Should a person of strong conservative faith attend a friend’s same-sex wedding? A curious mind asked this question in a column recently published in Charisma News, and you know the answer will be complicated:
“I am a follower of God wanting to walk in His truth,” this person wrote. “I have been invited to a same-sex celebration of marriage by two, longtime Christian friends.
“I could attend because I love both of them and could celebrate their happiness, but I could not celebrate their union as a marriage. If I go I feel like a hypocrite, and if I don’t go I feel like a hypocrite. I am seeking counsel.”
If the letter-writer wants to be a good and kind person, then yes, they should probably quiet their homophobia for a few hours and just be happy for their friends. But everyone’s favorite loudmouth, Bob Russell, says the answer is a clear “no.”
I told this individual it was easy to understand his dilemma. He doesn’t want to alienate those he loves, but he doesn’t want to leave the impression he is endorsing immoral behavior. Most importantly, he doesn’t want to displease his Heavenly Father.
However, I told the letter writer this would not pose a difficult decision for me: I would not attend. He is being invited to participate in a ceremony that mocks God’s intent for marriage.
For one thing, it’s deeply troubling to me that this friendship would even exist if one party found the other so guilty of “immoral behavior,” simply for existing. I don’t know whose responsibility it is to bring this up — the Christian who plays along believing his friends are heathens, or the couple who tolerate homophobia for the sake of the friendship — but it seems like this is something that should be addressed sooner than later. Of course, the story may be entirely different when it comes to family, but in this case, I think an explanation is warranted.
I also still have trouble understanding “God’s intent for marriage.” Is it procreation? Because some different-sex couples can’t do that, or choose not to. Is it love? Because I can show you plenty of same-sex couples who have that part down pat, sometimes better than some different-sex couples. Russell writes that “Marriage was not man’s idea,” and paraphrasing the Bible, “What God joins together, man is not to separate.” But two men or two women don’t choose to love one another any more than a man and a woman do; isn’t swooping in to attack same-sex partnerships breaking that whole “man is not to separate” rule?
In Russell’s opinion, God’s word (whatever it may be) always outshines compassion for your friends. Always.
While one can rationalize, “I’m not endorsing their behavior, I’m just being a friend,” his presence says to his children and others that gay marriage is OK. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for this kind of behavior. And, Hebrews 13:8 states that Christ “is the same yesterday and today and forever.” James 1:17 teaches that God “does not change like shifting shadows” (NIV).
Imagine, for a moment, that you are this letter-writer. This is tough to wrap your head around, particularly when you put yourself in the shoes of the couple who invited you. Chances are, they know about your faith and anticipated your hesitation. They made the choice to invite you even though your beliefs clash with theirs (perhaps your religious beliefs even violate theirs, as you’d say), because they love you that much and want you to partake in their big day. Is it so hard to return that kindness? WWJD?
What about keeping your bigotry to yourself and celebrating your friends’ happiness? Not an option, Russell says.
“There’s one other factor,” I said. “Your attendance not only puts you in an uncomfortable position, but an untenable one. You will be expected to respond to favorable comments like, ‘Isn’t this exciting?’ or ‘I’m happy for them, aren’t you?’ That setting would not be an appropriate environment for you to voice your convictions.
“That’s probably why you state that you would feel like a hypocrite if you went. Unless you are prepared to create a scene or get into arguments, it doesn’t seem wise to attend. You speak more eloquently by your absence than you could by your presence.”
You read that right. By attending this wedding, you will be morally obligated — at the very least, tempted — to get on your soapbox and say that, no, you aren’t “happy for them.” At this point, we are having an entirely different conversation than what the letter-writer initially asked. To me, this comes across as, “If I go to my gay friend’s wedding, I’m inevitably going to make a scene, steal the spotlight, and tell everyone that I don’t really want to be there. Should I still go?”
If that’s how this person truly feels, I’m inclined to agree with Russell and tell them to stay home. And perhaps send a generous gift.
Here’s how Russell suggests a religious person decline an invitation to a same-sex wedding:
The same is true for all church leaders reading these words. When you talk to members fretting over alienating their friends, tell them to remember their friends’ decision to have a public ceremony has deliberately put them on the defensive. They could choose to continue their relationship without flaunting it or requesting their Christian friends’ approval. They are asking the member to violate his or her conscience.
(Flaunting it?! We’re still using those words?!)
Instead of attending, leaders can suggest the member write a note saying, “Thanks for inviting me to your ceremony. I really appreciate you thinking of me. However, as a follower of Jesus Christ I cannot endorse same-sex marriage, so I will not be attending. As your friend, I want you to know that I love you and want God’s best for you and your partner in the future. Again, thanks for thinking of me.”
I have my own suggestion as to how to make this polite decline more honest:
“Thanks for inviting me to your ceremony. I really appreciate you thinking of me. However, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have made the conscious decision to alienate and shame you and your partner in the name of my antiquated faith. As your friend, I want you to know that you deserve better than me. Should you choose to cut off communication with me because of my selfish, disrespectful, and dehumanizing actions, I will understand.”
So it turns out the answer isn’t as obvious as you’d think. If you can set your beliefs aside and revel in someone else’s loving celebration? Off you go. If you’re planning on grumbling under your breath the entire time and refusing to clap, pose for photos, or offer best wishes? Don’t you dare.
(Image via Shutterstock)