We continue our critique of the Christian Action document Biblical principles for Using Your Vote on http://www.savotersguide.com. The author’s seventh point has undergone a recent change, and its form at time of writing reflects a bit of both. It previously was called ‘Opposes Homosexual Agenda’ (as it still says in the list of relevant scripture verses on the page), whereas it now reads, ‘Opposes Homosexual Marriage / Civil Unions’.
Is this principle Biblical?
According to scripture, homosexuality is a sin, and marriage is a picture of God’s relationship to his people, and so should reflect complementarity, not homogeneity; that is, it must be between a man and a woman.
Is it essential?
If we’re talking about homosexuality in general, the fact that we regard homosexuality as a sin should not be used as a reason for justifying political prejudice against homosexuals. There are all sorts of sins that are private or between consenting adults that we do not expect Christian government to criminalise, sex before marriage, for example. We live in plural society in which freedom must be granted as far as is possible so that groups of a wide range of opinions can be accommodated. The fact that homosexuals are frequently targeted for violent persecution, even leading to death, means that Christian politicians should be as busy as anyone protecting them from such injustice, even though we disagree with them, just as we’d protect single mothers or Hindus from attack. The fact that Christian politicians are often nasty and genuinely hateful in their utterances about homosexuality is thoroughly shameful.
What we do need to ensure is that we vote for a party that will protect our right to believe that homosexuality is a sin, to tell homosexuals that their lifestyle is sin (though it might seem to be a hateful opinion), and to prevent homosexuals from holding church office (though it seems discriminatory). It is worth bearing in mind that any party that will allow this from us is almost certainly duty-bound to allow people to choose their own sexual orientation for themselves.
In terms of homosexuals getting married, there is more of a debate, because marriage is a deeply religious ceremony for Christians, and so we are justified in trying to protect it from corruption.
On the other hand, marriage is also a wider civil event with civil benefits (though it is fairly meaningless from a secular perspective), and it is also a part of all of South Africa’s cultures. I’m not to sure on what grounds we’re able to restrict marriage to our particular definition thereof. Why should non-Christians hold to our definition of marriage? As consenting adults, homosexuals want marriage in order to be treated as full citizens, with proper recognition of their relationship, and any of the benefits available to other couples. If we’re going to make this a key policy point for Christians, we at least need to do it with good understanding of the issues (which I do not personally have, I must confess; I am still not sure what Christians argue in debates over this issue), and not just a vague conviction that homosexuality is gross or evil.
We should rather see to it that the party for which we vote is willing to let Christians retain their beliefs and practices about marriage.
Has the author been fair?
I have no complaints with the author’s presentation of the parties’ opinion. It is notable that the ACDP quote that he uses relates to the wider point about homosexuality in general, rather than homosexual marriage. They hold that homosexuals are not entitled to constitutional protection. Would they continue to allow discrimination against homosexuals? Would they choose to criminalise it? Would they then also criminalise other sins, such as sex before marriage, idolatry or divorce? Why just this one?