Stop Calling It Gay “Marriage”


Gay marriage, or is it gay “marriage”? There’s a disturbing trend within evangelicalism. It’s really subtle, but it’s there, and it boils my blood. Some segments of North Amercian evangelicalism insist on using quotation marks around the word “marriage” when taking part in the gay marriage debate, and It needs to stop.

It’s discouraging because of the attitude behind it. These quotation marks, I’ve learned, even have their own name. They’re called: “scare quotes”. Scare quotes serve a number of grammatical functions, but in this context, they’re used to put a metaphorical “so-called” in front of the word. So when you see [gay “marriage”] what you’re reading is really [gay so-called marriage]. Now, I’m a heterosexual, white, cisgender male Christian and this drives ME up the wall, I can only imagine how our LGBT friends and neighbours feel about it, so I asked… One of my friends sent me this:

I’m married, not gay married. We go out for dinner, not gay dinner. But I guess for those who are against it, the quotes are their way of pretending it isn’t real.

It’s frustrating and discouraging to see this for a number of reasons for me. First, I’m seeing it come from a number of authors and theologians I admire and respect deeply. Secondly, it’s elitist and patronizing, neither of which are fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23 I checked.) thirdly, and most importantly, it damages our witness to LGBT people even more and as a result does damage to witness and evangelism to even straight people who aren’t Christians.

It makes us look like bigots.

Here’s the reality: LGBT people need Jesus. Straight people need Jesus. EVERYONE needs Jesus! As Jesus people, it is our mission (our great commission actually) to bring Jesus to people regardless of sexuality, regardless of gender identity, and regardless of anything we disapprove of. The Gospel is difficult enough on its own for people to believe, why are many of us insisting in making it harder?

7 thoughts on “Stop Calling It Gay “Marriage”

  1. I am enclosing a excerpt from a larger article by a preacher and teacher for whom I have great respect and who is now with his Saviour and Lord. This article was taken from a sermon preached in 1975. I am posting this excerpt because I appreciate this tender and compassionate Christian viewpoint on the subject of homosexuality.

    “I (Mr. Stedman) saw in the newspaper an announcement of a meeting of the Gay People’s Union, at Stanford University. Two prominent speakers were featured; one a woman homosexual who is a professor at San Francisco State University and the other, a young man, also a homosexual, who had been ordained to the ministry in the United Church of Christ.

    They were speaking on the subject, “Homosexuality in the Church.” One of our interns and I went over to the meeting. We found about a hundred young people, with a few older ones here and there, fairly evenly divided between men and women. We listened an hour or so to these two speakers. The woman was very vitriolic. She denounced the church in almost every form, in every way. She said that it had to be destroyed, that it was the enemy of human liberty and freedom.

    The young man was milder in his approach. He told of his own desire to find a place within the church, but, of how, nevertheless, he found himself struggling because of the homosexuality he endorsed, and of how he had been mistreated on occasion because of misunderstanding on the part of others. I could agree with a great many things he said about the church and its weaknesses. And I noticed one thing in particular as he spoke. He referred several times to Jesus and his ministry with people. And it was true, exactly as our Lord said here, that no one who uses his name will soon after be able to speak evil of him. Whenever this young man spoke of Jesus, it was with great respect and obvious admiration of his ministry.

    After an hour or so of this, I felt that it was time to say something for the other side. So I identified myself, spoke up, and said, “I can agree with much that has been said about the church, but I don’t think you have come to grips with the real issue—the stance of Christianity toward homosexuality.

    The nearest you came was when this young man spoke of Jesus and the woman at the well. He had brought out that Jesus had not castigated her or denounced her, had not scorned her and turned his back on her.

    I replied: Nevertheless he did speak to her about her condition—having lived with five husbands, and now living with a man who was not her husband. He then offered her release, relief.

    I said, “I think this is the true Christian position. Homosexuality is very injurious. It destroys people.

    Jesus understands that, but he doesn’t want to denounce people or drive them away; he wants to offer to them a way out.”

    As I looked at that roomful of young people I did not see a room full of lesbians and faggots, though they were calling themselves those names. I saw some hungry, mixed-up, stunted, fragmented and hurting young people wanting somehow to find the secret of life, thinking they had found it, but on a wrong track, and destroying themselves in the process.

    Over and over, Paul’s words in Romans about homosexuals kept coming into my mind: “They receive in their own persons the due penalty of their error,” (Romans 1:27b RSV). The stance of the church toward those who are involved in wrongful and evil things is never to be one of denunciation. It is never to be one of stigmatizing and of rejecting. It is to be one of open-armed acceptance, but with an honest evaluation of what is going on, and the offer of the way of release.

    This is what Jesus is saying to his disciples. The mark of greatness is that you look not at a person’s outward appearance, nor at the outward characteristics they manifest, nor even at the things they stand for, but that you see a human being who is groping after truth and life. And if the name of Jesus is respected in any way at all, do not quench that spark but feed it.”

  2. We put quotations around “marriage” because homosexual “marriage” is not marriage. Homosexuality, just like bestiality, rape and incest, are an abomination (God’s words; not mine).

    1. I understand why you do it Sarah. What I’m asking is: Don’t you have a bigger responsibility than to make people follow the Law? How about sharing the Gospel instead?

      1. “Obedience to the moral law remains for ever binding upon both justified persons and all others, and that in respect of the actual content of the law, and also of the authority of God, the Creator, who is its author. In the gospel Christ in no way cancels the necessity for this obedience; on the contrary He greatly stresses our obligation to obey the moral law.” 1689 London (Baptist) Confession of Faith

        The Law, as Paul put it, is the schoolmaster which leads us to Christ. (Gal 3:24) In the Reformed tradition the preaching of Law generally comes before the preaching of Gospel, and in my opinion, we should be hesitant to pit one against the other as though they are mutually exclusive. If there is no awareness of sin (which comes through the law), there is no good news to tell the non-believer.

        1. I agree, but as the title of my blog suggests, there is a difference between seasoning and packing with salt. Christians need to re-learn the lost art of winsomeness.

          Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. These are obvious polemics we see in theology. If I defined my opponent as not an evangelical based on certain definitions, his or her argument is ipso facto wrong, regardless of the merits of the argument itself. Saying gay marriage is not technically marriage because of how we define it is really saying, “you are not us, and since we are right, you must be wrong.” Not the most effective way to argue.

    Having said that, Christians patterned themselves in the West off of the legal proceedings of Roman marriage, coupled with Christian theology, of course. It is partly the reason Christians became fully monogamous int he first century, one millenial a head of Judaism: Romans were monogamous and since this was agreable to Christian teaching, Christians quickly jettisoned the polygamy of Judaism to be winsome in their Roman setting.
    However, Roman culture did have gay marriages, but were generally against the law. They were not seen as illegitimate by definition, however, just not permitted. Caligula and Nero both married men against Roman law in order to show that they were greater than the law. My point: arguing that gay marriage is illegitimate by definition is sort of like arguing that speeding is not really driving because it is against the law.

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