Russell and Duenes

Same-Sex “Marriage,” Christian Imagination and Christian Education

with 5 comments

sullivanSeveral days ago I posted the video of the Douglas Wilson – Andrew Sullivan debate on same-sex marriage. Since then I’ve read several post-mortems, with perhaps the most substantive critique provided by the moderator of the debate himself, Peter Hitchens. In his piece entitled Moscow Nights – A Debate on Same-Sex Marriage between Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Wilson, Hitchens posits that the debate was largely “a diversion from the main issue – the survival or otherwise of heterosexual marriage.” He has high praise for Sullivan as “a reasonable, generous person with considerable skill at words,” who “doesn’t ever engage in the silly bigotry against religious conservatives, to which so many sexual revolutionaries resort.” Yet Hitchens rightly wonders “how many of [Sullivan’s] allies in this cause would have come to Moscow, Idaho and remained polite and generous (as Andrew Sullivan did) throughout nearly two hours of tough, unforgiving debate against an opponent who several times invoked the law of God as his ultimate argument.” Ultimately, Hitchens concludes that the same-sex marriage issue is a kind of non-sequitur, a distraction from the full-scale assault on the institution of marriage “which was actually achieved by pressure from a post-Christian heterosexual society and (as Mr Sullivan rightly says ) by the contraceptive pill.” Hence, Hitchens “stick[s] to the view that the desire for same-sex marriage is ultimately a cultural and moral revolutionary act, applauded by its many heterosexual supporters because it emphasises that we are no longer a Christian society.” One can hardly doubt that heterosexuals have done more to tarnish and denigrate marriage than homosexuals have ever done. This is a harder truth because it of the dissonance it creates in those of us who are complicit in it.

Peter Leithart over at First Things gave the trophy to Sullivan. He viewed the debate as an illustration of the losing battle Christians are waging over same-sex marriage in the public arena. According to Leithart, “Sullivan clearly has all the hurrah words on his side – love, happiness, equality.” Further, “Sullivan . . . has liberal order on his side.” The argument trotted out by Wilson, that same-sex marriage arguments lead ultimately to the legalization of polygamy, holds little sway today. Says Leithart, “Nobody seems to be much worried about a polygamous future for America, and making polygamy the centerpiece of opposition to gay marriage looks too much like fear-mongering.” That leaves Christians with one tactic on this issue, namely, “theologically rich, biblically founded arguments against gay marriage.” Yet making such arguments would require, in Leithart’s words, “a renaissance of Christian imagination.” And he’s just not sure where this “renaissance” will come from.

Denny Burk agrees with Leithart, holding that “[t]he very best non-religious arguments in favor of traditional marriage are those coming from the natural law folks, and they are not convincing the unconvinced. That leaves us with the biblical case for traditional marriage, which has been roundly rejected by our culture as well.” He concludes that public arguments in favor of marriage are a lost cause, and thus, “[t]he only ‘renaissance of the imagination’ that will give us a greater hearing comes on the other side of regeneration.”

I heartily agree with all three assessments of the debate, and the need for a “renaissance of Christian imagination” hit home. There is no doubt that new life in Christ is an indispensable requirement for such a revival of Christian imagination and proclamation on this issue. Yet, like Leithart, I wondered what means God might use to inculcate the vocabulary, the articulation, and the imagination of “theologically rich, biblically founded arguments against gay marriage.” And as it so often does, my mind turned back to Christian education.

The above commentators, churchmen all, are not wringing their hands because they think the local church service and Sunday School offerings are getting the job done. They are likely well aware that they are not. This does not mean they have nothing to offer God’s people, but on this count, I think they don’t fit the bill. Further, I would want to hold up the centrality of the Christian home for stoking the moral and spiritual imagination that is so necessary to engaging these issues in the public square. No educational system can entirely make up for what the training and example at home lack.

Yet an explicitly Christian education is able to cultivate imaginative and theologically rich Christian thinking in a way that the Sunday sermon and the home devotionals cannot accomplish on their own. Of course, it would have to be a Christian education of a certain kind, and not just something that goes under the name. But in the school setting, students have a chance to chew on things more deeply, to mull them over, consider them from many angles, get their minds into literature – both fiction and non – on the subject, and imbibe the kind of language and vocabulary to be winsome on this issue. The Christian education is able to do what a public school education is entirely and explicitly unable to do. The language of the public school is indeed the language of bland, ill-defined and ill-considered notions of “love, happiness and equality.” The public school is largely an extension of the liberal political culture, and it frames things like same-sex marriage in the language and vocabulary of that culture. The “debate” – if one can even call it that in the public schools – is lost before it’s begun, for the terms are set against the Christian view from the outset. From where will the Christian young person acquire the type of thinking and feeling about same-sex marriage that the need of the hour requires? The Christian home, including ones where homeschooling is done, cannot face the onslaught alone. The community of other Christians, and particularly Christians who themselves have the vocabulary and imagination to engage on this issue, are vital. And I contend that the best hope for finding this kind of community is among those who are committed to an explicitly Christian education, particularly those who aim to discharge it.

The point is, if Leithart and Burk in particular are correct, then the failure of the Christian imagination is a product of the failure Christian education, rightly understood and practiced. By failure, I mean the failure of Christians to establish, promulgate and sustain Christian education for their children and as an institution. Thus, the losses in the public arena over same-sex marriage are largely self-inflicted. Christian education is not a panacea for all woes, but I don’t see the woes abating absent its prevalence. I don’t see a “renaissance of Christian imagination” without a return to it. It is disheartening to see such ambivalence about it in God’s church. May God grant us a renaissance of explicitly Christian education, and as a fruit of it, of Christian imagination.



Written by Michael Duenes

March 14, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. I don’t believe it’s the failure of Christian education at all. I think more and more Christians are starting to realize that by fighting against gay marriage, they are doing a lot more harm than good. Opposition to gay marriage essentially means not only opposition to “religious” marriage, but also opposition to “civil” marriage. Youth are starting to realize that by keeping traditional marriage, homosexual couples will be denied tax exemptions, hospital visitation rights, social security benefits, immigration benefits, etc. For Christians to cause the LGBT community to suffer economically because they are “sinners” is hypocrisy. WE ALL SIN. Homosexuality is no greater of a sin. Why should homosexuality be the sin that is discriminated against in the public sphere? According to Biblical teachings, (which a good Christian education should teach) remarriage is wrong and IS NOT MARRIAGE. It clearly states that if you remarry, then you are committing adultery. By what standard should Christians support second and even third or fourth marriages and say it’s marriage, but not allow LGBT individuals to call their unions marriage? It’s clearly hypocrisy! I repeat it’s not the failure of Christian education. More Christians are beginning to understand that evangelism doesn’t work very well when homosexuality is one of the top sins called out in politics rather than more “NORMALIZED” sins like remarriage.


    March 15, 2013 at 12:05 am

    • First of all, Manny, there is no such thing as “gay marriage.” Marriage, properly understood, is between a man and a woman. What you are talking about is a sexual relationship that is not marriage. Heterosexuals as well as homosexuals have these, but they are not marriage. When a man and a woman sleep together, we don’t call that marriage. So that’s the first point, we have to get our definitions straight, and if you don’t like my definition, then you’d better tell me by what authority or standard you are getting yours.

      Second, all of the social benefits you speak of (hospital visitation, social security, etc) can he had by homosexuals without them marrying. These things are not dependent on marriage, and the state could very easily grant them to homosexuals without legally recognizing their relationships as marriage. But somehow, I don’t think that would satisfy you, which means that your argument is a red herring. You don’t just want the bennies and nothing else; you want the social approval that comes with the word “marriage.” So let’s not pretend that it’s all about getting tax exemptions.

      Third, no one here is claiming that homosexual sin is a “greater sin,” but what does that have to do with anything? Fornication is a huge sin, and I’ve said so over and over. Why don’t you write me a comment when I talk about that and tell me that “it’s no greater sin than any other?” You seem a bit selective in your offense-taking.

      Fourth, homosexual sin is NOT the only sin “that is discriminated against in the public sphere.” We don’t allow polygamy. We don’t allow incest. We don’t allow bestiality. We don’t allow exhibitionism. Need I continue?

      Fifth, you didn’t listen to me very well in freshman Bible. I taught a unit on marriage and discussed remarriage. Clearly there is a lot of sinful remarrying going on within the Christian church. I don’t know if you can blanketly say that it’s all sinful, unless you’d like to provide me with your interpretation of the relevant biblical passages. The Bible does not just say, “if you remarry, you are committing adultery.” There is more than one passage on marriage in the NT. But I certainly agree with you about the sin, but again, what is that to the point? I’ve pointed out that sin as well, but that’s not the point of this post. Further, sinful remarriage among heterosexuals is sin of a different kind than sinful sexual behavior between homosexuals. They are both sins, but they are different kinds of sins. The problem with gay “marriage” is that it is between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. Thus, it does not violate God’s law that the spouses be of opposite sex. It violates God’s law in another way, but not in that way.

      Lastly, Christian evangelism has little, if anything, to do with calling homosexuality a worse sin than others. The call for repentance and faith in Jesus does not begin and end by talking about sexual politics. That said, what DOES work well is calling people to repent of their sexual sins, whether they be fornication by heterosexuals or homosexuals, and turning to Christ for healing and forgiveness. What also works well is teaching that marriage is what God says it is, and we’ll be happier as people when we live in conformity to God’s plans and purposes.


      russell and duenes

      March 15, 2013 at 9:02 am

  2. Let me make this distinction: for my own personal religious beliefs, I define marriage as between a man and a woman, but for my political views I define marriage based on public opinion. One of the central elements of being American is that we all are treated equally. This means in the political sphere both sides of the argument over gay marriage must be considered for validity. Because most of America is rejecting the traditional view on marriage, “FORCING” the entire country to still follow it won’t do anything. Calling it gay “marriage” doesn’t really change the fact that a lot of Americans didn’t believe the traditional view
    in the first place anyway. This issue is hurting evangelism because it’s alienating Christians away from the non-Christians and particularly the LGBT community. Why would any logical LGBT individual want to go to church in the first place when many there want to ensure he can’t do simple things like join the military or the boy scouts? Even if your intentions for opposing gay rights are good, you and many others in the church are distancing yourselves from relationships with non-Christians and specially gays. My point with remarriage is that yes it’s sin, but why should that be legal and not gay “marriage?” Both of them “AREN’T MARRIAGE” by Biblical standards. What makes one less “sinful” than the other? The consequences of homosexual marriage are not equivalent to the consequences of polyamory, incest, bestiality or any of the other sins you mentioned that are illegal. The consequences of gay marriage are more comparable with the consequences of pre-marital sex and yet pre-marital sex is legal, right? Let’s look at the consequences of gay marriage: 1. Acceptance of homosexuality 2. Children 3. Threat to Religious Liberty. I would argue that Americans will continue to perceive homosexuality as acceptable regardless of if we call it gay “marriage.” 70% of Americans younger than 30 are for gay marriage and yet we haven’t officially called it gay “marriage” nationwide. Also, by opposing same sex adoption, one is not supporting children under heterosexual marriages. In contrast, one is actually indirectly supporting that children remain in foster care. Even if gay parents aren’t as great as straight parents, to argue that having NO PARENTS in an orphanage is better than having gay parents is absurd. There are over 100,000 children in America that live in foster care “WITHOUT ANY PARENTS.” In regard to the threat to religious liberty, why can’t parents teach there kids that same sex marriage is immoral if that’s what they believe instead of FORCING the public school system to teach this? Even if some teachers say homosexuality is acceptable, a child’s parents can easily enforce the exact opposite if they really wanted to.


    March 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    • Manny – It’s clear you don’t want to engage the actual arguments I’m making, so I’m not going to give you a lengthy reply. The political and religious cannot be neatly separated, as you want to do. Jesus is Lord of absolutely everything, and you’re talking about “forcing” people to do things is simply irrelevant. No one is talking about “forcing” anything. So as long as you insist on arguing non-sequiturs, then there’s nothing more for me to say. Engage me point by point, and then we’ll have something to talk about. And please don’t give me unsubstantiated claims such as “the consequences of homosexual marriage are not equivalent to the consequences of polygamy, etc.” You base your statement on absolutely nothing. You just make assertions without justification or rationale. Sharing your opinions is nice, but with nothing to substantiate them, they don’t really qualify as arguments. I put this to you bluntly because, frankly, we know each other and you know what kind of person I am. I’m not trying to be mean. That’s never my intent. Rather, what I’m trying to do is get you to make logical, substantiated arguments.

      Finally, you seem to be caught up in this idea of “public opinion” as the ultimate decider. Public opinion in the 50s was in favor of segregated schooling, yet that didn’t stop the Supreme Court from doing the right thing and outlawing it. Majority rules is a flawed basis for making policy judgments. Further, if the majority comes around to the position that they want to allow gays to have unions and call them marriage, then they can certainly decide this at the ballot box. Even if that day comes, because I actually love homosexual people, and I know that what Jesus says is best for them and for me, then I will never stop preaching what he says.


      russell and duenes

      March 17, 2013 at 8:18 am

  3. ” No one is talking about “forcing” anything. ”

    Um….yes, you are! You are forcing two men or two women who don’t believe homosexuality is wrong to still abide by traditional Biblical teachings. You are imposing your religion on the entire nation when all views are supposed to be treated equally in the political sphere. How would you like it if Jews made eating shrimp or pork illegal? You are logically doing the same thing, but just with a more consequential issue. Everyone’s vote matters. Because individuals like you vote against gay marriage, homosexuals essentially lose the freedom to marry. Conservatives might argue that gays do have marriage rights because they can still marry someone of the opposite sex. However, would you, as a heterosexual, be able to marry a man? If you aren’t able to marry a man in order for it to be called “marriage,” why would you tell an LGBT man that the only way he can get “married” is if it’s with a woman? What if God somehow made it where homosexuality were natural and acceptable and heterosexuality were a sin? If this occurred and you didn’t believe heterosexuality was a sin, you wouldn’t be the one saying, ” I don’t deserve the freedom to marry because I can only be with the same sex and I’m not attracted to the same sex. ” You’d be the one arguing for your marriage rights now, buddy. The only possible way an LGBT person has marriage rights is if either 1. Gay “marriage” is legal. 2. Sexual orientation is changed. The amount of gays who “claim” to successfully change their sexual orientation of those who attempt this is around 15-20%. Of these that “claim” to change, many will either end up leaving their opposite sex spouses because they weren’t really attracted to them or have homosexual affairs. If you couldn’t change your sexual orientation, would you want to only be allowed to get “married” unless it were a man? No you wouldn’t want this. You are violating the Golden Rule. How is this treating others like you would want to be treated?

    ” Fourth, homosexual sin is NOT the only sin “that is discriminated against in the public sphere.” We don’t allow polygamy. We don’t allow incest. We don’t allow bestiality. We don’t allow exhibitionism. Need I continue? ” “ The consequences of homosexual marriage are not equivalent to the consequences of polygamy, etc.”

    There are ONLY TWO ways “EROS ROMANTIC LOVE” can exist non-abusively and with equivalent consent among humans: heterosexuality and homosexuality. Polygamy, incest, and bestiality are all abusive relationships without equal consent. Polygamy involves a man or woman having to commit to multiple partners. You cannot equally love(eros) a bunch of people, let alone two separate partners. Because you can’t equally commit to more than one person romantically, this leads to jealousy, break up among the partners, and ambivalence as to “how many” partners in general should be allowed. Many women might easily be taken advantage of by one man for mere lust and so cause family destruction. This instability would most definitely hurt children. How can children be properly raised with many parents coming and going for simply lustful purposes? Homosexual parents, even if not as good as straight parents, do not harm children more than having no parents at all in foster care would. It’s absurd to argue that a child with no parents is more well off than a child under a gay household. I can go on about how incest and bestiality have worse consequences than that of homosexuality, but I think that is obvious? The nature of homosexual relationships is non-abusive and equally consensual. Two adult men or women can just as easily make a conscious decision to love each other and children under them as heterosexual couples can. Even if only heterosexuals can procreate, homosexuals are still currently raising children and trying just as hard to be successful families like their straight counterparts. In a 2010 review of virtually every study on gay parenting, New York University sociologist Judith Stacey and University of Southern California sociologist Tim Biblarz found no differences between children raised in homes with two heterosexual parents and children raised with lesbian parents. Why should their hard work as a gay family not matter? Do gay families not deserve the same protections as straight families simply because of “same sex makeup?” What about the children in these gay families? Don’t they deserve to see their parents get married and be happy with them? Don’t they deserve to have both of their parents have legal custody over them(which would happen if gay marriage were legalized)? Again, remember to take children out of same sex families is to put them in foster care without any loving parents in the first place.

    ” Even if that day comes, because I actually love homosexual people, and I know that what Jesus says is best for them and for me, then I will never stop preaching what he says. ” = You are arguing that God is against gay marriage legalization because the Bible says that gay marriage is a sin.

    My Main Thesis: ” Just because something is sin and God opposes this sin does not mean God opposes the legalization of this sin. ”

    This should be quite obvious, but it is still not clear to you. Let me make this distinction: God opposes sin; He doesn’t necessarily oppose sin’s legalization. If God were to oppose sin’s legalization that would mean EVERY SINGLE SIN should be punishable by human law. God does not want this. He gave us free will from the beginning. God might very well support gay marriage legalization because well gay marriage is just like any other sin that God is giving humans the free will to choose or not to choose. SAYING THAT GOD OPPOSES THE LEGALIZATION OF GAY MARRIAGE BECAUSE GAY MARRIAGE IS A SIN IS NOT AN ARGUMENT. God says it’s a sin to lie. Does that mean He supports that I go to jail or pay a fine for lying? We should arrest every single person who has lied because well, God says lying is a sin so that equals illegalization. This is the bad logic you are using.


    March 17, 2013 at 11:31 pm

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