marriage

A Response to Tyler Huckabee's "Why I Support Gay Marriage"

By Jonathan Lutz-Orozco

Looking online today, it is so easy to become consumed and overwhelmed with so much information on theology, God, religion, and our human experience. We have so much to share, think through, and debate, and nothing stokes the minds of so many like the topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Some have made their points and moved on, while others, such as myself, are working through its implications for our North American world today. One person who has argued his viewpoint is Tyler Huckabee, a blogger and editor for Relevant Magazine. Tyler wrote an article in July outlining why he supports gay marriage, and why it should not be considered a problem within Christian theology and the Christian worldview.

In his article, he points out a few arguments and points that are usually against gay marriage, and tries to either explain them away or reduce their importance to the discussion. In the following paragraphs, I wish to look at the points Tyler has brought up, and examine if the view he espouses regarding same-sex marriage is possible to hold from a biblical and theological point of view. Tyler brings up the five main themes or topics that have been used to support gay marriage.

The first point Tyler brings up is that women were made for relational capabilities over reproductive capabilities. He states:

I do not believe we must necessarily accept a literal reading of the creation narrative for this point to stand. Even as a myth, it is notable that the creation of woman was not primarily utilitarian, but relational. The core truth of Eve's identity was not that she was a woman, but that she was a human. Strictly speaking, God didn't create women to be anatomically useful, but simply to be. He didn't create love as a pleasant incubator to keep humanity coming, but because love is in His nature. The whole idea of childbearing doesn't even show up until God curses humanity's sin.[1]

By Nndd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThis issue is not so much the literal or poetic reading of Genesis; the issue is that Tyler sees that the utilitarian and relational reasons for women's creation are at odds. We cannot argue fact here, as only God Himself has His reasons for creating male and female, but from the text we can infer that God created woman for both relational and utilitarian reasons such as companionship for Adam and procreation of humanity. Tyler develops a false dichotomy in the text, and in Genesis 2 we also see that directly after the creation of woman, the ancient explanation of a heterosexual marital union is actually described (Genesis 2:23-24). Man was meant to cleave to a woman, and in the ancient Hebrew culture this was a very important union that was not to be reduced to something else.[2] We see from the text that humanity was meant to flourish and be in right relationship with God, but this relationship was broken and the consequence was painful childbearing, not childbearing itself. It follows then that men and women, if they can propagate, can rejoice in their progeny, but if a woman and man cannot propagate they still have companionship. Each example has both uses and is not simply reduced to either/or.[3]

The second point that is brought up is that Paul did not know about homosexual relationships in terms of a marital commitment. I must quote Tyler at length:

There are attempts to explain this away. Some Old Testament scholars will split the law into different categories about which ones were intended for just Israel and which continue to apply to anyone who follows Jesus. So, laws about slaves, rape and women were meant for that time, and laws about wearing linen and eating shellfish were meant for that culture. But laws about murder and theft continue to be relevant for our lives today. As do laws about gay marriage, the thinking generally goes. If you do that, then it becomes very easy to sort through the Scripture and systematically choose which of God's laws seems most reasonable for you to follow. Perhaps that is how God intended the law to be understood. Perhaps He never meant for it to be a whole cloth. It seems a bit odd to me (it seems contrary to a plain reading of James 2:10), but it could be true. Or perhaps when Jesus came, he truly did free us from the law. Perhaps he didn't free us from it in a complicated way, but a simple one. Perhaps the burden of our law is love. Perhaps the many, many scholars who believe Paul's writings about same-sex relationships referred to a cultural practice no longer applicable to our modern conversation around homosexuality are right.[4]

A fair response to this would be that Paul spoke about fidelity between a male and female specifically. We have various passages that pin this over and over. Today Paul would absolutely have things to say about marriage, because as a Jew it is regarded as sacred and to be untouched by sin. To assume Paul would accept that he would allow same-sex marriage, or even approve of it, is to assume he would go against his own letters and own Jewish tradition and view of sexuality and marriage. In fact, various liberal pro-gay and gay scholars all agree that the Bible disagrees with homosexual marriage and homosexuality as a lifestyle.[5] In fact, one prominent scholar, Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, posits that Paul's responses to homosexuality in his letter to the Romans confirm that the ancient culture had some idea of homosexual practice, and behaviour was as common in his day.[6]

Another point or theme that is seen through the entirety of the blog post is the idea that loving someone means holding to their identity. He writes:

And a love that must hold people's identity at bay is an imperfect love—a love that refuses their own loves. If someone were to say they loved me but saw my own marriage as an affront to God, I would say that that person does not then really love me. I could not abide that sort of love in my life. I just could not.[7]

Jesus spoke about what we identify with many times in the Bible. The rich, the poor, the prostitute, and the priest were all asked to live on an equal moral ground, which is to follow the Ten Commandments and to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. He also told His followers some of the hardest things anyone has ever had to hear: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Matthew 16: 24).[8] In this single verse, God has asked us to lay down our very lives, and, yes, even our own desires, to follow His mission to seek a lost world that is in need of true identity. Paul highlights this perfectly in Galatians 3:25: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Our identity is not in marriage, singleness, homosexual or heterosexual; our identity is in Christ if we believe He is God. If He is God, we then follow His ways and His truths, which are founded in the Bible, which is supported by outside sources.

Another key point that is important in Tyler's view is that condemning people to loneliness is wrong: the common thread that unites Tyler's post is that of loneliness.[9] Tyler argues that loneliness is the biggest problem for many homosexual couples, and a God that cannot allow same-sex marriage to fill that void is not a God of love. But, as was stated earlier, God has demanded all of us to count the cost: for some that means scorn, for others death, and still others loneliness or no sexual expression. There is a choice of being single, and to many it is the only option, as many other homosexuals have indicated.[10]

The last theme or point that Tyler ends his post on is the idea that this topic does not have eternal consequences.[11] In this case we should be careful. I agree we should not pass judgment on others who do not fit our code of conduct if they do not believe in Christ, for Christ Himself will judge. But if they agree to Christian ethics and have a lifesaving revelation of His power and love, they must be held accountable. God has called us to live a holy life and we must understand what that means, and if Christ uttered the chilling words in Matthew 7:23 where He states, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers," should we not all ask ourselves if we are in danger of deception? If we are possibly missing the freedom He came to give us by His Spirit? We must not be so light on sin as the Western church is so prone to be; we must all be held accountable if we claim fellowship with the one who gave so much to be in union with us.

In closing, Tyler Huckabee brings up common points that many believe or hold to that seem to support a pro-gay marriage stance, but we must all take into consideration the wider ramifications of accepting anything that the culture tells us to accept. The biblical worldview informed by Christian theology has always been at odds with the way a secular or pluralistic world works, and it is only God who has defined man and woman, marriage and sexual intimacy. To re-read what the Bible plainly states, and what many scholars have defended as the biblical viewpoint, is a dangerous road to walk down that will inevitably lead to isolation and loneliness from the God who created us.


[1] Tyler Huckabee, "Why I Support Same-Sex Marriage," The Unbearable Lightness of Huckabeing (blog), July 7, 2015, accessed August 15, 2015, http://tylerhuckabee.com/2015/07/07/i_support_gay_marriage/.

[2] Smith, William, "Marriage," Smith's Bible Dictionary, Bible History Online, accessed August 20, 2015, http://www.bible-history.com/smiths/M/Marriage/.

[3] Kevin Allen, "Sexuality, Virginity, and Marriage," podcast, Ancient Faith Today, January 12, 2014, accessed August 20, 2015, http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/aftoday/sexuality_virginity_and_marriage.

[4] Huckabee, "Why I support Same Sex-Marriage."

[5] Jeff Allen, "Liberal Scholars Agree: The Bible Forbids Homosexuality," BarbWire (blog), April 29, 2014, accessed August 14, 2015, http://barbwire.com/2014/04/29/liberal-scholars-homosexuality/.

[6] Robert. A. J. Gagnon, "Why 'Gay Marriage' is Wrong," Robert A. J. Gagnon Home, July 2004, accessed August 13, 2015, http://www.robgagnon.net/homopresbytodayarticle.htm.

[7] Huckabee, "Why I support Same Sex-Marriage."

[8] Scripture citations are taken from the New International Version (NIV).

[9] Huckabee, "Why I support Same Sex-Marriage."

[10] Michelle Boorstein, "Gay Christians Choosing Celibacy Emerge from the Shadows," Washington Post, December 13, 2014, accessed August 14, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/gay-christians-choosing-celibacy-emerge-from-the-shadows/2014/12/13/51c73aea-6ab2-11e4-9fb4-a622dae742a2_story.html.

[11] Huckabee, "Why I support Same Sex-Marriage."

Some (Same-sex) Marriage Advice from Canada, Part 2

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By Jojo Ruba

In the first part of my article, I made a list of what Americans can expect after the ruling on same-sex marriage last week. As Canadians, we've observed how our rights are being taken away and our voices not-so-slowly being silenced. But there are three important lessons that Americans can take away from the Canadian experience as you deal with the repercussions of same-sex marriage.

What You Need to Do

1. Stop Making This About You

We share your concerns about the ramifications of same-sex marriage to culture and to individual and religious liberty. But, frankly, when we complain about losing our charitable status or make our religious liberties the centerpiece of our arguments against same-sex marriage, we sound just as self-absorbed as the culture that celebrates it. It makes it sound like Christians care more about the money or power.

By Allan Ajifo [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsAs believers, the greatest damage decisions like this have is to limit the freedom to speak God's truth to a hurting culture. One of the lines we use at Faith Beyond Belief is that rather than hating the sin but loving the sinner, we must hate the sin because we love the sinner. God wants us to speak out against destructive behaviour like pornography, divorce, and yes, same-sex marriage, because it damages the people involved. Though we've made brilliant arguments for traditional marriage, I see few articulate why same-sex marriage actually harms the consenting adults who participate in it.

And that's why we also need to stop apologizing for all Christians! I know we're Canadian and we apologize for everything, but don't apologize for trying to love people. Not every Christian is a jerk who has no empathy for same-sex-attracted people. For the most part, Christians are doing their best to show God's love in this situation. They just don't know how.

Instead, let's start by following what Jesus says are the greatest commands: love God first and then love our neighbours as we love ourselves—and aren't there times when we need a bit of tough love?

2. Fear Not

A Calgary Herald columnist actually defended discrimination against Christians based on the issue of homosexuality because, she said, other Christians don't all agree on homosexuality. She argued that it is "extremist" to hold the view that practicing homosexuals will go to Hell, and anyone who holds such views should be screened out of public office.

She quoted Kris Wells, director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta, who told the National Post: "I have no problem with people of faith running for public office. It's about how one exercises that faith. . . ."[1]

In other words, the director of a pro-gay organization gets to determine how Christians who go into public office should be able to practice their faith. And the Herald columnist calls Christians the extreme ones!

This columnist, however, can only get away with saying something so inane because so many of our culture—and worse, our churches—no longer understand what Christians believe. For example, the Bible Engagement Study found that 69% of Canadians believe the Bible is full of irreconcilable contradictions, but 55% of Canadians have never read the Bible![2]

But that kind of confusion in a once biblically literate culture can only happen when Christians fail to educate others about the Bible. Worse, we can't educate non-believers about our faith if we don't know it ourselves.

I've spoken across Canada for over a decade on issues like abortion and homosexuality, and I can tell you countless stories of Christian leaders and laypeople telling me that they didn't want to hear from me. Most church members I talk to also can't recall a time when their pastor ever talked about homosexuality. Some pastors simply refuse to talk about such issues.[3]

And when we stopped talking about these issues, we stopped linking biblical truth to the relevant issues in our culture. That's why so many Christians can't articulate a well-reasoned explanation for their faith on issues such as truth, morality, and sexuality. We're too ill-informed and too scared to speak.

Yet this level of biblical ignorance is not a time for fear. It is a time for faith. Have you noticed how the debate on same-sex marriage invariably turns into discussion of the Bible and God's will? Rather than running away from it as many Canadians have, why don't you take it as an opportunity to explain the Christian worldview to your friends? Discuss the issue with family members who have rainbow-coloured FB pictures. And of course, before you do, understand what the biblical worldview is. Take this as an opportunity for you to learn why God's love for humanity means discouraging harmful behaviour like homosexuality.

3. Keep Fighting the Good Fight

An apologist friend of mine recently insisted that the "culture war is over" and that "we lost" and we should move on to other issues. He said we can't expect a non-Christian culture to act like Christians.

Interestingly, when I asked him if he was glad William Wilberforce, the abolitionist, didn't share that sentiment, he never responded. If Christian leaders like him gave up on fights against slavery or racial discrimination, the world we would live in would not only be far worse, but it would be far harder to share the gospel to it.

In fact, many Canadian Christians use the "we lost" sentiment to never raise controversial issues again. They have capitulated to culture and act no differently than their secular colleagues. The more "normal" sin gets, the harder it is want to be "abnormal" by speaking out against it.

But as our American friends get used to the new "normal," please remember this:The day before the U.S. legalized same-sex marriage, I was speaking about homosexuality to a church youth group where two young women recently came out as bisexual. Both approached me at the end of my talk and thanked me for it. One in particular told me that she was trying her best to be faithful to God's word but it was so hard because the rest of culture is telling her just to act on her feelings.

I explained to her what I've learned when I've struggled with unwanted sexual attractions—that God understands how we feel and grieves with us. Though we might think the most loving thing to do for someone is to enter into a relationship with them, the most loving thing we can do is to introduce them to Christ. She agreed and said she would do her best to follow Jesus first.

The fight to normalize homosexuality in the U.S. may have been fought over a few months in a courtroom, but it's a daily battle for people like this young woman who want to do the right thing. Your court just made it harder for her to do so.

Rather than giving up and claiming all is lost, don't you think people like her need Christians who are willing to speak truth when no one else does? That's why we have to keep speaking—because millions of people like this girl need to know that only Jesus can bring hope to a confused culture and their confused hearts.


[1] Naomi Lakritz, "It's Not Anti-Christian—It's Anti-Extremist," Calgary Herald, September 19, 2014, accessed July 2, 2015, http://calgaryherald.com/opinion/lakritz-its-not-anti-christian-its-anti-extremist.

[2] "Are Canadians Done with the Bible?," Canadian Bible Forum, accessed July 8, 2015, http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca.

[3] Jonathan Merritt, "Hillsong's Brian Houston Says Church Won't Take Public Position on LGBT Issues, Jonathan Merritt on Faith & Culture (blog), Oct. 16, 2014, accessed July 7, 2015, http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/10/16/hillsongs-brian-houston-says-church-lgbt-issues/.

Some (Same-sex) Marriage Advice from Canada, Part 1

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By Jojo Ruba

As I've followed the news, read the blogs, and filtered through the endless stream of rainbow-coloured Facebook pictures, it's obvious that our culture is confused about how to react to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S.

It's even worse for us as Christians who've run the gamut from celebrating the decision, to despairing of the decision, to apologizing for either reaction!

But as a Canadian organization, we've seen this before. Canada legalized same-sex marriage about 10 years ago and it's important we share with our U.S. friends what happened here. Canada is like the canary in the mine for the U.S. since we're years ahead of you in terms of social change. That's why what happens to us can serve as a warning of what will happen to you.

White House rainbow colors to celebrate June 2015 SCOTUS same-sex marriage rulingAnd though no Christians have been thrown in jail yet for our faith, the legalization of same-sex marriage is a huge step in marginalizing the Christian worldview and making it more difficult to share a biblical faith with our secular culture.

Not thrown in jail yet but . . .

Many of my American friends (at least on Facebook) are already preparing for the worst. They're anticipating churches losing their charitable status or Christian organizations being banned from sharing their beliefs. But that's likely not going to happen right away.

The first thing that will happen is not much. The most important goal proponents of same-sex marriage have is to normalize it, and changing the law is a big step in making that happen. Using that decision to beat up Christians (at least right away) will be counter-productive to that goal.

1. Which is Worse, Ignorance or Evil?

That doesn't mean that there won't be an odd decision by a gay rights group or the local civil liberties association here and there. But most of these activities will be done because of ignorance, not malice.

For example, last year, the city council of a small Canadian tourist town banned Christians from using public property. The Nanaimo city council was to host a leadership simulcast on city property. The conference had nothing to do with sexuality and featured such benign (at least on the topic) speakers as Bishop Desmond Tutu and Laura Bush.

But two gay activists called a city councillor and complained to him that the conference was sponsored by Chick-fil-A, whose president supported traditional marriage campaigns, and hosted Christian psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud, who believes that same-sex attractions can be changed. This prompted the councillor to pass a motion that read

that as owners of the facility, any events that are associated with organizations or people that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia, or other expressions of hate, and as such advise the [city-owned centre] to not permit the upcoming Leadercast event to occur in a City owned facility that is scheduled for Saturday, May the 9th.[1]

After comparing anyone who disagreed with their views on sexuality to criminals and Boko Haram kidnappers (who ironically force Christian girls to convert to Islam), the council passed the motion 8-1. Most of the national media ignored the story.

After an outcry from the local Christian community, human rights groups, and one Jewish reporter, the council sheepishly rescinded the motion, as it likely violated Canada's constitution. But the council's decision laid bare the ignorance of so many Canadians about Christian teachings on sexuality. Banning anyone from using public property because they believe sexuality can be changed would of course ban the Apostle Paul, but also many top gay researchers who openly acknowledge that sexuality is not immutable.[2]

The same thing will happen as Americans become more biblically illiterate. They will pass motions that directly contravene not only Christian belief but the right of Christians to put those beliefs into practice. I asked William Lane Craig once which was worse, a culture that was stupid or a culture that was evil. He laughed and he said they were very similar because one leads to another.

2. Treating Sexual Behaviour as Identity

The more likely place to start for these groups is to ensure that any vestige of treating homosexuality as abnormal is removed. This is the most obvious next step because well-meaning people can be convinced that they are doing a good.

For example, the openly lesbian premier of Ontario recently banned counseling for teens and preteens who want to change their same-sex attractions.[3] Though New Jersey, among other places, beat her to that, the push to get rid of any kind of help for people with unwanted same-sex attractions will get stronger. They believe it is harmful to want to change your sexual orientation just as it would be wrong to want to change your racial or ethnic identity.

Another way to normalize same-sex behaviour is to target schools. The former education minister of Alberta, himself a former pastor of a local megachurch, was instrumental in passing a law forcing all schools that get government funding, including Christian schools, to host gay-straight alliance groups (GSAs).[4] GSAs openly promote homosexuality as normal and any opposition as intolerance. In fact, the Alberta Teachers' Association's own website gives advice on how to start a GSA in religious schools and how to overcome religious opposition to their views.[5]

3. Redefining theology

Targeting religious institutions as the source of opposition is, of course, key to normalizing homosexuality. But not all of the action will be direct or through the law.

My colleague Janie recently described a Canadian group that put on a seminar on sexuality in our city last year. The group calls itself Christian and tries to create an open dialogue on homosexuality in churches. Rather than outright calling homosexuality acceptable, they want to create "space" for their view and argue that the Bible can be interpreted to both oppose and support same-sex sexual relations.[6]

Taking a page from Matthew Vines and his Reformation Project, they've tasked their adherents to go into local Canadian churches to begin this "dialogue" with the explicit goal to change the theological teachings of their churches and to get them to eventually accept their views on sexuality.

This subtle approach (they compare the controversy over homosexuality to the controversy over the eating of food sacrificed to idols) is very Canadian because it avoids confrontation. But it is meant to achieve the same goal as changing the law: normalizing homosexuality.

4. Who Can Come Out

Since the legalization of same-sex marriage, Canadians have become used to it and many of the subtle approaches no longer need to be subtle.

Now, if you want to work at any government department that administers marriage certificates, you must be willing to perform same-sex ceremonies.[7] Even businesses that take a stand against the issue can be targeted for their beliefs.[8]

The most egregious example of this is what is happening to Trinity Western University's law program. Trinity, Canada's only private Christian university, wants to start a law program. But several law societies in Canada have openly stated that they will refuse to recognize any student who graduates from that program because of the school's policy on homosexuality. Trinity has a code of conduct for all of its students. Though students don't have to be Christians to go to school, they must adhere to a code of conduct where they agree to having no sexual relationships outside of a traditional marriage.[9]

These law societies argue that Trinity graduates cannot practice law because they hold views contrary to the law of the land. In other words, the only lawyers that they will accept are those that support same-sex marriage. (Of course, they didn't take that position when the law of the land was against same-sex marriage.)

These societies have made these decisions through plebiscites of their own members. And I've heard through lawyer friends how even some Christian lawyers have voted to ban graduates from Trinity out of fear of losing their jobs or promotions.

The fight is still in the courts but this echoes another fight the school had a decade ago over Christian teachers who graduated from the school. Back then, teachers' unions refused graduates from the school because they saw them as "homophobic" and therefore incapable of teaching gay students.

Though the courts eventually mandated that the teachers' college could not discriminate against Christians, this kind of harassment of Christian institutions will continue and get worse.[10]

Human Rights Commissions, quasi-judicial bodies that act like courts on some human rights cases, have had a history of punishing Christians for their views on homosexuality. One case punished a pastor for writing a letter against homosexuality in his local paper. The commission ruled that the pastor could not even speak about homosexuality at his church or in conversation (thankfully this was overturned, but only after a long, expensive legal process)![11]

Recently, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that even if Bible verses told the truth, if they were offensive enough to others, they could still be considered hate speech. In other words, truth is no longer a defense in Canada, especially on this issue.[12]

Both cases show that when truth is no longer a standard, the only standard left is the feelings of the most sensitive person in the room.

Knowing that this is what to expect, how should Christians prepare? In part 2 of this article, we will suggest three lessons Americans can take from Canada's experience with same-sex marriage.


[1] You can watch a clip of Ezra Levant speaking on this on Sun News at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUaODful6vY.

[2] Jonathan Morrow, "(Part 6) Answering the Toughest Questions About Homosexuality with Alan Shlemon," Think Christianly (blog), January 25, 2012, accessed July 2, 2015, http://thinkchristianly.blogspot.ca/2012/01/part-6-answering-toughest-questions.html.

[3] Rob Ferguson, "Ontario Becomes First Province to Ban 'Conversion Therapy' for LGBTQ children," Toronto Star, Jun 04 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/06/04/ontario-becomes-first-province-to-ban-conversion-therapy-for-lgbtq-children.html.

[4] Mariam Ibrahim and Karen Kleiss, "Gay-straight Alliances Now Mandatory in Alberta: 'We're No Longer That Redneck, Roughneck Province,'" National Post, March 11, 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/gay-straight-alliances-now-mandatory-in-alberta-were-no-longer-that-redneck-roughneck-province.

[5] Kristopher Wells, Gay-Straight Alliances: A Guide for Teachers (Edmonton: Alberta Teachers' Association, 2006), 26, http://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Human-Rights-Issues/Gay–Straight%20Student%20Alliances%20in%20Alberta%20Schools%20A%20Guide%20for%20Teachers.pdf.

[6] Janie Bont, "Finding Space for the Bible in 'Generous Spaciousness'", Faith Beyond Belief (blog), November 20, 2014, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.faithbeyondbelief.ca/2014/11/20/finding-space-for-the-bible-in-generous-spaciousness/.

[7] "Marriage officials can't refuse gays: Sask. Court, CBC News, Jan 10, 2011, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/marriage-officials-can-t-refuse-gays-sask-court-1.1011669.

[8] "Jewelry store to refund engagement ring deposit to same-sex couple," CBC News, May 19, 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/jewelry-store-to-refund-engagement-ring-deposit-to-same-sex-couple-1.3078557.

[9] Kelly McParland, "Crusade Against Trinity Western Law School Runs Up Against a Sensible Judge," National Post, January 30, 2015, accessed July 7, 2015, http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/kelly-mcparland-crusade-against-trinity-western-law-school-runs-up-against-an-intelligent-judge.

[10] Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, [2001] 1 S.C.R. 772, 2001 S.C.C. 31 (CanLII), May 17, 2001, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/2001/2001scc31/2001scc31.html.

[11] Jenn Ruddy, "Stephen Boissoin on Free Speech, Porn and His Anti-Gay Letter," Daily Xtra, December 8, 2009, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.dailyxtra.com/canada/news-and-ideas/news/stephen-boissoin-free-speech-porn-and-anti-gay-letter-52317. See also "Lund v Boissoin," Wikipedia, updated January 7, 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lund_v_Boissoin.

[12] Bruce Bawer, "Canadian Supreme Court Kills Last Hope for Free Speech," Frontpage Mag, February 28, 2013, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/179449/canadian-supreme-court-kills-last-hope-free-speech-bruce-bawer.

Evaluating Ontario's New Sex-Ed Curriculum

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By Scott McClare

Whenever the subject of public-school sex education comes around, you can expect a reaction. Earlier this year, the Ontario Ministry of Education released its Health and Physical Education curriculum, updated for September 2015. It includes units on sexuality as well as healthy living and physical fitness.[1] Critical reaction was swift and often knee-jerk: anonymous letters circulated that outlined the supposed lurid details of the sexual practices to be taught to middle schoolers.[2] When a former deputy minister of education was connected to the curriculum after being convicted of child-related sexual offenses, it only threw fuel on the fire.

Last month, I attended a parents' information night at my church about the new curriculum. It included speakers representing the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, and others. I found the session informative and helpful for separating fact from sensationalism. Though the curriculum applies to elementary and high school, the presenters limited their comments to grades 1 to 8. This article reflects many of their observations as well as my own.

Most of the new curriculum is very good. The majority of its content is straightforward health education, stressing the importance of physical fitness and making healthy choices; sex education comprises only a fraction. The parts that have caused the most controversy are actually example prompts that a teacher could optionally use in a classroom discussion, not mandatory lessons. The curriculum does not encourage early sexuality; rather, it discusses reasons to delay sexual activity. It teaches the importance of clearly communicating consent to sexual activity and saying no to any other unwanted behaviour. Students are taught to recognize bullying or exploitation, and what to do about it. Respect is taught for people who differ, an important lesson in an increasingly multicultural and diverse society.

Arguably, the most significant addition focuses on the safe use of technology. The current curriculum dates from 1998, when everyday technologies such as broadband Internet, smartphones, and social networking were virtually nonexistent. Now the curriculum teaches students about Internet privacy, evaluating unreliable information, the risks of exploitation and cyberbullying, and the dangers of "sexting" (taking and sending inappropriate pictures by cellphone).

Grade by grade, here is what Ontario's Health and Physical Education, 2015 curriculum will teach concerning human development and sexual health:

Grade 1: Names of body parts
Grade 2: Basic stages of human development
Grade 3: Respect for those who are different
Grade 4: Onset of puberty
Grade 5: The reproductive system, emotional and personal issues related to puberty
Grade 6: Physical and emotional changes related to adolescence, building healthy relationships, stereotyping, consent
Grade 7: Delaying sexual activity, preventing STIs and pregnancy
Grade 8: Making healthy sexual decisions, relationships and intimacy, establishing boundaries, consent, contraception, gender identity

All the presenters were chiefly concerned that the sex-ed portions are "too much, too soon." When it comes to sex education, school is still secondary. Parents are children's primary sexual educators, and the lessons they teach and the boundaries they set have an effect on a child's sexual involvement. Children learn at different rates and will have different questions; parents, not teachers, are in the best position to decide what is appropriate for them.

Surprisingly, nothing is said about pornography. Despite a needed focus on the risks of using the Internet, this curriculum is completely silent on its most obvious risk.[3] Some experts estimate that 30% of Internet data traffic consists of porn.[4] Pornography presents an unrealistic portrayal of women's bodies and their willingness to engage in sexual activity. It presents humiliating, deviant, and violent sexuality as normal and desirable. Worst, it is practically unavoidable and freely available to anyone old enough to use a computer or iPhone.

The Ontario Curriculum also makes no mention of marriage as the context for sex. Terms like "wedding" or "marriage" do not occur at all, while "husband" or "wife" are only used as examples of terms to be avoided rather than make assumptions about someone's relationships. "Love" occurs only in the sense of enthusiasm for activities such as reading or team sports. Pregnancy is only a hazard to be avoided as an unintended side effect of sexual intercourse. In other words, the Ministry of Education has no room for the traditional Christian worldview in which pregnancy and children are a natural, desired consequence of a sex act committed out of love by a husband and wife. Teaching students not to make assumptions about people's living arrangements is good, as Canada's sexual ethics have loosened considerably in the decades since I was an elementary-school student. However, a majority of teens still desire marriage, and arguably live in a traditional household. Why ignore this entirely?

Although the curriculum rightly teaches the importance of consent to sexual (and other) behaviour, it says nothing about the legal definition of consent or the legal age of consent. Consenting to sex does not mean that someone is ready for sex or that he or she is in a good relationship. (Ironically, none of the children being taught this material are legally old enough to consent to anything.)

Apart from the necessity of consent, in fact, we have no consensus anymore on sexual ethics in our culture. Thus, the Health and Physical Education curriculum tries to be morally neutral. This assumption of moral neutrality is evident in the teaching of tolerance and respect for others whose lifestyle is different. In one example interaction between a sixth-grade teacher and student, the student says:

Not everyone has a mother and a father—someone might have two mothers or two fathers (or just one parent or a grandparent, a caregiver, or a guardian). We need to make sure that we don't assume that all couples are of the opposite sex, and show this by the words we use. For example, we could use a word like "partner" instead of "husband" or "wife." We need to be inclusive and welcoming.[5]

That is, there is no moral difference between a father and mother, two fathers or mothers, or a single parent, and so we need to be tolerant, in the sense of accepting all kinds of sexual relationships equally. This is a fallacy. Morality cannot be neutral, and sex itself is an intrinsically moral activity. Even its absence is not neutral: try recommending abstinence education and see how some people react! Genuine tolerance does not mean suspending judgment about moral differences. It comes from acknowledging those differences with a fair mind and sound judgment. John Patrick writes:

Neutral values do not exist but we do need the tolerance they would seek to protect to adjudicate the conflicts which arise in our attempts to translate the unchanging but only imperfectly known truth into the working ethics of daily living. . . . Neither is the refusal to accept every opinion as equally valid truly intolerant; rather those who would demand such things are intolerant of logic.[6]

Health and Phsycial Education, 2015 states repeatedly that parents remain their children's primary educational influence. Parents need to be informed about what their kids are being taught in school, which may mean reading the curriculum for themselves rather than relying on secondhand, often sensationalist and inaccurate, information. They can cultivate a relationship with their children's school, especially with teachers, and hopefully a more meaningful one than merely protesting a contentious sex-ed program (for example, by volunteering at unrelated school events). Ask for assurances that advance notice will be given of controversial topics. The clash of authority between teachers and parents can hurt children, as one of my colleagues at Faith Beyond Belief remarked as I was writing this post: "This conflict within my kids has caused them a certain level of discomfort. . . . It has been moderately problematic in their lives. Because the schools are not morally neutral on sexuality, my kids suffer as a result, along with our relationship." Parents have the right to exempt their children from offensive topics that might conflict with what they learn at home. Christians have a voice in the public square, and we should speak up when it comes to policy-making on such a fundamentally moral topic as sexuality.

The church also has a role to play. We need to develop a robust theology of sexuality. Too often, Christian teaching on sex is reduced to rules without an understanding of the rationale behind them. I would suggest starting with a study of God's original intent for sexuality, making human beings male and female (Genesis 2:18-25), Jesus' teaching on divorce, which requires sexual fidelity between husband and wife (Matthew 19:1-12), the significance of marriage as a picture of Christ's relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:22-23), and the practical benefits of marriage, but also singleness and sexual abstinence (1 Corinthians 7). Other biblical passages also provide guidance, but these four are a good starting point for the foundation of Christian sexual ethics.

I am not married and don't have children. However, who says that in six or seven years, I won't have children entering school? I will have to evaluate then whether classroom teaching about sex, from this revision of the curriculum or the next, is conducive to the Christian worldview they will learn at home. We need to think about issues like sexuality calmly when we have the opportunity, so we don't have to react to them emotionally when the situation becomes more urgent.


[1] Canada, Ontario, Ministry of Education, The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education, 2015 (Queen's Printer, 2015). http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health1to8.pdf.

[2] See, for example, "Fact-checking 10 Claims Made by Parents Against the Ontario Sex-Ed Curriculum," Toronto Star, May 4, 2015, accessed May 6, 2015, http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/05/04/fact-checking-10-claims-made-by-parents-against-the-ontario-sex-ed-curriculum.html.

[3] The corresponding curriculum for secondary schools only mentions pornography once, in passing. Canada, Ontario, Ministry of Education, The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9-12: Health and Physical Education, 2015 (Queen's Printer, 2015), 102.

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/secondary/health9to12.pdf.

[4] For example, see "Porn Sites Get More Visitors Each Month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter Combined," The Huffington Post, May 4, 2013, accessed May 5, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/03/internet-porn-stats_n_3187682.html.

[5] The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education, 2015, 177.

[6] John Patrick, "The Myth of Moral Neutrality," Christian Medical and Dental Society, accessed May 6, 2015, http://www.cmdscanada.org/my_folders/Documents/MythofMoralNeutrality.pdf.