Gay Marriage: WWJD

Christian opposition to homosexuality is legendary. Christians have blamed homosexuality on everything from the fall of the Roman Empire to the attacks of 9-11. Jerry Falwell, for example, claimed that God allowed our enemies to attack us because we made God mad -- he said that the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make homosexuality an alternative lifestyle "helped this happen." And all the people (OK, Pat Robertson speaking on behalf of a lot of Christians) said, "Amen."

God, Falwell and Robertson proclaimed, was mad at the pagans, and the ACLU, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians. God was not mad at Christians who have embraced a materialistic lifestyle, who have fought against health benefits for the poor, and who attribute to the one who blessed the meek their natural right to bear arms. And God was not mad at prideful preachers who so confidently proclaim their privileged insight into the mind of God. Homosexuals have particularly drawn God's ire.

While WTF seems the most fitting response, one might nonetheless ask, "WWJD?"

If what Jesus would do has anything to do with what Jesus did, one should simply hold one's tongue on the topic of homosexuality because Jesus uttered not one word about homosexuality for or agin. Such followers of Jesus, though, are typically undeterred by Jesus's complete silence on the topic of homosexuality.

Jesus did, on the other hand, explicitly condemn divorce except in the case of infidelity and he forbade remarriage if the divorce were due to something other than infidelity. Yet divorce is rampant and Christians are statistically no more likely to avoid it than are non-Christians. There is very little contemporary condemnation of divorce and remarriage among Bible-believing Christians. And there is no Christian movement to make divorce illegal in the U.S.

Liberal divorce laws and the attitudes that attend them are an unquestioned threat to marriage (vastly more, one might think, than permitting gays to marry). And Christians are complicit in both the laws and the attitudes.

Don't get me wrong -- Christians are not pro-divorce. But they have made a compromise between their commitment to the high teachings of Jesus and what's culturally acceptable in this day and age. They are leaving the divorce laws alone rather than imposing their convictions on everyone (including themselves, in this case). Intriguingly, 9/11 was not blamed on the soaring divorce rate among Christians.

Christians continue to enjoy a substantial majority and cultural dominance in the United States and some Christians are keen to impose their moral vision, one that would preclude gay marriage by definition, on every U.S. citizen. Let me argue why they should not.

In parts of the world where a religion/ideology other than Christianity is dominant, Christians suffer. While western Christians live in societies where everyone, especially Christians, can worship and live out their faith as they please, Christians in other parts of the world, mostly in Muslim-majority nations, are not so privileged. In those parts of the world, Christianity is imperiled and Christians live in fear. Jews fare worse -- in Indonesia, for example, the last major synagogue was forcibly closed in 2009; there may now be fewer than a dozen Jews in all of Indonesia. In China, Christianity is an officially permitted religion, yet the majority of Chinese Christians worship in illegal, house churches.

Christians should pay heed: in countries were a religion/ideology predominates, those in the out-group suffer. When the beliefs and practices of a religion/ideology become normative, those with differing beliefs and practices are treated as subhuman.

Christians, then, should hope for change in the countries their less-privileged brothers and sisters live in; they should hope that the norms in those countries would stop reflecting those of the dominant religion/ideology.

What they think should happen in Muslim-majority countries and China, they should apply at home: they should hope that the norms in our country would stop reflecting those of the dominant religion -- Christianity.

Better for everyone -- Muslim, Christian, Jew, even Communist -- to live in a society which guarantees freedom of belief and practice. Better for everyone to live in a society where no religion/ideology is politically or culturally dominant.

Followers of Jesus, then, should not aspire to found a Christian empire. They should not seek to perpetuate their alignment with power, or to impose their distinctly Christian beliefs and practices on others. The kingdom of God is within.

And so, as the Supreme Court deliberates on the issue of gay marriage, they should hope for more freedom of belief and practice, not less.