Today, Rob Portman, a Republican U.S. senator from Ohio and self-professed Christian, revealed in an op-ed piece for the Columbus Dispatch that he has changed his position to be in favor of same-sex marriage, because his son now identifies himself as gay. The following analysis of Senator Portman’s explanation demonstrates how relying upon tradition, while under the influence of rationalism, and justifying one’s actions through expediency, will always lead to a complete failure to uphold the standard of Scripture.
Senator Portman’s de-evolving position on same-sex marriage began when “something happened that led me to think through my position in a much deeper way . . . . Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love.” So, Portman’s change in position began when his circumstances changed. It prompted him to question whether or not there was “another perspective” that he should consider; whether he could make room in his beliefs for something he previously thought was wrong.
As it turns out, he could. Why? Because “at the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.” Now, this is important to note: Portman tells us in his own words that his position was not rooted in Scripture, but in his “faith tradition.” While the marriage tradition has historically aligned with Scripture on many points, it is patently false to say that the two are one and the same. It is clear that as society’s perspective on marriage changes (think: divorce, premarital sex, etc.), the definition of marriage changes with it. In the end, Portman’s “faith tradition” was insufficient to inform him, or prevent its own degradation. Had he considered instead the perspective of Scripture, he would have found in it the only reliable, unchanging standard.
Indeed, Portman goes on to recount how he “wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for [my son] to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister.” For Portman, his own rationalization influenced him to believe that it is more important for his son to be “happy,” than to live according to God’s perfect Word. His reasoning was boosted by what he observed in the personal experience of others, claiming that “the experience of the past decade shows us that marriage for same-sex couples has not undercut traditional marriage.” He also attempted to soothe his conscience by invoking some bandwagon propaganda, namely that the normalization and acceptance of homosexuality is already a fact in “the overwhelming majority of young people” and “millions of Americans.” For Portman, he has reasoned that it is now a generational issue, and we all just need to get in step with the times.
Offering further justification for his dramatic change of mind, Portman says, “Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.” Portman now conveniently turns to Scripture as his saving grace. He latches on to one part of Scripture in order to do all the good he can in the name of the Bible, but he does so expediently, by taking a shortcut around the clear teachings of Scripture regarding homosexuality. Here is how he did it:
- God wants people of the Christian faith to have love for others and show compassion.
- It is not loving or compassionate to tell my son that he is not allowed to be happy and fulfilled.
- Therefore, same-sex marriage, which presents my gay son with the opportunity to pursue happiness and fulfillment, and lead a meaningful life with the man he loves—just like his sister has!—is a good thing.
Welcome to expediency!
So, Senator Portman changed his position on same-sex marriage because (1) he relied on a tradition that was insufficient to deal with his changing circumstances, (2) he rationalized that something Scripture clearly says is wrong can be considered right if personal experience says otherwise, and (3) he expediently took a shortcut around the Scriptures that condemn homosexuality in order to accomplish his own ends in the name of godly love and compassion.
The Master Yeshua teaches us,
[W]hat man is among you of whom, if his son asks [for] a loaf [of bread]—a stone will he give to him? And if a fish he asks [for]—a serpent will he give to him? If, therefore, you, being evil, have known [how] to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, who is in the heavens, give good things to those asking Him? (Matthew 7:9-11)
He also says,
As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline; be zealous, then, and reform. (Revelation 3:19, cf. Proverbs 3:12)
Every good father wants nothing but good things for his children, but even the very best Father of them all disciplines the son he loves to help get him back on the right path (cf. Hebrews 12:4-11). The “love” that Senator Portman is demonstrating to his son may be true to his “faith tradition,” but not to the Word of God. Failing to confront his son’s sin and warn him of the eternal jeopardy he has put himself in is not the kind of love that Scripture prescribes. On the contrary, if Senator Portman had only asked the question, “What do the Scriptures say?” he would have taken the long, difficult path of righteousness, and sought to restore his son to a right relationship with his heavenly Father. No one loves Senator Portman’s son more than the One who made him, yet the most fulfilling and meaningful life of all cannot be lived out through self-pleasing means, but only by bearing the supreme and all-sufficient standard of Scripture.