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Same-Sex Marriage: Debating with Substance and Style

In a debate, you are judged in two main areas: substance and style. In the debate about so-called gay “marriage,” we believers are winning on the substance. But we’re not doing very well on style.

Study after study has shown that gay “marriage” undermines the institution of marriage. In those societies where homosexual “marriage” has been tried, traditional marriage is increasingly discarded. Furthermore, the research is nearly unanimous that children do best when they grow up with a mother and a father — which gay “marriage,” by definition, denies them.

Based on all this, you might think that we are winning the debate. And yet, the tide of public opinion appears to be turning against us. According to columnist Michael Barone, “In 1996, Gallup found that Americans opposed it by a 68 percent to 27 percent margin. Last May, Gallup found Americans in favor by 53 percent to 45 percent. ... huge change in 15 years.” And a new Pew Research poll confirms this finding those in favor are in a dead heat with those who oppose it.

Much of that new support is coming from young people, who increasingly see marriage in terms of civil rights and fairness. That’s a demographic factor that makes winning the debate in the coming decades that much harder.

That’s why, given current sensitivities, we’ve got to be very careful about how we frame the debate. Take the case of social studies teacher Jerry Buell in Lake County, Florida. Mr. Buell was named “teacher of the year” in 2010. He has a spotless classroom record. And he was suspended and placed under investigation for criticizing gay “marriage” … on his Facebook page!

Outrageous, you say? A violation of his right to free speech? Absolutely. However, listen to part of what Mr. Buell posted on his Facebook page: “I’m watching the news, eating dinner when the story about New York okaying same-sex unions came on and I almost threw up. … If they want to call it a union,” he wrote, “go ahead. But don’t insult a man and woman’s marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool… God will not be mocked.”

However much we sympathize with the substance of Mr. Buell’s comments, I hope you’ll agree that he earned a zero on style points. Of course it’s ridiculous — and alarming — that Mr. Buell’s livelihood and religious freedom came under threat. But that’s nothing new with the gay-rights movement, which frequently attacks one person’s rights to gain someone else’s. That, I’m afraid, is the world we live in.

As frustrating as this debate can be, prudence dictates that we Christians be especially mindful of our responsibility to remain civil. First of all, it’s the right thing to do. Secondly, the supporters of gay rights are waiting for any opportunity to pounce on their opponents if we give them any opening.

But there’s another point I want to make here, one you’ll hear me to return to again and again. We Christians are very good at saying “No.” We’ve got to better saying “Yes”: showing how God’s plan for humanity is a blessing: That His ways — including faithful, live-giving marriage between one man and one woman — lead to human flourishing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

And that’s a message I’d be happy to post on Facebook or anywhere else.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: September 1, 2011.

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