Is There A Christian Case For Same-Sex Marriage?

I was not going to blog about this since the video of Michele Bachmann’s Iowa town hall meeting this week has already gone viral.  But I decided it raises some important points to consider, especially for people of faith.

For the field of presidential hopefuls, same sex marriage is proving to be an awkward and complicated topic as attitudes change and more states legalize gay unions.  During Wednesday’s town hall, Jane Schmidt, a student at Waverly High School, in Waverly, Iowa, asked Michele Bachmann, “Why can’t same-sex couples get married?”  Bachmann said, “They can get married, [if] they abide by the same laws as everyone else. They can marry a man, if they’re a woman, and can marry a woman if they’re man.”

Sounds simple enough.  But how might you feel if you were told that your only church-sanctioned or societal options for meeting your sexual intimacy needs would be to either:  (1) remain in lifelong sexual abstinence, (2) convert to the opposite sexual orientation, or (3) marry someone of the gender to which you are not sexually attracted?  These are the options Bachmann and many other people of faith propose for gay and lesbian people.

Gay marriage has become the most important domestic social issue facing 21st century Americans, particularly Americans of faith.  It’s also an issue that is tearing many faith-based communities apart.  But is there a Christian case for same sex marriage?

It seems much of the Christian objection to what some call the “gay lifestyle” rests on our sensible objection to promiscuity.  But if marriage was something to which heterosexuals were restricted, what do you imagine their “lifestyle” would look like?  How would you like some minister to come along and determine that YOU qualify for celibacy?

We can readily extrapolate four values that the Apostle Paul thought constitute marriage.  They were fidelity, mutuality, truthfulness, and permanence.  Notably, nowhere in any of Paul’s letters do we find child production as a rationale for marriage.   (See related exegetical posts elsewhere on this blog on Romans 1, Romans 2, and Leviticus 18.  Links to all previously published posts may be accessed from the “Index” page.)

Few human institutions claim to be as traditional as marriage.  Yet even fewer have undergone more traceable metamorphoses.  Imagine how you’d like concubinage, or a woman’s loss of property to her husband once married; levirate marriage; a husband’s unquestioned right to philander; marital indissolubility in the face of spousal or child abuse.  All of these were once part of marriage’s bedrock tradition.

The fourth gospel offers us a speech of Jesus at the last Supper that alerts us to expect that further revelation from God would emerge as we grew ready to receive it.  Indeed that has been the case.  So much has that been the case that historical theologians estimate that three-quarters of the classical heresies were not the radical liberal adventures of current fable — they were stubborn conservative efforts to maintain “traditional” ways of thinking in the face of fresh revelation.   Howard Hendricks, longtime professor at Dallas Seminary, was fond of saying to his students, “They should charge admission to this place so that visitors can see how people used to live 50 years ago!”

While we all make many mistakes, perhaps nowhere is this inclination toward human error more apparent than in the history of biblical interpretation.  For 2,000 years, Christians have read the inspired biblical text convinced that they will discover within its pages the certainty and authority of infallible truth.  Yet on a host of issues, the consensus of opinion about how the Bible should be understood has changed over the years.   As a result, many whose views were at one time considered heretical have now found themselves reinstated among the orthodox, and vice versa.  One would think the frequency and seriousness of the Church’s misjudgments would have produced a greater degree of caution and humility.  On the contrary, reckless rigidity and arrogant intolerance seem as endemic as ever, and nowhere is this more evident than in the sectors of the Church that pride themselves on being “biblical.”

Those who insisted that slavery is God-ordained, that women and blacks should not be allowed to vote, that interracial marriage is wrong, that women should neither preach or teach, to cite only a few examples, were all convinced they had the Bible on their side and that their understanding of the Bible was self-evidently correct.  They all also had substantial support from many other like-minded Christians.  But most of us now know that what they were touting was their presumptions of what the Bible teaches, not the truth of Scripture, and hurting innumerable innocent people in their error.  Perhaps then, the warning of Jesus about the danger  of trying to conduct eye-surgery on someone else when you are unknowingly the victim of poor vision yourself, would be a helpful one to remember as the Church slowly but assuredly comes to realize that “its déjà vu all over again” with the issue of homosexuality and same sex marriage.

If it is true that we are saved by faith in what Christ has done then the antigay message touted by Bachmann and others cannot be true.  Whether we are straight or gay is irrelevant to God’s redemptive work in our lives.  It is the fact of responding to Christ that is the all-important thing.

The wish of most of the gay Christians I know is to have their pairings solemnized and made permanent within the confines of holy matrimony.  That is a conservative development.  What we have in this community is a group of men and women who have voluntarily withdrawn from the chaotic Friday night meat-market scene in order to construct a permanent relationship based on mutual love.

So wherein lies the problem here?  What would it take for you to rethink this issue and realize that for most of us, now in middle age, dislike of homosexuality came with the territory; our reasons for opposing it had more to do with our own cultural backgrounds than with any biblical argumentation?

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About Alex Haiken

Born to a Jewish family in New York City, I came to faith in Christ in 1982 after trying to disprove the Bible. I found so much evidence in support of the claims of Jesus and the Bible that it required more faith to reject it than to believe it. I hold a Master’s degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and among other things am a lecturer, teacher, blogger and conference speaker. I came out as gay at a young age but was taught when I came to faith that I could not be both Christian and gay. I served for a time as a leader of an ex-gay ministry but shifted my views after recognizing that when the few passages generally appealed to in this debate are examined more closely and in context, the traditional anti-gay interpretations do not hold up to scrutiny. I learned that the ex-gay route is a scripturally unsound mirage, a specious illusion that deceitfully draws people not to a life-giving oasis but to a deeper and deeper spiritual desert. Seeing the immense need for education in this area, I began to speak and write about my experience and new-found convictions. I am also passionate about helping the Church better understand her rich Jewish roots; helping other Jewish people understand Jesus as their Jewish Messiah; and helping other gay people integrate a theologically sound, committed Christian faith with their sexuality. It is my hope that the reflections in this blog will prompt you to explore the paths they suggest, leading to your own more eloquent thinking, exploration and action. If you want, visit the “Contact” page and let me know what you think.
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4 Responses to Is There A Christian Case For Same-Sex Marriage?

  1. trebord says:

    I appreciate your candor in leaving a comment on my blog and trust you will show me the same courtesy even though we have differing views. In your post you say “If it is true that we are saved by faith in what Christ has done then the antigay message touted by Bachmann and others cannot be true. Whether we are straight or gay is irrelevant to God’s redemptive work in our lives. It is the fact of responding to Christ that is the all-important thing.” I cannot speak for Michelle Bachmann, only myself. I do not believe that gays and lesbians can be recipients of Jesus’ redemptive grace. Perhaps there are those who would suggest otherwise but there is no sin (whether a gay lifestyle is sinful or not) that the Cross cannot cover. If that were not the case, many heterosexual sinners would be headed to hell. There is no contradiction here–if an antigay message suggests otherwise, it’s not from me.

    • Alex Haiken says:

      Actually if the few verses in scripture that you appear to be convinced are addressing homosexuality per se are in reality seeking instead to address specific sins of idolatry, rebellion, self-indulgence, abuse, and grossly irresponsible behavior, as increasing numbers of evangelical Bible scholars and theologians purport, then the anti-gay message is indeed from you and not from the Bible. As professor of biblical exegesis, F.F. Bruce aptly put it: “It is not enough to say, ‘the Bible says…’ without at the same time considering to whom the Bible says it, and in what circumstances.”

  2. Dave says:

    I’m going to comment on the same statement the above commentator chose by saying that the responding of Christ being the important thing IS correct, but that that response includes submitting one’s sexual behaviors to the norming statements of Scripture, rather than dismissing them as some in the pro-gay theology movement do.

    I will read more of your site to get a better idea of where you’re coming from. Thanks for the comment on mine.

  3. Alex Haiken says:

    Dave,

    Yes, I’m in full agreement with you. But as you read more of the blog, you’ll discover that I have not dismissed submission to God, as you have inferred. Those of us with respect for Bible interpretation and biblical authority do not look for ways to dismiss submission to God. What we seek is harder and infinitely more important to find than easy outs. We search for the intention of the original writers. We seek to draw out from the text what it originally meant to the author and to the original intended audience, without reading into it the many traditional interpretations that may have grown up around it. This is what biblical exegesis is all about.

    Who was the writer and to whom was he writing? What was the cultural and historical setting of the writer? What was the meaning of the words in the writer’s day? What was the intended meaning of the author and why was he saying it? What should this mean to me in my situation today? Careful study can begin to open those meanings to us if we are humble enough not to presume we already know. We try hard to get past what we think we already know to find out what we are looking at.

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