<< Same-sex marriage: Right or wrong? -- Christian perspectives

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Zoë Beyer, 15, Marlborough School:
Why is it that homosexual couples stay together longer than heterosexual couples?

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: I didn’t say they do; I said there are examples of many homosexual couples who have been together longer than many heterosexual couples. We know that the average marriage ends in three years and two in three marriages end in divorce. I know many gay couples that have been together many, many more years than that.

Zoë Beyer, 15, Marlborough School: It’d be pretty interesting to compare the statistics from 50 years from now with gay marriages. I can’t imagine that gay marriages are going to be worse. I personally just don’t see it.

Nadine Levyfield, 13, Eagle Rock HS: I completely agree with the whole Britney Spears thing. The sanctity of marriage is going down the drain. Nobody can deny that marriage is a failing institution. That is just a fact. That so many marriages end in divorce because of the weaknesses of marriage in society currently. To me, if people love each other, then the worst thing for them is to not be able to get married. I think that people—gay people and lesbians—even if they can’t get married, they’re still going to adopt children and that’s great. That’s one less child that will grow up in a series of foster homes or getting into trouble, because they have a family that supports them, and that can’t have children biologically. I think that obviously marriage was something that was created about love. And I think the whole point of family and marriage is to love and support people, and I think gays and lesbians do that just as well as straight people. For Britney Spears—for someone to be able to get married—that’s a waste. The fact that just because people are straight they have the ability to abuse marriage. I’m not saying that all do …

Donald Caranta, 18: A guy can’t teach his little girl how to wear a prom dress, or something like that. He can’t pass down his wedding dress. Little things like that I think will suffer. A kid just misses out.

Libby Hartigan, L.A. Youth Managing Editor: So how do you feel about gay marriage? It sounds like you’re uncomfortable with the idea.

Donald Caranta, 18: I’m definitely uncomfortable with it. I’m not religious at all. I just don’t like the idea of a man and a man together. I’m still a stone-cold conservative—even I have to concede—I have to say I don’t see where the government plays a part in ruling this at all. I don’t like it, but I don’t see how it can be stopped.

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: You guys are talking about two gay people. If they really love each other, who has the right to pull them apart? But then are we really talking about love here. The Bible says that "because of this God gave them over to shameful lust. Even their women exchange natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." So we’re not even talking about love here, we’re talking about lust. (Romans 1:26-28)

George Zuo, 15, Sierra Vista HS: But if it’s lust then how can it last for so long? After you get old, then doesn’t lust die? Doesn’t everything start with lust?

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: Not necessarily. I’m not saying that what you guys said about Britney Spears was right. That’s not what God wants. That’s not what marriage is supposed to be like, you get married for 51 hours or whatever and then you marry someone else. God made marriage to last for a lifetime. It’s a union between a man and a woman and it’s supposed to be like that. Not like, oh, you can go off on a dumb marriage spree or whatever.

Ray Tenorio, 18: Love is created after lust.

Zoë Beyer, 15, Marlborough School: Just about the thing about the masculine and feminine things, those being necessary to produce a well-rounded and good kid or human being. I think that’s ridiculous. I know because one of my best guy friends, he’s 16, he’s been raised by two lesbian mothers. He’s the most sensitive, understanding great person you will ever meet. I just think that love over any other thing is the most important thing in raising a kid. Love is all you really need to raise a good kid. I would rather have the most loving gay parents ever over cold, not understanding, unloving man and woman parents.

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: Just a very quick history lesson on the Bible and marriage. Marriage has changed its definition throughout the generations. Marriage biblically was a case of property. It was about chattel. It was to protect women in society because women had no value. Women were not even as valuable as the cattle. Women did not produce anything. There was a belief back in biblical times that a man contained both the semen and the seed and when a man had sex with a woman than she became the incubator for the child. Now we know that that is not true anymore. But that was biblical understanding, that is where we had evolved in our society. So marriage back in biblical times was about property, it was about protecting women. It had nothing to do with love. It was so that women were protected in society. That’s why when a man dies, the woman was the property of his brother. So that they continued to have a man over them.

When you go to the alter and you give your vows, it’s the man figure, your father, who gives you away to another man. That’s what happens. That’s what marriage is. It’s the exchange of property because women were seen as property. I want women to hear that because next time when they’re asked if they want their fathers to give them away. The ring is a dowry. Its’ the price paid for the woman. If we’re going to get biblical about marriage, that is what marriage was about, to protect women. We have a completely different understanding of marriage today.

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: What would you say about the first marriage in biblical history? When you talk, could you give me scriptural evidence?

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: Marriage didn’t even exist in the church until 500 years ago.

Zoë Beyer, 15, Marlborough School: God didn’t create marriage.

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: No, it’s a human-made institution. If we really want to know our history, go back and do some Bible study. All we know is what we’ve been taught in our evangelical churches for the past 50 years. But marriage didn’t even exist in the church until 500 years ago. It was a civil issue. When the church found it was losing its power to the civil authorities and it was rising in its own power, then it allowed marriage to come into the church. I come from England where our churches are 500 to 600 years old. Those churches have porches right at the front entrance to the churches and that’s where marriages first began. They didn’t even want to defile the church by having marriage inside. It’s only in the last few hundred years that marriage has even been part of the church’s system. So if we look at what marriage transformed to be, marriage today is about love. It was never about love in the first place.

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: How could you say that marriage only existed 500 years ago when they talk about marriage in the Bible?

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: They talk about marriage as a civil thing. It’s not about a religious thing. It’s not a religious thing. Show me where it says that marriage is a religious thing.

Cecilia Ybarra: I feel like they’re missing each other. I think what you’re saying is that marriage existed, and it existed all through the Old Testament, including when Mary and Joseph got married. But it was all a civil thing. The law married them but churches didn’t marry them. Couples who were together—it was all set up by the law, but churches didn’t bless unions. Like when Jacob married his wife, it wasn’t like the church married them. Is that what you’re saying? Does that make sense?

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking about the marriage from the Bible.

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: But they weren’t religious institutions, which is what they’ve become. And marriage was not about love. It was about property.

Ben Ku, youth pastor, First Evangelical Church of San Gabriel Valley: The Bible presents marriage as a religious institution. The church is supposed to be representative of the bride of Christ, Christ being the bride and groom. There’s a religious image there. Jesus talks about marriage, in that that is why women would leave their father and mother and move on to their husband. It’s used in the Bible. Not necessarily because the church necessarily married people. It is civil, but it is part of an illustration of what the church looks like in the spiritual sense.

Donald Caranta, 18: Just to touch on what Zoë said, she talked about a dude that was raised by two lesbians. He may be really compassionate. He may know the lighter side of things, but I’m not sure he knows all of what masculinity can be. Like everyone knows me and John are friends. We’re guys; we have guy talk and stuff. We go in the middle of the night and go get a hot dog. I just think he misses out on things like that.

Zoë Beyer, 15, Marlborough School: He’s a football player. You would never be able to say he was raised by lesbians; he’s sort of girlie.

Zelda Roland, 18, Crossroads: When you say that you have marriage between man and woman so that a child can have both masculine and feminine influences in their life, you make an assumption that a person isn’t a complete being, and that a person relies upon another to be complete. I disagree with this. I believe that each person has both sides within themselves, and that one person can be full and doesn’t have to get married and doesn’t have to be gay and doesn’t have to be straight. And that when you say when heterosexual marriage is beneficial to a child because they get both the testosterone and estrogen in their upbringing, then you are saying that marriage makes two people a complete whole, which I don’t think it does. Love makes two people a complete whole, and when you have two people who are brought together just because one has estrogen and another has testosterone and they might have an unhealthy relationship but they are considered a better pair because, ‘Oh, I give you masculinity and I give you femininity.’ It’s also weird because you’re trying to say that if you have heterosexual parents, you’re trying to keep a balance in the child, but then you deny that a child will have a balance on their own. Even though we’ve had this institution of heterosexual marriage, we insist that the child is born without this balance, and we need two different sexes at once to get that balance. That throws me off.

I feel like people need to learn to love themselves without having to rely on all these different outside sources, and that when we deny someone their person and their right to be present within themselves and to be themselves. And when we tell them that the things that they feel most deeply inside of themselves are just a behavioral trait that they just pick up—instead of one of the most sacred parts of themselves—that you are denying their humanity and that’s cruel and sinful.

Valentina Cardenas, 16, Ramona Convent: I read an article about homosexual parents who are adopting children, and they are having more problems getting the children because they are homosexuals. But when they do, it’s proven that they lead healthy lives with their children—that they’re better parents. They’re more supportive of their children experiencing new things—they’re more accepting, they’re there more often, they make an effort. It’s been proven in these studies. I don’t think we should deny a child a family. For all we know, if they openly accepted gay marriages then people could adopt more and more children could have more homes. It’s not about if it’s a man and woman in the bedroom while their child sleeps; it’s about if the love is there, because a lesbian couple could give me just as much love as my parents have. It’s been proven that they are just as good. And their marriages do in fact last longer than a heterosexual couple’s would. So I think it should be allowed.

Stephanie Cruz, 17, Bravo Medical Magnet: My parents are married legally. They’re not married by the church. They’ve been living together for 17 years and every Sunday they go to church because they’re Catholic; they’re Irish Catholics. Even though the church doesn’t recognize them, they’re still faithful. Just because the Catholic church interpretation that if you’re divorced, you can never marry again until your ex-spouse dies—it seems wrong to deny people of that fact just because they made the wrong decisions when they were young. It just seems the same when you compare it to gay marriages. You’re denying someone the fact that they can’t join the person they love in the eyes of God because of ancient rules. I call them ancient because I think they’ve lasted for a very long time, and I think that as our society changes so should our institutions. It just seems weird that someone can have so much faith for the church that’s denying them of a presence in it. Why can’t it be the same for someone who hasn’t committed anything? I just think that if a gay couple has love for their God and love for their church, then it’s the same thing. It just seems wrong to deny someone the fact that they want to express themselves and unite in front of God. It just seems wrong.

Rachel Lizotte, 14, John Burroughs HS: I think Robin Williams said this—I’m not sure. He said "why can’t gay people get divorced too?" If they want to get married, get married. Heterosexual people—they divorce all the time. My parents are divorced. They got divorced before I was born. You have to see it from different perspectives. Not just marriage, but divorce.

Ray Tenorio, 18: Going back to that balance thing. My dad married another woman before he met my mother and had another daughter and another son. During a time where my mother and father were fighting about this dispute, I went to go live with my gay aunt and she was living with her girlfriend at the time. I lived with her for about a year. During this time my mother and father were just fighting about my father’s past marriage. My parents were so close to divorce but they didn’t, because they wanted to stay together for me and my little brother. I felt that they should have divorced. But about a couple months later my father died, so it comes to me if dad divorced would anything have ever even changed? That’s all I’m saying.

Zoë Beyer, 15, Marlborough School: When you know someone who is like this, and is constantly feeling persecuted and not really included in the rest of the citizens of the country, it sort of changes it for you. You feel for them because you know them, and you know they’re in some ways much better people than you are and they deserve this. It’s hard when you don’t really know someone; I’m not saying go out and make a gay friend. But when you can put it into perspective because you know people who are, it changes it a lot.

Julia Barajas, Narbonne HS: Religious rules don’t always work. I think that if a gay couple really love each other, if they actually make the decision they want to be stuck with this person for the rest of their life…If they say I want to wake up next to you every day for the rest of my life, after coming home from work I want to be with this person…That’s the kind of commitment they need, not, ‘Oh, am I going to sleep with you tonight?’ That has nothing to do with it. It has to do with who you want to be with.

Stephanie Cruz, 17, Bravo Medical Magnet: I just wanted to bring back up my family. The fact that yes, my father was divorced. He had me and another son with two different women. It’s kind of weird how you can take that person and consider them. He’ll be a sinner, he’ll be whatever, he’s my dad; I love him. But still in some ways the church still accepts him. People or family still accept him, not only because he’s a male but because he’s straight. He can go out and do all these things and yet he’s still seen as acceptable in society. And yet, when another man goes into a loving relationship with another man—and he’s true to that person and he does everything that’s considered correct in the relationship—and he’s still seen as a sinner and he can’t be accepted. That just brings up the whole point that how is it OK for one person to do and not OK for another.

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: It seems like most of you guys don’t agree with what we believe in, and the whole faith in God and everything. In the end it’s about you and God. You’re not fighting against me. You’re not arguing against us. It’s God. You’re struggling with God. It’s your choice but God is still the judge. And on Judgment Day, he’s still the one who decides what is right and what is wrong.

Zelda Roland, 18, Crossroads School: But what you see as a struggle with God, some see as an embrace of God. Every person for themselves. If you threaten that your God will punish …

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: I’m not threatening.

Zelda Roland, 18, Crossroads School: That’s a judgment.

Nadine Levyfield, 13, Eagle Rock HS: When I die, obviously I want to be remembered for who I love–but I don’t think that’s the most important thing I want to be remembered for. I want to be remembered for the things that I did to contribute to my community and to my society and how I helped people and whatever career I eventually choose—how that contributed to other people and helping them. So I think that obviously there’s so many arguments and so many spectrums in this whole discussion, but obviously there’s good and bad people in everything. There’s bad people in every race and in every religion, whatever their sexual orientation. But there are a lot of good people no matter what they are. I think that limiting their freedoms is just one more thing that makes us all less good.

Esther Chun, Los Angeles HS: I’m Christian too and I’ve been living 16 years of my life being a Christian. I believe in God and God created us. But God also created free will and that’s an important fact that we need to accept. If you’re Christian, you’re Christian. You have that thing where ‘oh, you have to spread Christianity and everybody has to be Christian and everybody has to go to Heaven.’ I can spend hours talking to him—"oh you have to go to church" and stuff like that. But if he doesn’t accept that, he has that choice not to accept being a Christian or not being a Christian because he has free will. What I’m trying to say is she has her opinion and I think it’s cool that she can refer everything to the Bible, but we all have different opinions; we all have different beliefs. I don’t know why you guys are here discussing this. You’re spending all of this time discussing your opinion of gays. What is that going to do to the world? Are you guys going to protest it? Like, ‘Oh we shouldn’t have gay marriages. We should have gay marriages.’ Let it be. There’s a lot of things you can’t change in the world. Killing is wrong but people still do it.

Zelda Roland, 18, Crossroads: So sit back and …?

Zoë Beyer, 15, Marlborough School: This is a part of what happens. This is mirroring every other struggle that groups have had. This happened in the exact same way as blacks in the civil rights issue. This is a stage of it; this is the debating part of it. It’s people listening to other views. I’m glad that I get to hear other people talk about it, because this is a necessary stage. It continues to mirror all these other struggles and you can’t quite see how it will eventually end. I don’t know if it will. But this is what happens. People discuss.

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: The last thing I wanted to say is God has healing. God has the power to heal. If you’re willing to come and just put all your brokenness and everything. Because I know a lot of you guys are crying; you have a lot of struggles inside with your families and everything. Cast all your cares upon Jesus and he has the power to heal. He has the power to change lives. He has the power to take away your sins. And everybody who is here—we’re all broken inside. I just want you guys to know that God is there for you.

Donald Caranta, 18: One thing that I think that everybody forgot about—that there is something that goes beyond God and Heaven. I’m a romantic so I think of love. As hard as it is for me to say it, if two people love each other they should be together. I don’t know if the union of marriage is something that is that important, but if it is important to them, I don’t see how there’s any way to stop it.

Cecilia Ybarra: It seems like we have this pro-gay marriage feeling in the room. I just want to acknowledge that according to the polls, a good number of Americans absolutely agree that gay marriage shouldn’t happen and that it’s wrong. I feel like most of the group is at least neutral or pro-gay marriage. I absolutely respect that you’re visiting and that you’ve stuck consulting your Bible the entire time: that you feel that is wrong for you to just ignore people who are walking away from Jesus, that you’ve been called to be a fisher of men.

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: Biblical understanding has changed over the generations and certainly in our own time. We don’t have to look back too far in American history to see that the church used the Bible to say that inter-racial marriage was unacceptable, and that marriage between a white person and a black person was not in God’s order. And the Bible was used to defend that argument in the same way that the Bible was used to keep black people as slaves. The Bible has been used to keep women in their place in their family. These have come from Biblical texts that have been used over generations and we’ve come to a more understanding of what scripture says over the generations. Homosexuality is maybe the hot topic today but it probably won’t be in 10, 50 years time. There will be another group because the church always has to find one group to oppress. That’s part of institutionalized religion, not necessarily about Jesus.

I think the biggest problem we have at the moment is the use of marriage and marriage has been so intertwined with religion and religiosity, certainly in our present-day language. What I would advocate again is that this is a civil rights issue. Marriage as we use it in our country wins more than a thousand benefits and rights, federally and stateside, that are not afforded to gay people who pay the same tax and do everything in society as everybody else does. All we’re talking about is the same rights for people. If that means we have to talk about civil unions instead of marriage, let’s get our language in a place where we can all talk at the same table, because as soon as you say marriage, it brings in another layer. That will mean that the straight community will have to give up marriage and we’ll all be on the same level and have civil unions. And then if our churches want to bless those civil unions, that’s up to the church.

Lastly, if we do want to take gay people out of marriage—then where will our organists be, where will our florists be, where will our wedding dresses come from, where will the ushers and all other gay people, priests and ministers. If we really want to take gay people out of marriage, then it will be a much less flowery occasion. And that has been because of the influence of gay people in marriage.

Ben Ku, youth pastor, First Evangelical Church of San Gabriel Valley: I think the bottom line message I see that has not been resolved here but has been raised here is that, is homosexuality a moral issue? As I started when we began this discussion, if it is a moral issue then it should be legislated by law, I think. I think the United States government, the legislature, the judicial system needs to be able to say that this is right and this is wrong. We’re in a society that right and wrongness is blurred. That your right is not necessarily my right. That your wrong is not necessarily my wrong. However, if there is no sense of right and wrong, then we’d live in a pretty chaotic society. There needs to be a standard of right and wrong. From a Christian standpoint, we believe that the scriptures are the authority—is the dividing line. This is what says what is right and what is wrong. That’s why we keep coming back to religion and scripture. Not because everybody has to believe in religion, but because a lot of what our morality is as a country was based on these, was based on the scriptures. Our founding fathers were primarily Christians and their sense of morality came from their understanding of the Bible. For me, when I take a look at the Bible I see that God does say that homosexuality is a sin; it is morally wrong. You guys will interpret it differently. In Leviticus 20, it says that if man has sexual relations with a man, lies with a man as he lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. The context of this is not necessarily a civil issue. It’s not because that’s kind of dirty or because it’s going to ruin society. It’s because God says you are holy to me because I am holy and I have set you apart from my own. It’s a moral issue. It talks about the character of who God is. If it’s a moral issue, then I think it is necessary for Christians, for people who talk about morality, to say this is a dividing line. I think that’s why we feel so strongly about it. I feel like a lot of times that we feel tolerance and acceptance is such a big value—that acceptance of behavior needs to be drawn a line. There are behaviors that are acceptable and there are behaviors that are not acceptable—and although people will find that offensive and people will find that judgmental, there are certain things that are acceptable and there are certain things that are not. And that is the line that is drawn in morality. I think as a concluding comment in terms of just some thoughts that I have. A lot of times we promote tolerance, tolerating people with different opinions, different viewpoints. I think that is a great thing. I think that’s a trademark of what American society is. But I feel like sometimes those who preach tolerance are intolerant to those who seem to be saying, ‘I have my opinions.’ We feel a lot of times being persecuted or attacked because we come from an opinion where we’re saying this is wrong and we can’t say this is wrong. We need to have that avenue to be able to say this is wrong and be able to stand up for that. I really appreciate Julie in being able to communicate during this whole discussion that there is a right and there is a wrong. Then even when we are wrong and we mess up. I’m not just talking about homosexuality as a sin, I’m also talking about broken this, broken families, our own personal sin, our own personal lives, about pornography. All the different issues that there is healing that God has. That’s what Jesus came to do. That’s where we need to run to whenever there’s brokenness in our society.

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: I can’t allow that to go unchallenged. Jesus came to do two things. To teach us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to learn to love our neighbor in the same way we are called to love ourselves. And loving ourselves means accepting ourselves for who we are. That was really unfair of you to use Leviticus in your closing argument because that is from the Old Testament. Leviticus is levitical—moral for the Levite priest in the temple; it has nothing to do with what we understand and what we know of society today. Leviticus also says that if you wear fabric with more than one type of thread in it, that’s an abomination. It also says that if you eat pork, it’s an abomination. It also says that if you have sex with a woman during her menstruation period, it is an abomination. Yet we do not accept those today. So why do we understand that Jesus came to fulfill the moral yet you continue to drag out one piece from Leviticus? It also says in Leviticus that the punishment for this is death. So are you going to kill me? Is that going to be your punishment to me? If we are going to go to Leviticus…It is really unfair of you to use Old Testament law that has nothing to do with Christianity today.

Ben Ku, youth pastor, First Evangelical Church of San Gabriel Valley: I think the laws that you’re pointing out come from different sections of Leviticus.

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: It’s from the holy code.

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: It’s true that some of the laws do not apply to us today.

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: But that one does?

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: Do you remember Genesis 19 where it talks about Sodom and Gomorrah? In Jude 7, in similar ways, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. So it’s still known that it’s perversion and it’s sexual immorality in the New Testament.

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: That’s not true. In Ezekiel, it says that the sin of Solomon is inhospitality. What we’re talking about in Sodom and Gomorrah is gang rape. We’re talking about people who didn’t even love these people—they were just inhospitable to them and they gang raped them.

Julie Li, 16, Mark Keppel HS: What do you have to say about what Jude says? It says right here that it’s sexual immorality.

Neil Thomas, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church in West Hollywood: It depends on what your definition of sexual immorality is. If you’re saying that homosexuality is sexual immorality, then I’m going to have to disagree with you.

Esther Chun, Los Angeles HS: If it’s not killing you, if you can still breathe in oxygen, live your life the way you’re living it.

Zelda Roland, 18, Crossroads School: I really object to people who have the opinion that if we just keep going the way we are, then it’s OK. There’s a lot of things that are wrong and there’s a lot of love that needs to be restored. There’s war going on and people hate each other. If we keep living our life the way we do, and if we don’t have this discussion and we don’t keep it open, then it’s just going to get worse. And I wanted to respond to something that Ben said, that everyone has the right to their opinion. And that’s true that everyone has a right to their opinion. I respect your opinion. The reason that you find yourself countered is that opinion is being imposed on others who don’t believe in that opinion, with the laws against gay marriage. When you impose your moral and religious opinion on others, then you cross a line. And also, I don’t think that morality is something that should be constitutionalized. Morality is totally subjective. What I think is right and what you think is wrong is totally different.

Ray Tenorio, 18: I totally agree with what you’re saying. Like I said earlier, if it doesn’t affect you, who cares. She said if the issue isn’t brought up—if no one talks about it—it’s just going to get worse. I’d rather put in my two cents than not be heard at all.