Saturday, June 25, 2005

Homosexuality and the Shifting Sands of Public Opinion

A story in today's Boston Globe about a Massachusetts legislator changing his position on an issue related to homosexual marriage reminded me of similar inconsistencies I've seen in other places. I've seen polling numbers go back and forth on this issue, both in state polls and in national polls. It seems that the American public is significantly malleable on this subject. The opposition to homosexual marriage that we've seen so far doesn't always reflect opposition to homosexuality itself. And I think that even the opposition to homosexual marriage can easily be weakened and will be.

If the American people are as persuadable on the issue of homosexuality as they seem to be (persuadable in either direction), we as Christians ought to prepare ourselves to do some persuading. I wrote an article on this subject earlier this year, which can be read here, and some of you may find it helpful. I suggest that people familiarize themselves with the relevant Biblical passages and the general facts related to the history of Christianity's response to homosexuality. Commit to memory some of the early patristic sources who comment on this subject, for example, such as Aristides and Tertullian. No modern advocate of homosexuality can cite any ancient Christian leader agreeing with his view, nor can he claim that opposition to homosexuality is of recent origin. It might be helpful to be familiar with a source such as Aristides, who most likely was a contemporary of the apostles. The best explanation for his opposition to homosexuality is that such a position was part of the moral system taught by the apostles.

I would recommend focusing on a few points in discussions with other people:

1.) We can't reasonably exclude religious principles from the discussion. God, scripture, and other religious concepts are part of reality. To try to arrive at conclusions on any subject without considering some aspects of reality is nonsensical. Even on legal matters, the United States was founded on religious principles, such as the concept that we have a Creator who gave us rights. The American founders' desire to avoid having a federal church, like the Church of England, isn't equivalent to their banning any inclusion of religious principle in any consideration of public policy.

2.) We have convincing evidence for the Divine inspiration of the Bible, and the Bible condemns homosexuality. Emphasize the part about convincing evidence. This isn't just a matter of subjectivity and personal preference.

3.) Appeal to conviction. Whether that conviction comes from conscience, intuition, or the Holy Spirit, don't underestimate the possibility that people who claim to not know that homosexuality is wrong do actually know it. People can ignore, dull, or distort their convictions, and convictions aren't always clear or godly, but an appeal to them on this subject can be effective. The fact that so many societies have opposed homosexual marriage throughout history is an indication that conviction against it is universal, although that universality can't be proven.

4.) The design of the human body and the physical and social results of homosexuality corroborate the Biblical assertion that homosexuality is sinful. The fact that a behavior is unnatural or unhealthy doesn't, by itself, prove that it's sinful. But it can add weight to a conclusion that the behavior is sinful, a conclusion initially reached by other means. And governments do sometimes outlaw unhealthy behavior, even if it isn't inherently sinful.

5.) Our system of government has one legislative branch, not two. If you want to change the laws on marriage and other issues related to homosexuality, do it through the legislature, not through the courts. This is a less significant argument, and it's a temporary one. If the time comes when most Americans want homosexual marriage to be legal, and I think that time eventually will come unless there's a radical change in this nation, then the appeal to the difference between the legislature and the judiciary will no longer be effective. But as long as the majority is on our side, and the minority is trying to legislate through the judiciary, we should call attention to the fact that our system of government is being abused.

We should be discouraged by how far our nation is moving from its Christian roots. But we should be encouraged by the opportunities still available to persuade people. The belief systems that are replacing Christianity are shallow and unsustainable. But Christians need to be willing to do the work necessary to defeat them.