Casting Ourselves Before Stones | Sojourners

Casting Ourselves Before Stones

Gay Marriage, the 'Nones,' and Christian Reputation
Image via /Shutterstock

I think I am beginning to understand the frustration of how our Muslim brothers and sisters might feel when the extraordinarily undeserved label of “terrorist” is universally applied to their religion and customs. In the case of Christians, the label which which the media has long accosted us is “ignorant.”

And I must admit that the news is terribly effective in its portrayal of Christian picketers and radio hosts in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to find universally legalize gay marriage. Given this scene, I feel it is necessary for me to raise my voice against the rancor that is floundering about in social and news media, as well as the local church I have been attending in Honolulu, Hawaii.

For the media and those who have labeled all Christians as Bible-thumping conservative naysayers, I raise this charge: are you so quick to disavow the nearly 60 percent of Christians across all denominations who support legal gay marriage? If you don’t believe me, my information is coming from the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2015 American Values Atlas.

To the members of my church, and of many other Christian churches who might gawk at the figure mentioned above (before I am forced to submit my ears to another sermon about the degradation of the American society, and God’s impending wrath against this nation), I raise this charge: In the book of John, Chapter 9, did Jesus condemn the woman caught in adultery to be stoned?

As an undergraduate student at a Christian university, I realize that my degree of experience within American social trends is limited to the last two decades, so I can hardly attest to how much American society has "declined" since the "glorious America" that emerged from WWII. Any objections to tradition I might raise are unlikely to be found nailed to any cathedral door. However, my age does not disqualify my faith as a Christian, nor should my faith as a Christian disqualify my faculty of reasoning. (I am certain that the number of people reading this article markedly decreased after the start of this paragraph.) Rather, let faith and reason be judged by their own merit.

I cannot speak as one who knows the mind of God, but as a Christian I have been called to have the mind of Christ. And through careful inspection of the texts left for us, it is possible to discern what a Christ-like mind is — what a Christian mind is supposed to be. When the Pharisees brought forward the woman caught in the act of adultery and asked Jesus whether she should be stoned or not, he did not say no. According to Jewish law, she did deserve to be stoned.

Jesus’s reply, however, was “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

In effect, what Jesus implied was that the Pharisees who brought the woman to him were also deserving of death — “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

To those who are gay, or those who support gay rights and have encountered hate language and stone-throwing from Christians and the church, I am deeply sorry. And I humbly ask of you to extend us a courtesy that we did not extend to you. We surely don’t deserve it, but neither do we deserve the grace of Christ.

My point isn’t to justify the legalization of gay marriage as something that the Bible permits, or even determine if it is something that God condones. My point is that Christians were never called to throw stones, and we have no justification for doing so. But we were called to be the target of them. And here I must return my attention to the problem of the media’s portrayal of Christians.

I have come across a number of recent articles and comments that cite the recent Pew Research report concerning the growth of religious "nones" in America. Many of these articles have been framed in a way so as to suggest that the church is facing an existential crisis in membership in the coming years. This notion is ridiculous. The logical explanation for the decline in Christian adherents is due to a shift in national attitude towards checking the "Christian" box. It’s no longer the neutral option. In previous generations where the Golden Rule was a part of any public school’s ethic system, and students learned to write by copying Bible verses, one checked "Christian" because it was the standard. To check anything else was to deviate from the idea of a typical American. Now, however, as Christians increasingly facing the label of "ignorant," there is a cost associated with the title of Christian — namely, one’s credibility.

The figure that 70 percent of Americans are Christian has me highly skeptical, especially when the legislative trends arc towards increased secularism in public life. I have a difficult time believing that politicians are responding to the will of a single people group in this country, one that should theoretically have a two-thirds supermajority representation in congress. But I do believe that 70 percent of Americans claim to be Christian, and that it is precisely at this margin where Christianity is seeing a decline in number. If Christians are facing persecution for their faith in America then let us welcome it as an opportunity to testify to a faith that promotes love above all else. Perhaps then, what we lose in number we will gain in quality.