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Letter to a Christian Nation
American Christians must live our faith and tell our stories.


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Lee Habeeb

There are stories like that all over America, stories about what happens when we choose life. Even pro-choice advocates routinely choose life. We should tell those stories over and over again, anywhere people might have a chance to hear them.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

This issue consumes a lot of Christian resources, and also divides Americans like nothing else but abortion. Nearly every American knows and cares about someone who is gay.

“What would you do if Reagan was gay?” my mom asked me about my seven-year-old girl on Thanksgiving Day. My mom was very sick, and she has since died. The question came out of nowhere. “I wouldn’t care,” I told her. “I’d love her just the same.” “Good,” said my mom.

“And if that meant me attending a civil service with the girl she loved,” I told her, “so be it. I will still believe she’s a child of God. And that Jesus loves her.” That answer will confound some of my Christian friends. It confounds me. But this much I know: I will always show unconditional love to my girl.

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This much I also know: Being gay has never been an easy path in America. What else accounts for so many people lying about their sexuality to their peers? To their families? To themselves, even? It is a kind of pain I don’t know, keeping something so fundamental about yourself a secret. It is a category of rejection I can’t fathom.

The idea that prevails in the minds of some Christians that the culture is producing more gay people just isn’t true. And the notion — in a small corner of the evangelical community — that gay people can be turned straight doesn’t square with what we know deep in our bones. The notion that Anderson Cooper could be trained to be sexually attracted to my wife is as silly as the idea of me being trained to want to have sex with Anderson Cooper’s boyfriend.

Just as science has proven that life begins at conception, and that the beating heart inside the womb belongs to a baby, we may someday learn that gay people are born gay. That it’s genetic.

I know I just lost a lot of Christians there. Some of you are questioning my own salvation. Isn’t that what we do with Christians with whom we disagree?

So what is the answer to gay marriage? From one point of view it should be easy for a conservative. Live and let live has been the credo of economic conservatives; what you do in your private life is your business.

But what should we do, we who believe that marriage is a sacred union ordained by God? Should we keep fighting at the ballot box to prohibit gay marriage? Here’s the answer, though many Christians won’t like it. We should continue to believe what we believe, and keep getting married in our churches. And let gay people get married by the state in civil services. Let the state be the state, and the church be the church.

Gay marriage is simply not the threat to marriage that some church leaders believe it is — certainly not more than adultery, not to mention divorce. I don’t see church leaders fighting to make either of those illegal.

Sensible people are coming to a consensus on the importance of marriage. No government program can replace the love of a family, and many of our nation’s ills stem from the breakdown of the family. The economic costs are staggering. So are the human costs.

If anything, we should be comforted that gay people support an institution Christians and conservatives care so much about, one that our culture has for decades derided as being boring and utterly bourgeois.

In his letter to the Jews of Newport, R.I., George Washington reassured those people who had fled religious tyranny in Europe that life in our new nation would be different. That religious tolerance and liberty were inseparable. That our government would not interfere with individuals in matters of conscience and belief.

Quoting the Old Testament, Washington wrote, “every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

He wrote, “For happily the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

There will still be great churchstate issues before us. The free-exercise clause of the First Amendment commands that religious institutions be allowed to prosper freely and in keeping with their conscience. Christians have every right to defend that freedom, and can and should do it at the polls and in the culture. Gay people have the right to defend their freedoms too.

The most important political debate of our time — the one that dwarfs all others — is about the size and scale of government, and the degree to which the state intrudes into our lives. Are more government programs the answer to society’s ills, or are stronger families, businesses, churches, and civic institutions?

Will we go the way of Europe, or will we return to an America that values freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom to pursue happiness and prosperity, all of which are essential to a thriving people?

Winning the argument for freedom is the best way to protect all of us, Christians and non-Christians, gay people and straight people.

That’s the American creed. If only we’d all start living it.

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. He lives in Oxford, Miss., with his wife, Valerie, and daughter, Reagan.



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