Who May I Love? (Part II)

Before jumping headlong into the debate over gay "marriage" I feel it necessary to define exactly what it is that we are debating.
In other words:

What is "marriage"?

Marriage, Defined

After reading many websites and newspaper articles, and after listening to many newscasts and radio talk shows, it is clear to me that much of the debate is caused by not defining what "marriage" is. Take the examples of couples "A" and "B" and "C" below.

Each of the couples “A”, “B”, and “C” have been through a “marriage” ceremony and are “married”. But the word “married”, or “marriage”, has a different meaning depending on which couple’s “marriage” is used. In order to really discuss "marriage", as it relates to the debate over gay "marriage",we need to understand the differences between the unions of couples "A", "B", and "C" above.

The unions of couple “A” and “C” are what the state and federal governments, both civil authorities, consider "marriage".

The unions of couple "B" and "C" are what religious authorities consider "marriage".

So the word "marriage" does mean different things, depending on the people and the circumstances involved.

The simplest way to clear up this problem would be to call the religious uniting of two people a "marriage" and the legal uniting of two people a civil union". However, our elected officials have written our laws governing what would be called a "civil union" by using the term "marriage", instead of the term "civil union". (For a few examples of the word "marriage" being used to define the legal union of two people see Minnesota, Alabama, California, and New York.)
Even the state of Vermont, which has a purely civil definition of the union of two people, uses the term "marriage" instead of "civil union". According to Vermont law:

Marriage is the legally recognized union of one man and one woman.

To further complicate matters, many states have now written into law "civil unions" that are not defined as a legal union of two people, but instead are defined as a subset, or weaker version of, "marriage”. For example, a state recognized “civil union” does not bestow upon the couple federal survivorship rights (for more information see the Defense of Marriage Act) , and may not include (depending on the state) end of death decision rights, property transfer rights, or paternal rights. There are even definitions of "civil union", such as Vermont's, which defines a civil union as being identical to marriage - which is defined as a legal union of one man and one woman. No wonder there's so much confusion!

To add even more confusion to the topic, some states have used the term "domestic partnership" in their attempts to codify homosexual "civil unions".

In an attempt to be completely clear in this essay,I will not use the terms "civil union" or "marriage". Both of those terms mean different things depending on the people and circumstances involved (as shown above). I will also refrain from using any known legal terms currently being used to describe the union of two people because those terms are already adding to the confusion. Instead I will use the terms "religious marriage" and "civil marriage" as defined below:

The differentiation of "religious marriage" and "civil marriage" is much more than just semantics. They have completely different meanings and completely different goals.

The "civil marriage" is all about legalities. It's about the authority to make decisions for another individual, the assumption of property after one individual is deceased, the responsibility of debts and taxes, parental rights, and many other civil and legal concerns. Two people who do not believe there is anything like a god, or do not profess any religion, can have a "civil marriage" and never care if any religious authority recognizes it or not.

Likewise, the "religious marriage" is generally, without respect to any particular religion (I do not claim to be an authority on all the world's religions) seen as the joining of two souls for the purpose of guidance, comfort, assistance to one another through life, and other religious and spiritual concerns. Two people can stand alone, on the top of a mountain or in a field, and declare to their god that they pledge themselves to one another and have a "religious marriage" and never care if the state authorities recognize it or not.

The "religious marriage" and the "civil marriage" are completely separate, and different, and neither needs nor depends upon the other.

Two Debates in One

One can easily recognize that the current debate over gay unions is actually two debates in one. The first debate is that of "religious marriage", where gay individuals are seeking religious recognition of their union. The second debate is that of "civil marriage" where gay individuals are seeking civil recognition of their union.

The second debate concerning "civil marriage" is discussed in WhoMayILove (Part I) essay.

This essay addresses the first debate of gay unions as “religious marriages” within the context of Christianity. I have purposely limited the remainder of this essay to Christianity because I have no experience nor education in any other religion that would allow me to address the subject intelligently within their contexts. I leave it to the practitioners of other religions to address the subject of gay "religious marriages" within the context of those religions.

Before discussing gay "religious marriage" with respect to the Christian religion I will review a few of the unique properties of the Christian religion so that the reader may have a better context, apart from the misinformation and general misunderstanding so prevalent in our society about Christianity, in which to understand this debate. The tutorial below is a simple and very basic highlighting of some aspects of Christianity that apply to the debate of gay "religious marriage".

A very short tutorial on Christianity (Don't assume you know what I've written here and skip it. Please read this section.)

I think it is important to first point out that Christianity, as it was originally founded by Jesus, is not a religion created by man, but by the Word of God. As such, practitioners of Christianity do not have petitioners rights. In other words, the rules, regulations, bylaws, criteria for admittance, and so forth were written, some of them quite literally in stone, by God. And the practitioners of Christianity do not have the authority nor rights to change them. This lack of ability to change, or even petition for a change in, the rules of governance, regardless of circumstance, is truly unique in our environment.

It is only through Christianity that most of us ever experience the knowledge that when we disagree with a rule or law or regulation that we are, 100% of the time, wrong.
Not only are we wrong, but we must repent for being wrong and truly change our hearts and minds into believing that we are wrong before we repent for being wrong.

Another aspect of the Christianity, as it was originally founded, that is truly unique in our environment is that we are, and always will be, children. We never get to grow up and challenge our Parent. We never get to make our own rules. And we are always, always, learning and ignorant. Like children, we seldom understand the reason behind the rules, but we must obey and follow them faithfully.

For this discussion it is important to understand what sin is to a practitioner of Christianity. How is sin defined? How does sin affect our relationship to God? What can a Christian who has committed a sin do to repair the damage that sin has done to their relationship to God? And, what is a Christian anyway?

For a Christian the answers to the questions raised above are fairly simple:

The answer "Nothing" to the question "What can a Christian who has committed a sin do to repair the damage that sin has done to their relationship to God?" always catches people off guard. But it's the truth. Once a person is spiritually separated from God they have no power of their own to exercise that can bridge the gap created by sin and reconnect their Soul with God. That is why sin is such a powerful topic and why people do not want to be seen as, or admit to being, sinners. It is very important to understand that the consequence, or effect, of sin is that your Soul is lost and it will spend all of eternity separated from God.

Right now you are probably thinking some like the following:

Let me get this straight. In order to be a Christian, I have to admit that I'm an ignorant child who blindly follows the rules, can never change the rules and if I mess up there is nothing that I can do about it.
Why would I ever want to be a Christian?

That's a very good question. Before answering it I must point out that there is one other amazing point to Christianity. You don't get the chance to "mess up", because there was a sin committed so long ago that it is called the Original Sin.
And because of how terrible the Original Sin was, we are all born sinners who are spiritually separated from God, and we are all going to spend eternity separated from Him simply because we were born. How's that for an interesting twist?
So, through no fault of your own, you start out spiritually separated from God and you have no ability or power to do anything about it.

Before going further we should explore the answer to "What is sin?" a little further. As defined above, sin is "...any action, physical, mental, or spiritual that violates the Word of God". A lot of people get hung-up on the word "Word" in this definition of sin. The word "Word" does not mean just the written text, as interpreted over thousands of years, of God's rules and laws. The word "Word" also means "in the spirit of".
"In the spirit of" is not a tough concept to grasp. For example, if you give your brother-in-law a fully restored 1956 Chevrolet Corvette convertible as a wedding present and your brother-in-law parks it on his front lawn, fills it with dirt, and plants flowers in it, you would be justified in being angry with your brother-in-law because he has not treated or used the gift "in the spirit" in which it was intended. The concept of "in the spirit of" is central to the discussion of gay "religious marriage".

Another way to answer "What is sin?" is to explain the concept of a standard. A standard is something that never changes and that all like things are measured against. For example, man has created some standards of measurement that are intended to ensure that our units of measurement are consistent and constant. God's Word, which includes "in the spirit of", is the Standard by which Christians live their lives. Anything that violates that Standard is sin. For example, God said "Thou shall not kill". He did not say Thou shall not kill, unless your life is in danger, or your spouse's life is in danger, or someone else's life is in danger, or if you are a police officer and you think your life may be in danger in the very near future . All of these exceptions, sometimes referred to as grey areas , are introduced by man. God's Standard is clear, if you kill someone you have sinned. The Standard does not change.

We should also further explore the answer to "How does sin affect our relationship to God?" The Bible says that when we commit a sin that our pure white Soul becomes stained red and that a stained Soul is an abhorrence to God. It is important to note that no where in the Bible is there presented any hierarchy of sin. Any sin stains the Soul. There are no lighter or darker shades of red or lighter or darker stains. God only gave us Ten Commandments, and one of those is "Thou shall not tell a lie". Most of the people in our society today consider lying a profession (advertisers, politicians, witnesses). Oh they call it "spin" or "perspective" or "not telling the whole story" or "emphasis". All of these terms, and many more, are simply lying. I make this point to illustrate that what most people in our society deem as harmless, or even claim to be necessary, is one of the very first things that God Himself instructed us not to do. So, obviously, we are not qualified to impose a hierarchy that does not exist onto sin. Whether you have lied to your mother one time in your whole life or you are a serial child raping murder on death row there is no difference. Your Soul is still stained with sin and you are an abhorrence to God. And, as stated above, we are all born stained to start with because of Original Sin. This is an extremely important point to understand. No one, but no one, is different in God's eyes. We are all sinners and we are all the same. It is that aspect of Christianity which is truly remarkable. It is also the aspect that is the most contentious, and is a central point of the debate around gay "religious marriage", as we will see below.

The preceding paragraph mentions a white Soul and a red stain, and that the red stain on the white Soul is an abhorrence to God. Without going into too much detail, the reader should understand how magnificent the Soul, a creation of God, truly is. The Soul is a work of art unlike any other. And each Soul is unique. That is why to see one stained is such an abhorrence to God. Imagine if someone gave you the original Mona Lisa, and you took it down to the local bar for all of your buddies to see and someone spilled a Bloody Mary on it. How do you think the person who gave it to you would feel about you after that incident? True, your friend never told you how they expected you to take care of it. But, when someone gives you the Mona Lisa they have the right to expect you to care for it. Now realize that the Mona Lisa is simply a piece of trash when compared to the magnificent work of art that is the human Soul. Let that sink in for just a moment.

Right now you're probably incredulous or even a little angry. How could anyone setup such a crazy religion? How could God condemn me through no action of my own? This is not fair! Now, not only can I not solve the problem of sin, but I'm also insignificant. Just one in the crowd of lost, sinful, helpless humanity. What am I to do? What can I do?

In steps Christ.

Notice that we are not called God-ians. We are called Christ-ians. We are called Christians because we follow in the footsteps of, accept the gift of, and are beholden to, Christ. It is Christ, and only Christ, who saves us from our fate and reconciles us with God. And as far as the questions and statements above " How could anyone setup such a crazy religion? How could God condemn me through no action of my own? This is not fair! " It was God, in his infinite wisdom and justice, that first recognized those issues, and answered them. He gave His only Son as payment for our sins. The Bible says "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that we may be saved through him". God knew that the system was stacked against us, and gave us a way to reconcile our sin, that is to remove the stains on our Soul, so that we are no longer an abhorrence in His sight and may spend eternity with Him.

To revisit the illustration above concerning the Mona Lisa, imagine if after you had shown the stained painting to the person who gave it to you they turned to you and said "It's okay. I understood when I gave it to you that you were not capable of taking care of it. My Son here is an expert in restoration and has offered His services, free of charge, to restore the painting. And if He restores it, I will still accept you." Christ restores the Soul so that God accepts us. This is the answer to the question above "Why would I ever want to be a Christian?"

Now is normally when someone asks "How and when does Christ restore my Soul?" Remember above when the answer to the question "What can a person who has committed a sin do to repair the damage that sin has done to their relationship to God?" was "nothing". That answer is true in that you do not have the power in and of yourself to reconcile with God, but there is one action that all people have the ability to exercise that will cause that reconciliation to occur: accept Christ's invitation and ask Him to intercede on your behalf and truly accept Him as your Savior.

Some people have trouble with this "acceptance" part of Christianity and see it as a "human work" that reconciles the Soul with God. On one hand, Christianity teaches that no human works can reconcile our sins with God. On the other hand, the human work of "acceptance" is required. How do these two reconcile? The reconciliation is fairly simple. God has given us two gifts: free will and Christ. Our Soul is given the first gift, free will, openly and freely to use as it desires. For us to receive the second gift, God simply asks that we use the first gift to formally accept and recognize the second, His Son's sacrifice. You see the "work" is not the human acceptance of Christ. The "work" was Christ's sacrifice on our behalf. So there is no human work that reconciles our Soul with God.

Notice in the paragraph above that it is the Soul that receives the gifts, not the body. This is the most important part of Christianity. Christianity is not about the person and their life on earth. Christianity is about the Soul and its life after the body has died and returned to just ash and dust.

Thank you for taking the time to read the above tutorial. It is important to truly understand the nature of sin in Christian beliefs and the incredible price that is paid to overcome the affect of sin before discussing gay "religious marriage" in the context of Christianity.

End of a Very Short Tutorial on Christianity

Homosexuality and Sin

As stated in the tutorial above, sin is any act, physical, mental, or spiritual, that violates the Word of God, and that the word "Word" includes the spirit of, not just the text of, the Word. Allow me to explain why, with this understanding, that gay activity qualifies within Christianity as sinful activity. First we look to the textual Word of God and see that God addresses homosexual sex as an abomination (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13). Now there is some debate, both credible and ridiculous, surrounding the translation and context of those and other biblical verses. But there is no debate whatsoever concerning the spirit in which a sexual relationship was given to man.

In the tutorial above I mentioned that the concept of "in the spirit of" the Word of God was a central issue in the debate. The Bible tells us that in the beginning God made man and that after a while man was lonely. God gave man a companion, woman, who was to be his intimate companion and helper for life. God did not give man another man and then create a woman and give her another woman to be an intimate companion and then tell man and woman to get together now and then for the purpose of procreation. God gave man a woman.

It is "in the spirit of" this gift of woman to man on which the Christian "religious marriage" is based. It is in the spirit of this gift that the father, standing in for the Father, gives the bride to the groom. In Christian "religious marriage" the union is seen as a joining of two Souls ordained by God, and this union is seen as a parallel to the relationship between Christ and His Church.

It is clear then, that either in spirit or word or both, that gay sexual activity either physically, mentally, or spiritually, is a sin. (Note that this "spirit of" also applies to the sins of adultery, and premarital sex regardless of them being heterosexual or homosexual acts.) So now, if you read the tutorial above, you're probably thinking something like, "Okay so what?" "We're all sinners and gay sexuality is a sin so gay couples are no different than straight couples. We're all in the same boat. What's the big deal?"

The big deal is that as Christians we must follow God's rules and we do not have the right to petition. There is no mechanism in place for us to change the rules. If we condone an activity that God says is sinful, then we are not Christians. A Christian church could no more condone gay sexuality by bestowing God's gift of matrimonial companionship onto a gay couple than it could marry a heterosexual couple that have sinned and have claimed that their sinful behavior is not a sin and have therefore refused to repent. And there's the rub. The sin of homosexuality is no different than any other sin. If the church were to overlook homosexuality, and actually condone it by bestowing matrimonial status upon it, it would have to overlook other sinful activity as well. In other words, it would no longer be a Christian church.

So as you can see, the debate over gay "religious marriage", unlike the debate over gay "civil marriage", isn't a debate at all. The issue was settled thousands of years ago by God, and there's nothing that can change the decision. Homosexuality is no different than any other sin identified by God and cannot be treated as different. To do so would impose a false hierarchy onto the concept of sin and would undermine one of the principle tenants of Christianity, that we are all the same in God's eyes. We are all sinners who may be saved through Christ.

The Illusion of Debate

At this point this essay has fully addressed its subject matter and has shown that God defines sin and we are not capable of changing or debating that decision. But I have raised an interesting question: "Why is the illusion of a debate continuing?"

There are certainly those individuals who are not Christians who are attempting to force Christianity to do something it cannot do, which is to change God's word, for political, economic, or personal reasons. I won't spend time here discussing those individuals because they are not Christians and as such they have no say in the matter. In that respect they are the same as Christians because, as I've shown above, Christians have no say in the matter either.

Good Intentions Without Soul

There are, however, some Christians who are trying to push the illusion of a debate. These Christians are usually well intentioned individuals who tend to see the church as a social club, or a humanitarian outreach organization, or some other institution of man. And as such, they feel they have the right to petition to change the rules. Even to the point of redefining sin. I guess they think that they are no longer children and that God's definition is no longer good enough for them. They have forgotten, or never new, the concept of the Standard explained in the tutorial above. Their action of challenging God's word is itself a sin. These Christians also don't seem to remember that Church is not an institution of man, it is an institution of God.

There are other well intentioned Christians who understand very well the love and redemption of Christ, but seem to forget that although Christ's love is given openly, His acting as our Savior and interceding on our behalf so that we are redeemed through Him is received under certain conditions. Those conditions are that we acknowledge our sin and accept His sacrifice on our behalf.

Each of these groups of Christians are well meaning and are very loving and compassionate individuals. They've just been a little misguided in their attempts to reach out to and help others around them. Instead of sharing the Glory and Justness of God's word so that those whose ears have been opened will hear, they water down God's word in an attempt to reach more people. But reaching more with less is not our calling.

There are also groups of Christians who are pushing, through a misunderstanding of Jesus' own ministry, for acceptance of sin based on a premise of tolerance. They seem to have a short memory. There is no teaching of tolerance of sin in the Bible. Both God and Jesus make it perfectly clear that there is no tolerance for sin. God says that a stained Soul is an abhorrence to Him, He doesn't say, "but I'll tolerate it anyway". Jesus also makes it abundantly clear that not only does he stand as the Redeemer, but also sits as Judge over those who have sinned.

All of these good intentioned Christians are making the same basic mistake. They are allowing their remarkable compassion (These are truly wonderful and hard working people.) to substitute their positions and viewpoints for those of God. In doing so they are actually working against themselves. They are not spreading the Word of God, but the word of man. And in so doing are not really helping those lost Souls that they are trying to help. And that's the problem. They have lost sight of helping the Soul and are instead attempting to help the person. Helping the person is a compassionate and loving act, but it does the Soul no good at all.

Notice that throughout this entire essay, all people and all sins are considered equal and the same. No one is above anyone else and no sin is worse than any other sin. For some reason that I do not quite understand, Christians who are gay want to make themselves different than other Christians by attempting to assert that homosexuality is not a sin. And they want to go even further and require other Christians to adopt this viewpoint. I don't see Christians who lie doing this. I don't see Christians who commit adultery doing this. Notice that you can be a gay Christian, just as you can be a thief Christian or a {insert any sin here} Christian. Being Christian doesn't mean that you do not sin. It means that you recognize your sin, repent for that sin, and accept Christ interceding on your behalf. So why are gay Christians attempting to recast homosexuality as not a sin? I do not know for sure, but I do have two guesses: Acceptance and Fear.


As mentioned very early in this essay, it is a natural urge that many people have to belong to a group and to be accepted by the greater majority of people in that group. Those individuals want to be accepted by the group for who they are, not who they pretend to be. So gay Christians who do not want to admit the sin of homosexuality and do not wish to ask for help dealing with this sin must have homosexuality recast as not a sin so that they can be openly accepted without changing themselves. However, Christianity does require us to change. Christ said that no one comes before the Lord without being reborn.

One argument I've heard for why homosexuality should not be a sin is that homosexuality is not a condition or a learned behavior. Homosexuality, it is asserted, is a preference that an individual is born with. Therefore its practice, or the desire of that practice, is not a sin. Another argument stemming from this point of view is, that since it is a preference since birth and practiced between consenting adults it isn't a sin. These arguments miss a few points. Nothing in the Bible states, or infers, that a sin must be a learned or conditioned behavior. For example a kleptomaniac is powerless to keep from stealing. His stealing is neither learned nor conditioned through some form of brainwashing. But his impulse to steal is still a sin, even if he doesn't actually steal anything. And don't forget that we are all born sinners just through the act of being born, for a sin that we didn't even commit. So having a preference since birth does not mean that it isn't a sin. Also the "natural preference" and "consenting adults" arguments also apply to heterosexual acts of adultery and premarital sex, which are also sins.

Those Christians who use these arguments for the reason of acceptance are forgetting something very important. Christians are not looking to be accepted by and reconciled with each other. Christians are looking to be accepted by and reconciled through Christ with God.

Fear and the unChristians

Back when I was young there was a cola called 7up that claimed it was the Un-Cola. It made this statement in an attempt to set itself apart from other colas. There is a similar movement afoot in Christianity that I call the unChristians.

Even though there is no hierarchical layering of sin, unChristians and their churches mistakenly impose a false hierarchy onto the concept of sin. They see lying and theft at some low level and murder and rape at a much higher level and homosexuality at an even higher level still. This false hierarchy has the effect of imposing levels of superiority and guilt onto those who subscribe to this false view of sin. As such these unChristians react in very un-Christian ways toward people who commit higher sins. Instead of reacting with love and support these unChristians react with hate and even publicly attack those who admit the sin of homosexuality. (unChristians also react in a similar manner to other sins as well.) The unChristians act with self righteous behavior instead of righteous behavior.

The behavior, and even worse the teaching of, the unChristians enhances the fear of those who would want to admit their sins and ask for help. Admitting homosexual behavior or desire has met with physical attacks, protests, and even death. It's no wonder that homosexual Christians are grappling for another way.

There is also the fear of exposure or humiliation. As part of being a Christian it is common to help other Christians cope with sin and overcome their sinful behaviors and desires. Surrounding us with help is one of the ways that Christ intercedes on our behalf. In order for that help to happen there has to be an admission of the sin to other Christians. After all, they can't help if they don't know that help is needed. Homosexuality, like heterosexual adultery, is a deeply personal and private act that involves very strong emotions and desires. Homosexuality encompasses all of the same emotions as heterosexuality, including love, adoration, physical attraction, and others. Homosexuality also has the same intention, which is the personal and intimate sharing of those emotions between two people. But it also, unwarrantingly, carries with it a stigma in most societies. Even a very basic discussion of the topic, such as this essay, may invoke very strong emotions among the individuals involved. Even many gay individuals who are not Christian and therefore do not see it as sinful never allow it to be known publicly that they are gay. Heterosexuals who have homosexual fantasies or desires also keep these secret. And our society imposes upon us a strict admonition against discussing sexual topics. Add the weight of seeing their sexual behavior as a sin and it's no wonder that so many gay Christians keep their sin a secret. The fear of their sin being "known" by other Christians is close to unimaginable.

When you combine a sense of fear and the need for acceptance, it is easy to understand why there is a push to recast homosexual behavior as not being a sin. But one has to remember that the definition of sin is not up to Christians. For this reason Christian churches cannot perform homosexual "religious marriage" ceremonies nor condone homosexual behavior.

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