Dear LGBT community and supporters of the SCOTUS gay-marriage decision,
My name is Chip and after much thought and prayerful reflection I’ve decided to add my two cents into an already diluted and charged conversation. First allow me to introduce myself: I’ve been married for over 15 years to the same woman (my college sweetheart and love of my life), I am a pastor, a resident of the one of the most (if not the most) conservative voting districts in the nation, a Southerner, a country boy (some may say redneck), gun toting – fly fishing outdoorsman, college football fan, father, “proud to be an American” patriot with deep southern Baptist roots, Bible believing, evangelical white man. So basically the stereotypical bigot – right? I say that in an attempt to bring about some humor to the conversation but also to be as transparent as I can as to who I am. While this is what I do – where I’ve come from – this is what makes me not who I am.
As a pastor, I’ve been asked many times to express my thoughts about the recent SCOTUS decision on gay marriage. Other than praying for our nation on Sunday morning (along with a little baby in our church who is in the NICU), I’ve remained relatively silent on the issue. My policy, unlike many of my more opinionated and loud-mouthed colleagues, is that I try to keep politics as far away from my pulpit – for reasons that I may discuss at a later time. For now, I wanted to have an open, honest and hopefully compassionate conversation with you to explain why I believe what I believe and how I will respond to the recent court decision.
First of all let me make clear that I disagree on the court’s decision on a number of levels. As an American I feel that decisions such as this should be handled on the state level and should possibly be up for a popular vote (maybe). I note that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not something voted on, but passed through our system of checks and balances on the federal level – as it should have been. I do believe, however, that the decision passed down by the courts on Friday should have been a legislative decision – not judicial one – but I digress.
I also disagree with the decision from a Biblical perspective. Now I know that you in your mind you’re probably saying “here we go again” or “here comes the Bible” or “its all about interpretation.” But, as a Christian and student of the Bible (something I’ve dedicated my life to understand), I believe that it is clear that marriage is between man and woman – we’ll talk more about this later.
Finally, from a historical perspective I think this was a bad decision. Seeing the White House lit up with a rainbow of colors made me think what would Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln and others would say about that. But that was more of an emotional reaction due to my passion for history and shouldn’t really come to bear on our conversation.
So this is where I stand, but I wanted to go a little deeper today. Your community has done an excellent job of plucking heart strings, communicating your ideas and philosophies, and conveying to the nation why this is important. So allow me a moment to do the same. I’ve divided this into “the good news” and the “bad news”:
The Good News
1) The good news is that marriage, at least for me, is not the issue. The church needs to be very honest with itself that the sanctity of Biblical marriage has been defiled for a long time. While we make stands against gay marriage, we’ve made no recent stands against polygamy, sex outside of marriage, co-habitation, common-law marriages, arranged marriages, divorce, abuse (emotional, physical, sexual, verbal) within the home, etc. With the exception of polygamy - as a pastor I deal with each of the above issues on a regular basis. It’s difficult for me, because I am a firm believer in God’s grace and forgiveness in Christ (Lord knows I need it) and yet maintaining a desire for holy living because it pleases Him while wanting to reach all people with the Gospel. So our nation has been straying far away from Biblical marriage for a long time. Homosexuality is a different time of issue – but marriage seems to be the core problem here.
2) While I believe that homosexuality is not God’s plan, I am also keenly aware that I fall incredibly short of God’s standard. What I mean is that I’m no better than you. I don’t see you as inferior.
3) I don’t expect our government to follow Christian Biblical Values. Why? Because they are by and large not Christians (yes I made a judgment call there). I can’t expect a non-Christian culture to do Christian things. That is lunacy.
4) We can be friends. I have friends that are gay – they know I don’t agree with them. Honestly I don’t hang out with them on regular basis (mainly because I work way too much) or get my family together with them (we’ll talk about that in a minute) – but I think we can agree to disagree without bashing each other over our systems of belief. You see – as much as you identify yourself as gay or open-minded – I identify myself as a Christian – it is my identity. To ask me to change is like – well – asking you not to be gay. But – we can still be friends.
The Bad News
1) I will never perform a gay marriage. Some have said to me over the last week “you have to perform these ceremonies – it is the law.” That would be a gross misinterpretation. As an American – I don’t have to do anything – that is one thing I love about our nation. As a pastor I can marry who I choose. And yes – I have refused to marry heterosexual couples on the basis that I didn’t think their marriage would last, or abuse was evident – and I can’t officiate a wedding that I don’t feel good about.
2) Probably not going to get our families together. This seems really personal and it stings a little bit – but I’m raising my kids based on what I believe are Biblical truths – and because they are young I really don’t want them to have to wrestle with homosexuality questions. I’m going to raise them to love others, serve others, be Christ to others – regardless of disagreements. (hopefully that is good news for you). Maybe when they are older and they understand what is going on we can all get together for some ribs and sweet tea – as long as you let me do the grilling .
3) While I may give you reasons to hate me or call me a bigot – the reality is that I am not. More than anything else I want you to know what I know – and this has nothing to do with sexuality – but everything to do with grace. We all struggle with acceptance – I know you’ve struggled with it – and the only place I’ve ever totally found it was in a relationship with Christ. He points out my short-comings and how I have violated his standards – and then says I forgive you and makes me a child of God. That is why I love the gospel so much.
My hope is that this decision doesn’t tear our nation a part – yet I feel that may be happening. My prayer is my children would be able to express these disagreements without persecution – but unfortunately I don’t think that will be able to happen either. My purpose in this open letter is to communicate to you that this is why I disagree, yet I don’t hate you. Maybe we can be friends and disagree – but that is up to you.
God Bless You
Pastor, redneck, Dad, Husband, conservative, redeemed – and your hopefully your friend.