The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney recently echoed the call of bishops around the country for Catholics to stand firm in moral opposition to same sex marriage.
Two responses predominantly captured the essence of the ensuing debate on social media: one side was passionately for marriage equality, the other, disapprovingly expressed their opposition.
Many Christians appealed to emotion as reasoning for support of same sex marriage. This appeal is reflective of the recent vote in traditionally Catholic Ireland where upwards of 60% voted in support of same sex marriage to be legalised via referendum; the voices of support came from the ranks of the clergy, all the way to the lay person.
'[The] Catholic Church needs a reality check'. These words from the Archbishop of Dublin are characteristic of many clergy who are either supportive or not against the legalisation of same sex marriage. With the exception of author Matthew Vines, most Christians who support same sex marriage generally don't proceed from a theological position, but from a position of compassion for their friends or family.
In the arena of debate, it is commonplace for both sides to translate passion into undermining the legitimacy of the opposition: 'You're not Christian, Christians are supposed to love'; 'Christians cannot judge others' or 'You're not Christian if you support gay marriage, you hate the truth'.
An important note
There is something very wrong here. Although marriage is an important issue, it's sad to see Christians easily turn on each other over differences of opinion. This is compounded by observers saying things like, 'You're more Christian than X, why can't there be more Christians like you, and less bigots like him?' Or, 'I thought Christians were supposed to be about love?' It becomes easy for both Christians and non-Christians to vilify someone who holds an unpopular opinion.
It is important for Christians to debate and work out on how to live together as part of the Body of Christ, but this doesn't need to degenerate into ad hominem tennis matches, otherwise, nothing is accomplished. We must keep in mind Ephesians chapter 4, verses 14–16:
'So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love'.
Faith, grace, and reason
Surprisingly, a good portion of the Christian population tends to either choose between faith and reason when it comes to doctrine. Only in more thoughtful practice does one find the balance of faith and reason being expressed through grace and through this, does one inherit the truth. This seems like an entirely medieval notion in a society that acts and encourages through feeling: 'if it feels good, do it. If it feels right, do it. Just do it'.
Whether we are for or against issues like marriage, abortion, prosperity teaching etc. as Christian we need to express both faith and reason through grace when presenting arguments. Balancing faith and reason is tough work—it requires an individual to thoughtfully examine their own views, strengths and weaknesses through the lens of faith before proceeding to a decision.
As Christians we are bound to uphold the central teachings of our faith through submission to the truths revealed to us through Scripture and upheld by the Body of Christ.
Despite our tendency to compartmentalise matters of faith and morals we must remember all matters are to be examined in humble prayer by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We did not inherit blind faith from the Apostles, so let's trust in the promises of Christ through prayer and reason with ourselves and others so that He may lead us into all truth by the guidance of the Holy Counsellor.
'But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you'
- John chapter 14, verse 26
Jack is studying Commerce and Arts at Macquarie University, he is part of a family of five, his hobbies include computer gaming, football, learning languages, and church history. He is currently attends Campsie Chinese Congregational Church. He sometimes also attends St Paul's Anglican at Burwood. He hopes to one day pursue a career in the Church through Classical Anglicanism.
Jack Liang's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jack-liang.html