Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Reflections on Same Sex Marriage

Sunday, June 30, 2013, I preached a sermon at Christ Church Nashville about recent Supreme Court decisions that have been widely interpreted as opening the way for state governments to extend the definition of marriage to include individuals of the same sex.

It was an extraordinarily difficult sermon to preach because in our city, that theme hits several sensitive areas at once.

Nashville was, until recently, a rather provincial, mid sized city, famous for its music but also home to major universities and commerce. However, its roots go deep into a culture formed by the religious awakenings of the American frontier and churches are everywhere. Indeed, it may be the most churched city in the nation. It is the heart of gospel, as well as country music. The two gendres constantly borrow one from the other to make a major contribution to American popular music. Underneath both is the same passionate religious culture we once called "The Old Time Religion."

For many people of the mid south, the Old Time Religion is Christianity. Patriotism and faith interpenetrate here in ways that even Evangelicals in other places don't quite understand, much less non Christians. To our people, America is a nation birthed by God for specific purposes and responsible before God to honor those purposes. A major departure from Christian teaching, such as occurred the last week of June 2013, hits the area hard.

Its not that homosexuality is unknown in our churches or in the gospel music industry! In fact, Gospel Music may have a higher percentage of gay people than other musical genres. Everyone has always known that. In Nashville, gay people often perform at church and then sit to listen to an anti gay sermon. The churches have had something like a "don't ask; don't tell policy" toward homosexuality, which allows them to both profit from the gifts of homosexuals while denouncing their lifestyle.

All of this is about to come to an end, of course. Churches and preachers will now have to decide what their faith really says about homosexuality and what to do about it.

Delivering this message on the Sunday before Independence Day meant that I had to find a way to address all of these themes together. Somehow, we had to find a way to live with this ruling peacefully without feeling as though we were betraying the gospel to do it. So we began a conversation about homosexuality in general, the Christian view of matrimony, and the relationship a Christian can have with a secular country.

I was shocked frankly, that I didn't get attacked from both the right and the left. That is what I have become accustomed to expect when trying to teach from an orthodox, as opposed to a conservative, position. Many very conservative people seemed relieved to know that although they are responsible to live by Christian values themselves, they are not responsible for straightening out loved ones who are not claiming to walk the Christian path. I have talked with many people in the homosexual community as well about the sermon, some of whom read it before hand and made suggestions about how to present it. I am grateful for this because I truly do not believe the gospel allows me to endorse gay marriage, for reasons I articulate in the sermon.

Rather than say more about all of this in a blog, I decided to give my readers a link, both to the written text and to the video of the sermon as delivered to the congregation.

I welcome any response from anyone because the objective of the sermon is to help us understand one another in a rapidly changing world. 

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