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I've said before on BreakPoint that if your God never tells you to do anything you don't want to do, your god is probably you. If there were an Americanized translation of the Apostle's Creed for today, it would be something like this: "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, who always supports my feelings."
This kind of self-centered faith is epidemic both within the church and without, in conservative congregations and progressive ones.
The most recent case in point is Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor, Pete Buttigieg. At a recent fundraiser, he said of his same-sex "marriage": "[it] has made me a better man [and]...moved me closer to God. If being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far above my pay grade."
He then added, somewhat out-of-the-blue: "That's the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand, that if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator."
This was, of course, a political cheap shot. Mike Pence's anti-LGBTQ reputation was secured a long time ago when, as governor of Indiana, he supported religious freedom legislation that sent progressives into hysterics (even though it was a mirror state-level copy of federal legislation that Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy had proposed).
As Mayor Pete and the long list of Democratic presidential contenders gear up for their primaries, they have to pander to their liberal base. And what better way to do that than bashing the guy whose boss you hope to unseat? For his part, Vice-President Pence refused the bait, offering compliments instead for Mayor Pete's years of public service and adding, "He knows me better than that."
But Mayor Pete's comments are worth thinking through, if for no other reason than it would've been unthinkable not that long ago to try to enlist God in support of homosexual relationships. Feelings have become so central to personal identity across our culture, even in religion, that to suggest the Bible, God, the Church, or any other authority has a right to question those feelings is tantamount to heresy.
Buttigieg and authors like Matthew Vines, who wrote the book, "God and the Gay Christian," are in essence saying, "God made me this way--and I know this because He would never ask me to go against my feelings."
Unsurprisingly, the secular press has claimed that this new culturally-conformed Christianity as articulated by Mayor Pete will, of course, win the day. Terry Mattingly at Get Religion noted USA Today's almost "evangelistic tone" in reporting Buttigieg's words, and how they wrote as if the mayor's reading of the Bible is a defensible theological position.
The reality, of course, is that the mayor's quarrel isn't with Mike Pence. His quarrel is with the clear texts of Scripture that both identify what marriage is and what it is for, as well as how homosexual behavior is sinful. His quarrel is with natural law, reflected in the biological roles our bodies play and the universally embraced connection of marriage and procreation, even by societies not influenced by Christian morality. And of course, his quarrel is with 2,000 years of unanimous Christian witness on marriage and sexual morality.
As Everett Piper wrote at the Washington Times in reply to Mayor Pete, we don't get to make up our own version of Christianity. The faith delivered once for all is a faith delivered--it was delivered to the saints. It's a revealed faith. The religions we make up based on our feelings are different religions altogether.
Buttigieg may feel that his same-sex relationship has somehow brought him closer to God, but it has not. "If you love me," Jesus says in John 14:15, "you will keep my commandments." Now, gay people aren't singled out by Jesus' words here, but they are absolutely included.
And to be clear, Mike Pence's feelings on the issue aren't of any more authority than Mayor Pete's feelings. No, this decision was made way above either man's pay grade.