The events up to now:
There has been a large contingent of people whom I am friends with on Facebook who have changed their profile picture to an image of an equals sign. Based on the context of my friend’s status updates and in light of the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments this week regarding same-sex marriage, I surmised that displaying such an image implies such friends endorsement of same-sex marriage.
Partly because I was feeling a bit antagonistic1, but mostly because it’s what I believe, and I’ve found it important to speak up for what I believe. I changed my profile to an image of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod logo…a cross. I didn’t pick it because of the color, I literally just did a Google Image search for LCMS and picked the first one. It was later pointed out that I had used the older version of the LCMS logo, the new one is nice shade of blue. I used the LCMS logo because I am confirmed in the LCMS.
Several people have left some very pointed questions and comments, and at least one person has unfriended me. To be honest, it does cause a bit of a gut wrench because I’m selfish want to be thought of as a “good guy” and if people are unfriending me…well, it’s easy to for me not to feel like a “good guy” if I’m going against the tide. But I am also steadfast in what I believe, which in turn gives me peace in my actions.
You will just have to believe me when I say that I have talked with many people and pastors over many years about the issue of same-sex marriage, always seeking to understand more. Even still I seek to understand more so that I can get to the point of being able to teach effectively.
The challenge I have in attempting to answer questions surrounding same-sex marriage is that A) these are not easy questions to answer; and B) I am not a teacher of theology, I am an engineer2. I have internalized many elements of my belief system (just as I internalize many elements of my engineering knowledge), but I have not yet gotten to the point where I can adequately explain them. Some may point to this as an “Aha!” and claim that perhaps by faith is flawed. I disagree.
At this point in time, my opinion is that my inability to effectively teach, combined with arguments having generally become too polarizing, cause this to be an issue not worth arguing about. The arguments quickly devolve into shouting matches and escalate in intensity with no real or meaning outcome. So, I typically just make my stance clear and leave it at that.
However, there have been some requests for clarification on Facebook, and I feel like that is a worthwhile endeavor. I’m not going to address every issue point by point, but give a general summary of where I stand:
I believe “on the basis of Scripture, marriage [is] the lifelong union of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:2–24; Matt. 19:5–6).” That is the relevant-to-this-conversation conclusion from the 2004 LCMS Convention Proceedings, RESOLUTION 3-05A, “To Affirm Marriage as Union of One Man and One Woman”, which I also agree with:
WHEREAS, The LCMS, in convention, in 1973, stated in Res. 2-04 (Proceedings, p. 110): “That the Synod recognize homophile behavior as intrinsically sinful” (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom.1:24– 27); and
WHEREAS, The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2) and that Christ, who knew no sin, was made to be our sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21); and
WHEREAS, The church’s proper evangelical work is to proclaim the reconciliation of the sinner to God in the death of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18–19); and
WHEREAS, The Synod, in convention (2001 Res. 2-08A), encouraged its congregations “to minister to homosexuals and their families in a spirit of compassion and humility, recognizing that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23–24)”; and
WHEREAS, Many in American society are demanding legal recognition of same-sex unions as “marriages” by appeals to “equality under the law” (e.g., the Supreme Court of the State of Massachusetts, Feb. 4, 2004); and
WHEREAS, God gave marriage as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride the Church (Eph. 5:32); and
WHEREAS, Homosexual behavior is prohibited in the Old and New Testaments (Lev. 18:22, 24; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9–20; 1 Tim. 1:10) as contrary to the Creator’s design (Rom. 1:26–27); and WHEREAS, For our Synod to be silent, especially in the present context, could be viewed as acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle; therefore be it
Resolved, That the Synod urge its members to give a public witness from Scripture against the social acceptance and legal recognition of homosexual “marriage”; and be it further
Resolved, That in ministering to homosexuals, “A Plan for Ministry to Homosexuals and Their Families,” prepared by the President’s Task Force, be commended as a resource for study and a guide for pastoral care; and be it further
Resolved, That the members of the Synod deal with sexual sins with the same love and concern as all other sins, calling for repentance and offering forgiveness in the Good News of Jesus Christ when there is repentance; and be it further
Resolved, That husbands and wives give thanks to God for the blessings of marriage, lead a chaste and decent life, and each love and honor one’s spouse; and be it finally
Resolved, That the LCMS, in convention, affirm, on the basis of Scripture, marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:2–24; Matt. 19:5–6).
To be perfectly clear about this, mostly because I feel like this point is missed and then people end up calling me a bigot: I do not hate, have contempt for, or am intolerant of people who identify as homosexual. If you catch me doing this, call me out on it.
As Tad pointed out, “There’s a difference between affirming one’s behavior and affirming one’s dignity as a human being … A good and reasonable person can disapprove strongly of what another does and still strongly affirm the person as a human being.”
I absolutely agree with and do affirm one’s dignity as a human being.
I do not affirm homosexual behavior.
I do not believe this is an issue of equality, or “loving your neighbor as yourself” as some have put it. Matthew 22:35-39 (NIV) is very clear:
35 One of them [a Pharisee], an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’3 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’4
Love the Lord your God first. Then your neighbor.
I will say I think there are some other interesting constitutional arguments to be made, both for and against, if I was to ignore the theological implications. Maybe I’ll write about them another day.
Edit: I added the original thread here to help keep the context. I have obfuscated the names because it provides little relevance and the comments were not originally posted here.
The Thread that Started it All:
O.Q.: Is this to “boycott” the ridiculous red equal sign going around?! …because it should be…
March 26, 2013 at 2:25pm (Like: 1)
E.S.: I’m so changing mine. Genius!
March 26, 2013 at 2:31pm
Andrew Ferguson: @O.Q. yes it is.
March 26, 2013 at 3:50pm (Like: 2)
O.Q.: You are a good man. lol
March 26, 2013 at 4:28pm
C.F.: Really? Why is it ridiculous? I think it’s pretty great.
March 26, 2013 at 5:00pm (Like: 1)
G.F.: Did you pick this particular pic because it’s red or because it’s the MO Synod emblem?
March 26, 2013 at 5:01pm
Y.Z.: Andrew, you’re no stranger to posting your opinions on facebook, and that’s a good thing; it encourages hearty debate on important issues. Frankly, I probably post more than my fair share of political opinions.
But the thing is, when you make a political post on facebook, what you’re really doing is tacitly agreeing to engage with anyone who might want to discuss/challenge your opinion. This is a standard I try to live by when posting, because otherwise there’s no point in broadcasting your opinion to the public.
Why do I bring this up? During the November elections, you posted a link to your blog in which you argue against approving Referendum 74. I applauded you for making your opinion known and inviting debate on the issue. If you remember, I posted a challenge to your argument. I wish I could reproduce the argument I made, but I can’t find the original post or my response anymore. However, I remember that the only response I got from you is that you had to put my argument through your “mental matrix” or something of that sort. That was the end of the debate.
Now here we are, I with a marriage equality profile photo, and you with a rebuttal to the argument implicit in my photo. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with making political posts on facebook, but you should realize, when you make an argument, but don’t address its critiques, and then continue to make the same argument, the integrity of your argument invariably suffers.
Maybe this doesn’t matter to you; I have my argument and you have yours. What I do know is that I presented you with an argument that you were either unable, unwilling or simply forgot to respond to. If the first is the case, I can respect that; maybe we have value systems which are simply incompatible, in which case we can leave it at that. If the second is the case, I would suggest you think twice before posting political opinions to facebook if you don’t care to engage with critics. If the third is the case, I’ll remind you:
If your conception of marriage is a man and a woman united in matrimony within Christ, as stated in the New Testament, it would seem that, not even considering same sex marriage, a non-Christian heterosexual couple would be unable to get married. If this is an outcome you are comfortable with, well, I think you’d be hard pressed to justify how such a conception fits within a liberal democracy. If this not an outcome you are comfortable with, I urge you to think whether there is any better solution than to allow you to have your definition and religious meaning of marriage, non-Christians to have their definition and religious meaning of marriage (including same sex marriages), and accommodating these diverse viewpoints by legislating simply that marriage is the legal union between two people.
One of these days, I may get married. What being married means to me might not be what it means to you, but I certainly hope my future marriage will be valid in your eyes despite the fact that I don’t subscribe to the same religion as you. I can assure you, this will be my opinion when you marry.
March 26, 2013 at 5:06pm (Like: 6)
D.Z.: Yeah, I want to know the reason behind the choice of that cross in particular..
March 26, 2013 at 6:31pm
D.Z.: Also, I don’t think the New Testament teaches that marriages between non-Christians are invalid. The Bible presents marriage as a union between a man and a woman, regardless of their religion..people are married before the call of Abraham.
March 26, 2013 at 6:41pm (Like: 2)
Sorry but I don’t see what equality has to do as an attack on Christian values. Jesus said love thy neighbor without asterisks. I really have zero reason to be friend with bigots and those who will be on the wrong side of history. In 20 years when you look back I hope you and those sharig your virw realize how homophobic and bigoted this statement you made was. Until then I wish you the best and will be unfriending you. Once you reach the point where you realize God is love and Jesus’ teachings extend to EVERYONE feel free to send me a friend request.
March 26, 2013 at 6:56pm (Like: 1)
G.F.: I’m not a fan of the Missouri Synod, as they don’t support women in ministry. I’m using this cross instead.
March 26, 2013 at 6:57pm
D.Z.: This is why people have a hard time successfully marshalling Jesus to their side in arguments. Jesus was far more conservative with regard to what counts as ethical living than any “tolerant” person would want. He was also far more accepting of those who failed to live up to those standards than any hard-hearted conservative would want.
March 26, 2013 at 7:07pm (Like: 2)
E.S.: Division, everywhere!
March 26, 2013 at 7:25pm
E.S.: Quinn- I feel an important part of the acceptance statement was that the sinner recognized their depraved state, repented and turned to Christ, they didn’t flaunt their sin as if it was something to have pride in.
March 26, 2013 at 7:29pm (Like: 1)
G.F.: There’s a difference between affirming one’s behavior and affirming one’s dignity as a human being. Unfortunately, people on both sides have equated behavior with identity. It’s not so black and white. A good and reasonable person can disapprove strong…See More
March 26, 2013 at 7:29pm (Like: 4)
N.Z.: Personally, the pride I take in celebrating the LGBTQ community is in who God created them to be–not their sin. They don’t have to repent of who they are. They’re children of God, just like me.
March 26, 2013 at 8:15pm
E.S.: Annie, I feel your point is biblically uninformed as God (via his word=bible) states that homosexuality is a sin just like premarital sex is a sin, adultery is a sin, idolatry is a sin, etc, etc. Love the sinner, not the sin
March 26, 2013 at 8:23pm (Like: 1)
N.Z.: Rachel, we all choose to interpret the Bible in different ways. There are two basic camps on this issue–you and I fall into these two camps. I’ve chosen the one that fits with my understanding of God’s character and who God calls me to be in my church, my family, and my community. It’s a view that’s held by many, many, many churches and dedicated followers of Christ like myself.
March 26, 2013 at 8:28pm
Andrew Ferguson: @Everyone: Here are my thoughts: https://andrewferguson.net/…/marriage-as-the-lifelong…/
March 26, 2013 at 11:20pm (Like: 1)