The Bible, the ballot box and same-sex marriage

May 8, 2012 was a disappointing day.  Amendment One – the constitutional amendment banning all legal recognition of same-sex relationships – passed in North Carolina.  And passed by a healthy margin.  I had recently been involved – albeit in a small way – in the campaign against Amendment One.  While not surprised that the amendment passed, seeing the official result made my stomach sink just a little bit.

As I watched CNN that Tuesday night, I was simultaneously saddened and frustrated.  The Facebook posts from my North Carolina friends opposed to Amendment One made me especially sad.  I grieved for my gay best friend and her fabulous partner who will not, for the foreseeable future, be able to experience the same equality that my wife and I enjoy.

I was angered by the triumphalism coming from some Southern Baptists on Twitter.  To rejoice over a political action stripping current rights and benefits away and removing the possibility of equal rights just rubbed me the wrong way.  Or, as my late WMUer grandma would say, it chapped my hide.

I grieved and moved on.  Well, I tried at least.

But then I came across this column titled “Why I disagree with President Obama” from Dr. Jim Denison.  Denison is a former Texas Baptist pastor familiar here to many at ABP.  He writes a daily cultural commentary on his personal website.  Promoting a similar column authored by his wife, Denison tweeted: “What do you tell your children when their president teaches them a different lesson than their Bible?”

The obvious message from Denison’s column is that a commitment to “biblical authority” demands that Christians oppose legal recognition of same-sex relationships.  Denison implies that “Paul’s opposition to homosexuality” mandates this particular political position.  He suggests that the nation must be governed according to “God’s standards” and that laws must not be changed “on the basis of personal experience or preferences.”

Speaking of personal preferences, we thankfully have Dr. Denison to let us know what “God’s standards” look like in the political arena!

I strongly believe that we pervert actual “biblical authority” when we misuse that deeply theological idea to mean that “you must believe like me” and “you must vote like me” if you really believe the Bible.  Instead, we should band together to protect traditional “biblical authority” from the revisionists in our midst!

Carl F. Henry, the renowned conservative evangelical theologian (fellow Baptist too) famously said many years ago: “There is no direct line from the Bible to the ballot box.”

Amen a thousand times.

While Henry is no hero of mine, here’s a great word from Rev. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for a Religious Liberty, a Baptist that I do greatly admire: “People of faith…can come to different conclusions about what policies to support and for whom to vote.”

A simple truth indeed.

As I wrote in a recent Baptist Studies Bulletin column, “I do not see how it is ever helpful to use faith in a way which conveys that in order to be a ‘good Baptist’ that I have to support this or oppose that.”

Glad to get that off my chest.

 

 

 

 

 

Aaron Weaver

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About the Author
Aaron Weaver is a recent graduate of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University, where he received a Ph.D. in Religion, Politics & Society. He blogs at www.thebigdaddyweave.com and is the author of James M. Dunn and Soul Freedom (Smyth & Helwys, 2011).

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  • http://twitter.com/larrybfred Larry Frederick

    This is an issue that has given rise to a number of conflicting emotions for me. Theologically, it’s hard for me to find a way to read the Bible in such a way that it supports homosexuality in general or gay marriage in particular. On the other hand, I have a number of gay friends who are in what certainly appear to be committed, loving relationships. I am totally convinced that God loves them as he does anyone else. If homosexuality is a sin, it is simply one among any others and no worse than my own sins. I end up feeling conflicted about it at best. As far as gay marriage, however, I don’t feel nearly as conflicted. As a civil process…and one that protects property rights and inheritance…I can’t see any particularly Christian reason to oppose it. It harms no-one, it provides security for those who cannot protect themselves (children), and it extends rights that are already easily available to others…including an enormous number of folks who seriously abuse those rights. I cannot follow the logic of those who say that gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage. To my knowledge, there is nobody who is just waiting for gay marriage to become legal so that they can dump their current husband/wife and marry someone of the same sex. Much as I try, I cannot escape my upbringing, so I will confess that there is an unavoidable “icky” factor for me in the whole notion of gay marriage. That, however, is not enough for me to find any reason to oppose gay marriage.

  • Chris Hughes

    Thanks for this word Aaron. I had a similar conversation with my pastor on a small squabble that nearly erupted over Amendment One. The question you have to ask some people is “Are you mad because I’m involved politically or are you really mad because I’m politically involved in a way that is different from you?” Good thoughts about politics and church issues.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GO7MJ4CDQBB6NZAYSVQ7HPXJSU Jack

    Aaron Weaver says: I was angered by the triumphalism coming from some Southern Baptists on Twitter. To rejoice over a political action stripping current rights and benefits away and removing the possibility of equal rights just rubbed me the wrong way.

    Reply:  They have the right to their opinion.  In the history of the United States homosexuality has never until recent times been seen as a group in which they should have any special rights. At the present time homosexual people have all of the rights of a United States citizen. They don’t have the rights of married people but those are not the only rights that we as citizens have. Homosexuals have all of the other rights i.e. free speech, right to assembly etc.

    Aaron Weaver says: The obvious message from Denison’s column is that a commitment to “biblical authority” demands that Christians oppose legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

    Reply: That is his opinion. It is the opinion of many Christians today. It is the opinion of many throughout Christian history.

    Aaron Weaver says: Speaking of personal preferences, we thankfully have Dr. Denison to let us know what “God’s standards” look like in the political arena!

    Reply: This is a condescending statement. You now don’t like his opinion which is fine but you don’t want him to be able to express his opinion.  Are you not doing the same thing?

    Aaron Weaver says: I strongly believe that we pervert actual “biblical authority” when we misuse that deeply theological idea to mean that “you must believe like me” and “you must vote like me” if you really believe the Bible. Instead, we should band together to protect traditional “biblical authority” from the revisionists in our midst!

    Reply: Well, I think you are guilty of this as well. We all are at times.

    Aaron Weaver says:  While Henry is no hero of mine, here’s a great word from Rev. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for a Religious Liberty, a Baptist that I do greatly
    admire: “People of faith…can come to different conclusions about what policies to support and for whom to vote.”

    Reply: Indeed they can come to different conclusions.  Aaron you need to allow others this same right without the rhetoric that you expressed earlier when you said, “we thankfully have Dr. Denison to let us know what “God’s standards” look like in the political arena!”

    • Chris Hughes

      You know we can read the article fine on our own. We do not need you to repeat it ad nauseum in the comments section.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GO7MJ4CDQBB6NZAYSVQ7HPXJSU Jack

        I wanted him to know what I was referring to in my reply. If you don’t want to read it, don’t.

    • onar5

      Two responses:
      First, your replies are often no more than “this is his opinion.”  The issue is not Denison’s right to an opinion or simply expressing his opinion.  But Denison promotes himself in the public forum as “a cultural apologist, building a bridge between faith and culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth.”  Moreover, he has been designated (how, I don’t know) as theologian in residence for Baptist General Convention of Texas.  His “opinions” should be debated and his arguments engaged.
      Second, equal rights means EQUAL rights.  If gays and lesbians “don’t have the rights as married people”–as you say–then they don’t have equal rights.  Do they have rights?  Of course.  But not equal rights.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danny.chisholm Danny Chisholm

    Aaron, you should be as respectful of Dennison’s views as you want people to respect yours. I read his article and felt it was well presented. If you disagree, then disagree without the sarcasm.

  • BigDaddyWeave

    Danny,

    I believe that I was sufficiently respectful to Dr. Denison.  

    While this blog was posted this week, I wrote it – like Dr. Denison wrote his column – in the immediate aftermath of the Amendment One outcome.  The obvious intent behind this post was to express my real, sincere feelings on the matter.  Sarcasm was certainly in order.

    So, I did not write this looking for affirmation and praise from others.  I don’t write looking for respect.  That’s a selfish reason to write.  

    You, of course, are free to disagree.