WASHINGTON (BP) — Julian Bond currently serves as chairman emeritus of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. As the November election approaches, Mr. Bond has contributed to a Washington, D.C.-area radio advertisement concerning Maryland Question 6, which would legalize gay marriage. Mr. Bond previously voiced his support of same-sex marriage in February 2011.
“I know a little something about fighting for what’s right and just,” Bond says in the ad. “Maryland’s gay and lesbian families share the same values, and they should share in the right to marry. I believe people of faith understand this isn’t about any one religious belief — it’s about protecting the civil right to make a lifelong commitment to the person you love. Join me in supporting Question Number 6. It’s the right thing to do.”
It would appear that the African American civil rights leader and his organization are directing their faith systems’ appeal primarily at African American congregations in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City — areas saturated with churches that oppose same-sex marriage. Bond seems to be hoping that African Americans’ loyalties to him, the NAACP, and their own race will swing voters to follow their senior statesman’s lead on this controversial issue. In doing so, Mr. Bond assumes that African American congregants will prioritize race over moral convictions when they approach polling stations in a few weeks.
Bond is weighing his record and name against the teaching of the church’s sacred Scriptures when he appeals to the shared values of the “people of faith.” Yet he should clarify the values that he thinks Christian believers and proponents of same-sex marriage share. It could not be marriage, for the Scriptures value marriage as the legally sanctioned, lifelong, covenant union between a man and a woman — “male and female” are the terms the Gospels use. Without “male and female,” one hollows out Christian values so that they are meaningless. A broadly termed “lifelong commitment” vastly differs from a specified “covenant union between a man and woman.”
Bond suggests that values determine what we legislate as right and just. According to Christian theology, God knows about fighting for what is right and just. The book of Exodus records that He rescued the Hebrew slaves from Egypt because it was wrong to hold slaves captive based on race. Matthew writes that God intends to judge the living and the dead. He will separate righteous sheep from unrighteous goats, in part, on the basis for how they treat the hungry, thirsty, foreign, unclothed, sick and imprisoned, and not on the basis of race (Matthew 25:36). Apparently, God values freedom, racial equity and the social welfare of people, finding these things to be righteous in His sight.
Yet the book of Genesis records that this heavenly Champion of Rights also destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities known for same-sex relationships. People of faith have an obligation to take heed to follow their God where His values conflict with Chairman Bond’s values.
One should ask Julian Bond if it is civil to ask people to disregard their faith for the choices of others. For someone could choose not to participate in homosexual acts just as someone who is heterosexual could choose to live in abstinence or celibacy. However, not one person gets to choose his race or gender. Even non-religious members of the NAACP should agree that it is right to value things that are unalienable, as our country’s foundational rights document establishes. They also should agree that rights must not be based on the preferences of the majority (or a few).
We are grateful for the civil rights hero’s merits in the fight to secure rights for people of color. Nevertheless, in adding sexual preference to his rights, he has erred on the truth. People of faith should deafen their ears to his appeal. Instead, they should vote “no” to Question 6, and appeal to the chairman to receive our opposition with informed civility.
Eric C. Redmond is executive pastoral assistant and Bible professor in residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington D.C. He previously served as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).