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?