This post is difficult to write because the debate over Gay marriage is so polarized. How can one disagree with “Equality” — and yet how can a Christian not resist a movement that wants to change something as fundamental as marriage? I have heard a number of Christians say they are for Gay couples having the same legal rights as straight couples — if only they wouldn’t call their union a “marriage.” But that seems to me to attach too much meaning to a single word — and to ignore a deeper issue. What do Christians believe about committed relationships between gays? And, if a large percentage of Christian young people believe that “Equality” extends to every human being, Gays included, what does the Church say to them? The Archbishop of Dublin said this, after the Yes victory on Gay marriage in Ireland: “I think the Church needs to do a reality check right across the board — have we drifted away completely from young people?”
What can a Christian say to a Gay person on this subject?
First of all, we can’t recite the Bible or Catechism to them. They may not be believers and our language puzzles them at best and, at worst gravely offends them. We must meet them where they are, as responsible members of society trying to live out higher ideals of what it means to be human. If there is a meeting ground at all, it must begin with finding agreement of what the concepts equality, freedom and respect mean to both sides. If there are differences, they must lie in differences among well meaning persons of both sides about these concepts.
My sense as a Christian is that both sides agree that to be authentically human one must honour the right of every person to live in a society where such basic concepts are fundamental. Said another way, Christians can not call themselves Christians if they advocate creating a society of inequality or take away a person’s freedom unjustly or don’t respect another person’s uniqueness. Yet, sadly, that is precisely how Christians are perceived by many Gays! That is one good reason why from our standpoint we need to dialogue with Gays; to correct such grievous misunderstandings.
Why should Gays enter a dialogue with Christians?
Remember earlier I said, “such basic concepts as equality, freedom and respect are fundamental.” It is the Christian contention that religious beliefs are also a vital part of human society together with such concepts. There are really only two positions on this claim. Religion is false, bogus, and out-dated and should be excluded– or Religion is, at least in part, valid, honest, and up-to-date and should be included. If a Gay holds the former position, there isn’t much room for dialogue. But I actually haven’t met a Gay who holds that position. They are offended and sceptical but not dismissive.
When a Christian meets a Gay, we are religion to them. Not our words but our actions, especially how we treat that particular Gay person. So, our best argument for why Gays ought to dialogue with us is that we are honest, and have a point of view on an important part of society and life. They can learn from us and we can learn from them. It is inauthentic to claim that either side has all the truth; both Christians and Gays need dialogue. If there is one thing I have learned already from my Gay friends it is they have a strong desire to be authentic. That’s a great starting point for dialogue!