James Watkins is a gifted author, speaker, pastor, humorist and self-proclaimed “threat to society.” Most important perhaps is that he is also totally in love with Jesus and the gospel message. His most recent newsletter contained an article and a couple of links to prior articles he has written which closely align with my thinking (at least to this point) on the whole same sex marriage debate. His views in the set of articles express a very high regard for Scripture including the biblical definition and/or understanding of marriage but also a balanced, grace filled love and acceptance of those who reach a different conclusion. I realize that many, especially in these times, will take serious issue with Mr. Watkins, and me, concerning our views but they are what they are. It is interesting that twenty five years ago there would have been no debate — at least not much of one and certainly not on the current scale. RMF
Oh, this series of articles is:
Used by permission
(c) 2013 James N. Watkins
‘Supreme’ decision on same-sex unions pending
The United States Supreme Court is expected to address the divisive issue of same-sex marriage the week of March 24. Currently 31 states have amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage while it is legal in nine states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington) and the District of Columbia.
Over the years, I’ve addressed the issues in newspaper columns and on my Web site, so here is a roundup of my thoughts on the complex issues:
The great same-sex marriage debate
Wow! The great divide on the sames-ex has not only polarized the country, but churches as well. Currently 31 states have amended their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriage while it is legal in nine states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington) and the District of Columbia. Over the years, I’ve addressed the issues in newspaper columns and on my Web site, so here’s a round up (Go to: http://www.jameswatkins.com/samesexdecision.htm) of my columns on this contentious issue.
God is on our side! And theirs?
Pundits are claiming that our country is “polarized” to Civil War proportions over moral, fiscal and political issues. Part of the problem maybe that the issues that polarize us as a country are religion-based. And whenever the “God card” is played, the stakes are suddenly raised to the Third Heaven!
Even the Civil War itself was filled with “Christian” conflict. (Not surprising since Christian conflict dates back to the very first Christians such the sibling rivalry between “The Sons of Thunder.” (Even the Mother of Thunder got involved!) In the film, God and Generals, Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who once considered becoming a missionary, offers this prayer as he prepares for the Battle of Bull Run:
“Dear Lord, this is your day, you have admonished us to keep it holy. I am ready Lord, your will be done. It is your sword I will wield into battle, it is your banner I will raise against those who will desecrate our land. If it is my time to come, then I will come with all the joy in my heart. Amen.”
In the same film, Union Colonel Lawrence Chamberlain, trained as a theologian, explains to his brother why they must fight for the North and the liberation of slaves.
“An army is power. Its entire purpose is to coerce others. We have seen more suffering than any man should ever see. The end must justify the cost. War is a scourge, but so is slavery. It is the systematic coercion of one man over another. That is no excuse to tolerate it here. If your life or mine is part of the price to end this curse and free the Negro, then let God’s will be done.”
Wait a minute! Both sides of the “Great Northern Aggression” (if you’re from the South) and the “Fight to Free the Slaves” (if you’re from the North) profoundly and passionately believed that God was on their side. Jackson and Chamberlain were both sure it was “God’s will” to fight the other.
So, how should Christians respond to a polarized and divided “United” States made up of red and blue states, conservatives and liberals, as well as holy “hawks” and devout “doves”?
Scripture provides a Biblical Convention of War of sorts:
Be loving toward your enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:43-44, 46-47).
Be gracious toward your enemies
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'” (Romans 12:18-19).
Be willing to admit they may not be the enemy
First, God may be on both sides of a polarized issue. Even on issues, we see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12).
I suspect that God was on both sides of Paul and Barnabas’ argument over the worthiness of young Mark to join the Paul and Barnabas Evangelistic Association.
“And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:39-41 ESV).
Now Cyprus and Syria as well as Cilicia were both being evangelized! Organizational disputes and church splits are never pretty, but sometimes they result in doubling God’s efforts! Could it be that both sides of a perceived dispute are “right” and are accomplishing God’s purposes in two very different ways.
Second, there is only one true enemy: Satan himself. People are never our enemies. They may be prisoners of war, who need to be liberated from the true enemy’s bondages. Only in Christendom do we shoot POWs! Christ came to set them free.
So, God is on our side . . . and maybe theirs as well!
The following is a second earlier article by James Watson on the same topic: RMF
A ‘civil’ debate
May 2012: President Barack Obama officially announced that he supports same-sex unions. (He endorsed gay marriage during a 1996 run for the Illinois Senate, then opposed it when he ran for US Senate in 2004 as well as during his 2008 presidential run.) Here are some thoughts on the divisive issue from a 2003 newspaper column:
Corporate trainers love to tell the story of two sisters arguing over one orange.
Students are asked to come up with creative solutions for the standoff. Cut it in half is the obvious — and wrong answer. Afterward, the trainer informs students that one girl wanted the orange for juice, the other for the rind. (It would’ve helped if we had known that little bit of information before the trick question!)
I wonder how these modern Solomon’s would handle the juicy controversy over gay marriage?
Canada is considering legalizing homosexual marriage and Vermont offers “civil unions” to gay couples. Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples in that state are legally entitled to marry, thereby entitling them to the same “legal, financial, and social benefits” as heterosexual couples
Following the Massachusetts ruling, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins responded, “It is inexcusable for this court to force the state Legislature to ‘fix’ its state constitution to make it comport with the pro-homosexual agenda of four court justices.”
Hillary Goodridge, one of the plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case, explained, “Civil marriage to me is about having the economic and social security other families take for granted. And it’s about providing gay and lesbian couples with the dignity of recognition and the rights that go along with that.”
So, lines are drawn, sides are taken, charges and countercharges made, hands are wrung, and names called. The proponents and opponents of gay marriage both want the whole orange and nothing less.
Those opposed to gay marriage argue that marriage and the family is the bedrock of a stable society. Study after study reveals that children raised with both male and female parents are healthier, better adjusted socially, and thus make better citizens. And homosexual acts lead to serious health problems that I won’t go into in a family newspaper. Anyone arguing differently simply hasn’t read or accepted the data.
Those supporting gay marriage point to the legal and financial perks afforded to married heterosexual couples, but not to gay couples: health care for partner, time off to care for loved one, bereavement leave, a say in partners medical care, inheritance issues, and even tax breaks. In a democratic, pluralistic society, that’s discrimination pure and simple.
So, how’s this for a pulp and rind solution?
Continue the centuries old ban on homosexual marriage and so-called civil unions.
Allow people (straight, gay; married, single; male, female) to specify who they want to be allowed hospital visitation, make medical decisions, use their allotment of days off, etc. Equalize the tax structure to avoid the so-called “marriage penalty” and inheritance taxes that penalize singles. Treat people as people and not by what social group to which they may belong.
Maybe it’s a fruity idea or maybe a “win/win” situation.
One side wins by maintaining its insistence that marriage is between one man and one woman. There will be no social recognition of what they consider immoral or unnatural. To sweeten the deal, throw in an amendment to the Constitution.
The other side wins by being able to determine who inherits their worldly goods, makes medical decisions, etc. (Ten states and 161 local governments now offer such protections and benefits.) Their legal rights are guaranteed.
I wish “my” side won every moral, social, and political battle. I want the whole orange! But in a pluralistic society, that’s not (and never will be) possible.
The best we can hope for is a solution that is not a compromise (cutting the orange down the middle), but a solution which gives both sides what they want (pulp and rind).
© Copyright 2003 James N. Watkins
And, a still earlier article. RMF
Why are some people so bent out of shape about homosexuality?
Have you seen GodHatesFags.com? Yikes! What hatred! What condemnation!
And, here’s the worst part—it’s sponsored by a church! Yep, those picketers with the signs “God hates fags” and “Burn in hell Matthew Shepherd” call themselves Christians.
But, why does God (and many of those who profess to follow Him) seem so bent out of shape about homosexual behavior? Here’s my theory for your consideration.
God’s very image is expressed in the marriage relationship between a man and woman.
In the creation story, “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” I believe that God’s character and personality are so wonderfully complex that he had to make two different genders to express his “image.” Male and femaleness together reflect various aspects of an incredibly complex Being.
If we visualize God as a triangle, Figure 1 illustrates how both genders are necessary to fully express God’s character. Divorceis one way to disfigure the image of God (Figure 2).
God’s very image is distorted in a union between the same sexes.
Jesus seems to say that there are several possible reasons that people may not have a normal relations with the opposite sex: “Some are born without the ability to marry and some are disabled by men and some refuse to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:12 The Living Bible). There may be biochemical reasons for a homosexual orientation or environmental causes such as neglect or sexual abuse. For this reason, the Bible doesn’t condemn one for his or her sexual orientation.
Perhaps God gets so bent out of shape over homosexual behavior because his very image is bent out of shape. (See Figure 3.)
The Bible is also clear, though, that divorce or homosexual acts are not unforgivable sins. And they are not the only sins the Bible condemns. (Hate and gossiping are also addressed in strong terms.) God loves each and everyone and wants each relationship to express his character of love.
There are many other complex issues that surround divorce and homosexual behavior. I’ve only address two issues, but two that I believe are crucial: God’s very image is expressed in the marriage relationship between a man and woman and God’s very image is distorted in a union between the same sexes. That’s why, not only is God’s image bent out of shape, but millions of human lives as well.
At least it’s something to think about. And contrary to hateful Web sites, God loves you whether you’re straight, gay, bisexual, transgendered, etc. etc. etc.
Copyright © 1999 James N. Watkins. All rights reserved.