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FIRST-PERSON: The need for pastors to address gay marriage

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Editor's note: Joseph Backholm is executive director of a pro-traditional marriage organization in Washington state, where citizens will vote on the definition of marriage in November.

LYNNWOOD, Wash. (BP) -- Pastors, I'd like to propose some hypotheticals for you.

Imagine a scenario in which the president of the United States used his bully pulpit to declare to the country that divorce was a good thing, beneficial to spouses and good for kids who would be saved from contentious households. Certainly some people feel that way.

Or, imagine if the president of the United States told the country that monogamy was unnatural and that it was not actually our urges that needed to be overcome but our petty jealousies over sexual exclusivity. I'm certain there are people who share those sentiments.

Now, imagine that he not only took these positions but he said that his conclusions were informed by his Christian faith.

What would you do? Sure, these positions seem a little crazy, and you hope your congregation understands that he's wrong. But it is the president, after all. And that fact that he said it kind of makes it an issue for everyone.

Would you correct the record?

Of course the president did not condemn monogamy or encourage people to divorce. But he did, earlier this year, tell the nation that his Christian faith helped inform his belief that marriage should be redefined to include same-sex couples.

But of course you knew that. It was the lead story everywhere for several days.

We are in the process of a moral revolution. It is not a revolution on simply the issue of homosexuality, but sexuality in general. A moral revolution requires the thing that was once condemned to be approved and the thing that was once approved to be condemned.


The culture is assaulting every man, woman and child in your church with the idea that the biblical realities about sexuality are not simply archaic but that they are themselves immoral.

What are you going to do about it?

I know the answer for many to this point has been, "nothing." While many pastors are choosing to take this on, we at the Family Policy Institute of Washington still get emails and phone calls from people who wish their church would address the single-most culturally relevant biblical issue of this generation.

But many won't because they're not "political." Meanwhile, some polls suggest that 39 percent of Protestants support same-sex marriage.

I think R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., was correct when he said, "This is not an issue that politics is irrelevant to, but this is not basically a political issue."

Of course, getting this issue wrong, as the president has done, is not the disease but a symptom of it. For a Christian, the inability to get this question right brings into serious question the ability to get anything right, biblically speaking. You can't do calculus if you don't know how to add or subtract.

Sure, we want to make sure that we are welcoming to the world around us so we can have relationships with people and ultimately lead them to Jesus. But when 39 percent of the church gets same-sex marriage wrong, you have to look around and ask, "Who is really leading whom, and to where?"

For those who are on the reservation of Christian orthodoxy, we should be able to agree that it is the job of the leadership to train the church to think biblically about everything. Once we become aware of an area in which that is clearly not happening, we should prioritize fixing that problem.


What about the decision to focus our efforts and energies on less divisive, more positive aspects of our faith? I'll defer to Martin Luther, who said:

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefields besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

Joseph Backholm is executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, online at, where this column first appeared. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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