Some say DOMA, we say Kingdom

There was once a man who possessed little political capital or national influence. A man with a ragtag group of followers, a man with more enemies than friends.

There was once a man who lived on the fringes of society, who stood near the edge of a lake, and had the audacity to declare, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, it grows into the largest of garden plants, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Following that man’s lead, Jesus-followers have long shared an enduring, salient characteristic: insatiable optimism.

Ours is an optimism that runs deeper than escapism because it understands that suffering produces hope. Ours is an optimism that can’t be contained by petty martyr complexes, because we follow in the steps of the true martyr who did not retaliate. Ours is an optimism that that counts trials as joy, rejoices always, and boasts in the very circumstances that make us weak.

This same optimism serves as the lens through which I view the Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 rulings.  I say this as a Christian who believes that marriage is best understood as a covenant between one man and one woman, but not one who sees the rulings as indefensible. Democracy is designed to reflect the will of the majority, after all. I say this as one who has no qualms about legislating basic morality (all laws constitute a form of morality), but I also say this as one who has no desire to force my religious views of marriage on those outside of my faith.

I simply believe that individuals, societies, and cultures are better off operating within God’s will than outside of it. I believe that we all lose when sex shifts from something we do, to who we are. I believe that sin steals and kills and destroys.

And yet, the mustard seed has not died.

The pearl has not been squandered. The treasure has not been lost. The yeast has not gone dry.

The Kingdom remains unshaken.

Jesus heralded a new way, and following him means having a radically different perspective, but the kingdom of heaven is not like a 90210 episode, where love and acceptance was tied to performance and dependent on conformity.

Jesus was always a part of the minority, but the kingdom of heaven is not like a cornered animal, pressed against a wall, lashing out against its attackers.

Following Jesus has always meant adhering to a drastically different sexual ethic, but the kingdom of heaven is not like a scarlet letter ‘A.’

Even Jesus enjoyed the financial generosity of others, and it’s possible that last week’s ruling could effect next generation’s tax exempt status, but the kingdom of heaven is not like a 501 c 3.

Jesus knew what it was like to weep over Jerusalem, but the kingdom of heaven is not like a funeral.

The kingdom is coming, and and the kingdom is here. SCOTUS or no, DOMA or no, we are called to live as subjects of the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom is populated by the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, and the merciful. The kingdom is ruled by the meek and is a realm where enemies are loved, outcasts are embraced, and the lost are found. Those in the kingdom hunger for righteousness and are pure in heart, and so of course they tolerate no bigotry, bullying, or discrimination. Entrance may be gained only through a small gate and narrow road, but admission is granted to all who knock, and is found by all who seek.

We don’t need political capital or national influence any more than the man by the lake. We’ll never amount to more than a group of ragtag followers ourselves, and when we’re honest we have to admit we often act as enemies rather than than friends.

But may our insatiable optimism always lift our gaze beyond our country, away from our own reflection, and always towards the kingdom.

 

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About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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9 Responses to Some say DOMA, we say Kingdom

  1. violetwisp says:

    “I simply believe that individuals, societies, and cultures are better off operating within God’s will than outside of it.” How do you know what your god’s will is on this matter? As far as I’m aware, the Bible contains references to promiscuity with reference to same sex relationships, but nowhere does it cover the prospect of same sex marriage. Do you truly believe your deity would create beings (including all over the animal kingdom) with same sex attraction and not allow them to spend their lives in a relationship with someone they love? Same sex relationships are not harmful. What on earth do you think Jesus would have objected to about the prospect of permanent union of two people who love each other?

    It’s one thing for you and your fellow Christians to be so deluded about the importance of these ancient writings that you want to reintroduce stoning or slavery, as I can see where that is clearly stated, but twisting Bible passages to claim Jesus and the god God were clearly against same sex marriage is just ridiculous. Oddly enough, Jesus had no more foresight about the possibility of gay marriage, than he did about contraception, television or genetically modified crops

    • Tim Owens says:

      Hmm… taking the bible seriously doesn’t mean that we need to woodenly reinstitute every command in the Bible. None of the NT authors advocated reintroducing stonings; partly because of Jesus’ work in fulfilling the Law, and partly because stonings were part of Israel’s theocratic government, which no longer exists. it would be weird if Christians today tried to reintroduce national laws that Christians in the 1st century no longer practiced. As far as slavery goes, while they wrote in support of slavery, they also undercut it when possible (that’s a much larger tangent, not sure if you want to jump off on it).

      How do I know what my God’s will is on this? Well, i obviously can’t say 100% for certain. I’m interpreting an ancient document that I believe was God-breathed, and while I can point to various aspects of God leading me, those are all subjective. I’ve never heard God’s audible voice, and I’ve yet to see Him write me clear messages in the clouds.

      So, I do my best to interpret and apply the Bible, leaning heavily on church tradition to help me define what is Christian. Homosexuality is mentioned around 17 times throughout the Bible, and all 17 times it’s within the context of sinful behavior. Marriage fills the pages of scripture, but we never see a same-sex marriage. I haven’t been convinced yet that the Bible’s prohibitions against gay sex are limited to extramarital sex. I’ve looked at contextual, cultural, ANE, linguistic, etc evidence, and as far as I can see it points to limiting all sex to within marriages either a man and wife (or wives, as in the case of the OT, again, other tangent).

      and yes, Jesus never mentioned same-sex marriage, or homosexuality. That’s actually a point I’ve made here on this blog. but he did talk about being holy, as our Father is holy. And, I’m luckily not limited to his words in the gospels. We’ve been gifted with various other writings that (i believe) are also God-breathed, that serve to inform what Jesus and God think about same-sex marriage.

      While it would appear that we interpret some of these things differently, I’m really encouraged that you read my blog from time to time and enjoy commenting on it. I hope you stick around.

      • violetwisp says:

        I understood some prominent Christians, like Gary North, were keen for the reintroduction of stoning. The problem with the Bible is that you can use it to justify a huge range of harmful behaviour, including stoning, slavery and genocide. Therefore, it seems wise for Christians to apply common sense to their understanding of what’s written there, which is often what’s done. However, when it comes to the rights of a traditionally repressed minority, it’s easy to continue the unjust and discriminatory behaviour, imagining that behaviour can be conceptually ‘immoral’, when in reality, there are no harmful outcomes.

        For example, what’s better: two people of the same sex in love getting married to each other; two people in love marrying other people of the opposite sex who they don’t physically love, usually ending in a broken marriage, and devastation for both partners; or two people living sexually and emotionally deprived lives because they believe selected interpretations of a 2000 year old book from an alien society (where people pick and choose what’s relevant) condemn their natural desires as evil? I think clearer thinking looking at the lives of real people is what’s required, not guessing what an invisible deity with no direct powers of communication makes of it all.

  2. Evan says:

    I think one of the big issues with your post is that you talk about American Christians as if they are a minority. This simply hasn’t been the case for hundreds and hundreds of years.

    • Tim Owens says:

      I see what you mean. Certainly, ‘Christian’ cultue remains dominant in the US, especially when compared to places like Japan (where I grew up). Christmas and Easter are the primary holidays, all our presidents have been protestant or Catholic, on and on. Christianity is still far more mainstream than Hinduism, etc.

      With that said, there’s a difference between the Christian culture of social norms and the culture of Christ-followers. One example that’s germain to this post: over the past 2000 years the Christian church has pretty much universally held that marriage is between a man and a woman. That is obviously not the primary view in the US anymore. That, and other examples like it, are more what I mean when I refer (explicitly or implicitly) to Christians as the minority in the US.

  3. If I may ask, what do you have to say to Gay Christians?

    • Tim Owens says:

      without being flippant, it all depends on what they are asking. But, I think I know what you’re getting at. I would say, like Justin Lee says, that we (gays and straights) need to keep talking with each other. I would say that I believe you can be gay and be a Christian. I would also say that I probably interpret some passages of the Bible differently than they do–that I understand the Bible to teach not just that extramarital gay sex outside of God’s will, but that all gay sex is outside of God’s will. Just like getting drunk or being greedy or slandering or swindling or hetero sex outside of marriage is outside of God’s will.
      i would also say that every gay Christian I know who agrees with this interpretation would say that the interpretation is relatively clear, but the application is incredibly confusing.
      I’d also say that I’d like to have this conversation over a cup of coffee or hot meal rather than on a blog post.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting discussion, I appreciate your comments T.O. — such a difficult topic to discuss! I’ve been reading a book by Jeff Chu (Journalist, graduate of Harvard Divinity, Princeton undergrad, London School of Economics) called “Does Jesus Really Love Me” about his experience reconciling his Baptist faith with his sexual identity. If you get the chance to read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts (I can also send you the book or its $12 on kindle). God Bless!

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