In recent days, TV news reporters have been asking hypothetical questions of pizza makers and florists about same-sex weddings.
The most celebrated of these “news stories” have come out of Walkerton, Indiana (population 2,248) and Hazlehurst, Georgia (population 4,243). Apparently, America wants to know: Would small-town businesses provide pizza or flowers for a same-sex wedding?
In both cases, the folks on camera said no, and the reaction from gay-marriage supporters was swift and furious. The pizzeria had to briefly close its doors because of threats on the Internet, and brides throughout Indiana surely panicked at the thought of a reception without pepperoni.
There are valid reasons why millions of Americans don’t want anything to do with same-sex weddings. With 42 percent of the country still disapproving of gay-marriage legality, maybe we should take a good look at the math. This means roughly 134 million people have withstood the pressure coming out of the White House, every television set, and from a long line of judicial decisions that will almost certainly soon culminate in a Supreme Court decree legalizing same-sex marriages across the country.
There’s no way to give a thorough answer to such a complex issue in a quick TV sound bite, or even in an essay of a few hundred words.
I’m a pastor and strong supporter of traditional marriage. When I had the chance, I voted to keep our state free of same-sex marriage and encouraged others to do the same. We succeeded, though it appears we will soon have a nation-wide policy legalizing gay marriage.
This will not equal nation-wide approval.
Legality and a perspective of morality do not always form a perfect marriage. For instance, the Supreme Court decreed the legality of abortion 42 years ago, but the argument over abortion’s moral status rages on, unabated.
Conservatives who don’t want the centuries-old, traditional definition of marriage to be changed aren’t anti-gay, bigots or even homophobic. The vast majority of us don’t hate anyone. We don’t carry hateful signs and we don’t ask people their sexual preference when they walk into our places of business.
But we do not approve of same-sex marriage, and we never will. If our resolve is questioned, consider the response to the ambushed pizzeria in Walkerton. In just 10 days, more than $840,000 was raised through a “gofundme” campaign to help the restaurant recover its losses.
Why won’t we jump on the gay-marriage bandwagon, even after it gains legal status across the country? Why do florists, bakers and pizza makers struggle to put into words why they would be uncomfortable attending a same-sex wedding?
Because for us, weddings and faith are intrinsically tied together.
Think about it. For people of faith, weddings are often held in a the same building where weekly worship services are held. Weddings and worship services often use the same ministers, the same kind of faith language and feature the same songs and prayers. If a person has invested a lifetime in the teachings of a faith that limits sexual activity to a one-man, one-woman marriage, even attending a same-sex wedding presents a crisis of faith. Taking part in any way can feel like a betrayal of one’s personal faith.
Not everyone feels this way, of course. There are plenty of ministers, florists, bakers and photographers who support gay marriage. There might even be a few receptive pizza makers out there.
But many of us still disagree with affirming homosexuality, and we do not always know how to say that in a loving manner. Making things even more difficult, we have often been unfairly cast in a negative light by those who have different opinions.
If we could give a message to the gay community and its supporters, it might be this. Give us the courtesy of not agreeing with you. We won’t try to force you to believe as we do, but we’ll ask you not to try and force us to believe as you do. The word that describes such a practice is “tolerance.” So show some tolerance. If someone doesn’t want to attend or participate in your same-sex wedding, let it go. Are there no other pizzerias in the neighborhood?
By the way, the Bible forbids all sexual activity outside the one-man, one-woman covenant of marriage. Inside the circle of faith, almost all of us struggle with some kind of forbidden sexual attraction. We know what the Bible says, but we struggle to live up to its standard. For a married couple, perhaps the husband has a strong attraction to pornography and his wife seems addicted to constant flirtation. For younger adults, it could be the attraction of sex before marriage. It could be something that is clearly harmful to others, including incest, child abuse, and rape. And of course, there is same-sex attraction inside the church.
We are in the circle of faith because we have found hope through God’s grace. Indeed, God loves us all just as we are. But that is only half the story. God loves us so much, He will never leave us where we were. He challenges us to live by a higher standard of morality.
Case in point? Jesus once rescued a woman caught in sexual sin. He saved her life but then told her, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) He loved her, accepted her, rescued her … and then challenged her to change. It’s an incredible snapshot of the Bible’s overarching message.
Somewhere deep inside, all of us yearn for an assurance of God’s amazing grace. But if you want it, you’ll have to come to the table on God’s terms, and not on your own. Difficult? No doubt. Like everyone else in my church, I’ve spent a lifetime struggling with this internal battle. But I’ve also lived long enough to see the benefit of doing things God’s way … and the devastating consequences of not obeying the Bible’s commands.
So no, we won’t be bringing pizza to the reception.
Andy Cook is a pastor in Warner Robins, GA.