Asked about same-sex marriage at a church in San Francisco in March 2013, Rob Bell, a former pastor who makes a living shocking Christians, told the audience, “I think the ship has sailed … this is the world that we are living in, and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
Advocates of same-sex marriage hope that the “ship has sailed” expression will work its way into public consciousness. It conveys inevitability. It expresses momentum. And it works. In spite of the recent Centers for Disease Control study showing that only 1.6 percent of Americans identified as gay or lesbian, and .7 percent as bisexual, the same-sex marriage lobby has effectively controlled legislatures, courts, and the media.
From a Christian perspective, is it true that Christians must cease their opposition to same-sex marriage in order to reach out to those who struggle with same-sex attraction? Unsure, most Christians remain silent. They disagree with being herded onto the same-sex bandwagon, but they just don’t know how to resist without coming across as mean-spirited.
That’s why we’re glad to see the new book Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage by Summit instructors Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet. They passionately advocate man/woman marriage and yet recognize that in our daily lives we must stand for truth with compassionate clarity, not cynical contentiousness.
McDowell and Stonestreet show how to faithfully answer the talking points of same-sex marriage advocates and how to engage the culture winsomely — even if by doing so they risk social or legal sanction. I hope you’ll get the book soon (available in the Summit bookstore) and enter the discussion.
So what does the future hold for Christians who insist that man/woman marriage is both biblical and society’s best chance for flourishing? In the long run, it looks like same-sex marriage propagandists will overplay their hand as most of history’s propagandists have done. Peripheral persuasion based on self-righteous celebrity proclamations and public shaming is more fragile than it appears because it doesn’t engage people at a deep level — it just seeks to shut them up.
Meanwhile, though, Christian businesses are being shut down, civil service employees are being marginalized, and neighbors are at odds with one another. All because of expressing the simple belief — which just about everyone in the world today and in all of history past has believed — that man/woman marriage is a cultural good that makes society better for all of us.
In the end, our hope does not lie in what same-sex marriage advocates do or don’t do. Our hope lies in knowing that we live in a world in which Christ has risen. It is in this great hope that we speak the truth in love.