June 2015 was declared to be “national LGBT pride month” by no less than the president of the United States. Large parts of the nation celebrated including the retail giant Target, Inc. Target launched a rainbow version of their logo, a special line of pride month clothing, and they also ran advertisements like the one pictured below.
A pair of men, presumably a homosexual couple, enjoy a walk with their son. In contrast to the shocking exhibitionism that sometimes characterizes pride events, the men are conservatively dressed, are not engaged in any questionable activity, and look very happy. What could possibly be wrong with this scene? By design, it attempts to establish the normalcy of same-sex marriage and family.
1. A Missing Mother
But all is not well. Consider first that the boy’s mother is missing. Of course he has a biological mother, every living person does. The Supreme Court has immense power but they cannot overrule the basic facts of biology. This boy is going to grow up without his mother.
Such a situation has been common throughout world history, often due to the death of the mother. More often in modern times it is due to the choice of the mother. Regardless of the reason, it is a tragedy; we should not accept this as normal.
The two-father scenario raises a third possibility: a surrogate mother. The father may have paid a woman to carry the child for him. She may or may not be the biological mother. “Gestational surrogacy,” where an egg donor is the biological mother but not the birth mother, is especially complicated. Mix a genetic mother, a birth mother, a father, a stepfather, a large exchange of money, possible pregnancy complications and birth defects, and you have what can only be described as a legal quagmire.
“But a majority of states… have no laws directly addressing surrogacy, leaving many such arrangements in legal limbo and raising a number of vexing social, legal and ethical issues involving parenthood, the best interests of children, and the rights of same-sex couples and other nontraditional families for the courts to resolve. (Mark Hansen, “As Surrogacy Becomes More Popular, Legal Problems Proliferate,” ABA Journal.com). Legal issues can be modified and clarified, but the social and ethical issues are not so easily dismissed.
2. No Stepmother
Throughout history many a stepmother has come to fill the role of missing mother. However, the boy in this photo tragically is not going to have a stepmother either. He will have to do with two “fathers.” For people proud of diversity this is an ironic loss of parental diversity.
The Bible confirms the common-sense notion that a mother and father bring a helpful diversity to parenting. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8).
Secular authorities agree. For example, “This unfortunate absence [of a mother figure] may leave room for countless problems, including negative influences on gender development.” (“Gender Development of Boys Without Their Mothers,” Angeliki Coconi, ModernMom.com)
So the lack of a mother in this boy’s life is troubling. But the trouble goes deeper. The photo could be same-sex friendship, a father and his friend. It could be traditional family, a father and an uncle. But surely in the context of pride month it indicates more; it indicates same sex marriage. In what ways is marriage more that merely a friendship? Surely a central component is same-sex sex. What these men do on the street is not the central problem; it is, to be blunt, what they do in bed.
The Bible encourages same-sex friendship but it strongly forbids same-sex sex. The details of the Bible’s teaching are too much to explore in detail in this article, but a quick word cloud based on the relevant passages establishes the clear tone of the teaching:
The passages are uniformly negative, using terms like abomination, immoral, and unnatural. People looking for a positive spin can quibble over the details; for example, other things, some seemingly minor things, are also called an abomination. Exploring that word would take another blog post, but no amount of rhetoric can obscure the fact that, whatever abomination means exactly, it is clearly bad.
4. The Race Parallel
Finally, this picture is wrong to inject race into the discussion. It is common to represent same-sex couples as interracial. This is an attempt to preempt the moral argument by suggesting that “homophobia” and racism are parallel. Historically some people argued a moral basis for racism, the argument goes, and they were wrong. Hence the people now arguing a moral argument against same-sex marriage will some day admit they are wrong. It is not a moral issue, we are told, it is simply a phobia.
This parallel is wrong, for several reasons. Race is a human construct that is largely cultural; there is no clear scientific dividing line between “races” of people. Sex, on the other hand, is unambiguously binary and biological, determined by X- and Y-chromosomes. The rare and complicated genetic abnormalities that occasionally occur are beyond the scope this article but serve to emphasize the norm, not to deny it. The shift to the term “gender” instead of “sex” confirms this point. Gender is a human construct and may be defined in a way that is fluid and not binary. Such definitions do not change the facts of biology – you have a working Y-chromosome or you don’t. Biologically, race and gender are not parallel.
Historically, Bible arguments against interracial marriage were based on questionable chains of inference. To the contrary, the Bible explicitly takes us back to the beginning when we all came from a single set of parents (think Noah, not just Adam, making Cain irrelevant). It takes us to the end of time, when “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” are together in heaven.
In contrast to interracial marriage, which is never directly addressed, the Bible’s teaching on same-sex relationships is unambiguous. Considered scientifically or biblically, the issues are simply not parallel.
The Rachel Dolezal case made the difference abundantly clear. A disgraced civil rights activist, Rachel said “I identify as black,” even though she is clearly not. ABC news summarized,
“Dolezal’s story had not only led to international headlines but generated a stream of social media comments about so-called ‘transracialism,’ comparing Dolezal’s case to that of a transgender person. But some experts say such an analogy makes no sense. Anita Thomas, associate professor of counseling psychology at Loyola University Chicago, said there are genetic differences between genders that don’t exist for races. ‘Biological sex has biological physical components and we know race does not’ in the same way, Thomas said.” (Gillian Mohney, “Why some Experts Debunk ‘Transracial’ to Explain Rachel Dolezal Case,” ABCNews.go.com).
In other words, race and gender are not parallel. It is wrong to inject race into the same-sex marriage discussion.
5. A Word About Marriage
Speaking of marriage, there is of course more to marriage than merely sex. However, the Bible’s teaching on marriage is equally unambiguous. Consider Jesus’ summary statement in Matthew 19:4, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female [gender], and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother [family], and shall cleave to his wife [marriage]: and they twain shall be one flesh [sexuality]?’” The Bible does not tolerate same-sex sex. It similarly leaves no room for same-sex “marriage.”
6. Concluding Thoughts
Do not take the above criticisms as encouragement to move to another extreme. Unconditional acceptance of homosexuality is not an option for the Bible believer; hatred, persecution, and harassment are equally unchristian reactions. A right response starts with “love your neighbor” (one of the two “great commandments,” Matthew 22:39). It extends to “do good to all men” (Galatians 6:10). It even includes love for someone who persecutes you (Matthew 5:44).
None of that means to tolerate sin. We are taught to “hate every false way” (Psalm 119:128). Some people struggle with love and hate both being in the Bible, but there is no contradiction. The love is directed at people and the hate at the false way.
The Bible openly encourages not pride but humility; this is a good starting point. How about a “humility month” during which we all admit that we have rebelled against God in our own way? And then we’ll have a “redemption month” during which we explain the rescue that God has accomplished in our lives, a redemption he offers to anyone willing to give up their rebellion. Then we need a “Bible study month” or more to explore all the topics that this article has only touched on. If you have no respect for the Bible you may not find any of this very persuasive (and it wasn’t targeted at you anyway). If you value the Bible, consider these things.