Editor’s Note: For an updated version of this 2011 blog, please visit: https://t2gospel.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/legal-maybe-healthy-no/
Over the years, I’ve had a variety of friends and acquaintances who occasionally enjoyed drinking alcohol until they were bombed. Whenever they have recounted their adventures with me, I have listened to their stories with a knowing smile. I use the term “knowing smile,” because I know that my friends know I don’t approve of this behavior. They would never invite me to go out drinking with them, although they might invite me to dinner, or a football game, or an evening at the movies. So they share their exploits because they enjoy yanking my chain. But they know I’d never demonstrate my approval by spending an evening getting loaded with them.
So I’m baffled to learn that Pastor Joel Osteen told an interviewer that, although he doesn’t approve of same sex marriage, he’d have no problem attending a gay wedding if invited. Osteen explained to Piers Morgan that he’d never want to suggest to a friend “you’re not good enough for us.” It didn’t take long for Dr. Al Mohler to pick up the topic in a blog. “This is beyond mere incoherence,” Mohler writes. “It is moral and theological nonsense.” I thought Dr. Mohler’s comments were right on. If someone is truly a beloved friend, surely he doesn’t expect me to disregard my deepest convictions in order to remain in his good graces. It’s not about whether a friend is good enough for me. Rather, logic says I would never “celebrate” something I find deadly, destructive and morally offensive, no matter how much I might like the misguided soul involved.
But I was in for yet another surprise. When the thread was later picked up by a writer at Christianity Today, he reached a conclusion that’s so irrational it’s almost funny. “And if attending a marriage ceremony is the same as supporting the underlying theology of the union, does that prohibit Christians from attending Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or weddings from other religious traditions? Where is the line?”
Dear friends, here’s the line. There is nothing immoral or offensive about one devout Muslim marrying another devout Muslim. I have no respect for Islam, but I can still celebrate a wedding among Muslims who happen to be friends of mine. I’m approving of their marriage, not their theology. Likewise, if Hindu friends should invite me to a Hindu wedding, I can gladly celebrate their marriage with them and their families as an affectionate observer. True friends would realize that I think Hinduism is a counterfeit faith, but I can still affirm their marriage. I can sit through a Hindu wedding without worshiping anybody. (Frankly, I’ve sat through a Methodist service in which I didn’t worship anybody, even thought I wanted too!)And likewise, Hindu friends might reasonably decide not to invite me to their ceremony, realizing I don’t give credence to their religion.
Should two gay friends invite me to their wedding, however, I would politely explain to them that I couldn’t celebrate their marriage because I believe it’s destructive and immoral. It doesn’t matter whether they plan to be united in a synagogue or a mosque or a liberal church; the location is irrelevant. It’s not the religious tradition that’s at stake here: it’s the very act of two men pretending to be married and suggesting that it’s normal. In fact, real friends would never ask me to celebrate such an act with them. In my view, they’re boring a hole in their end of the lifeboat we all share. I can’t celebrate that.
I know that Christians are often respected for having tender hearts, but let’s use our brains as well as our hearts. True friendship can tolerate all kinds of personal differences. But a friendship that demands that I deny my most deeply held convictions is not a friendship at all. It’s a sham. Either my faith isn’t real, or my friends aren’t.
Lift up the Cross!