MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Why Same-sex marriage is good for the church and the nation. By Steven F. Kindle. CreateSpace.com, 2013. 178 pages (Kindle version available).
When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June on a 5-4 vote it confirmed what growing numbers of Americans had already begun to believe – the definition of to whom one can be married has begun to change. In recent years, slowly but surely the states have begun to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The vast majority of states continue to ban such marriages, but as for the Federal Government, at least in states where marriage rights have already been granted, the Federal Government shall henceforth affirm them as legal marriages.
The trend may be moving toward both openness and affirmation, but there remains a strong though diminishing opposition. Most opponents argue from a religious perspective – arguing that the Bible forbids it. They may also turn to “nature,” but nature is proving to be a dubious ally. And then there’s precedent. We’ve just not done it that way. Despite the push back by a small majority, support for same-sex marriage has continued to win the day. While most of the resistance to extending marriage rights/rites to gays and lesbians comes from the religious community, not all religious communities share the same views. My own denomination took the tentative step of extending welcome and grace to all persons, no matter their sexual orientation. This resolution didn’t legislate marriage equality, but it recognized by a sizable margin that the denomination is moving toward not just openness but affirmation as well.
In Marriage Equality, Disciples of Christ pastor and advocate for the full inclusion of LGBT persons, Rev. Steven Kindle, gives the reader a straightforward, no-holds barred, defense of marriage equality. Steve is Straight, but he has heard the call to advocacy. The book is rooted in the seminar he has led for quite a number of years – a seminar that inspired the wonderful film For The Bible Tells Me So. Steve hasn’t always been an advocate, but over time he came to believe that the church should be open to and affirm all of God’s children, including those who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender. The results of many years of diligent study is made available in this book, which was released at the time of the Supreme Court Ruling.
In the course of this relatively brief book, Steve introduces the reader to what it means to be gay, helps us understand the nature of the closet many Christians are happy to push their LGBT neighbors back into, discusses the nature of marriage, and shares his insights into the biblical texts that are used in denying LGBT folks a place in church and society. He has a chapter in the book that outlines the various options the Supreme Court could take – one may now look back and see if Steve has rightly defined the issues. He also offers a word to pastors as to how they might take a stand in this cause and lead closed churches into being open and affirming ones. As he deals with issue after issue, he reminds us that our LGBT neighbors are human beings, just like those of us who are straight – the only difference is the person to whom one is attracted. He reminds us that this really isn’t about sex or even pleasure – it’s about relationship – intimacy. In making his case he looks at the Bible and Theology. He looks at church practice. He also looks at the scientific and psychological evidence. In the end he is able to examine and address many of the myths and even lies that have entered into the conversation. The reader ends up with a much more complete picture of the situation, and as a result is enabled to take another step toward fully embracing LGBT neighbors as fellow Christians.
The book can be hard-hitting at times. It can even be graphic when Steve feels that is necessary. He’s not afraid to step on toes, largely because he believes this is a topic needing to be addressed for the good of the individuals involved, but also the church.
The book’s usefulness is enhanced by the presence of discussion questions after each chapter for groups. Faith communities looking to move toward affirmation will find this a most useful book. Because the book humanizes and personalizes the story of our LGBT neighbors, readers are better able to stand with those seeking full equality. So, If you are giving this question serious thought – and I hope you are – you’ll want straightforward and reliable information. Steve’s book provides this. I believe that if you take seriously the arguments in this book you will become better acquainted with your LGBT neighbors. You will likely find that your attitudes are changing. You may even find any opposition you’ve had begin to dissipate. Like Steve and like me, you may also become an advocate for the rull rights of our LGBT neighbors.
I would suggest that one read Steve’s book together with Jeff Chu’s Does Jesus really Love Me? Jeff provides the narrative, while Steve provides the foundations for the work toward inclusion. Hopefully, in the end you will cease to wonder if Jesus loves his LGBT brothers and sisters. If Jesus loves them, then surly the same is true of the rest of us. Indeed, one may even discover that the Bible isn’t as clear-cut as some had originally believed.