In the 80s comedy Naked Gun Leslie Nielsen stands in front of an exploding firework factory while urging the onlookers to ‘move on, nothing to see here’ who aren’t going to go anywhere. This has been pretty much the experience of evangelicals in the western church over the issue of same-sex marriage.
Mark Galli tries to make this point in a Christianity Today editorial that two billion Christians believe marriage is between a man and a woman and have done for two thousand years. Move on, nothing to see here.
The problem is that the spectators know that’s not true as denominations divide, acrimonious and bitter divisions are forged in an organisation whose founding motto is ‘love one another.’ Explosions, fireworks and we want to watch.
I have a growing list of leaders who have shaped my faith changing their mind on this issue (Jim Wallis, Steve Chalke, Rob Bell and now Tony Campolo) and one wonders who will be next? There are still some explosions left.
The western world isn’t watching because it thinks we have anything useful to say on the issue – that ship has long sailed, the horse long bolted, the votes in and already counted. No, they’re watching because watching a ship sink is a fascinating thing and this ship is sinking fast.
Pascal-Emanuel Gobry points out
At the end of the day, same-sex marriage, while not the world’s most important issue in itself, acted as a catalyst for all sorts of other trends that made Christians realize just how little work they had done, and just how much they still have to do.
Our Christian brothers and sisters in the global south are watching to see how far we have departed from Biblical Christianity and whether there is any courage left in the ancient churches of the north. Even gay atheists are wondering if there is anyone able to put up a fight.
This being the case you wonder if it wouldn’t be better for the various wings of the various denominations to deal like Abraham and Lot, ‘here take the land, the churches, the property let us go our separate ways.’ In the end the ones carrying the promises of God are more likely to flourish.
Yet stil it remains worthwhile for Christian leaders to invest time and energy in understanding issues of human sexuality and this for a number of reasons. Firstly, there will remain pressure from outside and inside the church to change. So leaders need to have strong theological reasons for their convictions.
Secondly, there are missional reasons: the world will continue to offer up more and more lifestyle choices and the church needs to remain a faithful presence in the world and we need disciples who can navigate their way through Corinth.
Thirdly, there are compelling pastoral reasons. In a broken world the church needs to remain a place of compassion, love, community and care for those who come to the church broken by the appetites of the world, or who are struggling to remain faithful.
The church needs to learn how to talk about homosexuality but while many talk about being on the wrong side of history, recent events demonstrate that just as a society can change its mind, it could just as readily change it back.