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Great Britain is joining other European nations in another step toward the normalization of same-sex relationships. Dating to a law passed last November, beginning today, December 5, 2005, same-sex British couples older than 16 can declare their intent to form a legal partnership, commonly called a civil union. Ceremonies formalizing this union can be held after a fifteen day waiting period following the legal declaration. Among the couples planning a wedding as soon as possible are Elton John and his partner David Furnish.

France, Germany, the Netherlands, and now Great Britain legally recognize same-sex partnerships as domestic unions. Belgium, Spain, and add Canada, all legally recognize gay marriage. Either way, the legal benefits are virtually the same as those historically assigned to married heterosexual couples, including inheritance and pension rights, bereavement benefits, and next-of-kin standing. However in Britain there are some differences: pre-nuptials will be called pre-registration agreements, divorce will be called dissolution, and adultery cannot be asserted as justification for a break-up.

Meanwhile, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act allows states in the United States to refuse recognition of the gay marriages or civil unions approved by other states or countries. To date, some 13 states, including Michigan, many of them in the 2004 election, have passed some version of a “no gay marriage or civil unions” law. Only Vermont and Massachusetts have so far joined the gay marriage band wagon.

The legal standing and “rights” of same-sex couples, along with abortion, occupy the front lines of the culture wars between a vigorously secularist humanism and a religious or specifically Christian worldview. Both issues, particularly same-sex marriage, strike at the very heart of Christian truth about the fundamental defining unit of society—the union of a man and a woman in the intended lifelong commitment of marriage. Proponents of the gay agenda know that if they can win the legal right to marriage they have won the battle for full normalization of homosexual and lesbian behavior.

Yet the legalization of gay marriage, domestic or same-sex partnerships, civil unions, or whatever they may be called does not a marriage make in the eyes of God. No one who assigns any validity to the Bible’s truth claims can read the Scripture plainly and miss the multiple references to homosexual behavior as a perversion of God’s mandate for human sexuality. If you accept the Bible as God’s Word and as a trustworthy source of truth in guiding your life of faith, you cannot at the same time assume the position that homosexuality should be regarded as a morally acceptable “orientation”—opening the door to legal affirmation. Consequently, promotion of same-sex marriage is an attack on the Bible itself.

Gay marriage loudly screams, “I want to do what I want to do with whomever I want to do it.” Proponents of gay marriage do not care what history, virtually every recognized culture, the evidence of biology, nature, logic, the great world religions, and in particular biblical Christianity, say about it. So they are strenuously lobbying the rest of us, not just for acceptance but for special recognition with all the rights and privileges thereto.

In an earlier “Making a Difference” column, I made these comments: “Standing morally against gay marriage does not deny gay people their civil liberties or many civil rights as Americans. Gay people may hold jobs, pursue careers, and own businesses. Gay people may vote, be considered innocent until found guilty in the eyes of the law, enjoy religious freedom, or earn a higher education. Gay people may own property, live freely in neighborhoods, care for their own children, and now may even adopt children.”

Opposition to gay marriage or civil unions does not equate with opposition to gay people, their personhood, their civil liberties as Americans, or any of their civil rights short of creating a new one guaranteeing their right to marry. Being against same-sex marriage is not the same as being against gays or lesbians as individuals. Being against same-sex marriage is about taking a stand for what one believes God says is right or wrong.

God’s definition of marriage is a unique covenant between a man and a woman that symbolizes the relationship of Jesus Christ with his Church. This sovereign gift cannot be replicated in same-sex relationships. So God does not limit our sexual expression because he wants to deny us love or pleasure. He declares homosexuality morally wrong because it does not fit reality as he created it. Homosexual practice twists the natural order in a way that will inevitably cause rejection, loss, and pain.

This theologically based moral perspective does not justify any disrespect of human beings who practice homosexual behavior. It does not affirm and should not tolerate any kind of threatening words or actions toward gays or lesbians, nor does it in any way celebrate what has been called “homophobia.” We are all sinners in need of grace, including those of us who do not practice or condone homosexual behaviors. We should respond to gays and lesbians with compassion, not anger or rejection.

Great Britain’s surrender doesn’t make the fight for moral truth in the culture wars any easier, but it doesn’t mean the war is over. Millions of Americans, and for that matter people in Canada and the European nations referenced earlier, still believe in something called “holy matrimony” for a man and a woman. Our task is to maintain fidelity to truth, to historic orthodox Christianity, even if our position attracts the ridicule or ire of some. And we must do this as winsomely yet clearly, as compassionately yet firmly, as Christ would do it if he walked among us. We are his ambassadors.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

From the viewpoint of the American victims of priestly sexual abuse, the Vatican’s pronouncements this week about would-be gay priests may be a day late and a dollar short. But a clear line has been drawn in the moral landscape.

On Tuesday, the Vatican issued a long overdue clarification on its position on homosexuals in the priesthood. The document is called “Instruction on the Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Priesthood and to Sacred Orders.”

In this twenty-one paragraph document the Vatican weighs in on the most sensitive issue to confront it in the past five years, particularly since the priesthood sexual scandals in the United States in 2002. According to the document, “the church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary and to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.”

The document addresses the question of gays seeking admission to seminaries and the priesthood but does not comment upon already ordained priests who may be gay. While attempting to identify and separate from those with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies,” the document does not permanently bar from consideration for the priesthood individuals who may have struggled with what it calls “the expression of a transitory problem.”

As a moral statement this document leaves something to be desired not so much by what it says but by what it leaves unsaid. We still hunger to see the Vatican do more to “call sin, sin” by dealing compassionately but effectively with those priests who were involved in the sex abuse scandals so grievously detailed in the past few years. While the Vatican has certainly responded with concern and with some clerical discipline, there is more that should be done. The issue here is not punishment but moral accountability, clarity, and credibility.

But let’s give the Vatican some credit. It did not buckle to political correctness or current morally relativistic trends. It didn’t waffle on its biblically informed understanding of moral truth about human sexuality.  The Vatican considers homosexuality a sin and therefore an intrinsically immoral, psychosexual disorder and in this respect does not depart from traditional Catholic Church policy regarding homosexual priests or homosexuality.

Evangelical Christians ought to cheer—not as “anti-gays” but as followers of Jesus Christ, who loved sinners (including every other sinner—us—who may not be given to homosexuality but who by our nature are given to other sins) but who condemned sin. It’s early, but let’s celebrate this Vatican nod to moral truth as a victory in the culture wars.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.