The majority of orthodox, tradition-minded Christians believe that for two persons of the same sex to have sexual intercourse is a sin. They also believe, for a variety of scriptural, philosophical, and traditional reasons, that true Christian marriage is the union of one woman to one man to the exclusion of all others.
Based upon my own research, largely drawn from my Facebook feed and random news articles, a growing proportion of the population of ‘the West’* believes that such sex and such relationships are not sin and are even commendable.
The support, at least of clever, young, at times hip, and often socially-concerned young people, for gay marriage is a major roadblock for many people when they come face to face with traditional Christianity. This is not, of course, true of everyone. I know gay people in committed, monogamous relationships who are perfectly Chalcedonian and BCP in their orthodoxy — one in particular is very fond of St Augustine.
However, other people are not in such a position. Some people say that they could not believe in a God who would keep people from being involved in faithful, monogamous relationships with whom they love. Some people say that they find the traditional position on sexuality and marriage ‘morally abhorrent’. Other people probably say none of this, but sit there in the pew, week after week, uneasy as the Rev. G S gives us yet another sermon about homosexuality.
And those I think of are those raised in, reared by the Church. And some of them see those who choose to separate themselves from ecclesial bodies that approve of such actions as, in fact, ‘homophobic.’
The pastoral concern is evident. Often, these young people just stop going to church. Some switch churches. But for some, the cognitive dissonance is too much; they give up church and God and all. Because we live in a culture where there are lots of visible gay people, and a lot of them are fantastically brilliant people who are really nice (and so are their partners) who are good at their jobs and sometimes put orthodox heterosexuals to shame in their capacity for love, the insistence on the sinfulness of gay sex is jarring to many people’s ears. Rob Bell observes that this is the way the world is, and we should accept it. (That’s not his full argument; watch the video to do him justice.)
There is a competing pressure between preachers and pews, and often the preachers are disconnected from the pews. So why should the pews even care?
Beyond the pew, people dismiss the traditional marriage lobby. The best response of many is, at the end of it all, mockery. Very often, the arguments put forward by traditional Christians are ignored and slogans are put forward as something to counter them. Supporters of traditional marriage have even had invective directed at them from Wendell Berry, of all people.
So here we are. How on earth can we bring the drifting young back to our churches, be they Anglican or Lutheran, Baptist or Brethren, Orthodox or Roman Catholic, when they find the Church’s response to this issue, one so at the heart of public debate and consciousness right now, risible and abhorrent?
And what about those who have never heard the Gospel? For many people, this is one of the first questions they ask when they meet representatives of churches or Christian organisations. If they abhorr the traditional answer as unloving and immoral, what is to be done?
I ask this because this is not the usual situation. People inevitably find giving up alcohol and drugs difficult. Or reining in heterosexual passions. Or going to church on Sundays. They may find piety silly. But now they find this particular piece of traditional Christian piety abhorrent and morally defective.
How can the traditional churches win the hearts and minds of this generation?
*North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand …