Let me try to state the issue as clearly as I can. Fully 90% of American Christians believe that homosexual acts are fundamentally against God’s intended purpose for humanity. Sex is intended for the covenant relationship between a man and a woman for the primary purpose of bringing children into the world. A homosexual relationship is a symptom of a greater disorder and brokenness, and as such is one of a number of behaviors, attitudes and postures that the Bible describes as ‘sin’. ‘Sin’ is described by many as ‘missing the mark’, the mark being what we men and women were created to know and be and enjoy. Homosexuality is one of many behaviors and attitudes that Christians understand as ‘immoral’ and therefore sinful. Sin settles for something less than God’s good, and one’s choice to sin cuts us off from God’s good and thus increasingly from God and one another. The ultimate sin is idolatry. Idolatry seeks to replace the God who is perceived to be in the way of what one wants with a ‘god’ more amenable to one’s desires. The result is moral chaos; the boundaries of morality begin to shift and shift again until the field of play is transformed into something else altogether.
On the other side, for the first time in our history a majority of Americans have rejected Christian morality as having any authority in their lives or any relevance to their culture. Furthermore, a majority of Americans now believe there is nothing wrong whatsoever with homosexual acts or with being ‘gay’ or being LBTG along with a growing list of additional capital letters, each one standing for a sexual practice that the former majority culture deemed perverse. A thirty-plus year effort has succeeded in redefining homosexuality from being a moral issue to being a civil rights issue. Agreeing with the homosexual lobby, American courts have, over the past 20 years, struck down every law criminalizing homosexual behavior and have increasingly sided with homosexual plaintiffs seeking redress for practices perceived as discriminatory. Having achieved the same legal status as African Americans and women in terms of validating the right of homosexuals to be free of discrimination in the workplace, marketplace and public arena, the homosexual lobby has become increasingly strident in their attempts to dismantle the old Christian morality that is widely perceived as being the driving force behind the previous marginalization of the homosexual community. So when a baker couple in Oregon refused to make a cake for a homosexual wedding, the offended homosexual couple took the small business to court and won. The bakery was ordered to pay a fine of up to $150,000 for refusing service to this homosexual couple. [http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/oregon-bakery-pay-gay-couple-refused-cake-article-1.2103577]. With a skillful use of the courts, a sympathetic media and a powerful strategy of public shaming any person, institution or organization seen as in the way of its agenda (‘outrage’ is the operative word), the homosexual movement (and its powerful allies in media, education, business, entertainment and government) has engineered and benefited from the most rapid change in American public morality in the history of the republic.
Increasingly, the homosexual community is attacking/taking the offense against groups it perceives as stigmatizing it or demeaning it or otherwise suggesting that homosexual morality is somehow deficient. Groups such as the Boy Scouts, university religious groups, not to mention Christian businesses whose owners and/or employees may feel morally compromised if they are perceived as accommodating homosexual marriage or condoning homosexual behavior, for example—all of these groups and more have felt the wrath of hostile litigation and the shaming tactics employed by the new cultural elite.
Since 1980, the word ‘sin’ has gone out of favor in the eyes of the majority culture, perceived as being judgmental. By redefining morality through the lens of the anti-discrimination movements of the past, a new binary morality has emerged in the homosexual activist community. One is in the right if one is for inclusiveness (i.e. accepting and including us as homosexuals); one is a bigot and a hater if one is not. The old morality is dismissed because it discriminates (specifically, it discriminates against us homosexuals); unsurprisingly, therefore, the old morality has become the problem.
In some corners of the fragmented Christian perspective, there have been attempts to accommodate the homosexual agenda by accepting the validity of homosexual relationships and allowing for the ordination of practicing homosexuals into Christian ministry (The Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches come to mind). Most recently, the Presbyterian Church (USA) changed their definition of marriage to allow same-sex relationships to be included. However noble the intentions of the leaders of these American churches, the effect has been an abandonment of traditional and historic Christian morals in favor of the morals of the homosexual agenda. In other words, even in many Christian circles, there has been an inability to comprehend that there is such a thing as a Christian morality. Many in these churches have accepted uncritically the homosexual agenda’s assertion that any form of passing judgment is wrong (unless, of course, the object of one's judging is another’s bigotry). These Christians have accepted the majority culture’s perspective that causing offense is the worst ‘sin’ one could commit, and that non-judgmental accommodation to the wider culture is the true Christian stance. But from the standpoint of traditional and historic Christianity, moral standards are not decided by local preference or convenience; morality is accommodation to God’s own revealed character. Now have Christians made a hash of attempting to force Sinai covenant (OT) morality on Christians when Jesus (and the NT) sets the Christian community in a different and even more profound direction? Absolutely. But Christian exegetical mistakes in this direction in no way eclipse the real issue that the fountain of Christian morality is Jesus Himself and that to choose a different moral path than that of Jesus is to take one outside the boundaries of the Christian community, historically understood.
The essence of the conflict now upon us is that of colliding totalitarian world-views. Boiled down, it can be stated thusly. An aspect of the Christian world view considers homosexual behavior (among many other behaviors such as greed, idolatry, theft, hatred, sloth, murder, fornication, adultery, etc) to be immoral. Given that this behavior is at the heart of homosexual identity, such a stance is, by definition, offensive to members of the homosexual community. On the other hand, an aspect of the emerging world-view of the homosexual community considers any activity, speech or behavior that puts down, discriminates against or hinders the homosexual community in any way (or is perceived by an individual or the community as doing so) is labeled as bigotry and the individuals involved as ‘haters’. From the perspective of the homosexual community, this is, morally, the worst thing that anybody could do. The moral force of this position has to do with its identity with the Civil Rights movement and the movement for equal rights for women. Identifying the struggle of homosexuals with that of African Americans and women has been a key strategy of the homosexual agenda. Homosexual activism against any threat to that equality, real or perceived, has become the engine driving the various outrage campaigns that are serving to expand homosexual rights ever further into American culture, business, media and education.
These two world-views are presently colliding, and the train wreck is playing out in slow motion across the landscape of American public life. While it was brilliant strategy on the part of the homosexual community to redefine their agenda away from the realm of morality into the arena of civil rights, it is a complete irony that the original civil rights movements were driven, not by secular values and outrage, but by Christian morality applied in the public square. Having appropriated the language of the civil rights movements, the homosexual agenda has vacated their meaning (and their history) of any Christian moral agenda. Moreover, having gained a hearing in the American public square by a skillful use of the moral philosophy of relativism (no religion/philosophy/morality is better than the other), the new culture is refusing to extend to other minority perspectives with which it disagrees (most pointedly the moral perspective held by conservative Christians) the same respect it has demanded from everyone else. In any other context this would be identified simply as hypocrisy. But because the homosexual agenda believes it has the right to set the moral agenda for our emerging secular culture, consistency is apparently expendable if it conflicts with the ultimate goals of the movement.
The goals of the homosexual community and that of the Christian community are diametrically opposed. Both are working towards a vision of society that the other finds an abomination. In the past, the Christian community controlled the levers of power in America. Christian morality (however imperfectly) informed the laws of the land. Christian behavior was enforced in public if not in private. Changes in existing law and practice deemed wrong (such as slavery and civil rights) were made from arguments based in Christian morality. This was considered by American citizens to be normative – the way things should be.
But in the short span of thirty years, this Christian cultural hegemony is all but gone. Even this week, politicians, business leaders, cultural icons and even the NCAA are all lining up to condemn a law passed by the Indiana state legislature intended to ensure religious liberty. The fear is that people, in the name of religion, will discriminate against homosexuals (like refuse to make their wedding cakes just because they are homosexual, and worse). Even the possibility of such discrimination has provoked such media and cultural outrage that this story has been the lead on almost all the major news outlets I read and watch this week.
The great problem, of course, is that most American Christian churches as a matter of faith discriminate against homosexuality, just as they do against every other form of immorality. For these Christians, people who engage in such behavior have replaced God’s standards with their own. They have willfully chosen to separate themselves from God’s purpose for His creation, and desperately need to turn back (repent) and be reconciled with their Maker and His purpose for their lives. They are, by definition, unbelievers. They are to be loved, but their rebellious behavior is not something that can be accepted or accommodated, much less condoned, in the church. However much the other side in this argument wishes to reframe the debate in terms of civil rights, it does not change the fact that for most Christians the issue remains one of morality.
As one might imagine, it is profoundly offensive for members of the homosexual community to have their behavior and orientation, if not their identity, labeled as immoral. And it is just as offensive and shocking for Christians to have their morality labeled as ‘hateful’ and ‘bigoted’. Unfortunately for Christians, they are currently on the wrong side of the present cultural shift. And just as the former Christian majority saw no problems in using the power of government and culture to promote and enforce its moral vision, it should not surprise the now Christian minority if an alien world view uses the same levers of coercion to impose its version of morality on the nation. This means that Christians will be forced to choose either to accommodate the new morality or face the legal, social and economic consequences. This is already happening.
I don’t pretend to know the future of Christianity in America, but the current trajectory does not bode well, at least for the way things have been. At the very least, the cozy relationship between Christianity and government, business and media is receding into history. And the new masters of our culture are hell-bent on extirpating Christianity and it’s anti-homosexual morality as a meaningful influence. It has been shocking enough to see Christians targeted in places like Kenya, Iraq, Syria and Egypt by a Muslim totalitarian world view. What is completely unexpected is that in such a ‘Christian nation’, Christians are being isolated and targeted by a new emerging secular totalitarian world view, one that has already demonstrated its willingness to use the courts and the media, as well as their corporate and governmental allies to punish their enemies and bully their opponents until they toe the new line. Christians in America are not used to being treated as a despised minority. Suffering has not ever been equated with following Christ in this country. This may be about to change.
My friend Robert H. has written very helpfully:
[The] only distinction I would make is that in our tradition we wouldn't frame it quite this way regarding [the role of sex]: 'Sex is intended for the covenant relationship between a man and a woman for the primary purpose of bringing children into the world.'
I think the consensus Orthodox position is that there is no single 'primary purpose' to sex in marriage; it's not just for procreation but first and foremost the expression of the relationship itself = love (an icon of God Who is love) and that the bearing of children is the natural fruit of that love. So both love and procreation are deeply valued, the latter begotten of the former (my construct). And for those of us not blessed with children in our marriage, the New Covenantal dimensions of love can be fully expressed and the propagation of love still happen, just not quite the same way as having [children]. Orthodoxy is always unsettled when there is a 'goal' or 'end' to something which we call a Mystery! The RC Church and the [other churches in the] West to a degree, tended to make the bearing of children the 'engine' and abiding love something of the caboose on the train, which could even be uncoupled from the engine at times...
Given that I bring only brokenness to any discussion on marriage, I'm grateful for the chance to be better instructed.