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Mindy BelzVoices Mindy Belz

In all the noise, sounds of silence

Too often the church has failed to be profound in the profound debate over gay marriage

In all the noise, sounds of silence

(Krieg Barrie)

We editors at WORLD have had a hard time—not with knowing where we stand on gay marriage but knowing how to punctuate it.

After several readers chastised us for using the term “gay marriage” as though it were a legitimate phrase, we decided to put inside quotations the word “marriage” when it referred to a union between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. In time—and with the increasing need to use it—we’ve wearied of seeing “marriage” that way: It looks more snarky than serious and gives the impression we have doubts about any concept of marital union.

In this issue’s cover story and in our online and print coverage moving forward, we generally will use the term gay or same-sex marriage without quotes, recognizing it as a now understood cultural construct (similar to the way a term like “wired” acquired altered meanings or the way we’ve learned what’s meant by “casual sex”). The task of Christian journalists is to report the world the way it is, while keeping in mind the way we wish it to be. But the context of our reporting and commentary shows that gay marriage is not a construct we buy.

The lexicographers have succumbed to pressure to amend their definitions of “marriage” (Merriam-Webster added “being united to a person of the same sex” as a secondary meaning in 2003, but a petition drive is underway to make it part of the first listed meaning). For Christians, “marriage” between members of the same sex—no matter who redefines it—is an ontological impossibility, and not only because the apostle Paul condemned homosexuality in Romans 1.

Marriage is woven purposefully and intimately (if you will) into the narrative of the Old and New Testament, enfolding the entire canon of what is accepted as the basis for the belief system known as Christianity. It is the created order of humankind in Genesis 1, celebrated as a gift leading in turn to the gift of children in Genesis 2, confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19, set as a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church in Ephesians 5, and the visual used to capture the final scene of time itself in Revelation 21. In every instance it’s the distinctives of the parts, male and female, that make the whole.

So it follows logically, as one organizational statement on the LGBT movement affirms, to say: “Homosexual desire itself is contrary to the design of God for human sexuality. In that sense, it is rightly thought of as a fallen condition and, in general terms, a consequence of sin and brokenness.”

And quickly we must add: All have sinned and fallen short. It was the couple yoked in marriage according to God’s order in the garden, after all, who led us into the fall and all sins that have followed. Homosexuals have no corner on sin, but the practice of homosexuality is sinful.

That’s why the silence and acquiescence in many evangelical churches is so profoundly disturbing and dismantling. The refusal of too many pastors and seminaries to teach clearly on why homosexuality cannot be the basis for marriage—the fear to be accused of bigotry—has left shrill voices and violent haters filling the public square. And it’s left many Christians and normally astute thinkers bewildered, unsure.

To be sure, the climate is fearsome. The organizational statement quoted above is a profound and helpful document distributed internally to guide employees of a national Christian organization. But we’ve agreed not to name the group at this time or publicize the statement—as helpful as we believe it could be—because that group has a legitimate fear for its staff and of legal action from pro-gay activists.

And for pastors, as Louis Giglio learned in January, preaching on homosexuality even 15 years ago gets you disqualified from giving the inaugural benediction. But silence and retreat (including our own) has allowed distortion and exaggeration to carry the day. 

Far beyond leaving a few editors in stylistic limbo, the failure to speak boldly, accurately, and kindly does damage not only to the church but to the gay community, and to American society at large. We do no one a favor, no matter how many ships Rob Bell proclaims have sailed, to permit by our actions or inactions what contradicts so deeply what God has designed.

Email mbelz@worldmag.com

Comments

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  • Anonymous (not verified)
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    I think dropping the quotation marks is a sort of concession. We must fight for words. Not just with homosexuality and marriage, but everytime we recognize that something is not what it is being called. Often we don't notice - so when we do it is imperative that we use the word correctly. Why not call it 'same-sex legalized unions' - that is what it actually is.

  • Lubbock Rebel
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    Stephene, Neither abortionists, fornicators or gluttons have organized campaigns to brainwash young people in schools and colleges. Drunks, fornicators, gluttons still have shame. Do any of those groups try to infiltrate Christian groups  and then sue if they are not allowed to do so. Do  fornicators, abortionists and gluttons seek to be a protected class? Has anyone been called a bigot for speaking out against fornication, gluttony or any other sin.I agree with you that the church needs to stand for Biblical marriage and against all types of sexual sin. However, the spread of homosexuality is a huge threat to our families, our church and our nation. Once we get past the lie that people "are born that way" we will begin to comprehend that there is no upper limit to the number of people who may be lured into that destructive lifestyle.Christians have been too silent, not too vocal.  The Homosexual activists had to go back 15 years to find a Louis Giglio sermon that addressed homosexuality. Giglio said this had not been his focus. Christian leaders (particularly those who deal with youth) better deal with this issue. It may already be too late.

  • stephenc
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    Rick W - abortion springs to mind as a sin meeting everything on your list of criteria.What about something like, say, fornication? It has already reached the place homosexuality is aiming for (except that there was never a legal commentary for it to overcome) - it is accepted so thoroughly that people don't march in support of it because they don't have to. It's just normal. Even some Christians think it's normal.What about gluttony? Nobody talks about gluttony, and yet it might arguably be the most widespread sin in modern America (not excluding myself here, FYI). The point I'm trying to make is not that homosexual political activism is not, in and of itself, dangerous to the fabric of our society. I believe it is. The point I'm trying to make is that there are a lot of other dangerous things we've stopped fighting to fight homosexuality as a sin, and it bothers me that we picked one most of us aren't tempted to.We need people battling homosexual political activism, certainly. The church in general needs to support those people. But the church in general also needs to help people speak for marriage as it ought to be, and against every manner of sin, not just homosexuality.I just think we're in danger of missing the big picture when we devote most of our time and energy to what is a relatively narrow piece of human corruption, leaving the root and even proximate causes of that corruption and many others unaddressed in the process.

  • Sawgunner's picture
    Sawgunner
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    I think the actor Jeremy Irons raised a good point. If gay marriage is legal what would stop a man from marrying his son to bypass all the inheritance taxes??

  • Sawgunner's picture
    Sawgunner
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    Great piece Mindy! I think many churches are reluctant to speak up/speak out for fear of  (1) non-tax status revocation or (2) bullying tactics by Mel White and legions of "Soulforce" stormtroopers.  It is analogous to the timid publishing house a few years back. They printed a book examining the controversy of the Danish Muhammad cartoons. Of course they made sure not to print the actual cartoons for fear of "offending" the muslims. Such deference to anyone's religious sensibilities raised hackles as it should have. Put a crucifix in urine and call it art and you are fete'd to no end.What I despise is the way the definitional terms used in this vital debate are set and established by the homosexuals.  Gay marriage is like a circular square.  In many ways it's like the 70s all over. Abortion as we know kills an innocent child. But the proAborts and their media sympathizers/cheerleaders always framed the debate in terms of  a  "woman's right to choose".  Who could favor denying anyone her right to anything?In the UK what I have read is even more frightening. Homosexuals there openly use terms like sodomy or other words which in the USA would likely be used by Westboro folks and thus seen as offensive and beyond the pale.I also think back to the Prop 8 initiative in California. It was supported whole-heartedly by Mormons and muslims yet only biblical conservative Christians faced angry gay mobs outside their churches. Stand and speak up for the truth even if gay folks ****** your cross from your hands and stomp on it as they did out in California!

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    May I suggest another look at Romans 1.  Homosexuality is not the worst of sins but an absolute denial of the power of God to redeem ranks very high on the list of worst things to do.  So homosexuality is not the only  problem and what is being attacked is redemption.   

  • Lubbock Rebel
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    Stephene,  Can you name another sin that public schoolchildren and college students are brainwashed to embrace?  Can you name another sin whose practitioners have become a protected class?  Can you name another sin whose practitioners march in giant rallies to lure others into their sin and flaunt their power to lawmakers? Can you name another sin whose practitioners call Christians "bigots" for teaching Biblical truth about their sin?  

  • Ol Reliable
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    Excellent article, Mindy. We must speak truth in love.With "civil rights" being the basis for the same sex "marriage" debate, Voddie Baucham makes a tactful, truthful, Christian rebuttal at his site: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/07/19/gay-is-not-the-new-black/

  • WORLD User 94453
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    @stephenc:  You make very good points, which do hit the mark for The Church.  But I would note a few things, not as a rebuttal, but to make note of why this issue is on the radar for many Christians:1)  The redefinition of marriage in our culture to include gay marriage is really a fundamental redefinition of what constitutes a family (away from the biblical & traditional definition). 2)  Gay marriage completes the Left's attempt to obliterate distinctions between male & female (i.e. their belief that there are no difference besides our reproductive organs).  This is really an absurd belief that lacks common sense, and logically leads to a fundamental redefinition of what it is to be human. 3)  Gay marriage will lead to further restrictions on religious liberty in our country.  We Christians are already branded as haters who use "hate speech".  Religious organizations are likely to be forced to comply (military Chaplains to be required to perform gay marriage ceremonies being just one example). 

  • stephenc
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    This article calls for the church to speak and teach clearly on homosexuality. I have noticed several problems, though, with the way this is usually carried out. In my neck of the woods (the Bible belt), there is no shortage of condemnation of homosexuality, from the pulpit or in casual conversation.There are at least a few things about the way we do it that bother me, though:(1) We expend ridiculous amounts of energy on homosexuality compared to any of the "respectable" sins. It comes across - whether it is thought of this way or not - as a group of people whose sins are mostly small, private, or socially acceptable, finding a particularly blatant sin by which - conveniently - none of them are tempted, and bashing that to feel good about themselves.(2) We condemn homosexuality roundly but we do not condemn any of the sexual sins out of which it flows - and which are much more common. We don't condemn adultery, we don't condemn fornication, we don't condemn pornography, we don't condemn plain vanilla mental lust, with anything like the same energy or vehemence with which we condemn homosexuality. Why? As Paul makes clear, homosexuality is more a symptom of great societal corruption than a source itself (although it certainly is that).(3) We don't offer an alternative. We don't preach about what sex and marriage are supposed to be. Why shouldn't we? The Christian vision of marriage is an incredible thing, a beautiful thing. If we could convey the beauty of marriage and sex within it as they ought to be, we'd come far closer to winning over those who do not agree with us (not to mention helping Christians struggling with temptation more than we do right now).

  • WORLD User 94453
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    Ditto all the above comments.  Marriage is an inherently religious concept, since it was created and ordained by God.  Gay marriage does not exist for the Christian who takes the Bible seriously as God's Word.  But with a culture that is increasingly secular, synchretistic or atheist, we are speaking to deaf ears who cannot hear our message.

  • Kelty
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    I agree with Janet B. I refuse to use the term "gay marriage" in or out of quotes.   Such a thing does not and cannot exist. 

  • AV
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    Well said. We have abdicated our place in the market place of ideas surrounding this issue to the fear of being considered unaccepting intollerant haters. What happened to, 'I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ". If we believe Christs words in John 15:18 shouldn't we be more stalwart rather than retreating into the corner of acceptance and  "live and let live". If anyone read the recent ariticle published in "The Atlantic" about a gay student's experience at a well known christian university, you recognize just how profound the the problem with our silence has become. In that article, the university's response was mainly to affirm their love for him, not altogether inappropriate, but to then primarily to counsel the student on the merits of improving his ability to like himself. My God grant us the boldness to really love all sinful persons with the bold love of the truth of the Gospel and the willingness to be hated like they hated Christ before us.

  •  Neil Evans's picture
    Neil Evans
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    If we put in quotes every word whose meaning has been fatally altered by our culture we would be overwhelmed by quotation marks.  I think a combination of very careful writing / speaking and statements similar to the above is appropriate.  It is, after all, almost impossible to control either how other people use words or how they hear the words we use.  Of greatest importance is that we who claim to know The Truth think and communicate with Biblical accuracy.  

  • Janet B
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    I am one of those who has called for "gay marriage" to be in quotes.  My reason is that a "gay marriage" is not a marriage; the LGBT movement has highjacked the term to mean "the official recognition of the relationship between two people of the same sex," as if that relationship was as positive to society as marriage is intended to be.  And I am tired of the Christian people going along with it, even if you are journalists.  I'd prefer you to journal the truth in an obvious manner.  Perhaps if the error of the term were in our faces more often, we'd be emboldened to take a stand for truth.

  • Lubbock Rebel
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 05:45 pm

    Good article. We have been too silent for too long. We need to imitate David who fasted and prayed for his first child with Bathsheba even though Nathan had announced the baby would die. It is likely that God is at work destroying the US and that the country's embrace of homosexuality will be used to facilitate that destruction. However, until the country is actually destroyed, we need to boldly speak the truth - especially to young people.

  • Beth
    Posted: Tue, 06/05/2018 11:57 am

    I appreciate World's boldness to speak the truth - in this and many other issues.  Many issues are profoundly uncomfortable to discuss and leave them open to flaming attacks, but they speak the truth boldly and lovingly anyway.
    Coming from a very liberal West Coast city, I very much appreciate the Biblical truth expressed regarding current cultural events and trends.  Having just signed up to run for public office as an alternative voice, your writings are invaluable.  Blessings to you.