Free Will and Same-Sex Marriage

Author Michael Eric Dyson thinks the Black church needs to ‘get over’ the gay marriage issue. But is it possible to view homosexuality as a sin, yet support the right of same-sex couples to marry?

Michael Eric Dyson: America is not a Christian-only nation.

During a recent interview on my radio show, Michael Eric Dyson, the social critic and author who is also an ordained Baptist minister, urged Christians to “get over” their opposition to President Obama’s decision to support same-sex marriage. Dyson, who is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, said that particularly black Christians should be the last people to stand on the side of another group of Americans being denied their constitutional rights.

“Some black people are mad at Obama over the same-sex marriage thing. Get over it. Get beyond your bigotry. Black people are the last people on earth trying to tell somebody who to marry, when we need to get our numbers up, No. 1,” said Dyson, who supported President Obama’s reelection.

Marriage rates among all groups have been declining over the past decades but remain the lowest among blacks. According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies only 52 percent of black women will marry by age 33, compared to 81 percent of white women and 77 percent of Hispanic women. Meanwhile, an estimated 70 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers.

Dyson continued: “And No. 2, if we’ve been victims of oppression, why extend that? Forget your personal religious viewpoint, there are some people who don’t have your religion and guess what, there are some people who don’t even have religion at all. The nation should protect everybody – the religious believers and the non-believers alike.”

Click to hear the entire interview.

Dyson repeated a position that I’ve written previously here on UrbanFaith concerning the same-sex issue. It’s true that the Bible does not affirm homosexuality and therefore doesn’t bless same-sex marriage. No effort to reinterpret biblical relationships such as, Jonathan and David’s or Naomi and Ruth’s can change that. Claiming that Jesus never discussed the issue doesn’t cut it either. If John1:1-14 is true “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” then Jesus in fact did discuss the issue such as where homosexuality is mentioned in Leviticus 18:22. (This page offers a comparison of contemporary thinking on the Bible and homosexuality.)

If John 1 is false, then we’ve got an even bigger problem. All that Christianity is predicated upon — the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins — falls apart; the world that God so loved that he gave his only begotten son for, is equally doomed (John 3:16).

We Christians ought to remember that our calling as disciples is not to be agents of doom, but of hope. We are to be on the side of freedom, justice, and equality. That freedom includes the free will to make good and bad decisions. If God allows humans this free will to choose his way or the other, who are we to advocate denying this right to fellow citizens?

As Dyson correctly points out, Americans are blessed to live not under sharia law but in a nation that recognizes the freedom of religion and insists on the separation of church and state. The “state’s” (federal, state, and local governments) responsibility is to protect all of its citizens’ rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, regardless to their religious or non-religious views. The government sets laws to regulate how we interact among each other, so that our rights might be secured. You can’t run a red light in your car without punishment because to do so puts other fellow citizens at danger. You can’t just pull out a gun and shoot someone because you’re obviously taking away their right to life, while potentially putting other citizens at grave risk. Do two taxpaying adults deciding they want to legally commit to each other by marrying under the laws of a state meet the test of putting the rights of other fellow citizens at risk? Besides, people can marry and divorce in America without the church ever being involved.

Sins violate divine laws that separate humans from God. All sins should not be violations of local, state, or federal laws because not all citizens believe in God. If all sins were illegal, divorce, which God hates (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:6; Matthew 31, 32), should also be against state and federal laws. Catholics annul (invalidate from the beginning) marriages, but typically divorce proceedings are not conducted in churches. However, in America, Christians divorce in state courts and often for good personal reasons. How would we feel if the state denied us the option to divorce?

We Christians tend to cherry pick the sins to get riled about when it suits our own personal interests, agendas, or traditions. However, life in a pluralistic democratic society is too complex for that. It’s full of a lot of gray, blurry areas. Perhaps this is why God reserves grace and mercy for everyone, but our judgment for him alone.

Dyson urged that Christians should not aim to make America a Christian-only nation, but use Christian principles to help make America a just nation for everyone, regardless of their faith.

As the apostle Paul said, the greatest of these principles to apply is love.

About the author, Wil LaVeist

Wil LaVeist is an award-winning journalist, professional speaker, and author of Fired Up: 4 Steps to Overcoming a Crisis, Including Unemployment. Contact him at, and listen to The Wil LaVeist Show Wednesdays at Noon to 1 p.m. on 88.1 WHOV in Hampton, Virginia.
  1. I’m just curious Mr. LaVeist. Do you and Mr. Dyson also support bigamy or polygamy? These are all consenting adults who decide they want to come together and marry? One man, two or three women? One woman, two or three men? Or however you want to mix them these days! Shouldn’t the government also give license to these consenting adults as well to live as they please? What right, constitutionally, do we have to prevent these consenting adults to marry?

    P.S. – Just so anyone who reads this knows, I totally disagree with the premise of this article as well as with bigamy/polygamy.

  2. Edward: Thanks for your feedback, but since you read the article you already know the answer to what I think. I don’t “support” ANY sin. I “support” people’s right to choose how they want to handle their personal lives — even if that includes sin — as long as it doesn’t put other fellow citizens at risk. Christians should strive to influence people to make good godly decisions through using love. By the way, as you know, you can find examples of polygamy in the Bible: Jacob had two wives — Leah and Rachel, plus two chicks on the side, right? Here’s what I am most concerned about and that I think particularly the black church out to be much more vocal about: What can we do about the disparities plaguing our community and tearing our families apart?

    • I agree with you…..I don’t support sin but I do support people right to choose what’s best for them. God told us to love everyone and He would do the judging of everyone in due time.

    • “I ‘support’ people’s right to choose how they want to handle their personal lives — even if that includes sin — as long as it doesn’t put other fellow citizens at risk.”

      I’m sorry, but that makes absolutely no sense. Sin always puts “other fellow citizens” at risk. You obviously haven’t done your research on the roots of the modern gay movement in America and how it stems from blatant satanism. (Also, YHWH does destroy sinful cities, sinful people, and actually requires by His own law the death of those who commit particular sins. You must remember that YHWH is a holy God, a jealous God, and no flesh will glory before Him? And please do not say that the law is done for, because not one jot or tittle will fade until all is accomplished; and not all has been accomplished, or else Jesus would be King of the earth from Jerusalem and the Gentiles would be celebrating the feasts annually. With that being said, if you think I’m saying to stone people for their sins, I’ll leave that to God, Who from history has been judging the wicked Himself. But I will call a sin sin; I will not pretend that anyone’s theological construct will get them to paradise if it’s separated from the blood of the spotless Passover lamb, Jesus.)

      “Christians should strive to influence people to make good godly decisions through using love.”

      I would like to think that you would love me enough, that if I was sinning, to tell me that I would be separated from my Creator [the Jewish God, YHWH] forever, and that my Creator [the Jewish God, YHWH] made a way for me to be with Him forever through His own Son [Jesus/Yeshua Who is the Jewish God, YHWH]. The truth is, people will pay for their sins, if not somehow on this earth, then eternally in hell.

      “By the way, as you know, you can find examples of polygamy in the Bible: Jacob had two wives — Leah and Rachel, plus two chicks on the side, right?”

      How many wives did God make for Adam?

      • CORRECTION TO LAST SENTENCE OF SECOND PARAGRAPH: The truth is people will absolutely pay for their sins outside of Christ in hell for eternity, if not one way or another on this earth.

  3. Will, they already can marry and there are churches that will marry same sex couples. The issue is why do we have to redefine marriage away from what was intended? How can the state redefine something that existed before it? There are other ways to do things other than redefining marriage to be a generic institution.

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