all the arguments for or against, your comments stand head and shoulders above because you are right. This isn’t just opinion. It’s fact. Well done!

  10. YES, YES, YES. The problem is that many don’t really believe in the separation of church and state, and instead, have bought into the myth of America as Christian Nation (this is an *excellent* book: http://www.amazon.com/Christian-America-Kingdom-Richard-Hughes/dp/0252078896/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1364650744&sr=8-2&keywords=richard+T+hughes as is this: http://www.amazon.com/Myths-America-Lives-Richard-Hughes/dp/0252072200/ref=la_B001H6W36K_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364650770&sr=1-1). I couldn’t agree more with your position and, as a Christian, I am as turned-off by the vocal Christians as you are! But whereas you and I go to the separation of C & S to support out argument, those on the other side of the argument see that our responsibility as Christians is to protect our faith by arguing for laws that protect us. (creationism taught in schools, prayer allowed in schools, the 10 commandments posted, etc.). This is not a position that I agree with, but in debates I’ve had, it sounds like this is our fundamental point of disagreement. Thank you for your thoughts!! Warmly, Emily

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