Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Roasting of Chick-fil-A (Part 1): Am I really a bigot?

Someone recently called me a bigot – repeatedly – because I hold the same views about marriage as those espoused by Chick-fil-A executive Don Cathy. Am I really a bigot just because we disagree about an important issue?

Here’s the problem (ok, here’s just one of many problems related to this issue). If I hold an incorrect and belittling view about a person or a group of people because of an error in my thinking, then I could well be a bigot. The dictionary uses words like “prejudice, hatred, intolerance” when defining the word “bigot”. But, if I hold a correct view based on what is right and wrong, then I am not a bigot. The question then becomes. "What is the standard to decide right and wrong?" And that answer is not simple. We accept what culture says is right or wrong, what our conscience says is right or wrong, what some outside source says is right or wrong, or some combination of these. And since we will not all agree on the standard, we certainly shouldn’t expect to agree on the answer!

Personally, I accept the Bible (an “outside source”) as my standard of right and wrong. Some people will reject my conclusions at this point because they do not accept the Bible. That’s okay – my point here is not to convince someone about the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible. And some may accept the Bible but disagree with my interpretation. That’s okay, too. I’m willing to listen to other interpretations, but be aware that I came to my conclusions after a lot of study over a lot of years!

Let me jump back a few generations. In the not-too-distant past in America, you would often hear “Racially mixed marriages are wrong”, particularly marriages between whites and blacks. Are the statements “Gay marriage is wrong” and “Racially mixed marriages are wrong” functionally equivalent? If the second statement reflects prejudice and bigotry, does the first as well?

To answer this, let’s see what the Bible says. In three different passages, we find a definition of marriage. The author of Genesis, after describing the creation of the man and the woman, says this: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24, NIV).  Later, Jesus responds to a question from the Pharisees about divorce with this challenge:  “Haven’t you read … that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” (Matt. 19:4-5). And when Paul describes marriage, he quotes Genesis:  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Eph. 5:31, NIV). Both Jesus and Paul viewed the Genesis description of marriage as the standard and the ideal. Each of these three references clearly says a male (singular) and a female (singular) unite in marriage and become one flesh.

Now, let’s go back to the two questions. A racially mixed marriage does not contradict this description of marriage in any way. The race of the male and female is not addressed in these passages at all. Nowhere does the Bible teach the inferiority of any race. In fact, the equality of races among Christians is explicitly stated when Paul says “There is neither Jew nor Gentile … for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 2:28, NIV). If I hold the view that racially mixed marriage is morally wrong, even if I am completely convinced of the truth of this view, I am basing my beliefs on the erroneous view that races are not equal despite the teachings of the Bible. I should very well be labeled a “bigot”.

But the second case differs greatly. In the case of gay marriage, something does not, in fact, fit the description. The sexes of the two partners are clearly defined in the passages! “A man” (male) unites with “his wife” (female). In this case, I am basing my belief that gay marriage is wrong on what I understand the Bible says about marriage. At this point, we are left with four options: (1) reject or ignore what the Bible says (and, if you are a Bible-rejecter, we’ll have a difficult time coming to agreement on the issue of gay marriage!), (2) redefine what the Bible says based on culture, (3) change our understanding of the text after careful study reveals we’ve interpreted it incorrectly, or (4) accept what the Bible says, convinced we’ve interpreted it correctly. I think this last option fits my understanding of marriage. I believe in the traditional view of marriage – the uniting of one man and one woman. If you think the Bible teaches otherwise, I am willing to listen. But don’t try to sway me with emotions, opinions, or generalities. If I am wrong, show me from the text.

Sometimes, we must draw a line in the sand and say “this line marks the difference between right and wrong!” I do not hold my view despite the teachings of the Bible but because of the teachings of the Bible. Since I believe the Bible is inspired by God, I believe it defines the ultimate standard for right and wrong. I should not therefore be labeled a bigot – especially by other Christians. Name-calling does nothing to advance a discussion.

Keep in mind that holding this view says nothing about how I should respond to gay people (I should treat them in love), how our government should respond to the issue, or the wisdom of the “where and when” I (or anyone else) should state these views about marriage– that is the stuff of other posts. I am simply defining what I believe about marriage and why I hold that belief. And, just like the Chick-fil-A executive, I have the right to hold this view and state my views, especially in a country based on religious freedom, freedom of speech and “tolerance”.

I can hear a thousand questions in response to this post, such as: Aren’t there exceptions in the Bible? What about polygamy? What about the beliefs of those who don’t believe in the Scriptures? How should we treat gay people? Don’t they deserve to be happy? How should I respond to those with whom I disagree? Should we “impose” biblical standards on our culture? Shouldn’t I be more tolerant of other views? What about other situations that don’t seem to fit the biblical definition of marriage, such as divorce or cohabitation?

All great questions (he says modestly about his own post). I don’t have space to answer here, but I will! Watch for “The Roasting of Chik-fil-A (Part 2)”!


  1. The first "Chick-Fil-A-related post" I have bothered to respond to {in writing, anyway :o}. And all I have to say is is : Amen!

    1. Awesome! Wish I could write like you do. I'm so sick and tired of being accused of hating people because I don't agree with their opinion.

  2. Excellent post. Awaiting part 2.

  3. AMEN ROGER! One man. one woman, equals marriage. That's the Biblical Definition. And, to those who Don't believe in the Bible? Well, you have bigger problems in front of you besides gay marriages. Get your faith right and then you'll have your marriage right.

  4. Thanks for the clear word Roger. Paul