I don’t read news magazines on a weekly basis, but do try to watch for stories that pertain to Christian thought and practice. A Newsweek cover story some time back certainly did that, claiming to have ‘The Religious Case For Gay Marriage’ within its pages. Beyond that, John Meacham, Newsweek’s editor, felt the story important enough to introduce it with elaboration of his own in his Editor’s Desk Commentary.
Two of his comments in particular grabbed my attention. One was his assertion that there is a decided generational difference of opinion concerning gay marriage, with the hope of gay rights proponents riding on the younger generation of America; which might very well be correct, as the shock value of what gays do and stand for has been lost to many younger people due to its familiarity in society at large. The other is the almost audible sneer in his comments concerning conservative believers who resort to biblical authority on this and other issues, actually referring to them as backward, ignorant, bigoted, insensitive, etc. As if really believing what scripture says to be the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and behavior makes us radically out-of-step with the rest of society. (When in truth – it should!) He goes on to say that, “…to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt – it is unserious and unworthy of the great Judeo/Christian tradition. (Pray-tell – how else would you uphold Christian concepts but by referring to Christian scripture?) His reasoning being that you take the “ideal” of Christianity – presumably love of everything and everyone, all-the-while redefining right and wrong according to our own value system – and then discarding anything “contradictory” or “controversial” on the junk-pile of history.
This diatribe was triggered by California’s surprisingly successful passage of Proposition 8 several years ago, which defined the parameters of marriage as between a man and woman, effectively banning gay marriage in that state. It’s at this point that he “forgets” to mention that a number of other states were doing likewise even as gay rights advocates scored victories elsewhere. Also absent is the fact that a majority of Californians voted for this resolution, not just a handful of religious kooks out to force their agenda and ideology on everybody else.
Lisa Miller, the author of the article ‘Our Mutual Joy 1, again featured by Newsweek, argues in much the same vein. In part, attempting to validate same-sex marriage by citing such other “non-traditional” marriages in the Bible as Abraham, Sarah and Hagar; Jacob, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilapah; King Solomon with his many wives and concubines and even Joseph and Mary. She then cites the example of David’s love for Jonathan as evidence of something more than a devoted friendship between men who had faced tremendous challenges together; developing a trust and dependence that transcended the term ‘friendship’ and was in that day often considered more valuable than the love of a woman. (2 Samuel 1:25) Marriages of that time period frequently arranged for financial or political advantage, not because of the love and respect expressed between individuals exclusively committed to one another’s well-being. Jesus and Paul are used as well to question present-day Christianity’s take on marriage, Jesus purportedly “…preaching an indifference to earthly attachments – especially family.” (Which is patently untrue – although he did caution against allowing anything or anyone taking precedence over him and his call on their lives.) Paul cited as, “…regard(ing) marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust.” (Scripture used incorrectly to prove a point Paul never intended.)
The statement that Jesus, “…preached a radical kind of family, a caring community of believers, whose bond in God superseded all blood ties…,”; is certainly true. But a thorough understanding of scripture (where one searches out truth rather than selecting what fits a preconceived agenda) reveals Jesus as respectful and loving toward his family, warning friend and foe alike against disrespect and abuse of family ties. The real point being – if we must choose between our Lord and our family, we must choose Him. Ms. Miller comes closer to the truth when she says that for Paul, “…celibacy was the Christian ideal, but family stability was the best alternative.” However, she strays far from the truth when she argues that since the church (to our shame) has virtually the same number of divorces within its ranks as does the world (which Paul argued strenuously against) it’s unreasonable and hypocritical for it to then expect people to abide by the prohibition against gay sex and marriage. Equally twisted is the way Paul’s “rant” against homosexuality in Romans 1 is treated as outdated, misleading and misunderstood. (Although we must understand that he cited a number of damming offenses there, not just homosexuality.)
And speaking of stretching the truth to prove a point – the Bible does not endorse slavery, providing instead a hope and means of overcoming it through love, respect and generosity; nor does it ever condone anti-Semitism when it notes the animosity some leading Jews held for Christ and the part they played in having him crucified. It being laughable to suggest that the prohibition against Israeli men cutting their forelocks (or hair) was in any way seen as having the same importance in Jewish Levitical law as the condemnation of homosexuality, incest and adultery. (Ms. Miller missing the point that some Old Testament laws were clearly directed specifically to the Jewish nation, others referring to a basic morality embracing the entire world.) Most people still agreeing – for the time being anyway – that adultery is wrong, pedophilia grossly immoral, incest an abomination. And yes, Jesus did indeed define marriage as being between a man and a woman in quoting Genesis 2:24 to another group of people trying to stretch God’s word and will to accommodate their own sense of right and wrong. (See Mark 10:6-8)
In closing, Ms. Miller states that, “In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins, and brings the whole Christian community into his embrace.” A statement that, taken at face value, is hard to refute. But what she and the rest of the unsaved world often refuse to acknowledge is that His acceptance of us as Christians is not based on a vague ideal and profession of belief in principle. Rather it is contingent on our willingness to change our pattern of thought and behavior to His. (Even as we are saved by grace, we are expected to, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”; proving ourselves by our deeds. Luke 3:8, Matthew 7:16 & Acts 26:20) Reaching out to all mankind is a trademark of Christ and Christian ministry, with a message of grace and redemption dependent on a response of repentance and commitment to His will and purposes.
This artificial attempt to use scripture to bolster an argument in favor of gay marriage is what is truly “unserious and unworthy”. Ms. Miller elsewhere claiming, “The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it’s impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours.” I prefer to believe that, “…the Bible is a living document powerful for more than 2000 years because it’s truths speak to us even as we change through history.” (A conflicted quote of Ms. Miller’s found in this self-same article; probably meant to mean something other than I hear – but true none-the-less.)
1With Sarah Ball and Anne Underwood contributing.
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