Well, first of all, I’d like to thank everyone who shared during this blog series. It takes courage to speak out about something, especially when that something is controversial.
And I’m also grateful to four men—men whose time at Harding University overlapped mine and who also happen to be gay—for sharing part of their stories with me. It’s been good to hear their perspectives, and at the same time heart-breaking to hear about the many unkind remarks and actions they’ve had to endure along the way. I appreciate their openness and honesty.
And, speaking of honesty, I find it’s my turn to share a few closing thoughts about same-sex marriage. For me, I guess it comes back to these two questions:
1. Is homosexuality okay?
2. Is same-sex marriage okay?
For those of us who’ve grown up in evangelical environments, we tend to get hung up on question 1 before we can even get around to number 2. We wrestle with these questions (and some others), and then maybe we come to a place of settling out. I don’t believe I’ve quite settled out on all of this.
With these things in mind, I’ll weigh in … in my own sort-of way.
On the one hand …
Recently our church finished up a series called “Ask Anything.” A couple of months before the series began, our senior pastor Rod solicited questions from the congregation. Hundreds of them poured in, which were eventually pared down to a “Top-5.” And numero uno on the list, as nominated by and voted on by our congregation was—wait for it—“What is the gospel’s response to homosexuality?”
Rod led off the lesson about homosexuality with this story:
"This is not just a Biblical question. This is not just a theological question. Someone who I love deeply. Someone in my family of origin. Someone who’s been a part of my life, for my entire life, has been in a monogamous homosexual relationship for over 35 years. And it’s been a relationship that’s been characterized by faithfulness … by fidelity … by mutuality. It’s been a relationship where they’ve navigated through the challenges of life … navigated through the losses of life together. They’ve dealt with severe illnesses together—difficult situations—and they’ve stood faithfully by each other. So, for me this is not just a Biblical question, a theological question. It’s a relational question, an emotional question as well."
After saying this, Rod went on to give a classic evangelical response to the question of homosexuality. It was the kind of grace-filled response you might expect to hear from someone like Philip Yancey or Max Lucado. I felt comfortable with everything Rod said. It all made sense to me.
If you’d like to check out his entire sermon, you can find it here:
But on the other hand …
As a kid, I remember sitting in our living room one day, flipping through a catalog. I stopped on a page where two women were wearing identical lime green outfits. Identical, except that one woman was wearing long pants and the other woman was wearing shorts. Short shorts.
As I stared at the photo, I thought about the long-panted woman—a straight-haired brunette with a cute smile—who was clearly better looking than her companion. But as I peeked over at those hot pants, I knew there was something about the other girl that I preferred. It made no sense to me at the time, but I knew that she was the one for me.
At about the same time in my life, my parents were pouring a lot of Bible teaching into me. A l-o-t. And sometimes they’d throw in a few practical lessons from outside of the Bible. Lessons like:
Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. (Or they might say “moccasins,” if they were going for the Native American version.)
For whatever reason, I took this very much to heart. I remember it as well as all the scriptures and church songs I learned.
And so I grew up to become a heterosexual man who thinks back to that living-room day, and my mind fills up with more and more questions:
What if I’d picked up that catalog and felt something else, an attraction for men? What if those thoughts had carried on into my adulthood? What would it be like to walk a mile in those shoes? Would I have chosen a celibate life? Would I have become an advocate for same-sex marriage? Where would I be today? What would I now believe?
I ask … and I wonder.