Sunday, April 27, 2014

The backlash against Christians supporting gay marriage: why we need dialogue and communication rather than condemnation and exclusion

Recently, frontline singer of well-known Christian band, Dan Haseltine, sent out tweets showing his support for gay marriage.

Now what concerns me most about this incident isn't that people disagreed with Dan Haseltine. I personally am very supportive of gay marriage, but I know many people (some of whom are my best friends) who are against gay marriage on biblical grounds. And I think any reasonable person can see why Christians would be against gay marriage (Note, I am not saying they are right, just that I can understand their perspective).

What does concern me is the whole backlash that Dan Haseltine has received after his Tweets. Some Christians (and some Christian radio stations) have decided not to play Jars of Clay music any more. There is this idea among some Christians that, if he supports gay marriage, then he's not really a Christian.

It's an attitude I've come across before. I've heard a sermon where the pastor said a a public figure couldn't possibly be a Christian because she supports gay marriage. (And yes, there were people shouting out Amens - I wasn't one of them). I've seen numerous posts and comments on Facebook where people say that anyone who supports gay marriage is not a real Christian.

And even if someone doesn't come right out and say you're not a Christian, it's implied - or at least it's implied that you're not a very good one. I've heard people say that anyone who supports gay marriage just doesn't understand the bible. I've had a former pastor start quoting bible verses about false prophets to me when I voiced my support of gay marriage. And then there's that good old chestnut 'Well, you either believe the bible or you don't.' That usually comes when people have nothing left to say and is a sign that they want the conversation to be ended.

I don't mind people disagreeing with me. I would never expect every single Christian to automatically change their mind on this issue. But what does annoy me is the idea that, if I support gay marriage, it must be because I'm either not a real Christian or I don't take the bible seriously.

I do take the bible very seriously. It's because I take it seriously that I believe we should love our neighbours (and neighbour means everyone). It's because I take it seriously that I believe we should always fight for justice. It's because I take it seriously that I believe, when people are oppressed, God cares. It's because I take it seriously that I believe God created each and every one of us and that each and every one of us has value and is special in God's eyes. It's because I take it seriously that I believe no-one has any right to judge another person.

And it's because I take it seriously that I know we cannot take the whole thing literally. It's because I take it seriously that I know it came to us through different people and different cultures. It's because I take it seriously that I know the same people who are very good at quoting the 'homosexuality' verses will often look confused when you ask them whether a woman should marry someone who rapes her (also mentioned in the bible). It's because I take it seriously that I know we cannot isolate verses, but must read every verse in the context of the whole. It's because I take it seriously that I believe the things that get mentioned again and again in the bible (like love and justice) are more important than a few commandments (amongst a whole lot of other commandments that we ignore).

Okay, you may not agree with how I read the bible. You may not agree with how I interpret the verses on homosexuality. You may not agree with the conclusions I reach.

But don’t tell me I don't take the bible seriously. And don't tell me that I just don't care what God says. And don't tell me I'm not a real Christian.

There are many different ways to read the bible. If there wasn't, we would probably just have the one denomination instead of the 33,830 denominations that currently exist (according to the World Christian Encyclopaedia of 2001 - there's probably quite a lot more now). So if we're going to start saying someone isn't a Christian because they read the bible differently to us and have different ideas, then basically we're going to end up with 33,830 separate groups of Christians who all believe they're a Christian and nobody else is.

And considering this is an issue that affects lots of people and has the power to do great harm to the LGBT community, shouldn't we at least be talking about it? This reaction that simply tells someone they're not a Christian shuts down communication. And sometimes I wonder whether that's the aim. People don't want to think about it. They don't want to consider what other Christians have to say on the issue. So they decide they're not Christians and they don't need to listen to them (or even, it seems, their music if they happen to be a lead singer of a Christian rock band).

There have been many disagreements in the church in the past - dietary regulations for the early Christians, the nature and substance of the Eucharist, whether women should be ordained - to name just a couple. And I cannot think of any disagreement which would not have benefited by more discussion and dialogue - instead of exclusion and condemnation.

And that goes for both sides. Those who are against gay marriage should listen to the people who support it and those who support it should listen to the people who are against it. And maybe we both have something to learn.

In the end, we have to decide what matters most - sticking to our own convictions or allowing God to show us the truth. And truly, what do we have to fear from just listening to people?     

You can read more about that Twitter conversation in the following articles:

Huffington Post: Dan Haseltine, 'Jars Of Clay' Lead Singer, Tweets Support For Gay Marriage  (

The Wire: Jars of Clay's Christian fans lash out after the lead singer tweets for same sex marriage (

Dan Haseltine's own blog post about his reasons behind the Twitter conversation (

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