Forever in Blue Jeans?

My house is filled with teenagers who ask a lot of questions. Consequently, there’s a lot of discussion around what I call “the culture wars,” modern-day controversies that clash with historic Christian teaching.

I recently edited an article for someone regarding a May 8 vote on NC Amendment 1, which would amend North Carolina’s state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The subject came up at home. Finally able to vote in an election, one of my children stated their position. Then came the question: what do you think?

My husband and I are about to celebrate a silver wedding anniversary, telegraphing that I favor church-sanctioned marriage for a man and a woman. I view marriage as a picture of Christ and His Bride, the church. That said, I have no quarrel with civil union, which has nothing whatever to do with the church as far as I’m concerned. It merely provides legal standing regarding property rights, hospital visits as “family” and the like. I see no point in enshrining a same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution. Same sex marriage already is illegal in North Carolina.

A hail-storm of questions ensued: Is it “fair”? How can a loving God just reject people and consign them to hell because they “love” someone of the same sex?

We humans tend to accept some things as a natural part of life, of what is. We consider other things, spiritual things in particular, negotiable, open to question or outright challenge.

Quick example: My employer has a dress code. I can wear denim on Fridays only, but not all Fridays. On Fridays when special guests are on property, business attire is required. Sleeveless arms, Capri pants, sling back pumps, mules and exposed-toe shoes are taboo every day of the week.

As far as I know, no one ever has challenged the code. Acceptance of employment includes submission to the company’s dictates regarding what can and cannot be worn on site. Their property, their rules. No question.

In that way, the company gets more respect than God who provides the air we breathe. Something inside us insists on the right to challenge everything about Christianity that goes against the grain of personal preference or popular culture. I’m guilty. I have a sin nature just like everyone else on the planet. Compliance is not my first response.

On Facebook, the nation-sized online community that’s poised to go public, young and old freely post what they are thinking, reading, watching on YouTube or listening to on Ipods, Spotify, Pandora or Rhapsody. There I find a pervasive embrace of peace, love and inclusion that is devoid of biblical perspective. Historic Christianity is widely viewed, even by professing Christians, as narrow, dogmatic and intolerant of other faith systems that proclaim other ways to God, many paths to enlightenment.

Seems to me that most of us fail to grasp the real meaning of Christianity. It’s not a democratic system in which we vote on what we like, majority wins and rewrites everything to suit us. We are not running things. God is Sovereign. Christ is the Head of the Church, the body of Christ. As members of His body, we are blood-bought Company men and women, governed by our relationship with Him. He rules in love, but He does rule.

In its simplest terms, Christianity is a holy God’s offer of rescue to sinful mankind. It’s John 3:16.  He alone is God. We come to Him on His terms, His way. Dogmatic? Absolutely.  It is an offer. Like an offer of employment, we can accept or not. But once we accept, we wear His robes of righteousness. No wardrobe changes.

I encourage my children to question. My husband and I clearly do not have all the answers. The answers we do have from Scripture don’t always satisfy. Young people are much more attune to culture speak on issues of gay marriage, pluralism and so on than they are to historic church doctrine. Modern-day paganism seems so much hipper.

Still, I’m of the opinion that an unexamined faith is not much faith at all. Christianity can hold its own in the marketplace of ideas. God can handle questions. The real issue is our willingness to accept answers we don’t want to hear and then to do what we otherwise would not.

When it really matters, we can develop a willingness to conform. Today is Friday. I’ll be wearing jeans to the office. Big decision: Gap, Liz Claiborne, Calvin Klein or Levi’s?

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For better or worse?

I was munching a grilled salmon salad when the lunch conversation casually turned to rehearsal dinner plans for a child about to marry — a member of the same sex.  The partner-to-be is smart, good-looking, from a wonderful family.

“They’re going to be so happy!”

I’m not homophobic, but I was surprised. I was raised in the Deep South, where such things simply aren’t discussed in “polite conversation.”

Everybody may know the bank president is a closet drinker, that incestuous uncle Lou invites young nieces to sit on his lap, that the handsome young school teacher embraces an alternate lifestyle. But nobody talks about it publicly.

After some thought, it occurred to me that this parent had no more reason to conceal joy over a homosexual union than a Christian parent who is joyful about their child marrying an unbeliever.  Both practices equally flout God’s established order.

Yet, church people who are up in arms over homosexual marriage and/or civil union are mum when it comes to commonplace church weddings between believers and unbelievers. The Bible, however, is pretty vocal.

When God was preparing to give His people the land He had promised, a land inhabited by idolaters, he said plainly: Don’t intermarry with your unbelieving neighbors. “They will lead your young people away from me to worship other gods.”

Their unsuitability as spouses was all about the direction of their lives: away from the true God.  It had nothing to do with their race, education, socio-economic status or sexual preference.  And the prohibition on intimacy with such people didn’t end with the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, Christians are warned not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers. It’s a farm analogy. Picture an ox and a donkey yoked together at the neck for the purpose of working together. These animals have different temperaments, builds, strengths.  They do not bear the load equally. Instead of working together, they pull against one another, at odds rather than in sync.

In a marriage, that’s a hell of a life, literally.

At least in a homosexual union, the two ostensibly share a common lifestyle. The unequally yoked scenario attempts to forge a lifetime connection between two people headed in opposite directions. It’s like getting on a plane to Maine hand-cuffed to someone whose connecting flight is going to Miami.

Yet, so-called Christians routinely marry handsome, well-to-do, “nice” unbelieving people. Any wonder the divorce rate among Christians is no better than the national average?

My response to the wedding revelation? I smiled, said “Oh, really?” and listened to the rest of the story. No right-wing lecture from me. Too many people who preach against homosexuality have their own problems. My job as a Christian is to love people and to personally live “soberly, righteously and godly” before them.

Besides, I have my own children, and I’m mindful of the Bible admonition: “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.”