Have we gone too far?

I have been trying to avoid writing this post for nearly two weeks, hoping that the urge would subside and that I could ignore the debate raging inside my head and tugging at my heart. My reluctance is fuelled by uncertainty and ambivalence, as I argue back and forth between my liberal conscience and my Christian faith. I was hoping that a searing bolt of truth would illuminate the dark recesses of my feeble brain and give me peace. Alas, it was not to be. So, here I am writing, as usual, without knowing how the post will end but trusting that the process will help to sort my thoughts out. 

Since the United States Supreme Court ruling on 26th June 2015 that effectively gave same-sex couples the right to marry, I have been researching the reaction from all sides. Liberals and ‘lefties’ have been ecstatic at the news, exploding in a multicoloured expression of joy. Political conservatives and the right-wing media have been unanimous in their condemnation of this ‘erosion of traditional values’, not forgetting to blame President Obama for the court’s decision. Interestingly, the most diverse response has come from the church, ranging from empathy and inclusion to hate-filled rants about death and destruction. So far, mostly predictable. 

However, the most revealing range of responses has shown up on social media. This is where the most hateful people reside, making plain their dislike for anyone who does not look, think or act like them. I believe that everyone has a right to disagree about morals and lifestyles but I’m sure that we can argue the point without resorting to name-calling, profanity and demonising others.

More to the point, we can analyse what the ruling really means for the rest of us and then decide what to do about it. First, the facts:

  1. The Supreme Court ruling is binding on states and affects the right of same-sex couples to be recognised and to be able to get a marriage certificate. 
  2. 37 out of 50 states, one territory and D.C. had already legalised gay marriage. 
  3. The rights of religious organisations are still protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 
  4. The ruling does not affect other countries’ laws, rights and freedoms. 
  5. Data from around the world suggests that 1% -5% of populations are homosexual, regardless of race, religion and traditional culture. 
  6. The United States is not the world, with less than 5% of the world’s population, of which 3.5% is gay. Therefore this law directly affects 3.5% of 5% of the world or 0.175%.
  7. Canada passed a similar law on 20th July 2005 and the sky hasn’t fallen in after 10 years. 

Now, we can argue about America’s disproportionate political and cultural influence on the world, and that’s always a concern, especially with young people. No doubt, we will begin to see scenes of same-sex marriage in movies, music videos, television series and online. I understand that. However, I crunched the numbers purely to counter the near mass-hysteria in some religious circles that ‘the end is nigh’, as if some Beast-like world ruler had declared the end of heterosexual marriage as we know it. Evangelical pastors, more than anyone, need to calm down and soothe the fears of their anxious congregations. 

I think that popular pastor, T.D. Jakes, gave the perfect response to the thousands of people calling on him to respond to the ruling. He said, “I’m really not as concerned about it. I think that we should not lose our mind about the world being the world and the church being the church. The Supreme Court is there to make a decision based on constitutional rights and legalities that fit all Americans. They are not debating scripture.” 

Like Bishop Jakes, I believe that Christians have to end their self-imposed segregation and “go into all the world”, reaching out to all kinds of people, and share their faith. When I see the church reacting in fear of what a court or government will say or do, I question their faith in a ‘higher authority’. This same church that began with a crucifixion, endured a time of persecution and evolved into a dominant world religion. A religion so powerful that it began to conquer kingdoms, colonise nations and enslave people in Christ’s name. Now with global TV audiences, popular music artistes, millionaire pastors and billions in tithes and offerings, the church seems less confident in its ability to withstand threats, real or imagined.

My initial shock at the announcement of the court ruling has been replaced by a genuine curiosity. I want to see how this all plays out. Now that gay couples in the US can marry, will they want to do so in significant numbers? Will they be any better at marriage than the rest of us? Will this revive the flagging statistics in heterosexual marriage, as Christians seek to defend the institution? And, will churches be forced to deal with all sexual sins equally amongst their congregations?

Perhaps, this will persuade churches to admit that, whether gay or straight, most of the single people praying in the pews on Sunday are having pre-marital sex during the rest of the week. And that, while remarried divorcees are fully accepted in most churches, it’s still as unacceptable as homo sex according to the scriptures. Will this ruling convince the church to acknowledge the towering contribution of gays to gospel music, one of the worst-kept secrets in the African-American community? Or will everyone continue to pretend that they don’t exist, and that the choir director is just a little ‘sweet’? Finally, will the First Amendment protect the church and religious objectors who refuse to provide services for gay weddings?

So, what happens next? Well, it’s really up to you. I don’t think your life will change considerably as a result of these events, even if you live in the U.S. However, if you are a concerned Christian, it’s time to put your faith into action; reach out to all kinds of people and stand up for whatever you believe in. Just make sure that you apply Biblical laws the way Jesus did when he saw one person being singled out for her sins. “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone.”

For me, the struggle inside my head continues. On one hand, I believe passionately that all people should have equal treatment before the law and have the freedom to choose their own lifestyles and relationships, provided that they do not infringe on the rights of others. On the other, I do wonder if we’ve gone too far by effectively redefining the institution of marriage, given that by definition it is between a man and woman. I remember not being concerned in the slightest when the UK created civil partnerships to give homosexual couples the same legal rights as heterosexuals. But this is different. 

Time will tell if this is a defining moment in our social structures beyond the shores of America, given their influence, or just a blip in a gradual move towards greater equality. If you live in Africa, Asia or the Caribbean, don’t expect a change anytime soon.

37 thoughts on “Have we gone too far?

  1. Again I have read your blog with interest and intrigue , love is love Michael regardless if it is man and man, woman and woman, or man and woman. True love is many things, compassion, caring, emotional and physical intimacy etc. Man wrote the bible, we are told that it is God’s words, well if you go back to God’s word – he made man in his own image! To me that embraces all beliefs, all cultures. Loving another human being regardless of gender or sexual preferences is humanity in it’s true essence. We as humans, are hypocrites when it comes to marriage. There are cultures where it is accepted for man and a woman to have more than one wife or husband, then there is the western culture where it is one man one woman, and then we find out that there is adultery, hurt, abuse, and other pain, and those who commit adultery are the first to condemn same sex marriage! I have released the restrictions of my mind just to see love and compassion. It is that simple. Those who are against same sex marriage may need to exam their own motives not that of the man written bible but the true essence of what it means to be human! .

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    1. Wow, I love your response. You’re right, I think that sometimes we are driven more by fear than morality, otherwise why don’t we condemn adultery and fornication in the same way as homo sex? I have no problem with people who condemn homosexuality and other sexual behaviour, considered sinful, equally. Maybe we could love and tolerate each other, and leave judgement to God.

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      1. It is about acceptance and understanding rather than tolerance. If you think about it, it was not that long ago that black and white marriages were received with the same discrimination. It is now accepted, and the world has not ended. Marriage is about love and someone wanting to spend the rest of lives with someone. Regardless of gender.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks bro. I was quite nervous to see your response, given that I’ve strayed into legal territory! I took the time to read the justices’ opinions and saw the balance of concerns but none of the hysteria it has generated with the right. I wonder when a Jamaican court will be similarly tested?

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  2. Once more Michael you hit the nail on the head. I too am disturbed by the re-definition of marriage. I would have preferred the union be called something else. I have no problems with same-sex couples being protected by legal rights and they are entitled to equal treatment under all aspects of the law. I thank you for the clarity and detail of your piece.

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    1. Thanks again Clover. I feel it for the most traditional church-going folks for whom the world is changing much too quickly. It must be quite bewildering if you haven’t been exposed to these realities that used to be hidden behind the closet door. I’m always hoping that as people pursue their rights, they don’t forget their responsibility for others.

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  3. I am not one who believe the American values should be the world standard. Whatever laws the US passed, it should be of no concern to other nations unless the law affects them in some way shape or form. Who choose to marry who or what is up to them. I cannot say I endorsed certain lifestyle bu at the same time I wish not to infringe or decide how a next man should live his life. This gay marriage thing get this huge publicity because of their economic and political power I believe.
    The Episcopalian church has been endorsing and accepting homosexuality way earlier than this case was ever put on the Supreme Court judges calendar. Many believe the church is against homosexuality but it is not entirely true. For me life goes on and people should be free to express and live the life the way they want as long as it does not infringe on my rights, lifestyle or life. So many expect the church to be leader of moral values but what is exactly the definition of moral values? Isn’t moral value judgement subjective to the person views and perception. I for one see the church as a flawed institution like any other institution in this world. After all, they are made up of individuals who are from the world of greed, fornication, evil, good, and everything in between.
    This same sex marriage will blow off and life will continue for the believers, non believers, accepters and non-accepters. Nevertheless, is someone sex life or sexual belief a public or private thing? If it should be private as I believe, why should we care what relationship another choose to have in their private settings.? Based on the bible, God forbid many things that man choose to do anyway. I for one choose to leave judgment to God.

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  4. Yet another thought provoking piece Willie. I’m not sure about my own feelings because I don’t get passionate about anything. Live and let live is my manta, but my Christian beliefs mandate in my heart marriage be between a man and woman. I accept civil unions and equal rights and protection under the law. My thoughts extend to the future world of my grand kids where norms and traditions will be radically different than mine. I hope I’ll be around and in sound mind to witness the evolution.

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    1. Adolph, my brother, I feel honoured whenever you come off the fence and respond to my blog. Our feelings on this matter are very similar- I’m amazed at people who are so sure that everyone else’s way is wrong and theirs is right. In the end, most of us respond to fear rather than reason. Thanks bro!

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  5. Michael, Michael, Michael, you never cease to bring me joy with the level of your reasoning and the depth of your compassion for humankind. I much heartened by this missive and would encourage you to write for a wider audience…well done!

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    1. Thanks Charles. Coming from you, this means a lot. Once you see people for who they really are, it’s hard to dismiss them with a label. I’m surprised that Black people can’t see the parallels with their history of legal, moral and biblical justification of slavery. And, yes, I will graduate to a wider audience. Soon.

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  6. Excellent blog. Well assembled facts & perspective on the subject.

    I like the challenge to Christians to grow up & stop complaining. We need to follow Pinckney’s example & use public office to influence the change we seek.

    Best wishes

    Paul

    >

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    1. Thanks Paul. In times of adversity, the church has often provided excellent leaders for civil society. Instead of criticising only, the church needs to lead by example and influence the areas that require change, especially those that affect the less fortunate and the young. Always nice to get your feedback!

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  7. Wonderful and insightful as usual. A balanced and a believed sound perspective. i did hear Bishop Jakes response to the issues as you quoted and i couldn’t help but explode in laughter. i happen to be one of his no 1 fans. Love the guy. Like DEREKPAUL777 stated, i love the challenge you gave to my fellows in the ship of the gospel. i only pray we can accept the challenge. Love people no matter the choices they make, and then through love and sound relationships influence them to see reason why we believe and act the way we do. God’s grace!

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    1. Ah, Pastor G, it’s good to have your feedback! I’m sometimes nervous on sensitive subjects, because I know who’s in my audience, however I still need to tell it like it is. I was thinking just yesterday that people can delve into the scriptures and choose any God they want, to suit their mood. So, if we don’t like what someone else is doing, we select ‘vengeful God’ to deal with them; ‘loving God’ to embrace those we are close to; and ‘forgiving God’ whenever we are wrong. Yet, the author of our faith was remarkably consistent during his lifetime and his example should be our default option. Thanks very much for your support.

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  8. Hello Michael, your facts are crystal clear and agreeable on various levels.
    I will like to liberalize my opinions on this recent ‘development’ in order not to be misconstrued by any party.

    Ever since I heard about the news of legalizing same-sex marriage in the USA. I have struggled to come to terms with the sudden reality. My understanding of the meaning of marriage has suddenly been enigmatized. I resist every urge to resign to immediate condemnation, as this would be the normal reaction in my part of the world. However, this inflates concerns and torrents of questions in my head, which I feel may never be answered for generations to come.

    Some –and gradually many- will support same-sex marriage, saying that it is the same as one showing affection for the opposite sex.
    Some will also postulate that gays are as human as any other individual who is inclined to the ‘normal’ affection i.e. man to woman. I do not disagree that they are quite plausible. But permit me to ask. What will be our response as advocates of equality to individuals who display genuine natural affection for younger ones –kids mostly. In places where this happen I have seen protests aimed at ending such acts, which are usually tagged as abnormal. Do we cringe in fear if we wake up by morning and discover this has been ‘legalized’?

    I read in the News of a man who was apprehended for having sex with a neighbour’s dog. Apparently it was not the first time, his affinity for animals was insatiable. There many others like these, hidden in the shadows, committing their acts in hiding. Where do we draw the line? Have we mixed up something somewhere? Could this be another population control fix? I do not know.
    I am less bothered about the encouragement of gay marriages. Rather I am bothered that we may have over stretched the sacred meaning behind marriage, and we may cripple moral values and endanger generations to come.

    My apologies if my opinion offends any one. I feel strongly that society must question decisions with generational impacts carefully, especially when made by influential nations like America.

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    1. Thanks Michael, this is the most detailed and searching response I have received so far to this blogpost. You are not the only person I’ve heard who is willing to concede in the name of equality but is concerned about a gradual ‘creeping’ effect that slowly erodes morals and makes everything permissible. Indeed, that is possible.

      However, I think it is important to make some distinctions between homosexuality, paedophelia and bestiality. What they have in common is that they are not new phenomena but almost as old as mankind. Homosexuality, as practised between consenting adults, should not be compared with depraved adults preying on innocent children or defenceless animals. Gay marriage, by extension, is not comparable with legalising what are still considered criminal acts anywhere in the world. Consent is the key. Without it, sexual relations between members of the opposite sex is described as incest, rape and abuse.

      Keep questioning the changes you see but be sure to learn more about areas that are unfamiliar to us. Thanks very much for your continued support. Blessings.

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  9. I think Jesus living in flesh here and now would have loved gaYzs dined with them and told them they were doing wrong. If they were acting wrong as bible says or not as some believe (As. He did with prostitution) Although. I personally from reading the bible, can’t remember where God himself condemns this tho. ‘I’ll check if it is in the dos. And donts of the commandments but I think it was the peoples perspective that it was thought bad and it was counted among the evil that happened in Sodom and Gomorrah (hope those spellings are. Right) and then in the New Testatement one of them writers if not Paul believed people who had same sex and not only that but encouraged others to do same committed a. Very grievous sin against God. The Bible and God implores us clearly to Love our neighbours irrespective and not judge. So like from one of your comments above; let’s leave judgement to God! But say for instance I did not want my child to be exposed to this by hanging out with say a next door gay neighbour who’ may sometimes express their love in public confusing my child who knows nothing of this, the answer would have to be to let that child know that there’s that kind of union in the world and then move out immediately without offending my neighbours; apologise if my neighbours realize I moved out because of them also I will be expecting their understanding to my situation as well. No one has even. Mentioned the kind of Judgement you as straight may get from gay individuals. Long and short on this matter, I think we all have to find a way to coexist in this world with our diverse beliefs without infringing on the rights of others through Love and understanding. Michael this piece is written beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Blessing! That was very beautifully expressed. When in doubt as a Christian, I think it’s always best to apply the ‘What would Jesus do?’ test to any situation. He would have loved and embraced them but encouraged them to “go and sin no more”. I don’t think he would have treated them any less than the prostitutes and tax collectors he encountered. Thanks for checking in. xx

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  10. Readingto such ur article abd the cmments that follow suit is one interesting journey. This issue of samesex relationship has been raging on for decades. As a christian my spirit kept pointing at the sinful side of the topic. Similarly i grew up in a culture where such is non existent (or not known. Even the closest we have to same sex marriage involves a barren wife marry another wife for her husband so her husband can have (male) kids but she does not perform the sexual duties. My confusion with same sex marriage is none other but what role does it play in the society as i have come to understand that culture in itself is a whole comprising of different parts of which marriage institution is one of them and charged with organised societal procreation. Going by this postulate i would say the same sex negates that line of thought. However in the US where technological advancement allows people to bypass the natural ways of procreation same sex marriage like the conventional marriage institution works well in the realm of procreation. But in other parts of the world like mine…such is impossible so people will have a hard time accepting it cos they will question and If no tangIble answer Is given they will Kick against It. l Think this issue should be considered way beyond the shores of just two people who have true love for each other. we need to consider how the kids produced by such union world feel when they stand with other kids from the other side of the marriage union. l read a news in yahoo website where a child from a same sex marriage involving two females complained that her life doesn’t feel right Cos she didn’t experience the daddy role in her life as the parent who played it wasn’t good at it. My opinion is this… If Samesex union does the marriage job better than the conventional marriage we all know then it should be allowed (especially where the resources are there to make it work) but If it doesn’t do the job any better or as good as the conventional marriage we all know then it shouldn’t be encouraged. Culture and norms are made by man to serve him. So we should consider the role that same sex marriage is out to play in advancing our society and not just about caring for How two people feel about each other.
    Thanks to this insightful piece bro hope to see more from you.

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    1. Dear Tochukwu,

      It’s obvious that you have thought a lot about this topic and you have raised some important points. First, the purpose of marriage: Procreation is clearly an important aspect but so are love, companionship, respectability and financial stability. Before the rise of the career woman, marriage was the chief means of survival or prosperity for adult women. In turn, they cooked, cleaned and nurtured the family. In early marriage, a woman was often seen as little more than a possession of her husband and her obedience was mandatory. In biblical times, a father could give away his daughter in marriage without her consent, much like Leah and Rachel, two sisters given to the same man. Marriage then, like Muslim marriage in some countries today, involved women who would be considered under aged now. Also, sexual satisfaction was the preserve of the husband only, a suggestion that most modern would reject today. So, marriage is evolving and gay people, rightly or wrongly, want to be involved in its evolution.

      The child’s experience you mentioned, with same sex parents, is just as common with children from traditional homes, with 50% of children in the US growing up in a home affected by separation and divorce, while 30% of UK children are the same. Also, spare a thought for the thousands of childless couples who adopt the abandoned offspring of irresponsible parents, victims of rape, the deceased and underage girls.

      While I think that it is important to champion traditional marriage, it is important to acknowledge that the greatest threat to it comes from divorce, adultery and irresponsible behaviour, not gay marriage.

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  11. America is ranked first today in the world, thus what America does is viewed by the rest of the world with eagle eyes. This is because of the multiplier effect their laws have by directly or indirectly affecting the generality of the world. To put it straight, America is the world’s business!!!.
    There are acceptable standards whether civilization or no civilization. For example, that 5% of the world population are thieves shouldn’t call for a nation to legalize stealing. Stealing will still exist and certainly in the closet. Today, the church major fear among others, at the World’s ”number one hand” passing same sex marriage into law is the effect this will have on fabrics of families which constitute our major foundation. I wouldn’t bore you with stories of my little cousin grappling with a failed marriage as a result of her husband’s recent preference for male partners.
    therefore, while I have no right to condemn, I certainly do not believe strongly institutionalizing this is the best. Completely my thoughts though.

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    1. Hey Charles, I think that America’s political dominance is waning as China rises, Russia ignores and the rest of the world catches up with them. Today, the USA is only dominant in the cultural arena with its music, TV series and movies, and in Christianity, with its mega-churches and global TV reach. Its military might is supreme. However, it is no longer a leader in morality and thought. The world has seen enough of America’s mistakes and knows it can no longer follow blindly. People’s preference for same-sex partners won’t increase because of legal marriage, it just gives them more legitimacy and legal rights. The increased visibility of homosexuality and the increasing power of the gay lobby leads many people to conclude wrongly that there has been a huge change in morality. However, the only thing that is growing is the confidence of gay people to come out of the shadows and try to be accepted.

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  12. Michael, I really enjoy reading your blogs. As stated in a previous comment I think that marriage is about two individuals who love each other and wish to spend their lifetimes together. The older I get the more I believe in ‘live and let live’.

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    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts, Mary. Your very liberal view is at odds with my Bible-believing readers who like to invoke its prohibitions related to gays, conveniently forgetting that we all break one Biblical law or another and expect to be forgiven. I guess everyone has that one sin that they hold out to be ‘worse’ than the others. Thanks for your continued support. xx

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  13. Have we gone too far? Responding to this question originally posed, how far is too far? Muhammad Ali once said “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” Most people, specifically my fellow Jamaicans seem to think that the world revolves around our little island. Newsflash, it doesn’t. There are people in the world who are different and diverse. We all cant be the same. With regards to the Supreme Court ruling, many Christians and other persons have abused the institution of marriage for centuries for their own benefit; Christians who file for divorce, re-marry, cheat on their husbands or wives, engage in business marriages to obtain citizenship or residency; all of which the Bible considers to be evil and subjected to hell fire just like same-sex marriage. Moral of the story: don’t judge someone because they sin differently from you. Only God sits at the throne and has the moral authority to judge because he’s the only perfection that exists.

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    1. Hi David and welcome to my blog! You are so, so right. Most Christians have a lenient view towards sins they are guilty of or consider ‘normal’. Interestingly, Jamaicans are growing up and becoming more liberal about homosexuality but they will never admit it – so, publicly their stance remains the same. Yet, the overwhelming response I got from Jamaicans to this post was ‘live and let live’. There is hope but it will take time and courageous leadership. Blessings.

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