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In my bio for boldcupofcoffee I wrote that I am a "pro-life liberal", but what does that even mean?
I’m not liberal in the truest sense of the word but I use the term because I am more liberal than most Christians that I know. I don't prescribe to the whole ideology but I do find myself shifting to the left on a number of topics.
In retrospect, the start of my slide into liberalism was probably my support for marriage equality. Since then, I have accepted some other liberal ideas and rejected some conservative ones. The process has been simultaneously both frightening and exciting because I used to believe that liberalism was bad and must be avoided at all costs.
For me, Liberalism was only one rung higher than atheism on the spirituality ladder. At least that was what conservative Christian culture has taught me.
It seems that the main issues that define both political and religious conservatism in North America today are marriage equality, abortion and Biblical inerrancy. I’ve come to embrace a nuanced view on them all.
Why I Don't Oppose Gay Marriage
I suppose that I never gave much thought to the idea of marriage equality before becoming a Christian. More than likely, I would have sided on the liberal side by default.
That changed upon becoming a Christian though, I felt that there were some views that I would have to change if I wanted to be true to my faith. After all, I had now inherited some beliefs that I ought to take seriously. Some moral values that I better stand for.
I trusted conservative Christianity to tell me what God had commanded in his inerrant book. To be honest, some of these ideas made me uncomfortable but I reluctantly accepted them only because I had met Jesus and I wanted to be faithful to his teaching. Christianity, as a whole, seemed to be pretty vocal about it so Jesus must have had a strong opinion on it, or so I thought. So, for a while, I tried to reject the notion of marriage equality for same sex couples.
Conservative Christianity will have us believe that gay marriage is an affront to God and should be repressed. Liberal Christianity wants to tell us that Gay marriage is a God approved sacrament and something that should be celebrated as a church body. While I wouldn't affirm either statement wholeheartedly, my libertarian sensibilities get the best of me and I have to admit that conservative Christians do not have a monopoly on the institution of marriage.
There is a difference between how the government legally defines marriage and what faith traditions view as marriage and they are not mutual. A Christian marriage is a covenant between two people and God that the government shouldn't have a say in. Our government should not have to issue a marriage license and they do not have to somehow approve of the marriage. This marriage is sacramental and defined by the tradition of those participating.
(Side note: I feel the church needs to get out of the business of being an agent for the government when performing marriages, but that's another story).
This is why gay marriage doesn't affect the institution of marriage as understood by some Christians; it's a different marriage (ignoring the fact that some Christians fully accept and perform same sex marriages). Our faith does not require our government to dictate the legalities of people who wish to commit to each other and enjoy the benefits of that arrangement. Likewise, if people, through a different faith tradition decide to marry we really don't have a reason to complain. The same religious liberty that we enjoy also applies to other people. We don’t live in an authoritarian theocracy.
So, I may side with conservatives that homosexuality might ‘miss the mark’ (just as my lifestyle does, which is important to remember). I would admit that much of this world isn't as God intended and I can support the liberty of individuals so long as that liberty does not infringe upon any other individual. Conservative media may tell us another story, but, the acceptance of gay marriage within our society does not, in any way, infringe upon our own religious freedoms. It only erodes our sense of entitlement and that may not be a bad thing after all.
I support the autonomy of individuals under the provision that their actions do not hurt or manipulate another person. So, while I support the rights of Christian churches to refuse to perform same sex marriages according to their tradition, I cannot support the prohibition of differing belief systems to perform the marriages that they want.
While this may not be a truly liberal idea, some may say I am well on my way down the slope into liberalism. Maybe they are right, maybe I’m okay with it.
Make sure to check out Part 2: The Bible and Part 3: Abortion
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