Could shifting on same-sex marriage relate in some way to also shifting on adultery, divorce and other sexuality issues?
There are some Christians who, for understandable though mistaken reasons, believe that their fellow Christians should support or at least not oppose same-sex marriage.
Implicit in this position is the belief that supporting same-sex marriage is a position that can be held in isolation—that what you believe about the definition of marriage is unrelated to other issues regarding marriage and human sexuality.
Well, according to sociologist Mark Regnerus, that simply is not the case.
In a recent article at “The Public Discourse” Regnerus asked the question, “What is the sexual and relational morality of Christians who accept the moral legitimacy of same-sex marriages?”
To answer that question, he looked at data from a recent survey of nearly 16,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 60 entitled “relationships in America.” People responded to statements about viewing pornography, cohabitation, casual sex, divorce, adultery, polyamory, and abortion.
Regnerus compared the responses of five groups: churchgoing Christians who oppose same-sex marriage, churchgoing Christians who support it, the general population, and both gay and lesbian Christians and non-Christians.
What he found was eye-opening. A significant percentage of churchgoing Christians who supported same-sex marriage either agreed or strongly agreed with statements that approved of things like using pornography, cohabitation, casual sex, and abortion rights.
Even in areas such as adultery and polyamory, they were between six and thirteen times more likely to agree or strongly agree with statements that approved of the practices. As Regnerus put it, “Churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage look very much like the country as a whole.”
Now to be clear, Regnerus isn’t saying that supporting same-sex marriage leads a person to shift in these other areas of sexual morality. In his words, it’s “More likely [that] the sexual morality of many churchgoing Christians shifted years ago, and the acceptance of same-sex marriage … follows significant change rather than prompts it.”
But it’s also clear that, more likely than not, acceptance of same-sex marriage is part of a comprehensive change of a whole range of beliefs about “sexual and relational morality.”
That’s because our beliefs about “sexual and relational morality” reveal how seriously we take the biblical teaching about the way God designed us and made us to be, which is the source of Christian sexual and relational ethics.
We see this in Jesus’ response when Pharisees asked him about the Jewish law’s position on marriage and divorce. But this Jewish rabbi didn’t simply quote the law of Moses to these teacher of the law. Instead, he pointed them back to Genesis and how God made man and woman and His intent for their one-flesh relationship. Sexuality isn’t merely about morality, as important as that is. It’s about identity. It has to do with the very way that God designed us as male and female, as those who bear the image of God.
So it shouldn’t surprise us that support for same-sex marriage turns out to be a part of a “package deal.” To reject God’s design in one area is to call it into question in others, and leave us looking a lot like our un-believing neighbors in ways definitely not intended by the Lord for His Church.
As Chuck Colson would say, “Worldview matters.”
— by John Stonestreet
Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint, a radio commentary that is broadcast on 400 stations with an audience of eight million.
Copyright© 2014 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries