Why, as a Christian Pastor, I Support Marriage Equality

I am a happily married, heterosexual man with a tribe of children (seven, to be precise). I am also, amongst other things, a Christian Pastor.

I hang out, meet and work with people of all cultures, creeds, genders, sexualities, relationship and parental statuses. I confess, to my shame, that I haven’t challenged myself to think too much about marriage equality. However, as the marriage equality debate continues to play out in Australia, I am increasingly aware that I need to be clear about where I stand on the issue. More than that, as I peer out of my comfortable and privileged life, I realise this is a debate that does affect me. Because it directly affects people that I know and love. Some of the people are in the faith community that I lead, others are friends, colleagues or neighbours.

To put it simply, I support marriage equality. My reasons are three-fold:

1. Theology and the Church

Across the centuries, ‘the Church’ has been certain about a lot of things. Questionable positions have been articulated on a whole range of issues, such as the shape of the earth; Indigenous cultures; human trafficking; race; mental health; wealth distribution; tattoos; suicide; parenting; and, gender equality. The harm that has been done to people in the name of ‘God’ is deeply distressing. The hermeneutic and theological argument in relation to homosexuality and marriage equality must also be open to question and critique.

The most cringe-worthy moments in my faith journey have occurred when I have been dogmatic about things which I had no right to be certain. Through time, prayer, brokenness, grace, revelation, failure, love, forgiveness, reformation, and transformation – I am increasingly being cured of my addiction to certainty.

The biases and opinions I hold as a Christian are often more cultural than Jesus-centric. And as a follower of Jesus, my narrative on relationships needs to be informed and underpinned by him. When I read that we will be known by our love, I take Jesus at his word. He doesn’t articulate a wishy-washy, warm and fuzzy love. He describes a love of counter-narrative. Loving our neighbours and our enemies. Blessing and not cursing. Seeking the peace and prosperity of the cities we live, work and play in. For all people. Not just the ones we like, or who behave like we want them to.

For the church to increasingly become the welcoming, inclusive, peace-making, justice-seeking and life-giving body that we are supposed to be, marriage equality is one more barrier that needs to be addressed. Before you start throwing Bible verses at me, and there is only a handful that you could throw, I would encourage you to engage with some of the theological and scriptural discussion that has challenged and caused me to rethink my ‘certainty’.

Have a listen to these podcasts:

And then, if you’re open to the conversation, let’s talk. Or at least give me time to duck.

2. People

When we become gatekeepers and disempower people who are directly affected by the decision-making process, then we fail the communities we exist to serve. When we limit the rights and freedom of individuals based purely on their gender or sexuality, then we begin to threaten the rights and freedom of all. If two adults wish to enter into a lifelong commitment and union to the exclusion of all others, who am I to stand in their way?

I can’t imagine how lonely and marginalised people in the LGBTI community, who are also Christians, might feel. The options presented to and expected of gay Christians are usually conformity or celibacy. I would suggest that such a binary choice can restrict people from being true to who they are.

Conformity is not a solution. I have witnessed, and been involved pastorally, in situations where one partner in a marriage had entered into that union in denial of their sexuality, hoping they could “pray the gay away”. These situations have never ended well. Yet, this thinking remains quite common in church communities. Similarly, while I respect and support the celibacy decision of many gay Christians – should this be the expectation from the church? Who am I to make, or encourage, that decision for someone else? Wholesale celibacy is also not a solution.

In consideration of all this, the campaign against marriage equality in Australia has been careful to remove the marriage debate from religious considerations and church doctrine. Their position is based primarily around children’s rights. The rallying cry is, “But what about the kids? Think of the kids who won’t have a mother and a father.” This argument brings me to my third and final reason for supporting marriage equality.

3. Experience

Don’t worry. I’m thinking about the kids. I’m thinking about my kids who I want to live in a society where everyone can feel valued and have a sense of belonging. I’m thinking about kids struggling to come to terms with being same-sex attracted and considering suicide as their only option. I’m thinking about the kids all across Australia who are already being raised by two ‘mums’ or two ‘dads’, facing bullying and exclusion every other day of the week. I’m thinking of the kids who no longer believe in the institution of marriage because it’s been such a disaster in their life. I’m thinking of the kids in and out of foster care whose parents have completely failed them.

Please explain to me how refusing marriage equality is going to improve any of these kids’ lives?

I’m also thinking about friends who are legally married in another country, but their union and rights aren’t recognised here, in the ‘lucky country’. I’m thinking about the same-sex couples who don’t have the same rights as married couples. I’m thinking about friends who have been in a de facto relationship for longer than I’ve been married who will battle to have any rights or decision-making powers when their partner dies.

I wonder whether the points articulated by the “no” campaign, based on children’s rights, are disingenuous. The current arguments against marriage equality are grounded in surrogacy, adoption, and parental law all of which are separate from marriage law. The majority of scenarios and situations the “no” campaign are presenting already exist. So, if they care about “the kids” – surely they should lobby for these existing laws to change? Or is it that “the kids” is simply a more palatable argument? Is the agenda actually to roll back the rights of LGBTI people? The removal of children from same-sex parents? The re-criminalisation of homosexuality in Australia?

While this is, in essence, my ‘coming out’ on marriage equality, this is not about me. I will never have to endure or grapple with a coming out that many people in the LGBTI community agonise about, are vilified for and even lose their lives over.

My hope is that my ‘coming out’ might help the thinking of Christians in similar spaces. My hope is that this might bring a small amount of comfort and healing to people who are consistently marginalised and excluded in our communities simply because of who they are and their willingness to embrace that. My hope is that we would increasingly understand that our freedom is contingent on the freedom of those around us.

I recognise and appreciate that people hold different opinions on marriage equality. People from the faith community I am part of have differing positions on a whole range of topics. We’re ok with that. I don’t speak on their behalf. We engage our difference and diversity with love and a posture of humility. For me, that’s what being the church is all about.

 

Comments

  • Lyndrea Lynch

    October 11, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    “The current arguments against marriage equality are grounded in surrogacy, adoption, and parental law all of which are separate from marriage law. The majority of scenarios and situations the “no” campaign are presenting already exist.”

    I have always wondered why these are the strongest arguments offered by the ‘no’ campaign – they are threadbare, thinly veiling the lack of a decent reason to say no, other than ‘the Bible says so’.

    Thank you for your courage & compassion in writing this, Aleem.

  • Paul Moody

    October 17, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    Hi Lyndrea,
    I’d encourage you to have a listen to the message I have posted below by Voddie Baucham to determine whether there are possibly other logical arguments less thinly veiled and threadbare than you have presupposed I. Your comment. I must reiterate that this message is aimed at the Christian community as a collective. I base my comments around discussions with my Fellow believers in Christ and not those outside the church.

    1 Corinthians 5:12-13 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

    I am of the conviction that discussion and debate are open within the church concerning such issues which as David has pointed out in his comments to Aleem that SSM will have an effect on everyone in society as a whole.

    Kind Regards

    Paul

  • Karen McColm

    October 11, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Thank you Aleem for those whom I have known who have despaired that there would ever be someone to bind and poor a salve on their bruised and broken hearts. Those who have physically wounded their own bodies and lived with minds shredded with pain and inner persecution.
    I stand with you, my face fully facing those who would hurl stones at them, and now possibly you.
    Love will always triumph in its many colours and forms.

  • Zoe

    October 12, 2016 at 6:43 am

    Aleem, my brother and my friend, I agree with you on many things and I appreciate the love and equality you are preaching here but I have one question for you. The line drawn was drawn for a reason. If that line is removed where does it stop? Why not allow polygamy? If we are talking equality based on sexual preference then the next thing to be legalised will be beastiallity…. before everyone jumps at me, this is not such a stretch as certain practices are already legalized in Canada and Denmark…. who then are we to say that Paedophelia is wrong, it is after all quite an acceptable practice in certain religions and cultures around the world, even in certain religious sects here (not legal but ignored). We are/were a primarily Christian nation and our laws ect stem originally from Christian stand point. The bible says being gay is a sin, the Old Testament says it’s an abomination, I believe that train of thought died with Christ and that ALL sin is equal. In saying that Christ doesn’t give us permission to continue living in our sin. Thank goodness for his grace for we all fall short, but nevertheless we are a new creation. I have compassion for the confusion and pain that Christian Gays would feel, but I understand that pain would be felt by anyone one with a desire act in their sin nature ie an affair, paedophelia. I have no desire to see Gays persecuted for their preferences but I do struggle with it being forced apon my children as a norm. I am raising my children to be Christ like and to love all and to not judge because each man is accountable. Christ loved all but he did speak the truth and call people out on their Sin, he didn’t say I love you, it’s ok to keep sinning, he said go and sin no more. I think the biggest battle with the western Christian is complacency, the devil is winning that one. Love doesn’t mean to embrace, there are so many issues Aleem, where a more comfortable standpoint could be taken, but where do you stop? The term Luke-warm becomes a very real threat. We will be persecuted because of our stance, but the lines were drawn for a reason, I’m trusting Gods word. I don’t think we have authority to pick and choose which ones though. Love you mate. Xx

  • aleem

    October 12, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Hi Zoe,
    I appreciate your honesty, questions and comments.
    This is a very emotional issue for many people of diverse opinions and experiences. Given that we know each other, I much would prefer to have this conversation in person rather than respond in detail in text. I would encourage you to listen to the podcast from The Liturgists that I reference in my post. It addresses many of your questions and comments from both ‘sides’ in much more depth than I can do here. But just to touch on some of the points you raise:

    • I don’t agree with the leap to paedophilia. The line there is simple – consenting adults and human rights.
    • I am genuinely not trying to convince anyone of my position or force anything on anyone. Rather, I’m sharing my own journey and asking people to be willing to have the conversation in humility and grace – which you are, and for which I thank you.
    • ‘God’s word’ has been interpreted and applied throughout the centuries in so many different ways and to do much harm (as well as good) – slavery, war, apartheid, banning of inter-racial marriage, death penalty, oppression of women etc. etc. … I endeavour to read scripture through humility, open hands and the lens of Jesus. As I am sure you do too. And I am glad that we can have this conversation. But it doesn’t mean we won’t draw different conclusions, and at the end of the day we may just have to agree to disagree. But I’m ok with that. How tedious would our lives be if we agreed on everything? 🙂
    • When I honestly consider this issue in light of my own bias and prejudice this is not a comfortable position for me to come to. To be completely honest, it’s really uncomfortable for me. I laboured long and hard about sharing this post and I don’t see it as a populist position, more the opposite. However, as a member of the body that has predominantly persecuted the LGBTI community, Christian or otherwise, I felt that I could no longer remain silent.
    • From where I sit, the Apostle Paul and I have a complex relationship. Just as this issue is far more complex and nuanced than the absolutism that we often treat it with. However, I very quickly relate to him when talks about working out our salvation with fear and trembling and resolving to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. I share that by way of prefacing that I agree with your comment about the battle of complacency but, for me, this complacency is about our unwillingness to question our own bias and dogma. I see our battle for complacency in our jump to absolutism and an unwillingness to lay down our lives. Which in turn comes at the cost of people’s lives. Our unwillingness to step out of our comfort zone to truly love the persecuted and excluded. That’s not a critique of you, that’s a broader observation.

    Again, if you haven’t already, I think you’d get a lot out of The Liturgists podcast if only to see where I am coming from.

    Much love to you and your family.

  • Gailyn

    October 12, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Zoe your arguments are fallacious on several fronts but let me just point out a couple:
    1. Currently marriage is between a man and a woman but there are other considerations taken into account such as relationship, age, consent and marital status of both parties. We don’t say oh man and woman slippery slope; could be brother and sister, father and daughter, married man and woman, man and female child.
    2. There are laws against paedophilia, incest, biagamy. No-one is advocating those laws be changed. Informed consent is legislated.
    3. No-one is forcing anything on your children. No-one is forcing them to be homosexual or to marry someone of the same gender. You are just being asked to teach them some tolerance.
    4. Homosexuality is not a sin, just like the colour of your skin is not a sin. The same arguments you make about ‘lines in the sand’ were once made about interracial marriage.

    Finishing your response with ‘love you mate’ does not negate your narrow mindedness .im sure you are a very nice person, just reread the letter with an open mind not a closed heart.

  • Andrea

    October 13, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Thank you Zoe. So well written and in love. And not casting a stone at all as was implied by Aleem. I agree that we need to stand to God’s word. And seek to be Christ like. Loving my own children I still would not like and stand and let them play with fire such as sin, without trying to protect them. I believe as Christians we can do this with love without compromising.

  • aleem

    October 14, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks Andrea.
    I’m not sure where you read that I was implying Zoe was ‘casting stones’? I absolutely respect Zoe’s opinion and her right to share it.

  • Lorena

    October 16, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Very similar thoughts as I read this article. Great points in it, but each Christian needs to determine who really is their final authority.

  • Christine Pettis

    October 12, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing out loud Aleem I have people close to me with these struggles. I thank you for being so brave as to share

  • David

    October 12, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Hi Aleem Ali,

    My name is David. A friend of mine shared the above blog post with me earlier today, and as a fellow Aussie Christian, the title got my attention. I’m pleased that as a Christian pastor you feel compelled to be clear on the same-sex marriage (SSM) debate unfolding in Aus. I also agree that this is a debate that affects you as well as your friends that you’ve shared about (in fact, I believe it’s much bigger than just you-me and the LGBT community – a federal decision on SSM will impact every single individual within this nation; individuals make up families, and families are very the fabric of society itself – the good, the bad, and the ugly). I don’t doubt your sincerity and concerns regarding the marginalization of the LGBT community. In fact, I commend you for writing on ‘tough’ issues like this. But – yes, here it comes – I am deeply concerned, not about what you have written per se, but about what you have written as a “Christian pastor.” So I’d like to offer a few comments and trust that in the name of ‘equality’ so championed by your post, that the following will be received with like respect, and firmness of conviction.

    If I get right to it, I think “marriage equality” as a slogan or hashtag is utterly vacuous. People on both sides of this debate want the government to treat marriages equally, and according to the Marriage Act, it does. We are all free to live and to love as we choose in Australia. But this is the point – marriage equality depends on marriage reality. Before we can have a robust debate about whether or not our nation’s public policy treats marriages equally, we need to first define what actually is a marriage? Frankly, I’m surprised that as a Christian pastor you did not address this in your post. Avoiding such fundamentals and engaging the issue of SSM from the slogan or hashtag level, shows a serious lack of critical thinking. It starts emotions and ends thought. So if I may ask: As a Christian pastor, how do you define marriage? Everything else that follows is subsidiary to this point. Nevertheless, I’ll continue…

    1. Theology and the Church
    I’m am troubled that, as a Christian pastor, you see yourself as needing to be “cured” from your “addiction to certainty.” You point is taken, but please, let’s be careful how we express ourselves. I mean, logically, are you certain that you’re being cured of your addiction to certainty? Biblically, should I expect to read a post in a few weeks wherein you denounce your certainty of the person and work of Jesus Christ in your life? This kind of conventionalism, based upon a relativistic theory of truth, opens wide the logical and Biblical flood-gates from which you cannot recover. Sure, you’re reacting to dogmatism. I get that. History is replete with gross excesses by those who were ‘certain’ about God. Yet the same is true of every other worldview (even those which deny the existence of God, just take a look at the tyrannical 20th century ideologues). Yet the validity of a worldview must not be judged by its abuse, but by the truthfulness of its propositions. Narrative is not normative. As a Christian pastor, I hope you would agree with me on that. So please, as Christians, let’s make at least some effort to uphold basic logic and basic Christian beliefs as we put forward our case. To fail in this regard is “cringe-worthy.”

    I agree that Jesus informs our relationships (John 13:34-35; 1 John 2:8-11; 4:20; 5:1-3, etc.), but you seem to be rather selective in this regard. What did Christ say about the SSM issue, after all? He validated the OT case law which was explicit on homosexuality (Matt. 5:17). He condemned sexual acts outside of marriage (Matt. 15:19); and He was definitively clear on what marriage is: the union between one man and one woman for life (Matt. 19:3-9; ipso facto, God says there are two types of gender – male and female. Not 31+). Accordingly, your entire post is cultural-wash, and hardly “Jesus-centric.” If you will take Jesus at His word in John 13:35 about loving others, then take Him at His word here – love requires truth telling! (Eph 4:15) If I have misunderstood the plain, grammatical-historical interpretation of these passages, then please respond to me with a Biblically justified “hermeneutic and theological argument in relation to homosexuality and marriage equality,” and while you’re at it, have a crack at reviewing Robert A. J. Gagnon’s magisterial work, “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics.” 😉

    Further, I am perplexed at your ecclesiology. Where do you get your theology of the church from? “Welcoming, inclusive, peace-making, justice-seeking, and life-giving…” There are conditions in Christianity. There are bounds and limitations, and the ecumenical ‘all embracing’ language you use to describe church seems to reflect more upon our culturally conditioned pluralistic sensibilities than the Bible. Of course Christians are to be welcoming, and include others, and seek peace, justice, and are organically connected in Christ; but this is not without exception. Jesus did not WELCOME trade in His house, He drove it out (John 2:13-22). Jesus was not INCLUSIVE when he declared “I am the way the truth and the life… no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6) – He excluded every single worldview in opposition to Him (truth by definition is absolute and exclusive). And may I ask, why would someone at a Christian church be seeking “peace”? Why would they be seeking “justice” or “life” in the first place? Isn’t it because of their sin? Yet this is the very thing that you seem to “support” by advocating SSM in your above post? A person who continues to cling to sin is not a person who is ready to hear about a savior for their sin – the very impetus for the ethic of “love” that you so esteem.

    I think your quip about “throwing Bible verses at me” is key, and it tells me something about how you regard the Scriptures. As a Christian, I do not believe that God has spoken with a forked tongue, nor with slight or stuttered speech. To the contrary, “we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” (2 Pet. 1:19). Surely God has spoken plainly on the issue of homosexuality and thus SSM. The Bible is consistent, pervasive, and uniform within the context of law and the Gospel on this issue. A god whose word is hermeneutically or theologically twisted to fit in with the latest societal fad, be it SSM or whatever, is not the God of Biblical Christianity and nor is he one I am interested in following – for he bows at the altar of cultural conformity and is thus no god at all.

    Are you really suggesting that Christianity as a worldview is so incapable of defining itself that it cannot even address the nature of man and how he is supposed to live?

    2. People
    I agree with your point here about freedom. All human beings, by virtue of their being made in the image of God (Gen 1:26) have intrinsic worth. When we start removing personal freedoms from any individual within our society, we begin to erode the founding Judeo-Christian value of freedom that made Western democracy great to begin with. Freedom of religion gives rise to freedom of conscious which in turn gives rise to freedom of speech and expression – sexual preference included (Rom 1; cf. 1 Cor 6:12; 10:23, etc.)

    I believe there is a clear separation of Church and State in the Bible (Mark 12:17; Rom. 13:1-7, Acts 5:29, etc.). I am zealous to teach and preach the Gospel (Matt. 28:16-20; 2 Cor. 10:5), however I have no Biblical compulsion to enforce a pseudo-Messianic Socialist state upon an unwilling society. Christians are not called to construct a theonomy, and that is why I will not use my Bible when debating public policies. While I hold the Bible to be authoritative, we must argue from a natural law theory in the public square.

    So I guess I’m just not sure who these “gatekeepers” are that you refer to. Who is standing in the way of “two adults” wanting “to enter into a lifelong commitment and union to the exclusion of all others”? The Government isn’t standing in their way; Christian’s are out there separating people – according to the legal definition of marriage in Australia, everyone is free to get married. Again, this takes us back to the beginning question – what is marriage?

    Aleem, I think you need to ask yourself why the government is in the marriage business to begin with. They don’t baptize or bar mitzvah people, but they do marry people. Why? Well, it’s not because they are interested in what goes on in the bedroom, which seems to be your argument. This isn’t about “two consenting adults.” It’s because, regardless of anyone’s sacred view (theology) of marriage, there are secular and social functions for marriage within our society that are predicated upon that which unites the father to the mother, namely children. Your flippant disregard for this case is disappointing. Leaving aside the implications of such a statement coming from a Christian pastor, on purely secular grounds you don’t even begin to consider (a) the biological fact that a man and a woman are required to procreate; (b) the anthropological reality that men and women are distinct and complimentary; nor (c) the sociological reality that mothers and fathers are important in the raising and rearing of children. Of course there are plenty of broken homes and divorced hetero-sexual marriages in this nation, but why – especially as a Christian pastor – would you want to incentivize an already bad situation? When you have one flat-tyre, you don’t puncture another.

    Moreover, I am deeply concerned to read a Christian pastor who says that “conformity is not a solution.” The Bible would suggest otherwise (Rom. 6:3-10; 8:10-11; 12:2; 1 Pet 1:14; Col 3:7-8; 1 Tim 1:9-11; 1 Cor 11:1; Eph 5:1-2, etc.) The God who said “let there be light and there was light” (Gen 1:3) is bigger than any person’s sexuality or preference. As a Christian pastor, are you really wanting to deny the transforming, sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer to move somebody beyond the bounds of sin? That is, of course, presuming that homosexuality is a sin (Gen 19; Lev 18:22; 20:13; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:10; Rom 1:26-27, etc.)

    Further, your logical precedent is disturbing – on what logical basis can you deny the compulsions of those who have desires that are otherwise taboo? If “love equals love” is the definition of a marriage, then logically, incest between two consenting adults fits the bill for a marriage. The comment above by Zoe makes this point. Your response, “the line there is simple – consenting adults and human rights” is simplistic and dismissive. It does not address the logic here. Why draw the line there? Sometimes civilizations are able to arise above their logic, but I have not seen any compelling answers to this question.

    3. Experience
    This section is perhaps the most disappointing part of your post. I’ve probably already worn out my welcome, so I’ll be brief. As a Christian, I believe that feeling “valued” and having a “sense of belonging” comes only and ultimately from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not sexual identity or preference, or any other fabrication of man’s making. So I reject your point here from the starting line.

    But pressing on (perhaps in vain…) If tax-law, visitation rights, next of kin, etc. need to be revised from a public policy level with SS couples, or what have you, that can and should be done. But why do you need to redefine the institution of marriage to achieve this? Up until about a decade ago, the universal witness was that marriage is for a man and a woman, and I believe there are good reasons for that (Aside from the Bible, may I suggest Ryan T. Anderson’s work, “What is Marriage?” for an exemplar treatise on the secular function of marriage). To me, SSM is akin to a square circle. It literally does not make sense.

    I was hoping to see you actually interact with the surrogacy argument, but you just seem to dismiss it and question the genuineness of those who make the case – why? Have you considered “the other side of the rainbow” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgE3juldK-4)?

    Again, all of the issues listed here are subsidiary to the primary question above – what is marriage, and I’ve touched on them above, so I’ll wind it down here.

    In the final analysis, Aleem, what concerns me is not your opinions regarding SSM – the diversity of belief is part and parcel of what makes a pluralistic society so unique and I champion your right to freedom of speech on this issue. But I am troubled by the fact that as a professing Christian, and a professing Christian pastor at that, you seem to have completely missed the whole point of the Gospel – the very thing for which you are supposed to be a herald (Eph 4:11-13). When you remove the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross from your reasoning, all you have is a systemically and systematically unjustified form of secular humanism, with feet firmly planet in mid-air.

    The most hateful thing one can do is allow the gospel to be compromised. The Scriptures are clear. The issues are plain. Neither you nor me have the right to condemn anyone, for we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). But I eschew any self-authority to define sin for myself. God has revealed His word with sufficient clarity, and we can know it. You cannot divorce law and truth from love (Eph 4:15; Gal 2:5, 14; 5:14, etc.) – that’s like separating a skeleton from a body. God gave humanity the law to regulate our love towards Him and towards each other (Matt. 22:37-40). Yet this appears to be the yawning chasm between us both – I look only to the Word of God and I am to be corrected by what is in it (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:3f, etc.)

    I submit to you and your readers that the Bible knows of no love that seeks to incentivize sin. What is it about the cross of Christ that is so ‘loving’? It’s that God, through His Son, condescended to the cruel cross of Calvary as a substation for crimes of humanity, for which no one is immune (Rom 3:23). “… this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10).

    Those within the Christian church who profess love without truth are neither loving nor truthful (Eph 4:15; 1 John 2:4).

    Take it or leave it – you have the right.
    David

  • aleem

    October 13, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Hi David,

    I take your point re: the definition of marriage.
    ‘Marriage’ has looked very different throughout history.
    Marriage has included polygamy. Marriage has included concubines and mistresses.
    Notions of marriage, in Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, suggest that a woman has as many husbands as she’s slept with.
    Paul’s rationale for marriage notes it as being as less than the ideal but better than burning with lust.
    In Australia, our government determines the definition of marriage which is currently different to the definition of our neighbour, New Zealand.
    I realise I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but I share all that in the context of my response below.
    Marriage has had, and continues to have, various definitions.
    Holding to a definition of marriage as exclusively gender based raises questions for me, and for Governments, for a range of reasons. How does that apply to someone who is born intersex / gender ambiguous (approx. 1 in 1,000)? How does that apply to boys who have an xx chromosome and girls who have xy chromosomes? I don’t profess to know the answer, but I think they’re interesting questions.

    Which relates directly to my reflections on ‘certainty’ being about a posture of humility and a willingness to engage in discourse in a non-binary world. To engage ’the other’. My journey around certainty is a reflection on our individual bias and arrogance; our lazy, privileged interpretation and reading of scripture to the exclusion of Jesus, humility, context, and history; and our unwillingness to genuinely engage in dialogue.

    Broadly speaking, I am increasingly fascinated by the realisation that, for myself and others, when one aspect of our opinion is challenged we feel like everything we believe is challenged and we go into complete lock down. And in this defensive posture we jump to, or propose, extreme conclusions.

    If we were engaged in this ‘conversation’ 50, 100, or 150 years ago – the topic would likely be different. It might be the value of the life of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person, or someone from the African continent. It might be about slavery, or inter-racial marriage, or the role of women in the church and broader society (although that one is still current and probably another pending blog post). People would still be vehement about their position, quoting scripture at each other from both ’sides’ and they would be drawing extreme conclusions (from both ’sides’).

    Part of my hope is that in presenting a ’non-conformist’ view with as much humility as I’m willing to receive, we might find some space for nuanced and humble conversations in the middle. Where we are willing to admit that we might not be completely right and that not everything is binary. However, that offers very shaky ground for too many people and so in the face of uncertainty we are wont to cling (for dear life) to greater certainty and greater extremes.

    In the same-sex marriage debate people are wont to jump straight to paedophilia.
    In my narrative and exploration around certainty you jumped to the scenario where I ‘denounce the certainty of the person and work of Jesus Christ in my life’. It may (or may not) please you to know that I am quick to agree with Paul in his resolve to know nothing but Christ and him crucified, and that for me this resolve has only grown and deepened over time.
    I was chatting with a couple even this morning about our proclivity to jump to extreme conclusions; and, they recounted (with the humour of hindsight) that when one partner was going through a process of questioning the validity of participating in traditional Sunday Church services, they quickly landed on “should we even be together anymore?” (They’re still together and have a deeper richness in their relationship for having worked through that process of uncertainty).

    Having read and considered various historical and current debates over scripture and our outworking of that in social issues – I have often wondered whether our confidence is formed less in Christ and more in our own biased construct of who we perceive Jesus to be. A Jesus who most looks like ‘us’ and who least looks least like the ‘other’ – the excluded, marginalised, poor, broken-hearted and lost. If you agree with Paul then you agree that ‘marriage’ is for those who are unable to hold to his ideal. I wonder whether we have decided to exclude people who don’t fit our binary understanding because that allows us to hold power over them, to exclude them further. To ensure that they conform or else. Not necessarily to ‘Gods plan’, but our own.

    I’m not ignoring surrogacy. I don’t dismiss Millie Fontana’s story but her story exists regardless of our control over the definition of marriage and I would posit that her story is only being privileged by the “no” campaign because it is convenient in the context of their argument. If Millie’s story was truly important to the “no” campaign they wouldn’t be tying it to something that is yet to exist.

    Your concluding statement – “take it or leave it” – is probably what I am questioning the most. In ‘take it or leave it’ – there is no middle ground, there is no dialogue, there is no conversation, there is no genuine willingness to engage. Yet, the Gospel isn’t take it or leave it. The Gospel is relentless in its pursuit of everyone who doesn’t ‘conform’ and invites them to the table. In my opinion, take it or leave it is a conformity of arrogance – it is not Christ-like.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond. I’m sorry that my post disappointed and disturbed you. I am not closed to anything you’ve articulated and I’ll continue to consider your points.

    Grace and peace,
    Aleem

  • Andrea

    October 13, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    Thank you David !

  • Paul Moody

    October 16, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Aleem,
    I am a personal friend of David who has commented above and you have in turn, have responded. I actually came across your article in my Facebook feed as it was posted by a Christian friend without comment. I have spent the past couple of days meditating on your article including a full listen of both podcasts. If you would like to give me a couple more days to come back to you with a thorough response to your article I’d appreciate that. You mentioned at the beginning of your article that you confess, to your shame that you have not challenged yourself that much on the issue of marriage equality. I’m curious as to the timeframe it has taken you to arrive at your stated position in the article in support of marriage equality
    And as a Christian Pastor, have you published this article with the support of the collective leadership of your church eldership or is this your personal stance/views that you have conveyed? With the issue of same sex marriage/marriage equality etc at front and centre of the political and social landscape of Australia. Before commenting any further at this point in time I am still considering how best to articulate my response. Having given you the due respect of listening to the podcasts, I respectfully ask you to view the attached two YouTube clips
    that I am certain communicate a response to a very sensitive issue from a Christian perspective that is both gracious, truthful and loving.
    Please have a listen to both and feel free to comment further as I am very interested to hear what your views are
    from an alternative conclusion to your own.

    https://youtu.be/nPYRXop7aPA
    https://youtu.be/ZkL3lT95vOU

    Kind Regards,
    Paul

  • aleem

    October 17, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your comments and questions. This post is a personal reflection on my own blog. I’m not speaking on behalf of my faith community.

    Thanks for sharing the links from Ravi and Voddie – I’ve now watched them both. I understand their perspectives. Ravi is an exceptionally skilled apologist, and he also has this great knack of not answering questions directly. His response to gender and sexuality is binary. Ravi actually has a same-sex attracted Christian involved in his ministry. What I’m interested in is the conversation that is far more nuanced, complex and less black & white than he frames it here.

    Voddie Baucham and I would likely disagree on a lot of things, not the least of which would be gender equality in relation to men and women and the role of women in the church and civil society. His response on that topic is ‘because the Bible says so’.

    I’m interested in a more progressive conversation without trying to convince anyone of my position or journey.

    Thanks,
    Aleem

  • Paul Moody

    October 16, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Gailyn,
    Can I ask how you have come to the conclusion that homosexuality is not a sin? Point 4 of your response to Zoe.
    From A biblical / scriptural standpoint how do you substantiate that truth claim?

  • Karl van Rosmalen

    June 3, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Congratulations Aleem. I agree with everything you say and there is no way I could say it better.
    Much respect,
    Karl

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