By Jeff Simpson
Dear members of the University of Maryland community,
With the passing of the Maryland State Senate’s bill on gay marriage, our campus has experienced a variety of viewpoints on the issue. On February 21st, a cartoon appeared in The Diamondback depicting social conservatives as hateful and ignorant. In opposition, a Catholic student wrote a winsome and honest guest column in The Diamondback on the Christian perspective of marriage on February 23rd. Both examples demonstrate a campus, which is divided on an important issue.
In the spirit of American liberty, my hope is to offer a viewpoint that encourages dialogue on the primary and most important issue, rather than on secondary and tertiary details. I would like to offer an additional view on this topic from a different angle. The conversation must center not on the fringe, but at the center – the very nature and being of God.
Many people think that Christians “hate” or “severely dislike” homosexuals, or that religious people are somehow narrow-minded and too exclusive. But think for a moment about “narrow-mindedness.” Is our oncologist narrow-minded when he diagnoses the lump on our body? Or does he simply have the wisdom and expertise to tell the truth? Do we consider our history teachers “narrow-minded” for presenting the most accurate version possible of the American Revolution? Or do we trust in their research and authority? Expertise, rather than opinion, determines dominion.
Creators and designers inherently have the right to enumerate how their creations and inventions ought to flourish. Automobile engineers are the experts on how cars ought to flourish. A car best operates by running on gasoline, having frequent checkups, and keeping the right level of oil. An architect does not have the dominion to tell an automobile engineer how a car is best run. Only the engineer has dominion over the car’s ontology.
Christians simply believe that marriage is God’s idea or creation. We do not dislike, or hate, gay people. I have multiple gay friends and they are some of the smartest, nicest, and downright coolest people I know. They enrich my life. Granted, some people in the church have failed to love homosexuals. Here, we are greatly at fault. We acknowledge our shortcomings. As a Christian, I am grieved over this.
However, please consider that we are not “narrow-minded” or “anti-intellectual.” We simply believe that the Judeo-Christian way of doing marriage is how marriage ought to flourish. If God is indeed the designer of marriage, then he has the dominion to determine its boundaries. Christian ideas on marriage begin in a self-existent, joyfully free, omnipotent being who designed the universe to operate for our joy and his glory, not in personal grudges or opinions.
Too often, the debate is over who is more “American” or more “open-minded” or more “tolerant” and open to human freedom. These are great things, but if marriage is God’s idea, then he has the final say. Often “tolerant” people are tolerant of all ideas, except those who hold to moral ideals based on ancient faiths. This is not tolerance, but the very exclusivity that “tolerant” people try to refute. We are all exclusive. It’s just a matter of how and why.
Conversations, cartoons, and comments would be more productive if we discussed the existence of God and what he is like, with the sincerity and humility that come with having an open mind. To be fair, having an “open mind” means that you have not yet closed in on the truth. Having an open mind is a great thing, but is not to be regarded as an end in itself. You have an open mind to close in on the truth, just like you have an open mouth to close in on a bacon cheeseburger (sorry vegetarians, it was the first thing I thought of).
I realize many of you will disagree with me. That’s okay. But know that our disagreement does not stem from Christian attitudes towards homosexuals. It is a question that deals with the very being and nature of God. If marriage is God’s idea, then we don’t get to make up the rules. We do not have dominion to do so. Just like an architect can’t tell an automobile engineer how to design a car to flourish.
So let’s first talk about whether God exists. If we assume he exists, let’s talk about his nature and character. Christians believe God is loving, merciful, compassionate, and forgiving. But they also believe he is holy, just, wrathful and righteous. These characteristics do not contradict each other; they explain the very nature of reality itself.
We see all of these characteristics in Jesus Christ dying on the cross. Jesus, God in the flesh, loved us so much and took our rebellion so seriously that he suffered the death we should have died and rose from the dead to prove his power over sin and death. Jesus is the ultimate Lover and the ultimate Husband, the one who died to make his bride beautiful and holy. He is the author of marriage and has the dominion to dictate its boundaries. But at the cross we see that he is not an overbearing master, but a self-sacrificing servant. This is why Christians believe so strongly about marriage. It is God’s idea, and he has demonstrated his wisdom and dominion over it.
Let me offer a final point. Many Black ministers have been scolded in the media for being hypocrites on the gay marriage issue. Many say, “They have endured the struggle for equality, so why should they prevent homosexuals from achieving their rights as well?” But notice how the logic turns on itself. Black Americans have indeed had a long journey to equality amidst intolerable injustice. Thank goodness that times have changed and equality is much more of a reality (though arguably not fully so). But if Black American ministers, some of the ones who were at the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, are drawing the line on marriage, then America should listen. They have had the longest and most horrific struggle with equality in this country. If they are drawing the line on marriage, we should listen. Perhaps they have something to tell us about truth, tolerance, equality and justice.
Let’s listen to those experts with eager ears. They have the dominion to be heard.
We must not oversimplify complex issues, or be reductionist in our thinking. Let’s move the conversation to primary issues first, before we move on. Perhaps conversations relating to the nature and character of God would better serve our friendships, residence halls, and campus. And who knows – maybe even our state, nation, and world will be better because of it.
Jeff Simpson – Senior Communication major (Univ. of Maryland, College Park), Resident Assistant, and lifelong Terp, February 26, 2012