"Defining Marriage Isn't Defending Marriage" by Chris Damian

excerpt:

“Conservatives aren’t losing to the culture on marriage because they’re wrong. They’re losing because they’re answering the wrong question, because they’ve failed to grasp what the issue actually is. It isn’t same sex marriage: it’s people wanting same sex marriage.”

“Most of my arguments with defenders of the legalization of same-sex marriages have been friendly ones. I have some strong views on the subject, based on my adherence to what I believe is the Bible’s teachings on the subject. But I also care deeply about preserving a pluralistic social order, where individuals and groups have the opportunity to live out their deepest convictions—however disagreeable to people like me—within a framework of a shared commitment to the common good.”

— Richard J. Mouw, Our Slippery Slopes

“I’ve found myself thinking with regard to a question like this [of how to be bold in defending the truth on marriage and to reach out and be deeply compassionate to Christians struggling with same-sex attraction] about the way that the pro-life movement has journeyed for the past several years, and I think we’ve seen—I mean, correct me if I’m wrong on this—but I think we’ve seen a kind of maturation of the movement, in the sense not that it’s leaving behind political marches and the kind of arguments in the public square for life, but we’ve seen a recognition that when we’re asking mothers, who are facing real challenges in their pregnancies, to carry those babies to term and choose life, that part of the responsibility for that lies on us, to provide the kind of support structures, to provide the community that they need in order to make that hard choice.

And I really feel that we’re beginning to see in many of our churches a similar recognition with regard to the whole swirling political debate around gay marriage in our country, and we’re beginning to recognise if we’re going to call gay people to a life of asceticism, to a life of celibacy, in fidelity to Christ, that we need to become the kind of communities that will make a choice like that possible. We need to practise some kind of radical hospitality. It doesn’t come naturally to many of us in the West right now. It does not come naturally in the mobile, individualistic society that we live in. So I’ve begun to think this work that I’m doing, trying to rehabilitate or rediscover certain ancient notions of friendship, of spiritual friendship and community, this is my contribution to the political debate. This is my way of saying, if I’m going to have a winsome word to speak in the public square that sounds persuasive to modern people, for whom Christian categories don’t come naturally, if I’m going to be heard, I need to be able to invite them into the community, and say, ‘This is what it would look like to be celibate. This is what it would look like to embrace the call of Christ. And this is what flourishing might look like if you were to embrace this hard choice.’ I think that’s really where I see my battle lying at any rate in this whole area.”

— Wesley Hill, Gay and Christian?: Forging a Life of Integrity (interview by Father Josiah Trenham)

Gay and Christian? Forging a Life of Integrity (an interview with Dr. Wesley Hill by Father Josiah Trenham)

“Living a Christian life requires that people give themselves wholly to the call. Christ calls us to follow him in hopes that we will one day be able to reflect his image and likeness fully. We do not pretend to understand everyone else’s unique situations, but we are always happy to pray for others that God will guide them towards the Truth that is Christ himself.”

— Sarah and Lindsey, 5 Thoughts on Shifting Conversation Away from the Culture Wars

“God says, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:44–45). I’d always thought the opposite of homosexuality was heterosexuality. But actually, the opposite of homosexuality is holiness. […] He was telling me, Don’t focus so much upon your feelings or your temptations or your sexuality, but focus upon living a life of holiness and living a life of purity. […] Change is not the absence of struggles—God never says we will not be tempted or not struggle—but change is the freedom to choose holiness in the midst of our struggles, because the ultimate issue is not what I’m struggling with, not my temptations, not my sexuality. The ultimate issue is that I yearn after God in total surrender and complete obedience.”

— Christopher Yuan, Christopher Yuan - Out of a Far Country - Family Testimony

“[O]ne of the most significant lessons we’ve learned from living in the midst of the culture wars is that it’s dangerous to lose sight of one’s own journey to Christ by devoting all of one’s energies to telling others how far they are from Christ. Matthew 7:3 asks us, ‘Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?’ This verse is quoted out of context frequently by folks who wish to argue for a moral relativist position. As a result, some people dismiss this important piece of Christian teaching. It’s far too easy for any of us to see our brothers’ and sisters’ faults more readily than our own. This doesn’t mean that we can never rightly identify instances of sin in other people’s lives. The point is, it’s not our job to make assumptions about what may or may not be going on in another person’s life. It harms our own spiritual lives when we make such assumptions and allow ourselves to become self-righteous as a result. It’s spiritual poison to devote time to discovering whether another person is sinning so that we can tell ourselves, ‘I’m doing better than he or she is.’ The Prayer of Saint Ephraim ends with the entreaty, ‘My Lord and King, grant me the grace to see my own sin and not to judge my brother.’ While we might be tempted to tell someone else what he or she should be doing to live a holy life, we must remember that it requires a mighty divine work for us to conform our own lives to the pattern of Christ.”

— Sarah and Lindsey, 5 Thoughts on Shifting Conversation Away from the Culture Wars

“Experience has taught us that when moral issues do arise, conversation about morality is much more meaningful and productive if anchored in the Gospel. Sometimes when responding to the question, ‘How should Christians live?’ we fail to teach new members and children anything more specific than, ‘Be nice, do the right thing, do what God asks us to do, and don’t do the things God asks us to avoid.’ It can come off almost like a set of middle school civics lessons: these are the laws we have to obey because something bigger than us says doing so is necessary for the good of society. However, the Gospel suggests that there is much more to being a Christian than following rules. In most Christian traditions, moral expectations are understood as rooted in the message of the Gospel. If a person is curious about what your Christian tradition teaches about sexual morality, it might be helpful to anchor the conversation in the account of the wedding at Cana or Jesus’ response to the Sadducees about who will be married at the Resurrection. Through our own conversations with Christians across the ideological spectrum on culture war issues, we’ve come to see that civil dialogue is much less likely to happen if one defaults to, ‘God says that gay sex is a sin and marriage is between a man and a woman,’ or ‘God loves everyone equally including LGBT people,’ without a further explanation rooted deeply within the tradition.

Furthermore, we’ve found that it’s rarely helpful to focus solely on moral prohibitions and fail to discuss moral permissions. When most non-Christian people think of Christian morality, then tend to jump immediately to things Christians can’t do. As Sarah discussed once before, sometimes even Christians are inclined to define morality in the negative. If you were to ask a large group of people how they think conservative Christian traditions counsel LGBT members, most would probably answer, ‘They tell them that gay sex is a sin.’ Upon pressing further into what those traditions say that LGBT Christians should do, the majority would likely say, ‘Avoid gay sex.’ Eve Tushnet has described this as a ‘vocation of “no,”’ and highlighted the damaging effects of such an approach. Regarding other behaviors that conservative Christian traditions consider sinful, rarely have we encountered such strong, ‘Don’t do that!’ messages. Rather, we’ve heard many more conversations about what Christians should do. In the case of, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ Christians don’t wag fingers and beat people over the head with commands of, ‘Don’t kill! Don’t do it! Avoid killing because it’s a sin!’ Instead, we hear homilies about love, and we help each other toward developing greater love for all humanity. We increase respect for the lives of other humans by learning to love, not by repeating the prohibition against killing over and over again. We believe that it’s important to emphasize the moral permissions of discerning vocation because the purpose of vocation is to call us toward Christ. Focusing on ‘Thou shalt not’ implies that life in Christ goes no deeper than avoiding sin.”

— Sarah and Lindsey, 5 Thoughts on Shifting Conversation Away from the Culture Wars

“We’ve learned that when engaging in conversation with people who disagree with us on one matter or another, it’s essential to maintain a welcoming posture and recognize that all people who seek Christ are encountering him in many different ways at different times in their lives. Everyone is on a journey, and none of us knows where other people have been or are headed. As Christians, our encouragement should help point other people towards Christ. Often, we are unaware of other people’s processes when making moral decisions, or what they may or may not be working on with their pastors, priests, or spiritual directors. When our bishop visited our parish a couple of years ago, one of our fellow parishioners asked him a question about Christians who are lax on moral issues. Our bishop responded by telling a story about a person with a complicated orthodontic problem who had changed doctors. The new orthodontist examined the patient and viewed his x-rays, but couldn’t understand why the previous orthodontist had approached the patient’s problem in a particular way. At the same time, he also recognized that without a full record, he had no idea what the previous orthodontist had to work with when first meeting this patient. It’s the same with Christians and their spiritual fathers, the bishop reminded us. None of us know other people’s circumstances fully because we cannot be completely aware of everything someone else is discussing with his or her own spiritual director. Therefore, it’s best to avoid making judgments about another person’s journey to Christ.”

— Sarah and Lindsey, 5 Thoughts on Shifting Conversation Away from the Culture Wars

“We’ve found that in conversations with people who are interested in Christianity, emphasizing central concepts from the Gospel is especially important. The Gospel is good news and presenting it as anything less is harmful. We can mistakenly believe that the Gospel is easy to understand and live fully because it has been given for all people. But if we stop and think more deeply about the life of Christ, how could we reasonably infer that anything about his way of interacting with the world was easy? The Gospel invites us to orient our whole lives towards Christ, and doing so is a daily challenge for most. Shaping one’s life as Christo-centric necessitates giving over one’s whole being. This is the lifelong task of every Christian, and giving so much attention to culture war issues in conversations about Christianity reduces being a follower of Christ to obeying a list of do’s and don’ts’. Focusing on the good news of the Gospel does not mean sugarcoating its message or the difficult parts of following Christ. It does not mean hiding your Christian tradition’s teachings about LGBT issues or other controversial matters, or pretending that these teachings are unimportant.”

— Sarah and Lindsey, 5 Thoughts on Shifting Conversation Away from the Culture Wars

“[F]ocus on what you will do, not what you won’t do. Research on thought suppression has shown that trying to avoid a thought makes it even more active in your mind. For instance, if I tell you not to think about white bears, then all you’ll end up thinking about is white bears. The same holds true when it comes to behaviour. By trying not to engage in a bad habit, our habit gets strengthened, instead of broken. If your goal is to overcome a bad habit, like losing your temper at work, focus on what you’ll do instead. For example, if you’re trying to gain control of your temper, you might make a plan, like ‘If I’m starting to feel angry, then I will take three deep breaths to calm down.’ By using deep breathing as a replacement for giving in to your anger, your bad habit will get worn away over time until it disappears completely.”

— Heidi Grant Halvorson, How Successful People Reach Their Goals

“Do you think sexual responses are the same as sexual identity? People have all kinds of responses which aren’t linked to their sexual identity.”

— Julie Bindel, quoted in Is sexual orientation a choice? by Patrick Strudwick

“Everything is regulated, but everything is not infringed. Not all regulation is infringement. Is your right to drive a car being infringed by a speed limit?”

— Dick Metcalf, quoted in Why We Can’t Talk About Gun Control by James Hamblin

Beauty For Ashes

by: Shane & Shane
from: Carry Away


Beauty for ashes
A garment of praise for my heaviness
Beauty for ashes
Take this heart of stone, and make it Yours, Yours

I delight myself in the richest of fare
Trading all that I’ve had for all that is better
A garment of praise for my heaviness
You are the greatest taste
You’re the richest of fare

Beauty for ashes
A garment of praise for my heaviness
Beauty for ashes
Take this heart of stone, and make it Yours, Yours

I delight myself in the richest of fare
Trading all that I’ve had for all that is better
A garment of praise for my heaviness
You are the greatest taste

I delight myself in the richest of fare
Trading all that I’ve had for all that is better
A garment of praise for my heaviness
You are the greatest taste
You’re the richest
Of fare

'Cause You are better
So much better
You are better, Lord
So much better
You taste better

Beauty for ashes
A garment of praise for my heaviness
Beauty for ashes
Take this heart of stone, and make it Yours