An open letter to pastors/churches/Christians in Hawaii standing against same sex marriage
This is a break from the normal sorts of posts I usually put up, but I wanted to make it public and figured my blog would be a good place/way to do it.
Thanks for reading and as always, questions, comments, criticisms, and other feedback welcome.
I am writing this letter because I am here on vacation and have been disturbed by much of what I have been hearing in the church community here regarding the issue of same sex marriage.
Let me say, first of all, that I am a straight, Asian-American, 41 year old male. I was born and raised in Hawaii and lived here for 34 years before moving to Seattle in 2006.
When I first got to Seattle, I remember walking around the Capitol Hill neighborhood (a hub for much of Seattle’s LGBT community) and seeing churches with the rainbow flag flying out front. I remember thinking at the time that I really didn’t agree with churches having an open and affirming stance because I believed that the Bible was clear on the issue of homosexuality – that sex between two people of the same sex was a sin.
Fast forward a few years and I started attending The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology where I was pursuing a Masters of Divinity (I graduated with my MDiv this year). This school actually didn’t have an official stance on homosexuality and so I was able to hear theological positions from both sides of the issue.
To make a long story short, based on much thinking, writing, research, and prayer, I am now someone who firmly believes that it is possible to read and believe the Bible and come away with a position that fully supports same sex marriage. There are a number of ways to do this, but let me outline what I think is one of the simplest ways to see the issue biblically.
Basically, when Paul writes about women and men “exchanging natural sexual relations for unnatural ones” in Romans 1:26-27 or “sodomites” in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11, he is not talking about the issue of homosexuality as we understand it today.1 Today, when we talk about an issue like same sex marriage, we are talking about two people of the same sex desiring to enter into a life-long, committed marriage relationship with one another. This is a social relationship that has no equivalent in the time of the Bible (Old or New Testament).
Stated more plainly, when the Bible talks about condemning homosexuality, they are not talking about the same thing we are talking about today.
One of the overarching messages of the Bible is that God’s primary concern centers around two things: 1) love of God and 2) love of neighbor as self (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-28). Significantly, in the Matthew passage, Jesus makes the radical statement that “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” (Matthew 22:40 NRSV). For a Jew, “all the law and the prophets” basically means all of the Bible as it was known at the time (all of the Hebrew scriptures). So Jesus is making the startling claim that all biblical texts need to be read through the twin lenses of love of God and love of neighbor as self.
Returning to Paul and his words about homosexuality, when Paul writes against same sex relations, he is writing to a time when same sex relationships were not based on love; rather, they were primarily based on dominance (pederasty). Thus, it is no wonder that he condemns such behavior. However, that is not the situation we have today. Today, same sex couples are seeking to enter into life-long, committed, loving relationships and based on Jesus’ hermeneutic of love, I don’t believe that either Paul2 or Jesus (were they writing or teaching today) would stand against same sex marriage.
Now let me be clear here. I’m not saying that my theological/doctrinal position is the one, right, absolute way to understand the issue, but I am saying that it is possible for Christians to take the biblical text very seriously and to support same sex marriage.
This is not an issue where there is only one settled theological position and to present the issue as if standing against same sex marriage is the only correct stance for Christians to hold is disingenuous and disrespectful to those who believe otherwise.
I am writing this letter because I want to profess loudly and clearly that there are many Bible-believing, God-loving, committed Christians, like me, who wholeheartedly support the right of same sex couples to proclaim their love for and commitment to one another in marriage before God, the people of God, and all their friends and family.
Sincerely, a committed follower and lover of Jesus Christ,