Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Moody Pastor Takes Stand on Same-Sex Marriage

Efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage might have failed in the Senate July 14, but proponents of the federal marriage amendment are far from giving up.

In fact, support for the federal marriage amendment is gaining strength in the Midwest. Tuesday, August 3, Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, thus making them the first voters in the nation to do so since Massachusetts' high court legalized gay marriage in that state. Missouri's recent decision could set a precedent for other states to likewise ban same-sex marriages in their respective states.

Now, more than ever, Christians need to know what they believe and why on this issue. And helping to stem this debate is Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, the Senior Pastor of The Moody Church of Chicago, Illinois, who has recently written The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage: Six Things You Need to Know About What's Really at Stake (Moody Publishers, July 2004) as a means of helping Christians understand the issue and uphold the biblically defined definition of marriage, which is a covenant between one man and one woman.

Along with authoring more than 20 books, including several other new releases this year, The Vanishing Power of Death (Moody Publishers), After You've Blown It: Reconnecting with God and Others (Multnomah), and The Da Vinci Deception (Tyndale House), Dr. Lutzer is an international conference speaker and featured speaker on three radio programs: The Moody Church Hour, Songs in the Night, and Running to Win.

I caught up with Dr. Lutzer by phone recently to discuss this very timely issue.

What prompted you to write this book?

DR. ERWIN LUTZER: The reason I wrote the book is because I found that the Christians I spoke to were all opposed to same-sex marriages, but they didn't know why. What they thought was this: 'Why can't we just let them live and let live and co-exist with two different understandings of marriage?'They thought that it wouldn't affect marriage throughout the nation. So I wrote the book to point out that, first of all, the implications are ominous for traditional marriages if same-sex marriages are legalized, and, secondly, that they need to understand that there are very valid arguments to oppose this so that they can talk to their friends and those who are influencing public opinion and they can give good reasons, biblical as well as sociological, why we need to oppose same-sex marriages.

What do you think the strongest argument is against same-sex marriage?

DR. LUTZER: I would say that for Christians, of course, the first, strongest argument has to do with the biblical material, which clearly condemns homosexual relationships. That, I think, for us would be number one. The second reason, though, is the implications for the family, the dominoes that would begin to fall. First of all, polygamy would be legalized. No question about it. I think that even more devastating is the impact upon our children when I think of what this means in terms of adoption laws and teaching in school that would take place. Really we are fighting this battle for our children and our grandchildren.

Now, I know that you have basically written this for the Church, but have you had any people who are homosexuals who have read this and who have talked to you about it?

DR. LUTZER: No, I don't know of any homosexual who has read it who has responded to me. I do know that I preached on this at Moody Church, and when I did, there were homosexuals who came and expressed their deep appreciation that I was taking a stand on this -- that is, homosexuals who were coming out of the movement and they agreed totally that same-sex marriages should not be legalized.

I think it is important in your book that you say you don't want to be just ranting and raving. You want to be compassionate, yet put the truth out there also. That is a hard balance for Christians these days to walk out, where we love the sinner but hate the sin. Would you comment on that?

DR. LUTZER: I think that as Christians we need to walk the delicate balance between standing in opposition to same-sex marriages and yet showing that we can do that without becoming angry or hateful. Unfortunately, we are often accused of being bigots or angry, so we need to make sure that this is done in a loving spirit. But at times I am asked, 'Wouldn't the most loving thing be for you to affirm same-sex marriages?' And I say, 'No.' The most loving thing is to stand against same-sex marriages, not just for the benefit of society and our grandchildren, but also for the benefit of homosexuals because if we affirm same-sex marriages, it only gives them one more reason to affirm a lifestyle that God condemns and a lifestyle that is destructive to them.

We have heard this before many times, and I have even heard it: 'But we love each other, and we aren't hurting anybody.' How do you respond to people who say that?

DR. LUTZER: If they love each other and are not hurting anybody and living together, that is one thing. We don't approve of that, obviously. But if same-sex marriage becomes institutionalized, then the implications, as I have mentioned, those dominoes all begin to fall, including the lack of freedom of religion. Up until now the Church has had a little niche in which it could exercise freedom of religion, but when same-sex marriages become legalized, churches that do not perform such marriages can certainly expect lawsuits because the argument will be that the church is denying people their constitutional rights. 'Hate speech' also is legislation that is going to silence the Church on the issue of freedom of religion.

Yeah, it is so Orwellian, isn't it? You also make a distinction between the radical gay agenda and homosexuals as a community. Why do you think that distinction is important, especially when we are talking about this issue as Christians?

DR. LUTZER: The reason it is important to distinguish between many homosexuals who come into our churches versus the radical agenda is because we must keep in mind that we do have those who are a part of the homosexual movement who come and who worship with us. For us to simply condemn them or to lump all homosexuals into the same category is to really do them a disservice. What we need to do is to be able to deal redemptively with those who come into our churches who are looking for hope and deliverance. We deal with them redemptively, and at the same time, we have to oppose the agenda of the radicals. We must make that distinction, particularly as pastors.

Otherwise, people aren't going to listen to you.

DR. LUTZER: Right.

The Bible talks about the sin of homosexuality not being any greater than any other sin. In fact, there are other sexual sins that the heterosexual community should be confessing to that aren't any worse. I think sometimes we forget that.

DR. LUTZER: That is why I stress in my book that the Church itself, the believing Church, has to come to repentance because we have, I think, at times unfairly classified homosexuality as this special sin and we have been much more tolerant of our own sins. So we have to begin cleaning up our own act before we can say too much to the homosexual community.

Do you think that we as a Church are partly guilty for a lot of the moral decay that we see today?

DR. LUTZER: I believe that the Church is certainly partially guilty for the moral decay that we see today, and I say that because all surveys would indicate that in terms of behavior, there is not a great deal of difference between the world and the Church. For example, when we are so tolerant of divorce, homosexuality grows best in the soil of ruptured relationships. Children who are brought up with one parent or another parent or shared parenthood, when there has been a divorce and hatred within families, it breeds a tremendous amount of instability in the life of a child. And many of these children end up in the homosexual movement. Even if they don't, they take so much baggage into their marriages, that they are unable sometimes, at least theoretically unable, to stand against all of the cultural forces that would disrupt them and their families.

You talk about some of the leading arguments for same-sex marriage. Can you talk briefly about some of those?

DR. LUTZER: Generally, the arguments for same-sex marriage go along these lines: 'I have a civil right.' What the homosexual movement wants to do is to hitch their agenda to the civil rights movement, but I point out that this is illegitimate for a number of reasons. Number one, no black person has ever left his black-ness or changed his black-ness, but plenty of people have come out of the homosexual movement. What we need to do is distinguish between race and behavior. People do not have a constitutional right to be married any more than we could say that someone has a constitutional right to a driver's license. You either meet the requirements or you don't. In the case of marriage, homosexuals do not meet the requirements of marriage.

Then there are the homosexuals who say, 'I am born this way. There is a "gay gene".' What do you say to that?

DR. LUTZER: We must distinguish between genes that cause physical characteristics, like the color of your eyes or hair, over which you have no control, and what we could call 'behavioral dispositions'. We are responsible for our behavior, no matter what those dispositions are. In the book I talk about meeting a kleptomaniac who stole everything. He even stole when he knew he would be caught. He told me,' This has been a part of me since I was a little boy. This is in my genes.' What if we have a kleptomaniac gene or a pedophile gene? Would we say to the pedophile, 'You need to act out your particular form of sexual orientation because that is the way you were born'? No, we hold people responsible regardless of behavioral dispositions. Scripturally, we would say that all of us are born with a genetic code that causes us to sin, so we have dispositions toward being sinful no matter which those are.

Some who have gotten confused say that they are Christians but they are also practicing homosexuals. How do you bridge the gap in that argument?

DR. LUTZER: To those who say that they are Christian and gay, what we must keep in mind is that absent in that kind of lifestyle is a call to holiness, a call to celibacy and integrity. Obviously, it is a capitulation toward one's desires and the sexual sins that the Bible so strongly condemns.

You wrote this book, too, so that Christians would not only know the arguments against same-sex marriage, but would be able to do something about it, even in the political arena. What do you hope to see happen?

DR. LUTZER: The Senate recently wimped out on even bringing a vote on this matter to the floor, and one of the senators said very correctly that unless there is a groundswell of support for a marriage amendment here in America, there is no possibility that it will go anywhere. I think what we need to do is educate Christians, help them to see the importance of what is at stake, encourage them to become involved politically, letting their representatives and their senators and their congressmen know what they think. We need to let the people know that we are not going to stand by and simply accept this. There has to be opposition. In addition to that, what I would like to see is Christians talking casually with their workers and coworkers and helping them to see why this [same-sex marriage] is destructive. Let's keep in mind that there are many people out there who in no way would classify themselves as Christian who nevertheless stand with us on this issue. We need a broad-based coalition that is way beyond the bounds of Christianity to be able to help people to understand that there is a groundswell of support for the marriage amendment and for opposition to same-sex marriages.

On the secular media, we see so much being promoted for same-sex marriage that we can get the idea that homosexuals are the majority or starting to become the majority.

DR. LUTZER: Two percent of the population is gay, but there are many more people than that who would believe in gay marriage. Still, the statistics would indicate that the majority of Americans are opposed to it.

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