Many know that the origins of the Southern Baptist Convention are tied in with slavery and the Civil Rights movement.  The Convention has come a long way in rectifying its divisive views toward slavery and segregation, and now boasts its first black president.  However, the convention wasted no time in starting down a new path of discrimination.  The day after Rev. Fred Luter Jr. was elected, the Convention passed a resolution stating,

We deny that the effort to legalize ‘same-sex marriage’ qualifies as a civil rights issue since homosexuality does not qualify as a class meriting special protections, like race and gender.

Judgmental at heart

          At the heart of this resolution lies an assumption that homosexuality is a behavior, or more specifically, a choice.  As a choice, the Convention feels homosexuality should not be afforded the same protection under the Civil Rights Act as those who would be discriminated against based on race or sex.  We see Jesus breaking down similar judgments and preconceptions in Scripture.  In John 9, Jesus gives a blind man sight.  While doing this, the disciples want to know what sin has caused this man to be blind, for it was common belief that physical illness was the result of God’s disfavor with a person or his family.  Jesus corrects this misguided theology and teaches that this man was born blind and now God’s glory could be shown through healing.  There is no connection with anyone’s sin or conscious choice.  The blind and the leprous would be outcast from society, lower class citizens, because people associated their condition with their assumed sinfulness.  Jesus taught something different.  What if this new resolution is of similar stock as the preconceptions Jesus debunked?

 Troubles in the texts

          We have to take a look at the “proof texts” that the Convention is levying against homosexuality and understand their context and meaning relative to the cultures in which they were written.  This is a painful task, and sometimes very difficult for one with strong feelings toward the issues discussed.  For proper exegesis one must allow the text to speak for itself, illuminate itself, and interpret itself.  The less difficult method of Scripture study, eisegesis, is experienced when we bring our preconceptions into the reading of Scripture.  For example: Ben believes that eating red meat is dangerous for one’s health.  He has spent hours studying and researching and truly believes that red meat is not healthy to consume regularly.  When Ben comes across the book of Leviticus and the dietary restrictions, he brings all of his research, knowledge and preconceptions about red meat into his study.  Therefore, he might read from the text that red meat is unhealthy and to be avoided by all people strictly for health reasons.  This would be a misinterpretation of the Levitical Code, which understands that blood contains the essence of life, and contact with blood would render someone ritually unclean.  Therefore red meat should be avoided if possible.  We must be careful that we are not bringing our traditions and preconceptions to the Scripture, and that instead we are letting Scripture interpret itself in its own cultural context.  Following soon will be a brief paper I have written addressing each of the texts thought to be against homosexuality and gay marriage.  I look forward to sharing it with you.

 Parting thoughts

I would like to leave the readers with a thought.  Never once did Jesus institutionalize His teachings.  Meaning, never once did Jesus try to legislate His morality in secular law.   Never once did Jesus coerce someone in to accepting His Truth.  Regardless of our beliefs, do we honor Him by legislating morality, reducing some to second-class citizens, and ultimately ensuring our own morals are upheld on pain of retribution from a secular organization? I fear we do not.

Respectfully submitted in the Love of Christ Jesus,





  1. Beautifully written and reasoned, jl. Thank you.

  2. Hi jl,

    I’m honestly looking forward to hearing you unpack your arguments. I am, however, troubled by your (and others) characterization of the Church oppressing LGBT persons simply by affirming their preference for a traditional view of marriage that is congruent with their own sincerely held beliefs. To be fair, governments have long “discriminated” against its citizenry by affording benefits to some and not others, in an effort to support the common good. Religion, for example, is seen as a common good that enriches society. This is why churches, and other non-profit organizations are afforded certain tax benefits that other businesses do not enjoy. Furthermore, churches and other religious organizations are afforded much greater deference in regard to their hiring practices, as evidenced by the “exception clause” of the fourteenth amendment. Married couples are also afforded tax benefits that singles do not enjoy because marriage is widely viewed as an essential structure for the stabilization and continuation of a civil society. Specifically, a representative democracy may determine that it has a compelling interest to support the traditional view of a marriage between one man and one woman because it values the ideals of permanence, exclusivity, stability, and the production of children for the continuation of a civil society. This is not to say that same-sex couples have no right to live together, to be happy, to raise children, etc. Rather, it simply means that the state may not have a compelling interest to incentivize this relationship. Furthermore, it seems as if proponents of same-sex marriage are asking for something beyond civil benefits. For example, most states recognize some form of civil unions or domestic partnerships. The adoption of propositions or amendments that legalize gay marriage rarely expand these benefits, nor do they extend beyond their state of origin. It is largely a symbolic gesture that normalizes and equalizes the same-sex relationship with opposite-sex marriages. It is the broad, cultural acceptance that is sought, the symbolic validation of being equal in the eyes of your peers. Regardless of our opinion on gay marriage, we can agree that this is desire for acceptance and normalcy goes beyond a simple call for equitable civil benefits. To that end, the SBC may have rightfully discerned that gay marriage is not [primarily] a civil rights issue.

  3. Jonathan Luttrell

    Well reasoned. I would call to mind certain institutions that advance minority causes, sometimes above and beyond simply gaining equal rights. The mindset is that there is an advocate for that minority to ensure discrimination does not go unchecked. I would agree further that religious institutions have every right to hold a set of beliefs and espouse them publicly, though I would argue that it is against the spirit of Jesus’ teachings to legislate those beliefs. The SBC stands on shaky ground after having inaccurately judged the moral issues of slavery. I can only hope they have reasoned this recent resolution with more discernment than those resolutions instituting slavery and even providing biblical mandate for it.

    I honestly do not know which side of this argument I stand on, but I do know that there are very few voices of reason in the conservative camp concerning this argument. I feel that when emotions are convictions run deep as in a situation like this, it is best for both sides to listen to some well-reasoned arguments before moving forward with sweeping generalizations. I look forward to sharing some more arguments with you.

  4. I know exactly which side of this argument I stand on. As a person with many LGBT friends– and many Christian LGBT friends who actively practice their faith in service to others– I must assert that married gay couples afford the very same societal stability that straight couples do. I have friends whose partnership has far extended my husband’s and mine, which is 15 years (one gay couple just celebrated their 40th anniversary). They’ve owned a home together for decades, pay taxes, are longstanding community members who contribute actively and productively to society. The real travesty, and one that I think makes this a very clear moral and religious issue as well as a civil one, is that if one partner of one of these couples should fall ill and be dying in the ICU, the grieving partner will not be allowed into ICU to see his dying mate. That is immoral, unethical, and against the interest of both the state and the loving God I know whose compassion modeled by Christ mirrored NONE of this. Mr. Arnold, you would do well to meet these gay Christian friends of mine. Having friends like these, whose love and loyalty is a model for any caring, compassionate couple, changed any thoughts I once had about the legitimacy– in the world and in the love of Christ– of same-sex marriages.

  5. Hi Melissa,

    I would enjoy meeting your friends, I’m sure of it. I think seeing the faces on the other side of the culture war, so to speak, humanizes the issue and prompts us to pursue our own arguments with more humility, nuance, and charity. For myself, Melissa, I’m compelled to conform my beliefs to Scripture first and personal experience second (of course, I understand that there are proponents of same-sex marriage who also strive to handle the Scriptures faithfully and have arrived to a different interpretation of texts than I have). That said, hospital visitation is a concern that both proponents and opponents can likely find common ground. I understand many states allow hospital visitation, though not all. Also, I would submit to you that single individuals make valuable contributions to the continuation of stable, civil societies, including the rearing of children. Despite their contributions, the state has still determined that the complementary union of one man and one woman is the most ideal arrangement and thus has chosen to incentivize this relationship and not others.

  6. Jonathan Luttrell

    This is the most encouraging conversation that has happened on this website. Thank you jarnoldcr for approaching disagreement with grace.

    When I say I do not know where I stand on the issue, I say that from a belief that, at best, Scripture is inconclusive when speaking on the types of relationships Melissa is talking about. I also have some close friends who are in committed, homosexual relationships. They are active in church life as well as the community and as far as I can tell, deeply love and respect each other. At the same time, they claim to have a salvation experience, and walk in a deep faith with Christ Jesus. I simply do not know how to reconcile these testimonies with how we have traditionally interpreted these passages of Scripture. I look forward to sharing those thoughts in a couple of days!

  7. And herein lies the reason why church and state must remain separate.

    Religiously speaking, no church is forced to marry anyone. A church has the absolute right to refuse to celebrate the sacrament of marriage for anyone they so choose, for whatever reason they so choose.

    Speaking of the secular. however, our government (both state and federal) should not be allowed to decide who may marry because it does offer specific benefits to married couples. A heterosexual couple may choose to marry and enjoy those specific privileges that our government has reserved for married couples. No one is forcing them to marry, they have the choice to marry or not. Same sex couples, on the other hand, do NOT have that choice in the vast majority of states in our country. They are prevented from legally marrying simply because the two people share the same sex. When one group of people is prevented from enjoying rights and privileges bestowed on another due to nothing more than a characteristic – such as race, creed, color, national origin, etc… – that is textbook discrimination.

    In fact, there are some states who have already enshrined into their constitutions that they will not recognize as valid any marriage of same sex couples who got married where it was legal. Now THAT is discrimination.

    • Hi Heiuan,

      I can appreciate the spirit of your comments. We share the belief that marriage is a sacrament of the church, and that churches should be free to exercise this important religious function as they deem appropriate within the context of their own tradition. Outside the church, it seems to me that the issue is not whether or not same-sex couples can marry, but rather will the state recognize these unions and provide the same civil benefits it does to heterosexual couples. At the heart of the issue lie questions about what kind of unions promote the common welfare. This isn’t to suggest that same-sex couples are inferior…after all, as stated in my other comments, heterosexual singles and unmarried couples do not enjoy certain benefits either. Another important issue to consider is the implications that codifying same-sex marriage into federal law may have for religious freedom and liberty, also an important civil right (perhaps even more than marriage equality, since it is explicitly and unambiguously guaranteed in the constitution). Consider, for example, the court in New Mexico who ruled last month that a Christian photographer violated state anti-discrimination laws by refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding, despite her insistence that it violated both her religious liberties and right to free speech (interestingly, health care providers are not required to provide medical services that violate their conscience in the same state). The previous month, a counselor in the United Kingdom was found guilty of malpractice, resulting in the suspension of her license, for offering reparative/conversion therapy sessions to an adult client who voluntarily sought out such services. Many churches who, as you described, currently enjoy the freedom to marry whomever they wish are concerned that they may no longer have such freedoms if federal laws are enacted recognizing same-sex marriage. Other religious organizations are concerned about the implications such laws may have on their hiring practices, which directly affect their ability to effectively pursue their mission. Given the breadth of available examples of recent human rights violations regarding religious liberty, I don’t believe that proponents of traditionally marriage are unreasonably concerned about the implications of such important decisions.

      • Jonathan Luttrell


        We can all agree that individual rights are of utmost value. I would defend someone’s individual rights to my death, regardless of whether I agreed with them. The New Mexico ruling is a clear case of “we want to do what is right, but we have no idea what that is,” that, of course, coming from the state government. I have long found Hooters distasteful because of their preference for well-endowed women, (I prefer more petite women, myself) but I have always defended their right to hire whomever they wish. The New Mexico law that requires “all places of public accommodation to not discriminate…” should set off alarms of individual rights’ infringement.

        I cannot say how gay rights should be implemented in the legal realm of marriage/civil unions. I will leave that to the ones better versed in politics than I. But this is a heated issue, with strong feelings on either side. However, if we keep individual liberties as the focus, and not cater too much toward the extremists and the lobbyists on either side, then I believe we can honor everyone’s rights and preserve freedom and justice for all.

  8. Well, there really is a very simple way to ensure that we are all treated equally. It also has the benefit of angering just about everyone. 😀

    Simply do away with any and all benefits accruing from the government for being married. If there is no such benefit for being married, (and conversely – the marriage penalty in some tax situations) then no one can holler about it. However, that still leaves the question of why the government has the right to say that two people should not be married. The common good is neither hindered nor helped by legal bonds. Instead, civilization is enriched by the bonds of love and community. Love and community are gender-neutral.

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