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Gay Marriage: The Law of the Land

I confess, I’m a little surprised.

The Supreme Court actually issued a ruling dealing with the substance of the question.

It didn’t appeal to technicalities or procedural issues.

The Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry.

It has been awhile since I’ve dealt with the civil side of this issue on my blog. But I have been in favor of gay marriage as a civil right since starting to wrestle with the issue during the Prop 8 campaign in California some seven years ago.

The position I came to in terms of our secular society is this:

  • Christians are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.
  • We are called to do unto others as we would have done to us.
  • This means advocating for our neighbors to have the same rights and freedoms that we would not want taken away from us.

In other words, it is sometimes my Christian duty to ensure that my neighbor has the right to act in ways that are contrary to my Christian belief.

In this case, the reasons people have for maintaining a traditional view of marriage are religious. We are a nation of religious freedom. We cannot take away from others what gives life to ourselves.

Here’s one of the most important things I’ve been learning:

To say what we believe about something is only the first step. It does not necessarily tell us what to do with that belief in the face of those who think differently.

The idea that we should enforce our belief as the law of the land is one that has to be carefully assessed in any given situation. We need to ask what it actually means to do unto our neighbor as we would want done to ourselves.

I know that many of you will disagree with all this. But here’s something I’m sure of: What happened today is not going to ruin your marriage. What happened today is not going to weaken the institution of marriage as such.

All it means is that same-sex couples now have the right to participate in a civil institution that has been weak for a generation.

Strength of marriage does not come from who else is able to join themselves together. Strength of marriage comes from the two people committing themselves to the hard work of cultivating a relationship of self-giving love. It comes from that couple embedding themselves in communities that will help nurture that relationship and help them through the trials that it entails.

I, for one, am glad about what happened today.

I’m glad because I think it’s the right thing for our country. And I’m glad for my friends whose weddings I’ll be attending over the next year—friends whose lives will be made richer and more secure by the institution of marriage they are legally able to join themselves in


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128 thoughts on “Gay Marriage: The Law of the Land

  1. I agree with most of what you’ve written here. We are a nation of diverse beliefs and religious backgrounds, so it is unreasonable that one minority group (Evangelical Christians) impose their moral and religious beliefs upon others. If a majority wish to re-define marriage to include any two people, regardless of gender, and regardless of Judeo-Christian sexual mores, then so be it. Abortion has been legal for 42 years. Adultery is also legal, but I hear few who are arguing that it should be illegal. We live in a pluralistic democracy, not a Christian theocracy.

    However, you say that, “Strength of marriage comes from the two people committing themselves…” I assume that you would also support the legalization of polygamous marriages, as they are currently accepted and practiced in many cultures. We can’t pick and choose which religious/moral/cultural values we impose on others, can we?

    1. Don, do you also support older men marrying 16 year-old boys? Why or why not? 16 is the legal age for marriage in some states.

      1. That’s the dumbest question/statement I have ever heard regarding opposition to gay marriage, Phil. Do YOU support older men marrying 16 year-old girls? Why or why not? 16 is the legal age for marriage in some states… Gay marriage does not mean adult-marry-teenager and more than a heterosexual marriage does.

      2. Phil, do you support older men marrying 16 year-old GIRLS? Why or why not? 16 is the legal age of marriage in some states. And has been long before this latest decision by SCOTUS.

      3. There is one sexual rule in our secular society that Christians are quite oblivious of and woe to any who violate that. Because we are often oblivious about this ONE rule (that *everyone* knows about) it often makes our dialogues with non-Christians both tragic and comic. The one sexual rule is this: the relationship must be consensual which means that both (or more) of the parties have to have EQUAL POWER. A doctor can not have sex with her patient. An employer can not have sex with his employee. A teacher can not have sex with her student even if she is a college professor. The bible does not talk about the need of equal power in a relationship but it is of vital importance to our secular society. This is why the Josh Duggar case attracted such wrath. This is where our beliefs (forgiveness, second chances, boys will be boys) clashed with society’s ONE RULE (consensual between equal powers)

        1. Caroline, an interesting point here. I do not know that equal power 100% implies embargoes on sex that you have mentioned here. I think that consent implies equal power within the context of the sexual relationship, but not necessarily outside of it. That is, an employer could have sex with his/her employee in a completely consensual manner, but then have an altered power dynamic at work. In all of the examples that you cited, except Josh Duggar, the reason that one would advise not to engage in sexual activity probably would be more an ethical basis (i.e. an employer having consensual sex with an employee may introduce bias when interviewing for promotions). Also, the issue with consent when the power dynamics are already determined in one person’s favor more so concern the one with more power leveraging to force “consent.”
          In conclusion, I agree with the point that you state upfront: Christians who dialogue with non-Christians often do honor the rule of consent as strongly as they should, which makes fruitful conversation more difficult. However, I would just suggest that non-coerced consent can be obtained, and healthy sexual relationships with proper power dynamics can occur, even when the power dynamic outside the sexual relationship is not balanced.

  2. It was never about “forcing our belief” on others. It was about not assenting to a definition of marriage which violently contradicts the definition in scripture. Your final statement is mind-boggling – lives made “richer and more secure” by sin? Geez Daniel, how the mighty have drifted.

    1. All definitions are social constructs, Grayson. That’s why I don’t find that argument compelling.

      On richer and more secure, those are social realities, not judgment calls. They will literally be both because of their relationships falling under the umbrella of marriage with its various social benefits.

      1. That’s true. Except that in the case of marriage it is a social construct constructed by God, not humans, as Jesus recognized: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

        To my Christian brothers & sisters who support gay marriage *within the church* I would ask the same question that Jesus asked, “Haven’t you read?”

        1. And they, no doubt, would say in turn, “Yes, but haven’t YOU read…?” And on it would go. It will be a matter of the hermeneutics used to interpret and apply the passages that wins the day for each person and congregation and denomination, not the verses themselves.

          1. That is true. So I suppose in this instance I would use the same hermeneutical method that Jesus used: when questions regarding marriage arise, look to Genesis for God’s original intent.

            1. Two thoughts:
              1. the Genesis text suggests a marriage practice that we appear to have willfully ignored from the moment we received it (the husband leaving his family to join himself to his wife (& family): it has almost been universally practiced as the wife who leaves her family to join herself to her husband (& family)).
              2. much of the Protestant church seems to have had no problem in recent years in ignoring Jesus’ words regarding divorce & re-marriage that immediately follow the ones you refer to, or adopting a hermeneutical method that changes the meaning of Jesus’ words in Mark 10.9-12, and no longer considers second (or third) marriages to be adulterous.

      2. All defs are social constructs – that is not only false, it is self-contradictory and unbiblical. But even for things that are in fact ‘social constructs’-such as the attitude toward equality that you take-does that make them dispensable?

      1. You know, if we are going for the “traditional” Christian marriage, can I elect for the polygamy option? Other than the minor detail that I surely do not have enough money to support two women, I think it’s the best option.

    2. Violently contradicts? How arrogant. I stand behind your right to your interpretation of scripture. I even encourage it. But to imply you have the corner market on interpretation is bold. Brilliant people whose mission in life is to interpret scripture agree with you. And brilliant people disagree. What makes you God’s expert?

    3. I don’t recall scripture having a “definition” of marriage. It does have many examples though:

      Abraham’s marriages, in which he has one son by his sister/wife and one son by his concubine.

      Jacob’s marriages in which he has multiple children to each of his two wives and his two concubines.

      David’s marriages, which included a huge harem of wives?

      Solomon’s marriages, which included a huge harem of wives?

      Jesus’ marriage, or rather lack of marriage.

      Or perhaps Paul’s marriage, if he had one, given that he suggested it was a better option for men not to marry.

    4. Which scriptural definition of marriage do you mean? Solomon’s version, with his 600 wives? Perhaps you mean the kind between brothers and their widowed sister-in-law…or the kind where wives offer their slaves as child-bearers to their husbands? I know: you mean the scriptural marriage where rape victims have to marry their rapists! You certainly cannot mean interracial marriage, since the Bible clearly prohibits this!

      Marriage is a changing social construct. Over time, it has evolved from an economic institution that preserved wealth and power (not to mention male privilege!) to one that codifies and protects intimate relationships between two people who love each other. God has nothing to do with it beyond binding believers in a religious sacrament. Feel free to place these restrictions on yourselves, but please resist the urge to use the State to force them on others.

  3. Daniel;
    If the same sex marriage supporters were interested only in forcing states to recognize their relationships in the same way as heterosexual marriages, I could maybe concur with your blog. Unfortunately the same sex marriage crowd will not stop here. They will go on to try to force SCOTUS to argue that those of us who hold views that same sex marriage is sinful need to assist them in committing those sins by going to court when we refuse to officiate at same sex marriage.
    They have already won court cases when they sue bakers who refuse to provide wedding cakes to same sex couples on the grounds that it violates their religious beliefs. If they can successfully deny the baker his/her First Amendment freedom of religion protection, what prevents them from going after the minister as well?

    1. Non sequitur.

      Baking a cake is not officiating at a religious observance.

      Also, if you want to make sure you never have to marry gay people, don’t perform any marriages on behalf of the state. Tell people you are going to marry to go to the courthouse for their civil affirmation. Just marry people in the sight of God.

      1. Daniel there is a relationship between the baker and minister. Both are suppose to have First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. The way the courts work is that they start off small and then move to bigger issues. We see this in SCOTUS overturning the vote of CA two years ago and now they go big. Yesterday baker tomorrow the minister.

        1. Baking is not a religious ordinance, and I think that we can hold of that line. Now, if you were a justice of the peace and refused to marry a gay couple then you should be forced to do it. But ministers are different.

            1. Steven, I just saw that the SCOTUS opinion written by Kennedy explicitly protects religious liberty on this issue:

              “Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. “

              1. No. Kennedy is not protecting religious liberty here. The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion not merely the teaching of religion. This is an implicit denial of freedom of religion and it cracks the door open for removing the tax exempt status of churches as the arguments made before the court made clear.

                And, for those of us who recognize the religious act of living our lives for Christ–baking a cake is most certainly a religious event as is participating in a godless ceremony. The baker is right to deny his services to such an act and avoid participating in or endorsing what now passes for marriage.

                1. How ridiculous. Do you not realize that there are churches and pastors today who still refuse to house or officiate interracial marriages? It’s an ugly stance, but churches have never been required to officiate weddings by the U.S. government.

  4. “•This means advocating for our neighbors to have the same rights and freedoms that we would not want taken away from us.”

    The begged question is whether the right and freedom under consideration is actually “the same” right and freedom. But I said that 7 years ago and it had no effect.

  5. Your argument about loving your neighbour breaks down if the rest of society is harmed by this ruling. In that case, this ruling harms the majority for the sake of the few.

    Although I agree in principle with your statement about the weakening of the institution of marriage. No fault divorce and acceptance of common law marriage set that carry in motion decades ago.

    1. His argument seems plausible to us because we live in a country whose laws at times have been so infused with Christian assumptions that the state and the church have been saying the same thing, even though it is a [particular] Christian conviction that the state has been working with. In other countries the division between church and state marriages is standard. My grandparents met and married in Holland–the latter, three times (one for the government, once for the church, and once for a mother who couldn’t attend either). So I don’t think that his argument holds as much water as he’d like it to, and I also don’t think that the idea of the church and society modeling true humanity is going to influence very many people. If we want to influence people, let’s love our neighbors as ourselves; if we want them to see God in us, then let’s be like the God who causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.

    2. Out, out, out! The gospel sacraments are baptism and communion. No traditional church has taught that the mere registration of relationships for state purposes is a sacrament. There are enough literate people in the town halls of the land for clerics– once the only ‘clerks’ certain to be in every community– to be relieved of this medieval responsibility. It’s time.

      That said, churches will want to take a deep breath and ask what new, non-redundant things they can do to support the institution of marriage, celebrate the great mystery, let women dress up as brides, etc. Those new things will be real religion that arise from more or less traditional sources and enjoy the full protection of the First Amendment.

  6. I agree with the gist of what you are saying, but sometimes love your neighbor, or family member, or anyone, is telling them they are harming themselves. And by harming their relationship with God (Genesis 19:24, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26/7, 1 Timothy 8-10)… they are harming themselves. If your child was doing drugs would you tell them they were doing something wrong? Of course you would because you love them and want them to not do harm to themselves. This is the same, but the damage is with their relationship with God. Do you love your kid who is doing drugs any less? Of course not, you love your kid… Thats why you try to protect them. Still pondering a question Father Christopher Pollard asked a couple months ago… If marriage were not an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman, what relationships would qualify as marriage and why only those?

    1. And As I plan on telling my children tonight… “Courts laws will change often… God’s laws are forever”

        1. Im obviously not going to change your mind and you wont mine. This is the BIG problem with Sola scripture and why Jesus came here to build his church. He did not come here and write a book, he could have, he came and and formed a church that would live on to the end of time and against whos walls evil would not conquer.

            1. How is that? the doctrine of his church has not changed in 2000 years. God’s laws dont change to fit changing moods of society.

              1. Haven’t changed? The biggest change was right at the beginning, with Paul saying that the Word was meant for the Gentiles as well, and James asserting that it was not. Then there was the Council of Nicea, Jan Hus (how often we forget about him!), the Council of Constance, Luther and his hammer, Reformation, Counter-Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War… the Word may have been relatively unchanged (but have a look at what Nicea declared apocryphal sometime, and consider why they chose as canonical the letters and books that they did) but the interpretations of the Word, the *doctrines*, have fluctuated wildly. It all didn’t just begin with the Reformation.

                Early Church history is fascinating and deeply intriguing, and is also critical for understanding the context of the Synoptic Gospels and the Epistles. *Later* Church history is important for understanding why certain things were adopted as dogma and why others were not.

        2. Matt 12:1-8 nails it – Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath.”

          Old testmanet law is not binding to christians, never has been, never will be.

          Matthew 5:17-19 Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

          1. Matt 5 has Jesus saying that Torah and Prophets, at least the first 2 parts of the Tanakh, will continue until the earth passes away, since the earth is still here, I think Torah and Prophets continue. When there is a new earth, we will not need Torah written in manuscripts.

            Matt 12 is a critical teaching of Jesus on how to properly interpret Torah, the question is which law applies when there is a conflict between them? Jesus never denies that his disciples broke a law in Torah by eating the grain, but he claims they were following a higher law that trumped that one. What is his argument? He points out that (A) David ate when hungry and violated the rules of the tabernacle service and (B) the priests in the temple/tabernacle service violate the Sabbath rest law, therefore (C) human need trumps Sabbath rules. This does not deny that the Sabbath rules exist for Jews to keep when they can, just that there are higher rules that trump them at times.

        3. I think it can be reasonably argued that for Jewish people these laws remain. Especially it might be argued that for Jewish believers in Yeshua, these laws remain. Their nation was at Sinai, and they more or less signed the contract. Gentiles have never been bound by those commandments (as the early ekklesia recognized) because they didn’t participate in that covenant. All believers then have a responsibility toward God to obey His commandments. Why we do so is the difference between legalism and the gospel of grace. To think that one jot or tittle of God’s law has passed away is to disagree with Jesus. Who fulfilled it.

    2. I happen to be a Christian who believes that the OT Laws were not abolished by Jesus and are the guide to how to live a righteous and holy life even today (holding to a Biblical account, not necessarily the traditional Rabbinic understanding of what it should look like). I also believe that the OT Laws were given by God as a standard to His people. They were not something that was intended to be imposed on anyone outside of God’s Kingdom. This is my greatest struggle with the idea that the Laws of the US should be reflective of the Laws of the Bible. God’s Laws were intended to set His people apart for the very reason that the rest of the world does NOT embrace them. The amazing thing about being God’s Children is that we are called by Him to share our testimony and our witness. OUR testimony and witness. Those of us within the Church have reason to be more concerned with the marriages within our Church communities and are they giving the world a picture of Messiah and the Bride? If they are, then our testimony speaks for itself. If they aren’t, we should maybe not speak so much.

  7. Do I personally wish there was no gay marriage? Yes I do. I think it is harmful to society (just like no-fault divorce, etc.). Do I think gay marriage is a Constitutional right? No. Do I think hetero-marriage is a Constitutional right? No. Each state gets to define what marriage is. I would have no problem if tomorrow my state said all marriages (gay and hetero) are no more. I would just move to another state. States get to define marriage. Not the Supreme Court. 30+ States said, “No gay marriage here.” So, if you are gay, you could go live in a state where it is allowed. Same goes if they did that to heteros. It’s a States Rights issue. There is no Federal Definition of Marriage.

    When you get married, who decides the rules for it? Who issues the license? The Federal government? No. The individual state. Each state has different rules on who can officiate, what the waiting time is between applying for marriage and getting a license, what the grounds for divorce are, etc. Justice Kennedy says this is an “Equal Rights” issue. States allow hetero marriage therefore they must allow gay marriage. But doesn’t that logically extend to polygamy/bigamy and incestual marriages?

    1. I don’t follow the logic there. Polygamy is marriage to multiple people at the same time – the government does recognize the first and legal marriage. Incestuous marriage speaks to people who are raised knowing they are siblings and is a completely different issue. There are, however, people who have gotten married and do wrestle with what to do about learning that they are biological siblings separated either by adoption or because one was the product of an affair. I hope those who are present in their lives can love and support them as they work through what it means to them and what to do about it.

      As for States’ Rights – I am a BIG supporter of States’ Rights. At the same time, because we are United as States we need to have some level of uniformity on this issue that goes across State lines. For example, one state might allow a 15 year old to get married, resulting in people crossing state lines to get married. But when they come back across the state line with that wedding license, we have all agreed to recognize their marriage as legal and valid (whether we agree with the circumstance of it or not). From what I understand this has been one of the driving issues with gay marriage. For a state to have a law that they do not recognize gay marriage as legal and valid is a big issue for the whole “United” part of our state connections. If a married gay couple is vacationing out of state and one is hospitalized, the laws of that state will determine whether the spouse is legally protected as the decision maker for their partner. These are real issues that real people have been dealing with. I don’t think the answer can simply be “vacation in a state that wants you.”

  8. My name is Tom and some time ago I replied to a related post by stating, “I am a 70 year old, living, breathing, practicing homosexual.” Additionally, I stated that growing up in the country in the 50’s there were NO outside influences of ANYKIND that led to my being gay. I also shared briefly how extremely difficult it was to accept myself as a gay person because I didn’t understand why. Believe me, in the history of praying, there has never been a more sincere prayer than for ‘this feeling’ to be taken from me. It never was, because for whatever reason, I was simply born as a homosexual. Period. Just like those who are born transgender. Again, believe me….no one would ask for this life on purpose.

    It has been interesting throughout these many discussions that everyone speaks in theological terms and concepts while quoting scripture and various authors……but no one has discussed what it must feel like to be gay. Someone asked me recently what was my first memory of church. Truth. My first memory is of a 12 year old boy, walking out the front door , through the majestic white columns and wondering what it would be like to burn in hell for all eternity, after listening to a sermon filled the ‘wages of sin.’ I knew that ‘whatever’ that feeling inside me was not what he was talking about.

    Now, I ask you theologians, “Is your God pleased when a 12 year old child leaves church with that thought?” I am light years from being a theologian, but if God is a God of love, then Spirit is not pleased when a child leaves with those feelings. How many Gay and Transgender people have to commit suicide before society and ‘religion’ becomes more accepting. Keep your religion, give me the true Spirit of God.

    I love Jesus because He spent most of his time with the people who struggled daily with real-life issues; people who were not accepted by the spiritual elite. And being one of those who are not accepted by the spiritual hierarchy I appreciate the life of Jesus and the lessons of love and acceptance He taught.

    Jesus wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. How many times did he really mix water and dirt and make mud to be used to allow the blind to see. Are we to do less? If I may make a very humble suggestion; allow your conservations to lowered from your lofty towers, walk out into the streets and recognize the Samaritan by the side of the road.

    Today is History and I am proud of our Courts, proud of our President….and yes, proud of Daniel !!!!!!!

    1. Tom, I am so sorry that is your earliest memory of church is of condemnation and rejection. I am so grateful that the real Jesus has met with you personally and made Himself known to you where the people in your life were unable to do that. I wish the only thing theologians carried in personal baggage was study resources. While I do believe Scripture speaks to specific acts (about all things) I find that hyper focusing on the ones that I do not personally have to wrestle with is not encouraging to my soul or others’. Before I went to seminary I got my undergraduate degree in Theatre – I have talked to so many who have stories similar to yours. It breaks my heart. I have always thought the point of community was so that we could love each other and support and encourage each other as we wrestle with the things that God’s Word says to each of us. When the focus shifts to telling everyone else what God’s Word is saying to them, we’re out of order. If they love God and are reading His Word then they will encounter what it says and will wrestle with it just like everyone else. I recently shared on Facebook that too many people confuse “unity” with “uniformity” and they are two very different things. Uniformity is what you get when everyone thinks and acts alike. Unity is the relational connection of love that is active and binds us together when we do not have uniformity. Loving someone you agree with is easy. Loving someone you disagree with . . . that’s something that gets people standing up and taking notice. I think your post really brings this into focus.

    2. Your experience of love is legitimate, I have no doubt of that. Neither do I think you are any better or worse than me, or any other disciple of Jesus. And regarding civil marriage, I see no reason why my own beliefs about marriage should impinge on those who do not share my beliefs. (I feel the same way about no-fault divorce laws).

      That said, Jesus was clear that God’s intention for marriage is evident from Genesis:

      “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?

      1. Don, here’s the problem I have with pretty much every scripture people use to “prove” that same-sex marriage is banned int eh Bible: It’s ALWAYS taken out of context. I had a very conservative Biblical and theological training and one of the first things I learned about Bible study is you EXEGETE scripture to find it’s meaning or you ISOGETE it to make it fit your opinion. That’s what most conservative Christians do about gay marriage. The passage in Matthew 19 you quote is specifically addressing the question of divorce, not same sex relationships. If you want to pull it out of context, the honest thing to do is talk about how long people should stay married according to the scripture. But to complete the passage, you need to continue on to verses 11 and 12, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” This is a scripture that is isogeted by gay supporters to demonstrate that they do not necessarily choose to be gay. So if you want people to accept your interpretation as you interpret it, then you will have to accept their when they use your method.

        1. Hi Lou,

          Here’s the thing. When Jesus was asked about divorce, he quotes scripture from Genesis 2. But Genesis 2 is not about divorce! It is about the first man and woman being joined as “one flesh.”

          Did Jesus take Genesis 2 out of context to make a point about divorce? No, because divorce has to do with marriage, particularly the “one flesh” union, which points back to Genesis 2 and God’s intent for marriage.

          Likewise when we cite Jesus (citing Genesis 2) in the context of the gay marriage debate we are saying that God’s original intent for marriage, being a man and a woman joined as one flesh, is absolutely relevant.

          We know that Genesis 2 is relevant to the meaning of marriage because it’s what Jesus references when posed with marriage-related questions.

          1. Don, you’re right that Genesis 2:24 is not about divorce. It is also not about marriage. It doesn’t say anything about marriage. It’s not even clear that Adam and Eve were married. It’s hard for me to fathom, but I cannot find a definition of “marriage” that seems to cover Adam and Eve, except perhaps for “common law marriage,” which would have required Adam and Eve to live together for quite some time and to hold themselves out to others as married (something that would have been tricky, given that they were the only people on Earth at the time of Genesis 2:24).

            Jesus extended Genesis 2:24 to the question of divorce, in a creative Scriptural interpretation that either is Midrash or resembles it. But logically, he was using Genesis 2:24 to talk about the permanence of marriage. If two people become “one flesh,” that sounds permanent. But that’s as far as we can take this already creative logic without adding to it layers of our own creativity. Jesus made a creative argument about the duration of marriage, and there’s nothing in his creative logic or the context to suggest that he was arguing over who could enter into marriage.

            Please understand, I have no objection in principle to your engaging in Midrash, so long as you label it as such. Once you do so, we can argue whether you’re doing so properly and responsibly, but we won’t be talking about what is “clear” or “evident.” We’ll be talking about interpretation, and the license to move from the “literal language” of the text.

            1. Larry, Genesis 2:24 is not about marriage? The verse is, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” I can’t imagine a text being *more* about marriage.

              This is the verse Jesus is referring to in Matthew, and he correctly understands that Genesis 2 is the foundational text for understanding the meaning and purpose of marriage. That’s how Jesus understood it, and how we should understand it. I don’t think it takes “creativity” to read these texts and understand that God’s intent for marriage, as understood by Jesus, was for a permanent one-flesh union between a man and a woman.

              1. I spoke too quickly. The Hebrew in 2:24 is a form of “ish,” meaning “woman,” though it can mean “wife” in the right context. The “one flesh” idea is hard to apply to Old Testament marriage, which could be polygamous and where the husband might have sex with slaves and concubines. That’s potentially a lot of flesh! Add to this that 2:24 is referring to Adam and Eve, who might not have been “married.” But the translators take your side of this argument, based (I think) on presuppositions they bring to the text. I should have said as much originally.

                1. But Jesus also took it to be about marriage (along with the Jews of his day), and they did not have access to our English translations. 😉

            2. Also, it is clear from Ephesians 5 that Paul understood Genesis 2:24 in the same way Jesus did. It has everything to do with the Christian understanding of marriage.

    3. Tom,

      As a side issue, the doctrine of eternal conscious torment has driven a lot of people from God, and that is one of the reasons that I re-examined what the bible teaches on hell, and became a Conditionalist in my theology – the doctrine of eternal punishment is most likely NOT taught in scripture. http://www.rethinkinghell.com

  9. A few years back when we in CA were pondering Prop 8 my teenage daughter and I had a discussion. I had used the term “sanctity of marriage” in saying that I would vote YES on Prop 8 at that time. My daughter wrote me a letter a couple days later that said in effect; “Dad, when you and mom got divorced, you destroyed the sanctity of marriage. When I see my friend’s parents divorce, I see the sanctity of marriage destroyed even more. When I read statistics about the divorce rate in America I am even more convinced that the sanctity of marriage is destroyed. So, dad, when you say you are voting a particular way to save the “sanctity of marriage”, I would like to ask you; “Just how is it you define the sanctity of marriage?””

    My daughter was right. For many, and I am ashamed to say I am in the middle of this, our marriage vows were tossed aside all too easily thereby ‘destroying the sanctity of marriage’ with my own actions. This behavior is accepted, although not encouraged, by churches across America. I can’t see how the marriage of two men or women can degrade marriage any further from what I and millions of other Christians in the US have already done. I believe SCOTUS did the bold and proper thing today for the country they represent.

    1. Patrick, you’re right. Those in the church who abandon their marriage vows have done much more damage to the institution of marriage than any SCOTUS ruling ever could. So let’s stop doing that.

      1. Divorce is terrible, but it does not dissolve marriage in its definition, which same sex ‘marriage’ does. The Lord hates divorce (Mal 2:16) because he loves marriage. The divorce, movingly reflected on by Patrick’s daughter, does not destroy the institution of marriage. In fact it upholds the institution; it brings the institution into bad repute, perhaps, but it proves the sinner to be a sinner. When we fall short of the Lord’s standard we do not destroy the standard; we bring guilt upon ourselves. The standard remains.

        Thanks to Don B. for pointing out the obvious: Scripture gives a clear definition of marriage from Gen 2 through to Revelation, where the church is the bride of Christ (see Eph 5:32).

        Some folks here have pointed to polygamous marriages in the Bible. I am sorry to see such a stupid approach to Scripture. If everything in the Bible were normative, adultery and murder would be normative and ‘biblical’ in the moral sense, and that is just David.

        So not everything in the Bible is normative. We have to make a distinction between the will of God and the actions of sinners, even the prominent saints of the Scripture. And the Bible clearly gives a definition of marriage: one man and one women, the nucleus of a new family unit.

        Are all definitions cultural constructs? Another pitiable claim and half-baked excuse. Everyone who dismisses the biblical definition of marriage with that nonsense immediately flies to what they say is the biblical idea of love. So either the Bible teaches us something or it doesn’t; either it gives us enduring definitions or it doesn’t. If the Bible is authoritative, it is authoritative in marriage as much as it is in love or anything else.

        1. You write that divorce does not dissolve marriage in its definition. What an odd thing to say, since the definition of “divorce” is precisely “the legal dissolution of a marriage.” As for how divorce could uphold the institution of marriage and bring it into dispute at the same time … you got me there, pal.

          As for that Bible “definition” of marriage: sorry, not finding it. The Bible is not a dictionary. It never explicitly says that marriage is one man joined to one woman. You are engaging in interpretation, which is fine. Just call it what it is.

          “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter.” Martin Luther. (http://whatdidluthersayaboutpolygamy.blogspot.com/) Did Luther have a “stupid approach to Scripture”?

          Definition of “normative”: “based on what is considered to be the usual or correct way of doing something.” Do you really think that the ancient Israelites thought that murder and adultery were “usual” and “correct”?

        2. Nate, I respect that you are calling out the polygamy issue, but there are still a few exegetical issues with how you are looking at Genesis 2:24.
          First, polygamy in the Bible. You are right that nowhere in the Bible is polygamy endorsed as being from God. The point is that throughout history monogamy, in the sense that we think about it, now has NOT been practiced by Jews/Christians. This may not provide a definition, but does suggest that people have not interpreted marriage in the way that we do throughout history. At the least we should carefully inspect the passages that we choose to define marriage.
          Genesis 2:24 is problematic for a number of reasons. First, the passage has nothing to do with marriage. It is a relative non sequitur thrown in at the end of the second Genesis creation myth. In the verses prior, we get the verse about woman being made from the rib of man and the naming of woman based on this intimate relationship between the two. The creation story is interrupted in Genesis 2:24.
          Within the context of this creation of man and woman, the writer uses it to explain the mystery of a marriage between a man and a woman. Notably, the passage never says that marriage is ONLY between a man and a woman, but that in “uniting with his wife,” the two become one. That is, assuming that a man has a wife, this is how the union takes place. As others have mentioned, it is unlikely that Adam and Eve were ever “married.”
          I believe that Don brought up the use of this verse by Jesus in Matthew 19. It was rightly pointed out that Jesus discusses it in the context of divorce. First, let us note that, in this story, the Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce specifically between a man and a woman (of course there was no idea of same-sex marriage at this time, so it would likely never be part of the question at this time in history). Secondly, as was noted above, Jesus was combining passages in midrash to serve his point, which had nothing to do with defining marriage. His emphasis was on showing that the two become one, as is further implied by the next verse. Also, let us note that there is no other verse that really describes the mystical union that is marriage is terms even this concrete.
          Also, less important, but you might want to reread Malachi 2:16. It never says that God hates divorce. It says that the one who hates and divorces his wife does violence to the one that he should protect. A little different. Here you could argue that this passage is more about men divorcing women for purely selfish reasons and leaving them in a vulnerable position, as was the case at that time.

          1. Chris, I agree with your stance here, but wanted to point out that polygamy is required by Torah in certain cases. See for example Deuteronomy 25:5-10 governing levirate marriage. While it’s possible for the would-be husband to avoid this obligation, it’s obvious from the text that such avoidance was once strongly discouraged. How is it possible to say that this command is not from God (unless we want to deny that God is behind any of the Torah commands)?

            There are also the examples of Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Exodus 22:16-17, where a man must marry a woman he raped, or a virgin he seduced. Again, there’s no exception for men already married. Of course, these aren’t marriages that took place under circumstances anyone would encourage, but they are Bible-sanctioned marriages. A passage even more difficult to deal with is Deuteronomy 21:10-14, where soldiers are given permission to take beautiful women as war captives and force them into marriage. We would hope that this practice wasn’t encouraged, but the Bible doesn’t discourage it, either. And again, there’s nothing indicating that the captured woman might not be a second wife, or a third wife. There’s nothing indicating that a soldier could not capture multiple women and make them all wives.

            1. Hi Larry,

              What I said about divorce actually having no effect on the institution of marriage should be pretty simple. Divorce destroys marriages; but marriage itself is not effected, except perhaps that it gets a bad reputation. But actually marriage remains an esteemed institution, instituted by God, even when it is corrupted by sinners. Just like anything else created or ordained or commanded by God; God’s intention or institution remains high and holy; our defaming it only proves him right in his unique holiness and perfect and in our need for a savior. Broken marriages are broken MARRIAGES.

              But on the points you make here, I don’t see how any of these passages teaches polygamy. It isn’t even mentioned. Here is my position.

              There will be some difference between us since I see essential continuity between the OT and the NT, and I see the Mosaic law as — in its purpose and essence –preaching Christ. In this sense Christ is the fulfillment of the law: he is its purpose. Christ is also the fulfillment of the law in the sense that much of it no longer serves the purpose that it did under Moses. But again that is another story. I say that just to point out that though we may be able to talk about the OT/Hebrew Scriptures together, there is a fundamental difference between our ontologies of text: for me it is essentially Christian. I’m guessing it isn’t for you.

              Anyway, those passages do not mention polygamy. So you say that polygamy is not explicitly excepted. The fact that it isn’t mentioned could mean a couple of things. You say it means that, since the israelites may have been practicing polygamy, the silence is permissive.

              I pretty much agree, but permissive is not legislative. So if the passages do not prohibit polygamy, that’s one thing; but it does not mean that the Lord endorses, approves of, or commands polygamy. In other words, you cannot get polygamy as law or ordinance from any of these passages.

              I’ll add that if Gen 2 teaches that marriage is the permanent bond of one man and one woman, we have more reason to be careful not to read into the silence of these passages anything different about marriage. One man and one woman would be the default position. If polygamy is not explicitly forbidden here, there are two options: (1) it is already forbidden and a prohibition would be redundant; or (2) polygamy was common practice, and even though it was against the command of God, it was tolerated for a time.

              In Matt 19 Jesus points out that something like (2) was the case with divorce. The Lord hates divorce, and “from the beginning it was not so” (there was no divorce in the original design of marriage). Jesus says that even though the law talks about divorce and even regulates it explicitly, this was tolerance from God, not approval, much less the normalizing of divorce. So in my view the same is the case with polygamy.

              I don’t really know what it’s like to read the Hebrew Scriptures as a Jew. But as a Christian, taking Luke 24 into account (where Jesus says that because of the OT, it was “necessary” that the messiah suffer and die), and 1 Peter (the Spirit of Christ speaking to the OT prophets), 1 Cor 15 (Jesus died and was raised “according to the Scriptures”), it is very clear that marriage is about the covenant between God and his image-bearer. Marriage begins in the garden, in the protological order, and ends in Revelation, where the church is the bride of Christ. Marriage is instructive and covenantal and designed in its details by God in order to display his intentions for creation.

              In that sense marriage is ‘defined’ in Scripture. Scripture gives its meaning. If there is any doubt about the details, the apostle Paul’s many discussions about marriage make clear that marriage is between one man and one woman (Eph 5 for example). Sure – Paul had a culture, etc. But in the surrounding culture, Paul was the exception; monogomy was the exception; heterosexual purity was not the norm in Paul’s context. The reason he spent so much time teaching it was because people needed clarity on the issue. It was not the cultural norm.

              Thanks

              1. Nate, thank you for your reply and for the generous and open way you are speaking to me. It is much appreciated, and for me it says volumes about the sincerity and thought behind your words.

                I agree with you that one broken marriage, or for that matter many broken marriages, does not break the institution of marriage. But I think it affects the definition of marriage. Marriage cannot be defined as a life-long relationship if it can be ended by either party. Perhaps the bigger question is whether the high rate of divorce affects my personal definition of my marriage. For certain, it makes it easier for me to end my marriage if I so chose, or to live with my wife’s decision to end our marriage if she so chose. Of course, my wife and I are free to regard our marriage as life-long without the right to opt out if we both so choose. But the prevailing definition of marriage is otherwise.

                As for the Bible and polygamy, I think you’ve seen my reply above to Chris, where I cited a number of passages that require polygamy under certain circumstances. I must point out that of the 12 tribes of Israel, three are named for Jacob’s offspring through his second (polygamous) wife, and another four are named for Jacob’s children (or their children) with women he never married. We all sin, even Jacob, but Jacob is highly regarded by both of our religions (see for example Hebrews 11). If God ever condemned Jacob for his sexual conduct, I’m not aware of it. In fact, I don’t see any passage in the Old Testament where God clearly expresses a preference for monogamy. I agree that there are passages in the Old Testament that can be interpreted in the way you describe, and I might well join you in this interpretation, but for my part I’d want to emphasize that I’m interpreting. In contrast, I see a much clearer Biblical condemnation of divorce.

                I engage in a fair amount of dialogue with Christians, and I thoroughly enjoy nearly all of it! You’re right, I don’t read the Old Testament the same way as do many of my Christian friends. But our readings can inform each other. I am here to tell you that many statements about how the Old Testament “clearly” says X or Y are problematic. Hebrew is a language full of suggestion, one that promotes multiple interpretation. It can be notoriously difficult to pin down! I respect that you are reading the Old Testament through a sacred lens that you regard as essential, and doing so might settle for you many questions that I regard as open to different understandings.

                I am purposely avoiding argument. You and I disagree sharply on many of the issues being discussed here. But the tone of your last comment has put me in a conciliatory mood, and at least for the moment (!!) I’d rather regard you as a potential friend. May we both grow in wisdom and understanding! At which point, who knows? We might be allies. Thanks to you too.

          2. Hi Chris,

            Thanks for your response. I don’t see how Gen 2:24 has nothing to do with marriage. Maybe that’s not what you mean. Maybe you mean that it shouldn’t be taken as programmatic for marriage. Actually if that’s what you mean you make an interesting point–that the statement is explaining what people do and the reason for it, not issuing any kind of command. Interesting point. My response is that, yes, it seems that way, but still I think the verse is connection M/W marriage with creation. That gives M/W marriage pretty strong (creation all, protology al) credentials, which I think is the point of the verse. We’re Adam and Eve ever married, in the sense of Gen 2:24, yes. I’m not sure what people men when they say Adam and Eve weren’t married. But then believe Adam and Eve were historical people, which is another issue.

            The question of it being a ‘non sequitur’ doesn’t really arise for me. Do you mean it doesn’t fit the story? But it does. I don’t follow you there.

            I would add that the scriptures view of sexuality, from beginning to end, leaves no question that monotonous M/W relations are its model of sexual purity and marriage.

            Was heterosexual monogamy common practice in the Mosaic era? I don’t know but I seriously doubt it. Was it common practice during the apostolic age? I’m sure it was not at all common in the surrounding culture. Was there a concept of same sex marriage? Probably not, as you say. but homosexuality, absolutely. And if Hetero-monogomy was so uncommon, there would be no reason for a concept of same sex marriage to arise, since Herero marriage was not dominant as it is in the U.S. Today… For now.

            No question in my mind that scripture teaches heteromonogony as the model for marriage, as the law of God.

            Thanks

            1. Nate, your second interpretation of what I wrote was my intent, that Genesis 2:24 is not programmatic for marriage.
              With that understanding, I found your next statements very interesting and informative as to your perspective. We may just agree to disagree on Genesis 2:24, but I do want to mention that the verse never says that a man is united with a woman, and never unites with another person. Thus, the door is left open for polygamy.
              After further examination of the passages that Larry cited earlier regarding polygamy, that word is obviously not used, but as Larry mentioned, it is implied. There is no provision in them for people that already have a wife. If a man’s brother dies, he is to marry the brother’s wife. The shame heaped upon the person who does, not maintaining monogamy was expected. This combined with the numerous examples of polygamy in the Hebrew Bible at least suggest that marriage was viewed in some sort of cultural context throughout the time before Jesus.
              Elsewhere, you mention the permissive versus legislative designation. I do not wish to speak for Larry, but I do think that this designation is precisely our point. There is a lot of gray area here. There is nothing in the law defining marriage between a single man and a single woman. As Larry mentioned, there is law that may require polygamy in certain circumstances. While it may be the case that it was permissive, all we really know is that it was permitted and it did occur. For me, this blurs any definite line you wish to draw.
              On a side note, I do take Adam and Eve as mythic figures, not real people. However, as Jesus, Paul, and others used them as a helpful way to refer to the first humans, it can be useful to refer to them in the Genesis story. In that story, they are never married, but how could they be? The larger point is that tribes and people-groups have evolved from the most primitive to now. At some point there were men reproducing with (probably multiple) women well before any concept of marriage was fully fleshed out.
              You mention Paul a couple times as well. You rightly pointed out that same-sex sexual encounters were common at Paul’s time. I am not sure how you came to the conclusion that hetero marriage was not common though. That was the ONLY kind of marriage. As far as I have read, Paul never explicitly advocates for monogamy. That may not be the most important distinction, but again, Ephesians 5, and other Pauline writings on marriage assume that it is between a man and a woman, but that is never explicitly required by him. Even 15 or 20 years ago, anyone talking about marriage would likely have made the same assumption. Of note, you mention the image of Christ being married to the Church. This may be splitting hairs, but that would appear to be a polygamous marriage between Christ and the many members of the Church.
              In the end, I want to make this argument: the Bible repeatedly discusses marriage in the context of a man and woman united together. However, the law indicates there were extenuating circumstances in which polygamy was REQUIRED. Examined at a very fine level, there is no explicit definition of marriage in the Bible and the nature of marriage has been evolving since its conception. In the Bible, Jesus was not interested in retaining ancient traditions, he was interested in a much more progressive approach. I believe that Christians should not advocate for the maintenance of the status quo, that seems way too Pharisaic to me, but for the constant evolution of our religion and culture toward a more accepting and loving Christianity. This requires verging into some gray areas, but that is exactly where we should be. In the gray areas, battling for the marginalized.

              1. Chris, you write, “I believe that Christians should not advocate for the maintenance of the status quo, that seems way too Pharisaic to me, but for the constant evolution of our religion and culture toward a more accepting and loving Christianity.”

                C. S. Lewis said, “We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

                1. Don, I obviously I understand the point of the C.S. Lewis quote. However, I would suggest that if we are so paralyzed by worry that we might progress down the wrong road, we might miss many opportunities to progress down the right one. I would rather keep examining the roads looking for progress and risk walking down a few wrong ones. I appreciate your point, but I guess that is why I identify with the progressive camp. I feel compelled to add that in this case I think we are progressing down a wonderful path.

  10. Yesterday I was ashamed to call myself a Christian after reading multiple post from Christian friends and acquaintances on social media. I woke up to this post this morning and was suddenly joyous. And sharing it produced an explosion of assent from other friends and acquaintances. It was like the realization of the prophet that he was not alone, but surrounded by angels. Thank you.

  11. Thank you Crystal for kind words and the thoughts regarding Unity. A quote from ‘A Course In Miracles,’ “Our brothers/sisters needs become our own, because they are taking the journey with us as we go to God. Without us they would lose their way. Without them we could never find our own.”

    How many verses from the Bible does that remind you of ? We are in this thing called Life together….and it works much better when we try to be respectful to each other.

    Patrick, thank you for sharing how mistakes in your marriage resulted in a divorce. Everyone makes mistakes and for that reason we have been given the gift of forgiveness. In the event you need a smile; I live in NC and recently saw a bumper sticker that read, “My same-sex marriage does not interfere with your divorce.”

    Grace to you, Tom

    1. That is a beautiful quote, Tom – thank you for sharing it with me. It reminded me of my favorite line from my favorite song – “Chasing Cars” by Soul Patrol. “I need your grace, to remind me, to find my own.” I think there are so many reasons that God created us to live in community, and that Jesus created the Church AS community. It’s even how God taught us best – coming to live among us and model what He meant by things. He had to be willing to live among those who were so different from Himself – if only we could follow His example of grace and mercy!

  12. To all those who feel that they have grasped the truth on how other people should live their lives let me just suggest that you remember that you have but a singular perspective based on a singular upbringing and personal history. I know that many of you want to believe that you can grasp truth that is absolute and outside of yourself. Even if this is possible, to tell other people that you have this truth figured out and that they must obey your beliefs is to forget completely what colonialism taught us. To commit the violent act of imposing your beliefs onto a whole group of people is a particular type of genocide. Genocides, such as the ones experienced by many African tribes that have the misfortune of not being in power, include groups in power imposing themselves upon the weaker ones. You may argue that the belief in same-sex marriage is being imposed upon you, but it is not. You can choose not to participate in it. However, to deprive some persons of marriage, which is a legal term that has no religious element attached to it in United States law, based on a religious belief that equality degrade it, is to treat those persons as though their lives are not worth as much as yours.
    For many years the United States has not been a Christian state, but Christianity has been the power group. Slowly, the grip has loosened a other groups have found the opportunity for their voices to be heard. What a joyful thing! Christians love to cite Jesus’s affinity for interacting with minorities in deciding to serve food to the homeless once a month. However, any time hearing the voices of the marginalized includes a critique of deep-held beliefs, it is ignored. Why is it that relationships among people of the same gender cause people to turn a deaf ear to the marginalized? Why is it that they do not have the right to offer a critique of Christianity? Not supporting gay marriage moves a step further. The question is: why would anyone ever actively (or passively) try to deprive another person of an expression of love? Have we forgotten that much of Christ’s ministry was a critique of the power group in Judaism? Do we really think that the doctrine on which many base their churches now is so unassailable as to dodge Jesus’s critiques? The time between Moses and Jesus compared with the time between Jesus and present day is very similar. Why can we be so sure that Jesus does not look at Christianity the same way he looked at Judaism and wonder how Christianity has let so many trivial theological hang ups get in the way of the mission Christ set out?
    Some may look at this and present an argument reminiscent of Alisdair MacIntyre and his reliance on tradition. You may argue that this belief against same-sex couplings has been held throughout the Christian tradition and that that gives it some higher level of validity. While MacIntyre is not without his value, do you really want to tell people that their beliefs are less valid because they have less history on their side? In the discussion of tradition, people too often refer to theological conclusions of only the last one hundred years. In particular, sexuality is viewed in a rather 21st century, American heteronormative way. I have a perspective too, of course. We all do. The problem is when we do not recognize it and claim that our view is uninfluenced. If we simply look at the sexual relations throughout the Bible, we all sorts of variety. Why do we now believe that the puritanical American approach is correct? The idea of sexual orientation, as far as my research revealed, is really no more than about 200 years old. Why do we believe that the Bible speaks to it so strongly? Why do people embrace slavery ending (the limitation of rights based on a people group), but fail to embrace equal rights for people in same-sex relationships? Would you embrace a relationship between two people if one transitioned so that the couple’s relationship was opposite-sex? Would you no longer embrace a relationship between two people if one transitions so that the relationship is now same-sex? Does the ontological status of the relationship change as soon as the gender expression does?
    Being involved with Bio Psychology, I have found that gender expression and sexual identity are not as simple as choice, or biology. This goes for many things. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has a heavy biological component, but everything about a person’s environment influences it. Not just how they express ASD, but the actual neural pathways that are developed. That is, biology is actually influenced by environment. This actually makes Tom’s point stronger. Despite growing up in an environment that discourage him, he was created such that his attractions to people of the same sex did not wane. If your only reason for calling Tom’s response to his biology less than yours is “because the Bible (in your particular reading at this particular time, oh and your particular tradition) tells me so,” then you should re-examine the belief. The world is constantly evolving, people are constantly evolving. Diminishing another person’s expression of love should no longer be on the church to do list.
    Certainly every retelling of the Christ event I read does not include Jesus limiting the marginalized (he even sticks up for a woman caught in the act of adultery). Crystal’s comment about unity, not uniformity, must be taken on a deep level. Unity gains its greatest not just when orthodoxy is held (something that was also defined much more recently than we like to think), but when we can come to God in all of our diversity. The surest way to ignore the voices of marginalized is to kick them out on the streets.
    My apologies for the long post, but I could not read idly without contribution. In an attempt at transparency, I am a graduate of Fuller NorCal with a M.A. in Theology who reads much in the progressive strain of Christianity (if you could not tell). I try to include a diversity of perspectives in my consistent consumption. The more I understand about how people work (and converse with my therapist friends), I am convinced that our artificial distinctions of gender and sexual identity only serve to fit us into ready-made boxes for our consumption, and that of others. Thus, I do not find interest obeying guidelines for expressing as male or hetero any longer, though those were former identifications. All of this obviously informs my perspective here and I want to embrace it. I hope that you will too. The only way I have found to expand my perspective is by listening to and trying to understand others.

    1. Chris, that was well and beautifully written. I hope people will take the time to read it instead of letting their confirmation bias rule their choices

    2. Hi Chris. Thanks for the thoughtful post. A couple of thoughts:

      1) Because this is a forum in which Christian theology is discussed I am assuming that most people here are approaching it from that angle. I, and many others who believe that the Bible’s prohibition on same-gender sexual activity is clear, are not interested in imposing this belief or behavior on anyone else. My concern is with the definition and practice of “marriage” within the church. What democratic civil society decides is another matter entirely. Within the church this is of course an issue of church discipline, and I would refer anyone who thinks otherwise to 1 Corinthians 5. (BTW, I think it is interesting to note that in this case an unelected court has imposed a definition of marriage contrary to the democratic will of the people in many states. I’m not sure who is “imposing” their will upon whom here. But that is another argument. )

      2) You write, “The idea of sexual orientation, as far as my research revealed, is really no more than about 200 years old.” I think this depends on what you mean by “the idea of sexual orientation.” Are saying that until 200 years ago people did not know that certain people were only attracted to members of the same gender? That would be quite a spectacular claim unless homosexuality arose just 200 years ago, which of course it did not. One need only read Aristophanes’s speech from Plato’s Symposium, pertaining to the “two halves” and the resultant sexual attractions, to see that people were well aware of this fact from antiquity.

      1. Hi Don,

        1) There are Christian denominations and churches who welcome gay couples so the issue of church discipline would be moot in those settings

        2) The recent research as well as Christians getting to know ordinary gay couples is making us rethink our beliefs about homosexuality. It is like women asking for the vote in the late 1800s that made society rethink the role of women. It wasn’t that women changed genetically or biologically. But how we think and feel and how we organize our society and homes have definitely changed because of these very recent events. I’m pretty sure there were men like Jesus and Paul who thought of women as equal partners in the gospel. That does not mean the Church in general did.

        1. Hi Caroline,

          Many churches welcome gay couples without performing same-sex weddings and ordaining non-celibate LGBT pastors. Welcoming and blessing/endorsing/affirming activity that scripture declares as sin is another matter. But yes, I agree with you that there are denominations and congregations that perform same-sex weddings and have non-celibate gay people as pastors. They are welcome to do as they please, but of course I don’t think this is consistent with scriptural teaching on God’s intent for marriage and sex (e.g. Jesus’s statement in Matthew 19, connecting marriage with Genesis 1 & 2).

          American society’s views on homosexuality have changed dramatically, especially in the last several decades since the sexual revolution. So have attitudes on premarital sex, cohabitation, abortion, pornography, and a host of other issues. The issue is what our criteria is for deciding which changes are good, and in a positive direction, and which are bad, and in a negative direction. For some people, their own experiences, feelings, and the latest social research will have the greatest influence. For myself, and others, scripture will have the greatest influence.

          As far as I know, scripture is silent on the issue of women’ suffrage. But I do see a trend in scripture toward egalitarianism and respect for women. There is no such trend when it comes to same-gender sexual activity. Paul is as vehemently against it as were the authors of Leviticus. Either scripture is wrong on this matter or it isn’t.

          1. Hi Dom,

            Paul may be talking about the practice of heterosexual men cultivating boy lovers because of the way their society is set up. We see that in some Afghan communities today. It is common enough that young men serving in the Armed Forces are educated about it. When heterosexual men use young boys as substitutes for women, that is going against nature. When women locked away in harems or women serving as temple prostitutes prefer one another sexually, that is also going against their nature. But that is because how society was structured. Read Romans 8 with that in mind.

            It was at the end of Gen 4 when men began to call upon the name of the Lord. Adam and Eve lived for many generations and they were able to teach their offspring. But mankind quickly turned to worshiping other things. Romans 8 was Paul’s brief history lesson.

            Can’t say if everything that has happened to our society in the last 200 yrs is generally good or generally bad but I would rather live in 2015 as a woman of colour than in 1915. :)

            1. Hi Caroline,

              You are correct that there was a practice called pederasty in ancient Greece in which older men had sexual relations with younger men & boys. But the evidence does not point to a conclusion that this is primarily what Paul was referring to. First, Paul writes that, “Men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.” If Paul has pederasty in mind it would be strange to talk about men being inflamed with lust “for one another.” Secondly, there are well-known terms related to pederasty that Paul makes no mention of: erastes (the older male in a pederastic relationship), eromenos (the younger male in a pederastic relationship), and the word paiderastes (“lover of boys”, where we get the word pederasty itself). Paul never uses these words. If Paul is primarily thinking of pederasty, or even if this were one of the main forms that he has in mind, isn’t it odd that he doesn’t use the words for those relationships? Instead he talks about men being inflamed with lust “for one another.” That just doesn’t make sense if he’s talking about a coercive relationship between a man and a boy, or between a slave and a slaveowner.

              Also, in 1 Corinthians 6:9 Paul uses the word arsenokoites and malakoi, which the NIV translates as “men who have sex with men.” Arsenokoites is best understood as being derived from the Greek Septuagint translation of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, which refers to arsenos koiten–men who sleep with men. And note that the punishment in Leviticus for men who have sex with men is imposed on *both* men, because it is understood to be a consensual act, not coerced. Again, this just makes no sense if Paul is primarily speaking of pederasty or sex with slaves.

              1. Hi Dom,

                Thank you for your well thought out reply.

                I was just reading Bill Bryson’s “The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got This Way”. Word meanings change over time and across cultures. Sometimes they even become opposites. Bryson said “counterfeit” once meant legitimate copy and “brave” once meant cowardice. The meaning is still seen in the word, “bravado”. Homely is not a derogatory word in some English speaking countries. My uncle called me homely once and he meant I like to stay home and do stuff around the house.

                So I have to give you this article as a response because it’s a way bigger than what I can put here
                http://www.clgs.org/arsenokoit%C3%A9s-and-malakos-meanings-and-consequences

                I know it is one truth claim among many. :)

            2. Also, Caroline, you refer to heterosexual men who cultivated relationships with boys.

              My question is this: what relationships did homosexual men have for the thousands of years before gay marriage was invented? Were they all celibate for life? Did they all get married and have heterosexual relationships like straight men? Were they all involved in pederastic sex? That seems a bit hard to believe, no? Instead isn’t it likely that they engaged in consensual homosexual relationships with other gay men? Of course they would have wanted to keep this out of the public eye if it were not condoned by the wider society, but it would have occurred nonetheless. Just like it did in our own nations for a couple hundred years before gay marriage became legal. But nobody would suggest that Americans were “unaware” of adult consensual homosexual relationships until a dozen years ago, right?

              1. Unfortunately very little is known about the lives of ordinary people. Marriage was arranged in nearly all cultures and it was for the purpose of getting grandchildren. A lot of boys first sexual experience is with another boy. Usually it is exploration or mutual masturbation. All Christian countries condemned homosexual activity. It is generally believed to be common in British boarding schools despite the wide condemnation.

                So where does that leave us historically? Very little is known for sure. But there were some people who were extremely close friends their whole lives. Men and women lived separate lives. Who knows what those “friendships” entailed. There’s even speculation that C.S. Lewis had a gay friend who loved him and no one is quite sure if it was reciprocated. It is one of the closest friendship in C.S. Lewis’ life.

                1. I would agree with you that there is quite a lot of homosexual “exploration” that occurs among children, young adults, and grown adults that would consider themselves later to be heterosexual. The idea that sexual orientation is a fixed binary, either gay or straight for life, is a distortion of reality. There is much research that concludes that sexual orientation is much more like a broad spectrum, and people find themselves at various places from strongly heterosexual to strongly homosexual, and everything in-between. There is also research that suggests that orientation is fluid and can change over the course of one’s life. A famous current example of this is Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, who was formerly a lesbian but is now in a happy heterosexual marriage.

                  The reality is that “straight” men can and do engage in homosexual relationships. Your arguments here support that fact. And “gay” men can and do engage in heterosexual relationships. And of course there is the entire subject of “bisexuality” and what that means.

                  But the biblical prohibitions refer not to our inclinations, or desires, or “orientation.” The prohibitions are related to the sexual acts themselves. Men lying with other men as with women, and women engaging in sexual acts with other women.

                  1. Hi Don, I just wanted to add a response to your point about sexuality being a spectrum. I think that we need to ask what this more complex understanding of sexuality means, and how it should impact what is written in the Bible. Identifying as homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc. is a way of one putting oneself into a box for easier self-understanding, and understanding by others.
                    I think that part of what can give outsiders such a hard time is how a Christian can understand the intense complexity of sexuality and not attempt to apply its implicit critique to the Bible. To me, the desire to make things black and white is the big issue. I know that you see clear prohibitions, but cultural differences do blur the lines. Outside of the conservative Christian bubble, there is a beautiful complexity to sexuality that should cause Christians to doubt prohibition of homosexual acts.
                    There is something wonderfully messy about life on this earth and too often I feel like the move conservative Christianity makes is to tidy everything up artificially. I want to live in the untidiness of life. Further, I think that that is where the Christ event is at its most powerful; not cleaning and tidying, but allowing life to be messy and going through it in community.

                    1. Hi Chris. I have a feeling that whether something is described as “wonderfully messy” or “horribly messy” is a matter of perspective. I was a pastor for 14 years and the results of people engaging in relationships and sex outside the boundaries of biblical marriage were almost universally “horribly messy.” I have one close relative who is married with three young girls. He has engaged in an extra-marital affair and there is nothing “beautiful” about it, if you ask his wife and children. Yes, I’m sure that in his own mind, and in that of his mistress, it is quite “beautiful.”

                      Also, there is nothing “simple” or “black and white” about God-ordained human sexuality. Ask any husband or wife if living out the meaning of love as defined by 1 Corinthians 13 is simple. Ask any husband and wife if there is anything “simple” or “black and white” about Ephesians 5.

                    2. Hi Don, I do agree that the difference between “horribly” and “beautifully” messy is a matter of perspective. Just to be clear, the different types of relationships and sex outside of marriage cannot all be treated equally. A loving consensual relationship between a same sex couple is different than a cheating relationship in which one member has violated the trust of the other. “Wonderful messiness” is a bit of a vague statement, but my experience is that life tends to be messy, even when upholding the highest ethical standards.
                      To your other point, having been in relationship with my wife for almost 12 years, and married for almost 7, I certainly understand that marriage is not “simple,” or “black and white.” Actually, that is my point. In my opinion (and it is only that), the tendency is to try to apply tidy, clean ethical perspectives on top of the messy and complex lives that we have.

      2. Hi Don, on your first point. I completely understand legislating marriage within the church. My point has been multi-fold. First, the Supreme Court decision had nothing to do with the legislation of marriage within the church, only within the state. Now all churches simply have a choice between marrying or not marrying same-sex couples in all states.
        To your second point, same-sex attraction has likely always been around. Certainly one of the cultural distinctives for the Greeks during the beginning of the Common Era was acting on same-sex attraction. However, there was no concept of heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc. until the timelines I mentioned. In fact, I looked up some of the passages now commonly translated to refer to “homosexuality” in the King James Version and really enjoyed the complicated phrase they used for translation since that word did not exist at the time. The idea that people are made such that they prefer to pursue romantic relationships exclusively with one gender is what developed more recently.

        1. Hi Chris. You wrote, “However, there was no concept of heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc. until the timelines I mentioned.” That is a bit like saying that ancient people had no concept of solar eclipses until Copernicus. Or that people did not experience earthquakes until plate tectonics were understood.

          People have always been well aware that certain individuals were primarily (or only) attracted to members of the same gender. The text I referred to above, Aristophanes’s speech from Plato’s Symposium, illustrates this perfectly. In any society of people there will be a certain percentage for whom this is the case. The fact that they did not explain this in modern psychological terminology is irrelevant.

          There are no words in the Bible translated “homosexuality” for a very good reason… the Bible doesn’t address it! The Bible addresses same-gender *acts*, not inclinations, proclivities, or orientations. Whether you are straight, gay, bisexual, etc. is irrelevant. Same-gender sexual acts are prohibited.

          1. It is of course trivial to try to be a faithful follower of Jesus and believe that same sex acts are always prohibited in Scripture, that is the way some translations choose to translate things.

            The harder question is whether one can try to be a faithful follower of Jesus and believe that same sex acts are NOT always prohibited in Scripture. I am in the latter category. Of course, this implies I think those translations of Scripture that imply that same sex acts are always prohibited have some mistakes in translation.

          2. I think that we have arrived at a point where we both converge and diverge. I am completely in agreement with your first paragraph in which you talking about how people could not have any concept of solar eclipses until Copernicus. However, I would suggest that this is not altogether irrelevant. The Aristophanes speech is certainly relevant, but does not prove that terminology is irrelevant. As a minor point, let me mention that Greek culture was very different Paul’s Roman Jewish background. Of course I am not suggesting that Paul was unaware of Greek culture, but, from what I have read, the Greeks had a different perspective on sexuality, less based on power dynamics.
            In your last paragraph, I agree with your initial statement that the Bible does not address same sex inclinations. However, I disagree, from an exegetical perspective on the intent of prohibitions on same sex acts in the Bible. At this point, there are many posts that I (and others) have put here that suggest the alternative perspectives here. This may be the point of divergence at which we cannot reach agreement.

  13. Chris, your post is beautifully written, easy to understand and as we say in the South, “Makes plain-ole common sense.”

    Your life and work will make a positive difference in many people. I am thankful you are using the gifts you have received.

    And so it is….

  14. Daniel, you remind me of a friend of mine who has had a similar theological journey (conservative to liberal in the theology spectrum). Like you, he is incredibly smart.

    For my own part, I went to a radically liberal seminary and found it wanting. Historical critical scholarship is great, but as you have said, it is at least partially socially constructed. I find the evangelical community frustrating, but having the better part of the truth than others. I today have no problem calling myself an evangelical (and a Democrat, for what its worth). Perhaps it’s the Platonist in me, but I find something behind our experience called God to be remarkably true to that experience (I’m a Niebuhr guy).

    Anyway, God bless you on your journey. Demonizing “the left” is not the evangelical community’s best quality!

  15. Daniel,

    I have been on the fence about gay marriage. While I agree that it can be viewed as a basic human right, it also sends a message condoning, not only rights and values about liberty and love of neighbor, but about sexual mores and values. I suppose that you could argue that the human rights side of this equation might outweigh the idea that condoning same sex behavior/orientation institutionalizes immorality.

    But along the same lines, I listened to and blogged about a very useful approach to public policy and how we decide which of our moral positions are (a) assumed to be an ethical norm, and (b) which types of ethical norms deserve enshrinement in law. Hope you enjoy this.

    Four Stage Model for Creating Public Policy from Faith
    http://www.wholereason.com/2011/07/four-stage-model-for-creating-public-policy-from-faith.html

  16. Sorry Daniel, but your 100% wrong! As I agree, people are free to do what they want, but I stop when it spills over to my rights and affects me. As a Christian, God calls us to defend scripture and resist Satan. SCOTUS just pulled that rug out from under us. God warns us NOT to be “of the world”, but be separate. I could care less what two men or women do in the privacy of their own home or who they marry, but lets get one thing clear, no one EVER forbade gays to marry. You can marry a tree if you want, but the SCOTUS now has infringed on MY rights and beliefs because the gays now want to be recognized as a disability thus granting them unconditional rights to force us to serve them, employ them, even teach our children their lifestyle. When do my rights matter? Read your Bible…you cannot be a Christian and support homosexuality! God leaves NO room here for debate! Sorry!

    1. Greg, I must confess that I am confused about how gay marriage affects you. Nowhere do you ever elaborate upon HOW it affects you. Besides possibly getting an invitation to attend a gay wedding (to which you can NOT go, if you desire), I cannot imagine how this impinges upon your rights.
      Also, I noticed that you have prioritized your own personal feelings and rights above and beyond any other person’s rights feelings. You may well cite your membership in “the Church” as justification. I cannot imagine that Jesus, the person who consistently reached out to the marginalized, intended identification with him as a justification for elevating one’s beliefs over and above the marginalized so that they must follow your rules.
      I do not know how you determined the veracity of your statement that no one ever forbade gay marriage. That is precisely what has occurred for a very long time. And no, you can NOT marry a tree according to the law of the United States.
      One of your latter statements is particularly disturbing to me. No person who identifies as gay (or any of the LGBT+ community, for that matter) wants to be recognized as having a disability. I understand that you have a different sexual identity, but you may find that this wonderful community of people is not looking to be served by you. They are looking to be treated in the same manner that you are, without prejudice. I may guess that you are a pastor. No one is forcing you to hire one of “them” (who knows, “them” might be all around you).
      Let me reassure you, your rights DO matter. You wrote that you do not care what people do in private, then that you did not want to hire anyone from the LGBT+ community. This indicates that you do care what people do in private. Ostensibly, this is because it affects your rights. No one will impinge upon your rights now; the supreme court has simply determined your beliefs should not impinge upon the rights of people who desire same-sex marriage. If the supreme court is indeed impinging upon your rights, then at best you are arguing that your rights are more important than those of people who wish to have a same-sex marriage.
      Finally, your call to read the Bible is important. Primarily because you make a dogmatic proclamation that one cannot be a Christian and support homosexuality. I think what you meant to write was “read your bible the same way that I do; it will teach you my belief that homosexuality is compatible with Christianity.” I wish to point out that the idea of sexual identity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Thus, addressing it directly is IMPOSSIBLE when reading the Bible. Daniel’s studies are particularly revealing. He is better versed in Greek culture, Hebrew culture, Roman culture, the ancient languages, etc. than either of us likely are. His previous work has suggested the question is not as clear as you wish it to be. Even if you do not accept this, you are demanding that your personal belief be treated as absolute truth. You are entitled to your own belief, but attempting to make your beliefs more important than others’ beliefs is problematic. Even within the Christian community at large, there is large support for the LGBT+ community.
      All I can do is plead with you to listen to perspectives outside of your own and allow them inform you, as opposed to just cause you to become more deeply entrenched in your perspective.

  17. I am note sure do unto others is the best argument. How is that your reason for supporting gay marriage as a Christian? If your neighbor was a swinger and wanted you to have sex with his wife would you? After all that is It seems we must base our love for our neighbors around God’s laws and not our own personal feelings.

    I am very certain this was bound to happen. It doesn’t matter how many Christians or anyone with a biblical based morality opposed it. It is the crumbling of this world that will lead to an immoral and dangerous world.

    And really, if LGBT wanted equality they could have argued for equal status in a similar union. But instead they aimed for the degredation of the Holy union of marraige. It seems too convenient. They knew how many religious organizations held the union of man and woman to be holy and that of God. They could have been “taken the high road” and not trampled on it.

    It is almost like the many bakeries that love their customers whether they are gay or straight. But refuse to partake in anything that goes against their beliefs.

    1. Nicholas, you critique the rule of do unto others. It has received many serious critiques along the lines that you have suggested. However, loving your neighbors as yourself does not break down in this same manner. You can love your swinging neighbor without participating in any sexual activity. You can love someone who has different beliefs than you without conforming to their beliefs.
      I am not sure why allowing people who love each other to have the same protections under the law, regardless of gender expression is dangerous, but your argument for gay marriage to receive “equal status in a similar union” is a difficult one. As Daniel notes above, that falls into the category of separate but equal. An exclusionary binary such as this only serves to minimize one and establish a power dynamic in which one is over and above the other. Even using the exact same language legally still tells people that they are not good enough to participate in your version of a union. The only reason that you are okay with not participating in theirs is because you perceive yours to be better, thereby implying that you do not even consider them separate but equal.
      Patrick Jones above has an interesting comment about what is really degrading the sanctity of marriage based on the perspective of his daughter, but there is another issue with this argument. When you use the term marriage, you have in mind a concept that includes (perceived) biblical definitions; it is a religious term for you. Regardless of the fact that Christians have perceived of marriage very differently over the course of time (because of the marginalized position of women for the vast majority of history, it could never be exactly what is now until more recently), the semantic issue is large here. When the supreme court discussed marriage in their decision, they were only to understand it in the context of the law. The legal case was only over the legal definition of marriage. It never touched your religious definition. This semantic mistake may well be the biggest one. I have long suggested that we no longer have a box legal box to check (or not check) for whether someone is married or not. Instead, we should have a different term, maybe “romantic partnership.” Thus, there is clarity that the religious rite of marriage is completely independent of the legal protections provided by obtaining a what would become a “romantic partnership certificate.”
      One may argue that this further degrades marriage, but I ask how? You may still have a marriage, this is a religious commitment, but you may also have a legal “romantic partnership.” Also, this makes clear that people can observe any combination of religious and legal partnerships.

    2. There is nothing in the SCOTUS ruling that says Christians, Muslims, Jews or even atheists have to support gay marriage. It is merely the statement that if two men want to get married, they can and there is no rule of US law that says they can’t. There are some denominations that do support same-sex marriages. There are some that do not. There are some non-believing people who don’t support it either because they just think homosexuality is weird. No court is tell anyone what to think about homosexuality. What the SCOTUS ruling is saying is that the Constitution does not permit anyone else to IMPOSE their beliefs on anyone else in this area.

    3. Hi Nicholas. It is an open matter of record that preliminary or alternative legal status for couples/parents/families were tried out in several states. (Just google something like, states with civil union laws; or, states with domestic partner laws?) The difficulty always proved to be, that when a domestic partner couple or a civil union couple took for granted that one or both of them could exercise their legally-conferred ‘rights’ attendant upon their allegedly marriage-equivalent status ….. somebody would oppose them, or worse, just ignore them. The typical legal recourse is then is, you have to employ an attorney who will file a civil suit in a relevant court, outlining the abrogation of the domestic partnership or civil union law, spelling out any ‘damages,’ and then asking the court for whatever redress seems appropriate to the parties filing the suit. That can cost an arm and a leg, as my grandfather would like to say. Then such court cases tend to drag on for months if not years. Meanwhile, you still are not being allowed to see your domestic partner or beloved one, or perhaps continue parenting a child whom state law would not allow you to co-adopt with the biological father to whom you are pledged, heart in hand ….. unless you happen to be able to persuade the sitting judge to issue an early injunction before the case can be set for docket and heard. The alternative legal provisions simply were too easily ignored, and there was little to no significant sanction in such laws, if and when the law got ignored. It was a very small jump, then, to realizing: Oh goodness, we are not protected, even though a domestic partnership or civil union law is active on the state law books! Just some two cents ……BTW: I anticipate that many of the people who would scorn and/or ignore the earlier domestic partner or civil union laws are going to be the same folks who try to say their faith prohibits them from letting you be a customer in their business. We will see, I guess.

  18. Daniel, I’m coming to your conversation late. But I’ve been having this discussion with others since the SCOTUS decision. My feeling is that you’ve beautifully articulated an important position that I find untenable in the context of the same-sex marriage controversy: that “it is sometimes my Christian duty to ensure that my neighbor has the right to act in ways that are contrary to my Christian belief.”

    Self-disclosure: I am Jewish. But as Jews and Christians, we both self-identify within a tradition that has said, in effect, “This ‘other’ violates our religious beliefs and we therefore seek to punish and persecute them.” It doesn’t seem enough to correct this by saying, “This ‘other’ violates our religious beliefs but we’re now willing to tolerate them.” It’s not enough because, in significant part, the decision for tolerance has been made for us, by SCOTUS and others. We can’t pretend that this is a decision we’ve made completely on our own. But it’s not enough because it leaves the LGBTQ community in legitimate and understandable fear of us. It just means that the neighborhood bully, the one that’s been beating up the neighborhood kids for years, has said he’ll stop doing that … with no contrition, no repentance, no penance and no teshuvah. Is this believable?

    It also feels wrong to me, because it is based on a false sense of “otherness.” Yes, we need not believe as our neighbors believe. We can imagine a nice 1950s-style suburban neighborhood, with nice white-picket fences marking off our different beliefs. But what happens when someone holding traditional Jewish-Christian heteronormative beliefs has a gay son or a transgender daughter? There’s no way for Mom and Dad to say that their religious beliefs refer to Son or Daughter (or the sexual or gender expression that Son or Daughter desires) as an abomination, while holding the family together in an atmosphere of nurture and love. Our children need our acceptance and love without condition. Nothing less than a change in belief will preserve this hypothetical family. And I suspect, the same goes for our friends, our neighbors, our churches and our synagogues.

    It seems to me, now that we’ve acknowledged our LGBTQ neighbors AS neighbors, what’s required of us is nothing less than a change of traditional Jewish-Christian belief. Nothing short of this seems sufficient or even tenable to me. I’m fine with tolerance marking progress on our journey to acceptance … but how can we accept tolerance as an acceptable final destination here?

    1. Larry, I agree 100% with one point you’ve made. Church communities will either continue with the orthodox/traditional teaching on sexuality, or as you put it they must change the traditional Jewish-Christian belief, and affirm gay relationships the same way straight relationships are affirmed (wedding ceremonies, etc.). There really is no “third way” for the very reasons you’ve cited.

  19. I think you are making a big mistake in differentiating on the issue of freedom.

    Yes, one must be free to sin, but there have to be consequences.

    People already have the freedom to sin whichever they want. They don’t need a state backed licence to do so.

    But licencing sin and evil as good and admissible and PENALTY FREE should be WAY AGAINST YOUR CHRISTIAN ETHIC!!!!

    Let’s all campaign for the legalisation of murder then so that people can just kill children and each other in the name of freedom.

    Sorry.

    Freedom is available to everyone. What laws need to ensure is that there are consequences if said freedom is used wrongly.

    You need to differentiate between freedom and consequences. The issue here is not of freedom, which was already being had, it was of whether there are any consequences to said action. The Supreme Court guys have ruled that there are no consequences. In other countries people go to jail for committing same-gender sexual acts. They are clear that there are negative consequences. Yes, everybody has the right to do whatever they want, but based on whether what they do is right or wrong, there will be different consequences.

    The US Supreme Court has just said that EVIL is Good. Which is wrong. Nothing to do with freedom.

    1. Tony, there are a lot of things that you must consider. First, we do not live in a theocracy; you have no right to impose your belief that same-sex marriages are wrong on anyone else. You mention murder. It is not allowed because of some ontological “evil” quality, it is not allowed because it impedes another person’s ability to LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Same-sex marriage does not impede any of these things.
      Importantly, the Supreme Court said nothing about the goodness of same-sex marriage, that is IRRELEVANT. The adultery example is easy here. Far more people believe that adultery is wrong than those who believe that same-sex marriage is wrong. There is no law against it because it does not impede any person’s rights (though one may pay for it in a divorce settlement).
      Also, it is important that you understand that there are certain rights and privileges that are very important and part of a legal marriage. These rights and privileges are important (for instance, loved ones being able to visit in the hospital).
      You want consequences for what is wrong. Why is it that you get to determine what is right and what is wrong? Why is your perspective better than anyone else’s? Again, we do not live in a theocracy. The United States was founded with influence from Christianity, but any “Christian” ethic is irrelevant to the law.
      Finally, let me note that your belief is not that of all of Christianity. There is a growing portion of us (not just liberal or progressive scholars) who have examined the situation and found the perspective for which you advocate lacking in significant ways. My authority is not greater than yours, but neither is yours any greater than mine. You may think that you speak for God, but in reality you are no less informed by your own subjectivity than anyone else.

  20. When I see someone respond with anger about homosexuality and at the same time up hold their right to not have there beliefs challenged, I do not see Jesus. When I see scholars interpret the bibles passages about homosexuality, I see both sides which are for and against. This scares me because there is no where that I can go and find the answer. When I am worried that my soul which is me and who loves God is in jeopardy, I seek his spirit. I like Tom, was born gay with no other examples. I am a straight behaving ex military police and current contractor. I did not even know if there were others until around 5th grade when a church I was attending had those cute little leaflets showing those slutty gay men. I am still here serving God and thanking him for his mercy and love. I am grateful that God is allowing gay marriage. I am grateful that scholars will never agree because I believe the bible is nothing more then a guide about the bigger picture. Thank God my ELCA church that I grew up in accepts me and knows me. The others left last year. I am grateful that the only way to God is through faith. I was born of Gods DNA. God allowed me being Gay to happen. It is too bad that so many educated people, in power in the church, never understood or got the message from Jesus. That all are welcome into his house. Marriage is a legal document about safety, love, rights of property. My church will marry me for the other part so that I can commit in front of my family and congregation and in front of God because my church interprets the bible as many other scholars do. When a persons beliefs come in the way of mercy, that person runs the risk of going against Jesus and his reason for coming here. I am already forgiven of my sins. And loving another man is no sin as love and sin are opposites and I hurt no one. It is my walk with God and only I will be to blame but there will be no blame. Only a big hug from God saying, good job my son. To finish, It is my right as a tax payer to be recognized by my government as a person and allowed to marry the one I love and want to be with. The world is changing for the better. Praise God!

  21. As a follower of Jesus, what can I do except to advocate for constitutional rights for all. As I have written elsewhere, I firmly believe that one day the church will apologize to the LGBT community for their behavior just as it has, in many cases, apologized for its racism. As the mother of a multi-lots-of-things family, I have learned to speak against institutional racism, to advocate for loving marriages, and to profess that every one of us is created in the image of God. As such we are sacred humans formed by a God who loves us. We have marriage commitments made in church or in city hall. We have families who hopefully love and accept us with all our faults. Mostly we have to be committed to loving each other as Christ loves us. There is no other way to live. I cannot require others to live by my faith beliefs, but I will continue to pursue a society where I can applaud the voices of those I would most want to be silent. That is freedom in the constitution and as such marriage for all is a constitutional right.

  22. I have followed the ongoing comments on this post for a while. I am not a Christian, though I do consider joining Christian communities from time to time. Seeing this conversation, projecting a judgmental 2000 year old notion of “sin” onto people who love each other today, does not make me want to be a Christian.

    1. Beau, part of the reason why I started commenting on this article (I had not posted any comments prior) was because I had a similar reaction as you. As I have evolved to a less orthodox view of Christianity (I cannot escape the irony that the technical term for this is heterodoxy). I hope that you feel like you can use this forum to bring a different perspective to people. Though I think that we might have some similar perspectives on many of these issues, I would be curious to read more from how you see the world.

  23. Beau, there are denominations which have been Open and Affirming for many years and also perform gay weddings. The United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church USA come to mind.

    However, these denominations are in rapid numerical decline, so I find it hard to believe that the traditional/orthodox view on sexuality and marriage is truly what is keeping people from becoming Christians and going to church. Otherwise they’d be flocking to these denominations and they’d be growing.

  24. In the end evil will be called right and right will be called wrong. No one is saying don’t love your brother or sister. I love all! I to struggle with life and sin and don’t think I am above others in anyway. God loves the person but hates the sin. We love the person and should hate the act even when we do it. We also should try to stop the sin and ask for forgiveness. But to make sin a law that clearly goes against what God says is wrong causes us now as a nation to turn against God and his law. Sodom and Gomorah was not right in Gods eye’s. You can’t prevert God’s word to justify your actions. As a nation we will pay for this.

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