Changing the lens: A commentary on biases in the church’s same-sex marriage debate
In a recent post I announced by affirmation of same-sex marriage. I don’t pretend that my interpretation of scripture comes without biases. Any person or group’s interpretations come with biases.
Let’s be honest. Any attempt to understand the Bible is front-end loaded with influences from our culture, our experience, and our worldview. We also need to take into consideration the writer’s context.
Sometimes it’s not as simple as merely reading the text and there being an undeniable interpretation of the author’s intended meaning. History has proven time and time again that our cultural and personal biases contribute to our interpretations.
I want to be up front about my biases. Hopefully, we can all admit our biases and be open to challenging our interpretations.
The biggest personal bias that influences my interpretation of the Bible is my skepticism. I grew up in a devout Roman Catholic family where it was almost impossible for me not to consider the teachings of my church as absolutes. There was no room for doubt. It took me decades to be able to break away from that mindset, and when I did, I felt duped. It left me with a deep sense of skepticism about claiming certainty about any belief. I like to think that my level of skepticism is a healthy one, that it allows me to believe in something without letting my doubts cripple me.
I believe that as part of a church we should look to our leaders for guidance, and I do. However, I won’t simply accept everything they say as absolute truth. Nor should anyone accept anything I say as an absolute truth. When it came to the teaching of Christian leaders about same-sex marriage there was little reason for me to doubt it ten years ago. I had not discovered any teaching suggesting it wasn’t a sin. It wasn’t high on my list of theology to consider. Like most, I simply accepted the teaching that said it was a sin. It wasn’t until I discovered that there was a theology that affirmed same-sex marriage that my radar tuned in on the issue.
The fight for LGBT rights taking place in the secular world eventually spilled into the church. It’s at that point that I began to engage. Like most conservative Christians, my response was to continue to believe that scripture taught against same-sex marriage—it seemed pretty clear. However, as I read and prayed I began to see there was room for doubt in my interpretation.
Eventually I reached a place where I understood both sides of the argument. It was the personal stories of devout Christian gay women and men that finally did it for me. Even though I could see the merit of both sides of the same-sex marriage argument, I just didn’t believe that the evidence to say the Bible taught against it held up anymore. I could no longer be part of denying them their rightful place in the church, not because I wouldn’t if I thought God called me to, but because I didn’t think he was.
Because history proves that the church missed the mark on so many other issues I was not willing to continue to believe we shouldn’t affirm same-sex marriage. I suggest the evidence was too heavily biased by our previously held belief that it was a sin, that bias definitely influenced my previous understanding.
It’s a matter of which lens you choose to look through when you’re looking at the evidence, and how you choose to respond to how God’s spirit is moving. Our God isn’t dead. He still influences how his word is revealed to us.
Obviously, I believe that God’s spirit is moving us to shift away from our traditional biases on this, to use a different lens. I pray that the lens I’m using has a Jesus centric focus. It’s important for me to believe that.
Whatever we believe about same-sex marriage, we could be wrong. We could be wrong on many other things too, and probably are. I’d rather err on the side of grace towards my LGBT brothers and sisters than against them.
I want to reiterate my call for all of us who follow Jesus to extend grace to all as we continue to wrestle with this theology.