Is the Church on the Wrong Side of the Same Sex Marriage Debate?
Over the last few years, and especially in the last few months, I have read countless editorials that have asked the question “Is the church on the wrong side of the same sex marriage debate?”
Many critics of the Christian church have used history to state that the stance of many congregations on the same sex marriage debate is wrong, comparing it to the stance of many churches of previous generations that used “biblical teachings” to uphold the institutions of slavery and segregation. Some have even gone so far as to say that the church is consistently wrong on issues of justice. These critics have used the viewpoints of a small minority of Christians to make a blanket statement on a very diverse group of believers, which is inaccurate, hateful and discriminatory to those who hold the Bible to be God’s inerrant Word.
In actuality, the Bible describes the Church as the “people of God,” not one giant institution with one opinion and one thought-process. Furthermore, while the church is much-maligned for its position on the same sex marriage debate, it is extremely important to realize that it was the Christian church that spearheaded the movement to abolish slavery after the Quakers and other evangelical religious groups labeled slavery as un-Christian, and it was groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), led by a Baptist preacher from Atlanta, which galvanized the Civil Rights Movement and led to the passage of key legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
From the earliest decades of the 1800s, Black Christian ministers throughout the North and even in the South, spoke on the evils of the institution of slavery and how it contradicted the teaching of the New Testament, often risking their lives for the rights of others. Their courage and bravery led to the formation of abolitionist groups, like the Church Anti-Slavery Society. Despite experiencing some racism from White Christian churches, “religion was deeply interwoven into the fabric of abolitionism,” according to The African American Encyclopedia.
Approximately one hundred years later, during the Civil Rights Movement, it was not politicians, lawyers or judges who initially spearheaded the struggle for equal rights, it was the Christian church led by ministers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Hosea Williams.
It was Christian leaders like King who led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the 1950s, and it was King and over 60 other Christian ministers who kept the ball rolling after desegregating the buses of Montgomery, Ala., forming the SCLC and completing one of the most successful movements for equal rights in modern history.
Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, the epicenter of the movement was always the Christian church. Ministers would return from SCLC meetings with instructions for their congregation, who were coordinating efforts for racial equality in their respective communities. Despite resistance from some White churches, the SCLC was a multiracial and multi-religious group who changed the course of history for the better.
Furthermore, the same sex marriage debate is probably something that will be hotly contested for years to come, much like the continuous debate on abortion rights. However, when one prematurely assumes that the Christian church is on the wrong side of justice because of their stance on the same sex marriage debate, one only has to look back at the entire history of the Christian church, and its involvement with the Abolitionist and Civil Rights Movement, to discover that their stance against same sex marriage might not be wrong after all.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.