What do you believe?


My thanks to Philip for his comments in this dialogue about same-sex marriage. This issue sharply divides generations; hopefully our discussion will generate more light than heat. His response actually raised questions beyond that of same-sex marriage (see his response to my previous posting). Because of the number of issues, I will break up my response with daily postings to help us track one topic–but no more than two–at a time.

Philip said he would “take issue with any groups … who try to restrict the rights of another group.” To that I would say that in order to have a functioning society we have to restrict certain groups. There are literally thousands of groups that needs be restricted to promote the well-being and safety of all citizens; that give people the expectation of crime prevention and medical care; that protect the weak and unwary from violence and exploitation; that maintain both a system of justice and our education system, etc. Thus, restriction of another group, per se, is not a reasonable criterion to disallow my position.

Since many people don’t accept the Bible as authoritative, Philip was quite right to assert that Christians shouldn’t expect people outside the faith to accept the rationale of “because the Bible says.” Nor should he expect Christians to necessarily find validity in his personal opinion, either. Philip is certainly welcome to “take issue,” but opinion in itself isn’t sufficient to make a point. It is simply creating one’s own truth.

However, I have two questions for Philip–and our readers, too: What do you accept as authoritative to guide your life? What would you suggest as a trustworthy standard for both sides to use for a productive discussion on this issue of same-sex marriage?

Come back tomorrow; we’ll have more on the discussion between Philip and me plus your comments, too.

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About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
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16 Responses to What do you believe?

  1. Jerry says:

    Sam, I appreciate your concern for the institution of marriage. My wife and I are approaching a half century of that institution ourselves. I think that you are extrapolating a bit far to assume that we will have a rush on inter-species weddings in our lifetime, even if gay couples were allowed to marry. Polygamy could be a possibility with or without gay marriages becoming legal, though. Do you remember the time when interracial marriage was the current bugaboo? Many Christians probably thought then that we were on the slippery slope to the decay of marriage. I don’t think that came to pass. Probably gay marriage will be common during our lifetime, and people will look back and wonder why we were concerned. We have so many larger issues, such as war and hunger, in the world, it seems. Peace, brother.

    • samuelehall says:

      Congratulations, Jerry & Ruthie! I’m impressed.
      I want to talk more about “the larger issues,” probably in a posting, as I think you represent a fairly widespread view toward the whole brouhaha about same-sex marriage.

  2. m kofron says:

    A secular government will seek justice rather than scriptural morality. We have a secular goverment always in transition. For many years same sex couples have been allowed to adopt children. Ehics used to be what we should do and morality was the mores of the general population–what people do……..now they have become the same.
    Phillip Keller says heterosexuality will not send anyone to heaven nor will homosexuality send anyone to hell. The under forties have been raised in a post modern culture, I am afraid the tide has just started coming in……..like that of the Roman Empire.

    • samuelehall says:

      Matt, thank you for joining us. You are correct; Christians should not expect a secular government to support our religion. Quite the opposite, in fact. The question remains, then, how should the Christian render to Caesar that which is his and to God that which is God’s?
      We need to hear more about these principles of ethics and morality.
      And yes, I believe Keller is correct, but we still have to deal with it.

  3. Jerry says:

    Someone jokingly said about gays being allowed to marry: “They deserve to be as miserable as the rest of us.”

    As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his “Notes on the State of Virginia” (1781-1785), “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Likewise, it does me no harm for two gay people to marry and should, based on Jefferson’s note, not be prevented by government.

    With our current lifestyles, we have serial polygamy, abusive relationships, single parent homes, and large numbers of non-married cohabitating couples by choice. Marriage is not what might have been conceived initially. I don’t know if we could do it much more harm than has been done already. It seems to be withering on the vine as is.

    I think that marriage in the U.S. is primarily a Judeo-Christian religious concept. Perhaps, in a secular, rather than a Christian, nation as we are, there should be a term, marriage, and another term, “civil union.” “Civil union” would be a contractual relationship sanctioned by the government between people without preference to gender, number, or religious affiliation. “Civil union” would encompass religious marriages and secular binding unions for legal purposes. A person married in a religious ceremony of any sort would then be considered joined in “civil union” in the eyes of the government. A “civil union” would be recognized in the eyes of the state, but not necessarily in the eyes of any particular religion.

    There is a need for “civil union” to protect a relationship between individuals who want to be bound to each other for legal purposes but not necessarily for religious purposes. They could be gay or straight, religious or atheistic, related or not. A “Civil union” and marriage would each be a recognized “civil union,” but “civil union” would not necessarily be recognized as a religious marriage. That would “do me no injury.” (We could have a competition for coining a term for the “civil union.”)

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry, good to have your light-hearted insights. Also appreciate the particular viewpoint you bring to the table.
      Jefferson’s views really don’t apply. Philip likewise saw no injury to traditional marriage but I hold that allowing the camel’s nose under the tent would severely damage the institution of marriage. It has stood as the linchpin for the family, which stands as the foundation for all cultures and primarily for God’s chosen people of the Old Testament and then for all peoples who receive Jesus Christ, the resurrected Son of God, as their Savior and Lord. See my comments in my posting of 06.05, Item 3a. Those perversions of marriage have already seen their day in court. Believe me, if traditional marriage is changed from the one man–one woman relationship, we will see those abominations and worse.
      Your point about protection of legal rights for those eschewing traditional marriage is well taken–but not at the expense of traditional marriage.

  4. What do you accept as authoritative to guide your life?
    Since my life is dedicated to God and since I have accepted the redemptive work of Jesus on Calvary and that I daily invite the Holy Spirit to take up residency within me, I must also be willing to accept and read His word as a guide to my life. If I want His presence, His anointing, His favor and His blessing I must also want His word to abide within me. Your god – your terms. My God – His terms.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thank you, DJ. This addresses very well Philip’s concern that “religion and opinion go hand-in-hand.”
      As you point out, God’s Word and the Holy Spirit–not our opinion–are the authoritative guides to our lives. When they are not, we miss the mark.

  5. Doris Minard says:

    Hi Sam:
    I wanted to leave a reply to your essay on Drama on Court Street but I didn’t see a way to do that. So here I am!
    So many of the homeless are mentally ill or mentally ill and addicted. Through no fault of their own. The mental health system has failed to address the needs of those who don’t believe they have an illness and the courts have held up a high standard for help–dangerous to self or others. There are so many who are unable to care for their basic needs. We, as a society, as a church, as belieivers have failed them.
    The Bible says faith without works is dead. Jesus said giving water, food, coverings to others we do it as unto HIm. Matthew 25:35
    We are called to do good works. Let’s do them as unto the Lord.
    Doris

  6. There is a difference between crime prevention and medical and a religious group restricting the rights of people who want nothing to do with the religion that the group stands for. The various groups who “promote the well-being and safety of all citizens” seem to be different than what the church is doing. It would seem that “promoting the well-being and safety of all citizens” would be mutually exclusive to denying rights to a minority.

    Isn’t Christianity (and all other religions) “simply creating one’s own truth”? Sure there are certain core beliefs that all Christians hold, but there is also a lot of Christianity that depends on opinion (to eat bacon or not to eat bacon, that is the question.) Opinion and religion seem to go hand in hand. So much of religion can is dependent on the opinion of the person believing in it.

    What do I accept as an authoritative guide to my life? The short answer is lessons that I have learned (most of them the hard way) and counsel of people who have lived a life that I can respect. I live my life knowing that at the end I am the only one who will be held responsible for my actions; I try to live my life so that I am not afraid to die.

    As far as a standard for discussion on same-sex marriage there isn’t one. The two sides of this issue will never agree; ever! As far as I am concerned it is a legal issue that will be decided by the courts. I foresee that same-sex marriage will be decided next year (since it is not an election year) and that Gays will be allowed to marry. The way that the government works here in America the Gay community has the key components to get legislation passed and I do not see a group that can successfully oppose them (from a strictly political science position).

    • samuelehall says:

      Philip, thanks for re-joining the fray. Re your first paragraph objection: Perhaps you don’t understand that those of us who wish to protect the sanctity of marriage think that same-sex marriage would do irreparable harm to the institution of marriage as it now stands.
      In your second paragraph, you raise important issues. Creating one’s own truth? You acknowledge “certain core beliefs.” A discussion of the Old Testament prohibition against “eating bacon” (pork) would lead us far afield but I assure you, it was based on God’s protection of his people–not on their opinions! You have the view that “opinion and religion go hand in hand.” So be it, but a reading of, for example, The Nicene Creed would give you a better understanding of what Christians believe, and essentially, what should be the authoritative guide to our lives. A brief example is found in the comment of DJ Young, which is awaiting my approval.
      I thank you for stating what you see as the authoritative guide to your life. I’m sure you try to live according to your standards.
      You may be right as to the resolution of the issue of same-sex marriage. We can only try to extend our understanding of the truth, compassion to one another, hopefully an attitude of humility, and patience.

  7. Marilyn Ebbs says:

    Wow, Sam. This is a big topic to take on. But I like your question asking what is the guideline for non Christians to determine whether same-sex marriage or homosexuality is right or wrong. I often wonder if that guideline is just that don’t want to be branded “homophobic,” which society places on anyone who disagrees with homosexualality or same-sex marriages. For me, although the Bible is the guideline for which I try to measure all aspects of my life, I must say I don’t understand the general population’s stance on this topic. What about nature? What is natural? Let’s face it, our species needs males and females to procreate and therefore to survive.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks for joining the discussion, Marilyn. This isn’t a crusade for me; rather, it came at me and then assumed a life of its own. However it’s an issue that the church needs to address in a compassionate and non-judgmental way, particularly since the issue of marriage is threatened.

  8. Jim Noyes says:

    Samuel, I agree with you that some groups, some individuals, and some ideas, need restriction for one simple reason. It is not productive for a healthy community and culture.. The basic principle of nature in this universe is that what is sown is what is reproduced. Bad ideas are weeds that do not produce good. Same sex-marriage is a bad idea no matter how one tries to dress it up. That idea may be reproduced. The physical generation is not–pending ‘cloning,’ which is another bad idea..

    • samuelehall says:

      Hey, Jim, you made it! Glad to have you along for the ride. Good analogy. We know that some bad ideas do take root and … like weeds, they require perseverance and extended effort to remove.

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