Friday, September 7, 2012

Getting Real about Ref 74

I wrote the following editorial for a class this summer and have been trying to muster up the courage to share it publicly.  I am afraid that the following is going to bring with it labels like "liberal" "democrat" "post modern" or "weak-willed Christian." Be that as it may, this is a subject that is very important to me as a Christian and something I don't think I can hide anymore. My religious convictions and spiritual authenticity don't give me the luxury of avoiding the stigma. 

I hope you hear my heart as a Christian girl who truly loves Jesus, the bible, and the church and just wants to be real.

P.S. I got an "A" in case you were wondering ;)

I am, what I would consider, a fairly typical evangelical Christian. My “salvation story” has elements like kindergarten confessions, summer camps, Michael W. Smith and even a brief stint with speaking in tongues, if you can believe it. I had a purity ring. I read CS Lewis, Andrew Murray and Brother Lawrence. I love Jesus. I believe Paul when he called the bible “god-breathed,” and I read the English Standard Version, like any good bible-college student.But I never made peace with idea that Christianity carried with it the mandate to march into the political fray to stand up for Christian values and maintain the biblical foundations of our country. So, when I saw a nice old lady sitting outside a church sanctuary gathering signatures opposing Referendum 74, it upset my stomach a little. You see, I am a Christian, but I support legalizing same-sex marriage and, with the line between this issue and my salvation narrowing every day, I feel obligated to explain.To clarify any confusion about what this bill entails, the text reads as follows: 
This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnership are converted to marriages, except for seniors. It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement[1]. 
Opponents to this bill who initiated the petition to put it to a general vote this year have done so by advocated a “for procreation,” understanding of marriage. While this is, technically, a Christian argument (same sex couples generally are not “going forth and multiplying”), it is not the most common or, dare I say, compelling objection from our side of the fence. The most common objections to same-sex marriage tend to include terms like “abomination,” “sin,” or “unnatural.” As someone who has spent a fair amount of time reading the bible in the past 20 years, I can appreciate and even accept these arguments, but as religious arguments, not legal ones. 
For one thing, these are the same arguments used against contraception. However, the vast majority of Christian women that I have personally known use some form of contraception. Most, if not all, of these women believe that God is the core of their family, the one who guides their decisions and many have struggled with the “faithlessness” of contraception. But if a bill was proposed that prohibited the use of contraception on the basis that it defies God’s mandate to procreate, the question on nearly every American’s lips would be, “Why is a secular government acting as a religious enforcer?” 
Here is the trouble, we’ve gone and torn a hole in the wall between church and state. When the much-lauded settlers sat down to write the foundational documents of the United States of America, they were aware of what could happen when oppressive men wielded faith like a sword. It was the same inspiration that drove Martin Luther to write his 95 Theses: God was not the property of a ruling party. This was the reason they built a wall separating the government from the Church. It isn’t a wall protecting the government; it is a wall protecting the Church, protecting me, and I like it there. 
This is the double edged sword that we’ve created with our Christian political machine: by fighting to enact a law that reinforces a Christian value, I may gain enforcing power for my personal beliefs, but I place the law in a position of power even greater than my personal convictions. In this case, that the legal status of a marriage validates its substance and, at a 33% divorce rate among Christians and nonchristians alike[2], those legal recognition tend to be fluid at best. It's clear, a certificate does not a marriage make. 
Furthermore, I don’t consider the law the first or final word on how I practice life or faith. Premarital sex and adultery are legal, as are abortion, divorce, adultery, and debauchery. My faith and morality are not legally defined and, more importantly, I do not need legal recognition to legitimize my faith because, more than an American, I am a Christian. I answer to a higher authority. 
Paul addresses the issue of secular law in first letter of Corinthians when he reproaches to church for placing, “those who have no standing in the church” (secular judges) above their own judgment (1 Corinthians 6:4). In the previous chapter of that same letter, Paul asks the church, “What do I have to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” He even goes so far as to state that all things are lawful, for him, but that he will not become a slave to anything except Christ. He elevated God’s judgment in the hearts of an individual over any external law, so why would I reverse this order, even to protect my own Christian convictions? 
Because I do have such convictions, this was not an easy or casual decision for me. When I started asking questions about this issue, I worried that I was walking into gray areas or “being carried along with every wind of doctrine,” as it says in Ephesians 4:14. Yet, when I search for a biblical model for political involvement, I can’t find it. I can’t find an example of the church in Ephesus carrying signs railing against temple prostitution or drunkenness, two elements of Greek culture that were both legal and socially acceptable. I don’t see Jesus leading going head to head against Caesar or even fighting against the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling party. In fact, when the keepers of the law asked Jesus to debate, he refused because he had more important things to do with his very short life. 
As a Christian, I am not charged with creating laws that reflect Christ’s teachings. Rather, I am charged with living in purity and loving people selflessly. I don’t see any room in that calling for political religious activism. The truth is that there is a premium on time and attention in my world and every moment I spend protecting my own rights or bemoaning the lack of good Christian values is time, energy and influence that could have been spent sharing the hope and truth of God’s impossible love for people. 
I pray for my country, I pray that people will learn to love one another selflessly and that they will believe in Jesus as I do. My Jesus taught me to love people with fierceness that requires absolute devotion and I don’t have time to protect my Christian values in court. This is why, on November 6th, I’m going to vote for Referendum 74 with peace in my heart and the fullness of my faith in Jesus behind me and I pray that you do too.

[1] The Seattle Times March 13, 2012
[2] Barna Group 2008 <>

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