It’s time for progressive Christians to take a stand. With same-gender marriage once again making headlines, this time in Indiana and Oklahoma, it’s time that Christians in favor of making a way for people to marry whom they want to stand up and let their voices be heard.
Clearly, the ground on which we currently stand as a society has shifted with regard to the issue of same-gender marriage. As of this writing, 17 states (Utah and Oklahoma pending) now allow same-gender marriage. I’d like to see that number get increasingly larger.
It’s a justice issue.1 There are people whom God loves who are being deprived of the opportunity to spend their lives with the ones they love.
How, though? I mean, we’re normal people struggling to make it to the next paycheck. Most folks don’t have the kind of power necessary to influence the culture on a grand scale -- at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
And we liberal religious folks have too often ceded the cultural playing field to fundamentalist activists, who’ve organized themselves for the purposes of advocacy. Because we don’t want people to think that we’re those kind of Christians, we’ve tended to treat political issues as something better left to “secular” advocacy groups.
And, frankly, it’s understandable. Because the fundamentalists have been so loud, we progressive Christians seem to want to cultivate a contrast: They will know we are liberal by our... Volvos and subdued rhetoric.
But I think that’s a crock.
We progressive Christians pride ourselves on our devotion to the prospect of trying to live the way Jesus lived. And as far as I can tell, Jesus marked his own path, without focus-grouping the outcomes.
Here’s where I’m going with this: I think progressive Christians (and the churches they inhabit) ought to be on the leading edge of pursuing justice for our LGBT sisters and brothers.
Here’s what we did at the congregation where I’m pastor: We voted unanimously to support our ministers in refusing to sign civil marriage licenses until everyone -- regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression -- can be legally married. (You can read about it here and here.)
We still have weddings exactly the same way (for everybody); it’s just that we don’t sign the marriage license.
We considered it not only a social justice issue, but a matter of pastoral care. We couldn’t any longer justify participating in a system that conferred rights and benefits on part of our members, while denying those same rights and benefits to other members.
Here’s how we saw it: If this were 1964 and we had an integrated congregation, it would be like me leaving African-American parishioners, going to the diner across the street to eat at a segregated lunch counter, then coming back and saying to them: “Sorry you couldn’t go with me, because the food sure is good. I hope one of these days, you’ll get to eat there too. Until then, I don’t know what to tell you.”
Because here’s the thing: I don’t know how you continue to participate in a system that tells people you worship with that they’re not welcome or that they don’t count.
So, here’s what I’m proposing:
If you go to a congregation that already believes people ought to have the right to marry -- regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression -- why not make a statement that your congregation will no longer sign marriage licenses for anybody, until you can sign them for everybody?
Why not publicly affirm that when you say “all means all,” you mean you won’t participate any longer in an unjust system where “all” only means “some"?
You’re not preventing heterosexual people from obtaining the rights and benefits of civil marriage. You’re just refusing any longer to baptize an inequitable system.
Progressive Christians need to take a stand. Progressive congregations need to take a stand.
The culture is already moving in this direction. It’d be better for progressive Christians to help carry the water, instead of just drinking it after it arrives.
It may be difficult, but we follow Jesus -- difficult is what we expect.
I know there’s debate among some about this. If you disagree, this would be a good place to stop, because the rest of this post is only going to raise your blood pressure. ↩