Thursday, December 18, 2008

Culture War: Be Prepared- Gay Marriage, Continued

This is my last post on this subject. I hear Santa in the distance and I have a lot more ground to cover in the next week. But there are still some open arguments regarding Newsweek making the "Religious Case for Gay Marriage" that I haven't covered.

My first post went over the all too often poor examples of marriage in the Bible. I made the case that just because the examples aren't what we'd call today "traditional marriage" doesn't mean that we should discard the Biblical commands regarding marriage. I also defended these same commands against the argument of cultural relevancy- that the rules were for the time, and don't apply to us today.

My last post then went to define marriage both civilly and religiously using examples from the Bible for each. I left with the conclusion that because of the nature of the sacrament of Marriage, that there can be no Biblical justification for gay marriage.

Yet the author, Lisa Miller, makes the claim that, "scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be married - and a number of excellent reasons why they should." I already pointed out that scriptures actually do give us good reasons why gays and lesbians should not be married, but now I want to look at why you could make the argument that scriptures do, in fact, give many reasons why they should.
  • Old versus New Covenant
The first argument for the Bible not disallowing gay marriage is the fault of the Religious Right and their narrow reading of the Bible. Levitical Law calls homosexuality an "abomination" (Lev 18:22 -'detestable' in the NIV) but calls eating shellfish (creatures of the sea without fins and scales) the same. Yet, I doubt those who proclaim "God hates fags" would also say that God hates Red Lobster and everyone eating there. It is important to remember that we are not under Levitical Law. Jesus died "once for all" (Heb 10:10) and established a "new covenant" (Lk 22:20) and "fulfill[ed] them [the law]" (Mt 5:17) so the Levitical Law no longer applies to us today.

That's not to say there's not wisdom in those laws. These laws were written thousands of years before we understood disease and bacteria, yet there were laws about isolating contagious lesions, avoiding coming in contact with blood, not eating animals that died because of disease, not eating scavenger birds (also an abomination), or pork that we know today carries trichinosis.

So do we throw those laws out? Not if they're affirmed in the New Covenant. I already noted that Jesus explicitly defined marriage, affirming the Genesis account of a man leaving his family and becoming one with his wife. But Jesus never explicitly discussed homosexuality. Paul, on the other hand, does. In Romans, Paul describes how the sinful nature has driven those who have chosen to reject God and explicitly calls out homosexuality:

Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Rom 1:26-27)

It's worth pointing out after quoting this, that Ms Miller notes that the Anchor Bible Dictionary comments that the Bible never refers to sex between women. Yet the above passage does exactly that. She wants to use that reference to claim that the "unnatural relations" described above don't necessarily mean monogamous homosexuality. I've heard this argument elsewhere. Either it's claimed that this scripture refers to homosexual prostitution related to pagan ceremonies, or that it refers to homosexual acts between heterosexuals (that's a tough one to prove since homosexuality, as our culture defines it today, is never defined in the Bible).

She goes on in her argument that Paul's condemnation is "really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery." Funny, those words could be used to define the culture around homosexuality today. But she quotes the scholar Neil Elliott who argues that Paul is referring specifically to the Roman emperors Nero and Caligula and that the condemnation isn't against someone who commits any of these acts individually, but rather those who commit these acts collectively. Uh, huh. I won't quote it here for space, but read the first chapter of Romans and tell me honestly if you can reach the same conclusion. Besides, Paul can't be referring to specific people in this passage. This passage sets up the definition of our sinful nature and our shared need for salvation. If this only applied to Nero and Caligula, then I guess he's writing the whole book of Romans just so those two can be saved. I wonder then why he talks about Mosaic Law since neither of them were Jews. Hmmm.
  • David and Jonathan

It's an old argument that David and Jonathan had something else going on than just fighting along side one another. The quote "he loved him as he loved himself" shows up a couple of times in 1 Samuel 18 and again in 20 referring to Jonathan's affection for David. However, isn't that phrase just a re-wording of the Golden Rule? And is it that uncommon for two people who share battle to develop a kinship that words cannot describe? Ask a veteran of WWII if they "loved" any of their fellow soldiers in this way and I'll bet you'd get a unanimous response. Besides, there's nothing wrong, or even unexpected, for men to have bonds with other men that seem to go beyond the bond these men have with the opposite sex. Think about drinking buddies, bowling night, Monday Night Football, paintball, MMA, and so on and so on. There's just something about bonding with the same sex and it has nothing to do with sexuality. Women have it too- gossip, fashion, scrapbooking, etc. You can then relate to David's feelings upon hearing his best friend had died. "I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women."

  • The Gospel of Inclusion

Perhaps the strongest case for permitting homosexuality is the inclusion preached by both Jesus and Paul. It is often pointed out that Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery in John 8. That is then used as a blanket example that Jesus does not condemn sin. Yet that ignores the ending of the story where Jesus explicitly tells the woman, "Go now and leave your life of sin." (Jn 8:11)

Paul wrote, "there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ" (Gal 3:28). Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann is quoted in the article using this scripture to support gay marriage. I guess if we're neither male nor female, then it doesn't matter who we marry. But again, that is contrary to the sacrament of marriage, as described earlier. In addition, that also takes that quote out of context because Paul is relating that the New Covenant applies to all, not just Jews, and that supersedes the Jewish customs of circumcision and diet.

Yes, the Gospel of Jesus is inclusive. He did not tolerate sin however, and neither did Paul. "What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" (Rom 6:1-2) "But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature." (Gal 5:13) God's grace that comes from Jesus' death on the cross is the Gospel of inclusion. Jesus died for all, and that includes homosexuals. But he also called on all of us to repent of our sinful nature, whatever that may be. There is no religious case for gay marriage, and to argue that there is ignores much of the Bible and reads meaning into verses that isn't there. But in order to refute that, you need to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Pt 3:15-16)

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