More and more Americans are either supporting gay marriage or believe that it is inevitable. This shift means that it is no longer enough to view gay marriage as a moral issue, but that it is time to start thinking of gay marriage as a cultural phenomenon.
The time-honored approach to thinking about culture comes from H. Richard Niebuhr’s 1951 classic Christ and Culture. This post will outline Niebuhr’s five categories and how Christians can choose to relate to this phenomenon. It is by no means a statement of my own personal opinion.
Christ Against Culture
“…affirms the sole authority of Christ over culture and resolutely rejects culture’s claims to loyalty…”
The Church actively opposes culture, and therefore, stands in opposition to gay marriage. This could mean actively preaching against it or picketing. It might also mean using the church’s position on gay marriage to actively exclude others.
Christ of Culture
“…they interpret Christ through culture, selecting from his teaching that which best harmonizes with the best in civilization…”
The Church actively embraces culture, and therefore, actively works to promote gay marriage. This could mean carrying out civil unions and gay marriage ceremonies. It might also mean actively advertising the church as “open and affirming.”
Christ above Culture
“They cannot separate the works of human culture from the grace of God…”
The Church sees culture as the outworking of God’s relationship with man. This might lead to acceptance of gay marriage is a natural outworking of God’s interaction with the world.
Christ and Culture in Paradox
“…loyalty to Christ and responsibility for culture…”
The Church holds in tension their responsibility to be a separate Christ-shaped community with their responsibility to be a blessing to the larger culture. This could mean creating opportunities for dialogue and healing between the church and the LGBTQ+ community, while better defining it’s own sexual ethic.
Christ, the Transformer of Culture
“…a hopeful view toward culture…”
The Church recognizes the goodness of human beings made in the image of God, and the legitimacy of any self-sacrificial love. This might mean abandoning picketing for opportunities to serve alongside secular organizations, no matter what their sexual politics. It could also mean promoting healthy marriages rather than focusing on politics.
Is this a fair representation of Niebuhr’s views? Which of these is most appealing to you?
(Keep it civil. Snarky and hurtful statements will be deleted.)