A Response to CT’s Mark Galli

Earlier this afternoon, Christianity Today editor Mark Galli published a short article entitled “2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage.” As the overzealous title suggests, Galli’s central premise is that orthodox Christians only endorse a view of marriage that is defined between a man and a woman. Galli attempts to downplay Tony Campolo’s recent call for inclusion of the LGBT community into the Church. Additionally, he attempts to distance Christianity Today from its former editor David Neff who praised Campolo’s call.

While this article should not surprise other progressive Christians, articles such as this run the risk of widening the schism between the Church and the LGBT community & its allies. CT’s article does not aim at any sort of reconciliation. In fact, it does the opposite. Galli writes, “We at CT are sorry when fellow evangelicals modify their views to accord with the current secular thinking on this matter.” Speaking as someone involved in the conversation of LGBT inclusion, I have never seen or read any Christian argue for same-sex marriage that is distinct from their Christian convictions. While some secular arguments might be invoked (as conservative Christians do on many issues), Christians who advocate for marriage equality do so based on their commitment to scripture and God’s love. For Galli to claim the contrary is not only ignorant, but false. Consider Matthew Vine’s book, God & The Gay Christian, which specifically examines passages of scripture which deal with homosexuality. Or, in mentioning theologians and Christian philosophers who support his own position, Galli forgets to mention the shift in position from distinguished professor of Christian ethics David Gushee, who late last year came out in support of gay marriage.

The “reversal,” as Galli calls it, on sexual ethics from a Christian perspective is precisely rooted in a biblical and theological manner. The issue is that these interpretations of scripture and a definition of marriage differ from the view that has been so widely held and supported. Galli’s article lacks nuance and fails to take into account different methods of biblical interpretation, historical theology, and context. It assumes what many who oppose same-sex marriage also assume, that the call for LGBT inclusion has no Christian basis. It assumes that Christians working for equality and justice are simply bending a theological knee to some liberal social agenda. It assumes the worst instead of the best. This is the saddening reality.

At one point, Galli writes that marriage is “the most intimate of covenant relationships.” As a wise friend pointed out, this is not the case. The most intimate of covenantal relationships is the one we share with God. It’s eternal basis is superior to a covenantal relationship in time. The beauty of this type of relationship is that it can and should be imitated in marriage. It’s something each person has the capacity to fulfill regardless of sexual orientation.

Galli continues, “We’ll be sad, but we won’t panic or despair. Neither will we feel compelled to condemn the converts and distance ourselves from them. But to be sure, they will be enlisting in a cause that we believe is ultimately destructive to society, to the church, and to relations between men and women.” What Galli again fails to realize is that the manner in which he frames his article does the condemning and distancing he seemingly wants to avoid. I am left wondering what Galli would suggest in regards to “reaching out” to the LGBTQ community when his talk of avoiding condemnation and distance is embedded with those very features.

I myself used to hold a stance similar to the one Galli is advocating and using to speak for “2 Billion”  other Christians. It was not long ago where it was easy for me to make sweeping claims about the lives of others in the name of truth. But when I entered graduate school, I was blessed to find myself surrounded by wonderful, godly friends, several of whom are gay.

My paradigm began to shift in two different, yet related ways during this period. (1) I began to shift in my philosophical and theological stances. Specifically, I began to recognize the role of context in biblical interpretation and theological positions. It seemed that many Christians, myself included at the time, simply equated our context with the context of the biblical authors. This is simply not the case. So while Paul may have had specific instructions against homosexuality in the context of his writings, the same may not be required today. (2) I began to orchestrate my life and my philosophy following as best I could the command to love God-love others. In this, the best way to discuss an ethical issue was to be in close proximity to others, specifically those whose lives being discussed. I began to recognize the strength of love and commitment shared between the same-sex partners I was friends with. Love existing between two people resembles the Love that Christ has for us. I also began to understand that my friends in the LGBT community can’t change who they are attracted to and who they desire to be in a covenantal relationship with. They did not view their sexual orientation as a burden, but as something to embrace as God-given from their God who loves them. Once I understood this, my paradigm shifted radically.

In the eyes of Mr. Galli, I probably fit the “liberal” or “progressive” boxes he so desperately wants to exist. Fine. Whatever labels are needed, so be it. But I do not hold these views due to some pressure from a supposed secular agenda on same-sex marriage. I do so because I see the beauty and Love of Christ emulated in the relationships of my friends who are gay. I do so because of who I believe God to be.

10 thoughts on “A Response to CT’s Mark Galli

  1. Nicole Garrison Park says:

    “I do so because I see the beauty and Love of Christ emulated in the relationships of my friends who are gay. I do so because of who I believe God to be.” Thanks for putting it so eloquently. I think there are many of us in this frame of heart and mind. I was raised as part of the “2 billion” and it has taken 20 years of adult life to unentangle my own theology from the theology of the “2 billion” to a theology emanating from Love.

    1. Randy Buist says:

      Great article that articulated my thoughts better than I could have done. As Nicole mentions above, it’s taken me twenty years go get where I am as well — all by the grace and goodness of God. I won’t undo the very things the Spirit has been teaching me for much of my life.

      Grace & peace to all of you who read this article my friends.

    2. michaeldstark says:

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Also, may I ask where you saw this article shared? I’m getting an abnormally high volume of traffic (which is great!). I’m curious as to where it’s from.

      1. Arran says:

        Brian D. Mclaren posted it to his social media network 5 hours ago. Facebook currently has your article on his page, with 263 likes, 29 comments and 64 shares.

  2. momcat1128 says:

    This reflects exactly a conversation I was having with my daughter this morning about how my understanding of “those verses” is based on taking scripture very seriously, seeking to understand historical, cultural and language context, and asking God for discernment as I sought clarity on this issue. To have my 40-year journey with God dismissed as “caving to cultural pressure” diminishes my relationship with God and negates the integrity of my faith. Thank you for putting in words what I have been feeling for a long time.

  3. Tom Griffiths says:

    It always amuses me that “current secular thinking” seems to exclude the current secular thinking of the times when the Gospels and Epistles were written. Tragic pollution by hellenistic ‘purity’ memes. Wake up, everybody!

  4. jelliottlein says:

    Very well articulated. I do wish those of us who have moved on this issue were given more initial trust that we’re really seeking to follow God and Scripture instead of having our support for same-sex marriage automatically put us in the “rejecting Scripture” box without being listened to. I wrote a book-length series of articles online to try to counter that argument after I changed my mind this year (after two years of wrestling with it). It’s not an unconsidered or lightly-undertaken shift! Hopefully soon there will be enough momentum that larger sections of the evangelical world will start asking open questions instead of assuming all the answers.

  5. simplyshirah says:

    Great piece. I couldn’t agree more. So well written. Welcome to the liberationist, radical, liberal club or call it what yer like. We need compassion, love, understanding and not a load of judgement. Sick of all the judgement. Let him without sin cast the first stone. Trouble is some are so busy throwing stones at others they don’t see their own failure.

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