When I opened up Facebook on Tuesday my newsfeed was saturated with little red squares with equal signs on them.

A little later it was filled with little red squares with equal signs and new little red squares with crosses on them.

A little bit after that my newsfeed was filled with little red squares with equal signs, little red squares with crosses, and so many other variations of red squares and symbols that I couldn’t track.

I’m guessing your newsfeed looked pretty similar.

To be really honest I found it all to be incredibly frustrating.

Not because of my position on gay marriage, after all it didn’t matter what your position was on Tuesday there were plenty of little red memes to get under your skin regardless of what your personal beliefs might be.

No, what really frustrated me was the fact that as a church we’re so willing to invest this sort of time, energy, and emotion to argue over our sexuality, but get conspicuously silent about the countless children who will go to bed hungry, the homeless men and women who will die from exposure on the street tonight, or the thousands of people who won’t find the healing they need because they can’t afford health insurance.

Of course there are important issues at play in the gay marriage debate. I’m not saying there aren’t. And there are very real people affected by the outcome of this debate. Some of them are my friends and I hope they find the justice, peace, and resolution they deserve.

What bothers me is the fact that Christian fury can erupt almost instantaneously on the internet when the issue being debated involves sex, but the poor, the sick, and the marginalized? We can’t even be bothered to change our Facebook profile picture for them. Worse yet, whatever energy we as a church do muster for those causes is often expended campaigning against measures and laws that would help the very groups Jesus seemed to care about the most.

We’ll spend all day screaming at each other on Facebook about who should be able to sleep with who and who should be allowed to get married, but when’s the last time you saw such palpable anger over poverty, malnutrition, disease, or homelessness? As quick as we are to call on the Bible to make our case for and against gay marriage, we’re just as quick to ignore it when it calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison.

It seems strange that a people who call themselves Christians would spend so much time fighting about issues Jesus rarely if ever even talked about, and yet will all but ignore the people and situations where he spent most of his time.

Perhaps “Christians” isn’t the name we should be calling ourselves. Americans, Republicans, Democrats, Independents – those names seem to fit better. They’re not as tied down by a particular way of life as claiming to be Christ-like.

But “Christian”? There’s just too much baggage that comes with that name that we don’t seem willing to carry. Too much having to love people you don’t want to love. Too much having to care for people that don’t deserve it or haven’t worked hard enough to earn it. Too much sacrifice and commitment to make when you could just click a mouse or cast a ballot.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the gay marriage debate isn’t an important conversation to have.

It is.

But we need to be as obsessed with fighting things like poverty, malnutrition, homelessness, and disease as we are with sexuality. No, we need to be even more obsessed than that. We need to be so obsessed that we begin to have a hard time seeing where this world ends and the kingdom of God begins.

Only then will we have any right to claim the name of the One who spent his life blessing the poor, healing the sick, and liberating the oppressed.

 

Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

 

48 comments

  1. Lori

    Thank you! You took the words right out of my mouth but said it so much better. Thankfully I’ve heard this same sentiment from a few others and I do believe that there are a lot of us out there that feel this way! Great post!

    Reply
    • Steve

      Im an atheist, I also dont really care about the issue. Like Zach, im rather frustrated by hoe passionate people are about this debate. My questions to both sides would be why do gay people want to get married so badly and why should two people who are incapable of reproducing recieve taxation benefits for being married?

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      • Shane

        Procreation is not a prerequisite for marriage. Also tax incentives for children are categorically different. Gays don’t just want to marry, they want equal treatment as stated in our amendments.

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  2. Why are you separating the people who cannot be married in this country from the poor and the marginalized? LGBT people (especially LGBT people of color) are victims of poverty, violence, and homelessness at higher rates than their straight counterparts. We cannot separate the right for LGB and applicable trans* couples to marry (which would be a huge step in affirming their humanity) from the fight against poverty and other injustices.

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    • Sarah, I understand what you are saying, and I’m not saying Christians should not be passionate about this issue. I am not saying Christians should raise awareness and show support to gays.

      But I totally get what Zach is saying. My friend posted a picture for a fundraiser on FB a couple weeks ago — for the refugee tribal minority kids in Burma. These kids have seen their parents murdered, rapped, and eyes get stabbed out. (I know these kids personally. Its true.) They’ve had their villages burned (one was burned just this week), have survived fires, been beat against walls. Some have been forced to walk in front of their armies because the soldiers can’t remember where the landmines are, and so employee the hill tribes as their slaves. Nobody was interested in giving to the kids. Compare this to a gay fundraiser, and everyone jumps on board.

      Quite frankly, it makes me weep.

      I also think as long as we stick with American issues, we can never help the word heal. We need both. We need to help the world, and we need to help ourselves.

      I do think more and more Christians are getting passionate about Child Slavery, though.

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      • Laura

        But why do we need to compare one cause to another at all? This issue is having its ‘moment’ not on a whim, but because the Supreme court has the ability to wipe out much of the inequality just by changing a few laws. If only other issues like child slavery were so easily helped!

        I also think that because so many people have personal relationships with gay and lesbians, whether it is friends or family or just work acquaintances, people tend to respond to issues that matter to the people they love. Just as those with children who have cancer or autism work to bring those issues to light, many people have their gay and lesbian friends on their minds every day. There is nothing wrong with speaking on one cause over another, everyone does it. We each have our struggles and the Holy Spirit will put different causes in front of us at different times. I think the Spirit is at work here in our country at this moment! I am excited to see so many people talking about it!

        I hope that other just as important causes get the same treatment – but by raising them up to this standard, not by bringing down the way we are talking about and treating this cause.

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        • yea, I agree that’s why people are so passionate about this at this time. I think that’s good. But when you take the entire Christian church as a whole, then I think the church should be putting a lot more efforts to speak up for those who have no voice in other countries too.

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      • tracker

        Can you link to said fundraiser? Maybe people here would be willing to give.

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        • http://www.gofundme.com/24qnp4

          Just to be clear, there are a lot of other great fundraisers out there, but internationally and locally. I’m not putting one above the other.

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      • Child slavery and sex trafficking of children IS an American issue though. It is also a “gay” issue since sex trafficking of children happens mainly in places where poverty is prevalent (like Detroit). There are over 800 homeless LGBT in Detroit, and homeless youth are especially susceptible to being forced to work on the streets or introduced to drugs (another factor in sex trafficking). The problem is this idea that poverty has nothing to do with sexuality or that there are “gay” issues but also poverty issues. No, oppressions are connected.

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        • Of course, poverty is connected to sexuality. That’s a no brainer. I think we should be standing up for gay kids and exploited kids and racism and sexism and [insert whatever you want], but I don’t think we need to be standing up for it more than we do for the voiceless in other countries. There needs to be balance, and if there’s not, then we’re too narrow focused. That’s all, really.

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        • I appreciate your comment. The enemy here is oppression and the view of ‘them versus us’. Didn’t He say we were to be done with all that? Sad. All of it, is just so sad.

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  3. Martha

    I agree. I know people who will argue this to the hilt. About how same sex marriage is a horrible sin. These people I know, are the same people having sex with women who are not their wives, while they are still married and their wife is at home taking care of their three children. Children with special needs needing special care and more than one person to manage it all and not even worried about how his own children are being fed. It is a sad a broken world. I hope to focus on what matters to Jesus. AND I definitely don’t want my facebook to be a politcal message. I just simply choose to not post things like that.

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  4. Yes! Thank you for this post. It’s not that I think the issue is unimportant. I do. And I think it’s one that Christians are going to have to “agree to disagree” about, and then get busy living out our faith in an aching world.

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  5. THANK YOU for that. You eloquently described the exact frustrations that boil up in me during times like this. Amen.

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  6. “But we need to be as obsessed with fighting things like poverty, malnutrition, homelessness, and disease as we are with sexuality. No, we need to be even more obsessed than that. We need to be so obsessed that we begin to have a hard time seeing where this world ends and the kingdom of God begins.

    Only then will we have any right to claim the name of the One who spent his life blessing the poor, healing the sick, and liberating the oppressed.”

    Thank you. So much.

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    • Brenna what you said is right on. Gave me chills. “Claim the name of the ONE”. Amen.

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  7. Laura

    The gay friends and family I know are the marginalized, the oppressed. Even the poor and hungry are openly invited to come to church, they are not. There is physical poverty and spiritual poverty. I will speak openly for the them proudly with the lable “Christian” because every time I do, I get private responses saying ‘thank you, I need to know that people feel the way you do. Because all I hear from Christians is condemnation.’ And so this week , Holy Week, when the supremem court is arguing I will speak for the marginalized in the name of Christianity.

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  8. I really appreciate this post, Zack. That has been a huge part of my frustration with it, too, that Christians pour so much energy into something that Jesus never directly addressed when He was so clear on so many other things He called us to.

    But there are a couple of parts to this post that I think you overlooked. First, Sarah and Laura make a great point that the LGBT community ARE marginalized, and that’s why they’re passionate about it. Second, the very title of your column, “Church & State” hints at something that is also an issue in this debate, that Christians are relying on DOMA to legislate their religious ideology of marriage onto a whole nation, which is a) unconstitutional and b) not at all the example Jesus set.

    Maybe you were trying to avoid getting into the logistics of the gay marriage debate with your article and what’s wrong with it, but without addressing this aspect of the debate, I don’t feel like you’re getting to the heart of “the politics of faith” like your column claims.

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    • Laura

      Yes, Bethany! I can and do also work and care for immigrants, the hungry, the poor. The difference is my church openly supports and funds the work we do with those groups, and no one attacks me for being unChristian when I speak out for the poor. Defending our gay brothers and sisters is especially weary work, because I don’t feel the support of church behind me. There is some support, but it is whispered in secret (still appreciated!) for fear of retaliation or lost jobs. I know gay friends who have been very moved by the simple showing of an equal sign because they don’t often get public support from people who call themselves Christians.

      I don’t speak out to condemn people on the ‘other side’ I respect that there are different Biblical interpretations on this and that is ok! I speak up not for a political fight, but to encourage my gay and lesbian friends who don’t often hear about Jesus’love from church. They are hearing that church hates them and that is oppression – whether or not people intend it, that is what they are hearing! And it grieves me.

      So yes, I think this message is as important as fighting for the hungry and homeless and I will cheer when we change our Facebook statuses for them too, but honestly, I better serve the hungry by working in our church food program. Right now I serve my gay brothers and sisters by just letting them know I love them, because that is what they are asking me for.

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  9. i find this puzzling. marriage equality and lgbt rights are about justice and neighbor love. treating them as sub-”issues” is a luxury afforded straight/cis people who don’t have to care, but is that really the better way?

    oppressions are linked. poverty, abuse of power, inequality, racism, materialism, violence…these are all manifestations of social sin, and the cross and resurrection speak to all of them. we can care about, stick up for, and work alongside all of “the least of these” without ranking them in a game of oppression olympics.

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    • Thank you for putting into words what I was trying to grasp for, Suzannah! Something about the original article seemed to miss the point for me, and what you said is exactly it.

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  10. Sarah

    Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for putting what I’ve been feeling into words.

    Reply
  11. Well, this is a firestorm, for sure.

    It seems like we’re trying to address two distinctly different issues here, as far as the comments go.

    1) The argument has been made that there are homosexuals who are the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.

    I’m sure this is true. But it’s equally true that there are homosexuals that are not poor, marginalized, or oppressed. I’ve met them. And when/if the Church does a better job of reaching out to ALL poor, marginalized, and oppressed, then the homeless who happen to be gay will be reached along with the homeless who are straight. While I agree these issues may be related, I don’t think they are that interconnected.

    2) That while the poor and such are invited to church(es) and shown the love of Christ, the gay community is not.

    The problem here is fear, anger, and frustration. And the Church is handling it poorly, overall. The message of the gospel to ALL of us is “Jesus loves you. Repent of sin and follow Him.” That means we lay down who we are right now and we focus on becoming more like Him. The heterosexual falls on the grace of God to stop sleeping around, and even to control his/her own thoughts about the opposite gender when it comes to lust. The liar falls on the grace of God to stop lying. And, yes, the homosexual falls on the grace of God to change too. I’ve had friends of mine walk down this path, and God’s grace is sufficient.
    Everyone, and I mean everyone, should have this set before them. Where the Church isn’t doing that, it’s failing in its mission. However, there is a difference between a gay person who is TRYING to overcome this sin, and one who is blatantly unrepentant. Just as there is a difference between a straight person TRYING to overcome lust and one who is blatantly unrepentant. Love is NOT the same thing as tolerance of sin – any sin.

    However, I do agree that the Church needs to do a much better job showing the love of Christ to the gay community as well as the poor and the homeless, for the purpose of calling them to live like Christ. My heart has literally broken at some of the responses I’ve seen from Christians on this issue, and I honestly pray this doesn’t come across as cold or unloving.

    Soli Deo Gloria

    Reply
    • The problem is, if we just say “Hey, let’s just advocate for ALL the poor,” we dehumanize the poor. We act like theyre a monolithic group that have the same needs and whose poverty can be solved using the same solutions. People in poverty are human beings. Some of them want and need marriage rights. Some of them want and need to be recognized as fully human by the state government. There is no “the poor.” There are different people who are in poverty for different reasons and who need different forms of assistance.

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  12. Sarah

    This article is jam-packed full of logical fallacies. Very poorly written.

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  13. jim

    the whole, “rarely ever talked about” stance is pretty weak. Good luck trying to count how many times he talked about HIV.

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  14. So well said. It seems there are sinners and then there are SINNERS. In Jesus’ time these were tax collectors. I always love that they are separated. They were a step worse than “normal sinners”. The vindictive accusation spewed at Jesus by the religious was he eats and parties with tax collectors and sinners. Oh that the accusation were thrown at us in our day with our “specially tagged sinners”, and that the record on us would read: “He/She went around doing good”.

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  15. “It seems strange that a people who call themselves Christians would spend so much time fighting about issues Jesus rarely if ever even talked about…” Jesus probably didn’t talk about Gay-Equality because in the current Roman culture homosexuality was accepted and freely practiced.

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  16. JEremy

    Your ignorance is rather laughable. I know TONS thousands of Christians who give so much of their lives to those in need. Not only that, I don’t remember Jesus talking about Aids, or helping Strippers get on their feet with a healthy career, or helping people get out abusive polygamist families. So should they not be doing those things either???? Your points are logically incongruent with one another. Maybe you need to stop being a part of sucky churches or maybe it bugs you so much because you don’t do much yourself???? Either way people are entitled to their oppinions, and when intense issues are constantly shoved down our throats people are going to respond, so get over it. Your issue lacks substance to your critique of the Church.

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    • Brooke

      Amen Jeremy!! I whole heartedly agree with you!! I, too, know many Christians who passionately advocate for all the things this author says Christians should focus more on. There are so many of us out there that love on people and it never hurts. When something as intense as this kind of issue hits the news and this nation, we have every right to speak up and respond. Too many Christians want to silence this part of our voice, but that is all part of Satan’s plan. He wants us shut up and roll over to play dead. I personally believe that Christians should be passionate about all important issues, INCLUDING sexuality. Sadly there is too much hate on both sides. If society would have stayed with the natural way God designed marriage, between a man and a woman…no one would feel oppressed and need “equal rights”. Marriage was God’s first institution and I will continue to fight for it. We all have a voice and should use it respectfully and truthfully. There is nothing wrong with Christians standing up and speaking out about sexuality.

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  17. Cassie

    I see the point you are making, but lately I have been feeling frustrated with the ‘christian’ bashing going on by writers. There are so many Christians I know personally that work hard, volunteer, and give resources in all these areas you addressed. Maybe they don’t put it out for all of Facebook to read, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t as committed to the cause of others just because you do not see it on Facebook. Many of the people I know that do the type of work you addressed don’t have time for social media nor have a desire for it. I would love to see more love and grace extended to our brothers and sisters in the faith who are really trying to extend the love of God but are human and won’t do it exactly the way someone else thinks it should be done.
    Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion I know it takes courage to put your thoughts and feelings out for all the world to see, read, and comment on.

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  18. But “Christian”? There’s just too much baggage that comes with that name that we don’t seem willing to carry. Too much having to love people you don’t want to love. Too much having to care for people that don’t deserve it or haven’t worked hard enough to earn it. Too much sacrifice and commitment to make when you could just click a mouse or cast a ballot.

    Wow

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  19. Ed

    I have been talking this week about the posts being written by the profs in the gender studies department at my wife’s graduate school, and it’s interesting that many of them sound quite a bit like Zack’s argument here. They would look at this issue through the lens of class. We are obviously dealing with generalities, but we are willing to get up in arms when a person from a higher class is denied rights but the overall outcry is less intense when the rights of someone from a lower class is denied rights. That isn’t to say that there aren’t advocates for the poor or that LGBT folks can’t be poor. Rather that the volume is linked more to class than to the intensity of a need such as poverty. I don’t know what to make of all of this, but I at least find it convicting to think that I’m more detached from the issues that impact people who are economically “below” me. No comfortable or easy answers here.

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  20. The notion that Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality so it can’t be a big deal is fallacious on many levels. Arguing from silence is a logical fallacy, Jesus is God and part of the Trinity that inspired all scripture, He supported the Old Testament law to the last letter, the “red letters” weren’t silent on these topics in the sense that they reiterated what marriage and murder were, He emphasized many other important issues that these liberal theologians completely ignore (Hell, his divinity, his exclusivity, etc.), He was equally “silent” on issues that these folks treat as having the utmost importance (capital punishment, war, welfare, universal health care, etc.), He didn’t specifically mention child abuse and other obvious sins though that wouldn’t justify them, and abortion and homosexual behavior simply weren’t hot topics for 1st century Jews. And Jesus never said anything about the “sin” of criticizing homosexual behavior, so it must be OK!

    More importantly, the Bible-believers didn’t bring this up. It is being shoved in our face in a not-so-transparent attempt to curtail religious freedom. That’s a big deal.

    And if you really love gays, you’ll tell them the truth.

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  21. These arguments also assume that you have access to everyone’s calendars and checkbooks. It is possible to address this issue — just like you did! — and still accomplish other things for the kingdom.

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  22. J. Dillo

    Perhaps the reason so few gays and lesbians are invited to churches is because God created marriage (between one man and one woman) as a picture of His Church, and homosexuality is in direct opposition to that. Would someone who is so opposed to God’s picture of His Church really even want to attend a church?

    I have family that are homosexual, and they’re not the poor, marginalized people that others have met. They’ve been invited to church before, but they hate God and anything to do with God.

    As far as Jesus not mentioning homosexuality, He also didn’t mention computer pornography (in fact, He didn’t mention any kind of sin done through technology) – so should we just ignore that, and accept it as “okay”? Where does homosexuality lead? Maybe we as Christians should be spreading the truth of what sin does to people – and not just the sin of homosexuality, but every sin.

    Also, just because a topic causes you frustration as an individual doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say or do anything about, that you should just ignore it. Jesus dealt with things that were frustrating, but not by ignoring them. Perhaps the very fact that a topic has been brought up is God’s way of telling American Christians that it’s time to stand up and have convictions about these “hard” topics. Loving people are honest people. Is homosexuality really good for our country? For any country? If we really care so much for all these people in all these countries, maybe we should start telling the truth.

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  23. I’m a gay Christian, and I just want to say – thank you. It is one of the things that frustrates me the most about this debate, as well. We as a church are not doing our job, and we’re letting ourselves be distracted by…I don’t know, some kind of sordid thrill over this issue, but there are so many things that are just falling by the wayside because we can’t muster up the moral outrage to deal with them. Where’s the outcry and tangible help for the countless children living below poverty level in the United States?

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  24. Kevin

    Fortunately, there will always be Christians that can see through these one-sided blogs, purporting to tell them the things about which they should or shouldn’t be most concerned. Blessing the poor, healing the sick, liberating the oppressed. Jesus did those things (although you have left out exactly how Jesus “liberated the oppressed”….which He did primarily in a spiritual sense). Christians probably are the most concerned and involved with all of these things on a world-wide basis. Or, perhaps you can provide a list of atheist or secular-based organizations that are more involved in feeding the hungry, taking care of orphans, widows & the poor etc. Maybe not so much. Also left out of this piece is the fact that Jesus was also intolerant of false teaching, hypocrisy and that he forcibly cleansed the temple of the moneychangers after fashioning a whip to help Him do so. He continually pronounced curse upon those that led people astray in the name of teaching God’s truth. His forgiveness of sins also included an admonishment to “sin no more”. Also left out of your list of “things of concern” is the horrific destruction of an entire generation of human beings through abortion. But, this is not surprising given that the blog is mostly about selectively chosen, progressive social issues as opposed to the Gospel message and reason for Christ’s birth.

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  25. Vickie

    What really frustrates ME about articles like this is that this guy has no idea what Christians do to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and visit the prisoners. What would the world be like if for, just one day, Christians didn’t do those things? Since the time of Christ, billions of Christians have sacrificed their lives, their potential earnings, and their entire beings to help the world be a better place, all in the name of doing what Christ did. Mr. Hunt, I’d like to see your checkbook and your calendar and see just what you are doing along those lines. To say the “church” is lacking in those areas is totally irresponsible and untrue. What are the equal rights groups doing besides gathering coffers of money to fight a single-focused agenda? Do any of them feed the poor, clothe the poor, or visit the prisoners? I’m sick and tired of Christians being labeled as being closeminded and intolerate. I don’t know what the ultimate answer is to the equal rights debate, but I do know what our responsibilities are during our time on earth, and many of us are trying in our own small ways to do what He called us to do. So lay off of us – we are doing what we can. Maybe you ought to do the same.

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  26. Lindsey

    What about the genocide of abortion? Why can’t Facebook blow up with this? Just saying…it was sad to me that a persons sexual orientation seems to matter more to people these days than the daily slaughter of innocent children. Not that I want to get into that debate (though I don’t even see how it is a debate), but gay marriage seems so minuscule compared to this and many other issues when it only matters to less than 10% of the population.

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    • Jeremy

      I know gay marriage seems minuscule to other issues. It did to me at first. We, as the billions that are a part of the Church, are a very complexly-woven tapestry of passions and purposes. We are called to be disciples of Jesus, and Jesus addressed what was directly in front of Him. For some people, what’s directly in front of them is this gay rights issue, and we need them to pour into that issue, while others are to pour into abortion, or whatever injustice is at hand.

      To me, it is not in the nature of God to just ignore the 10% that are truly effected by this hot button issue. If every person took abortion as the most serious issue, and say we eradicate abortions forever, would you then consider the issue of sin to be solved? No. You may rest content, but there is still work to be done. We cannot solve it alone. We all have our roles to play in this life, and, sadly, some people are not bringing their lives under the reign of Christ in order to fulfill the role He has for them. But, If someone honestly believes they are lead by the Lord to fight for *enter an injustice,* than we ought to celebrate that great conviction with encouragement and praise, not compare them to another issue and say, “you should be focusing on this!” As we look to God, He will direct us, because He is living and promised He would guide us. We have to be willing to be led by Him, and believe He will move. That faith is what moves mountains and makes us the conduit of Christ on this earth.

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  27. Lindsey

    Also, since the public media like twitter and Facebook seem to not be going anywhere, I feel like Christians need to not wait for the other side to post red boxes with pink squares to stand up for what they believe but to do as Jesus did. Stand up, be bold and unashamed and let everyone and anyone know what we stand for. We were called to be courageous, to speak the truth, not to condemn or judge but to stand up for what He stood up for. Jesus didn’t condemn but He also told you to “go, and sin no more.” We need to do this, more so these days than ever before, when others are so loud and unashamed about their beliefs, why are we so silent?

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  28. Even though I am a Freethinking Humanist Zack, I do indeed wish most “Christian followers” would follow what the New Testament teaches, both explicitly and implicitly. From that point-of-view your article is intuitive & well-worth applying. Sadly, it is a fairy-tale Utopia I’m afraid… as the last 2, 3, and 4,000 years of ‘scriptural obedience’ have demonstrated.

    Best wishes.

    Reply

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