Today, most evangelical churches have remarried lay leaders and board members. Some have remarried pastors. No one speaks of loving these remarried people but hating their sin. Instead, they are fully accepted into the life of the church. A veritable cottage industry of evangelical books exists to help the conscientious Bible reader make sense of the biblical prohibitions in light of their historical context and apply their teaching in light of the experience of the remarried people we know, love, and often, are. As I reflected on this issue, the thought hit me like a punch in the gut: if we gave the same considerate reading to the handful of texts condemning same-sex sexual practices that we give to passages on divorce (what did they mean in their historical context and how should we apply them today?), we would likely come up with a very different approach to gay, lesbian, and transgender people. We might even find a way to fully include them in the life of the church as we have done for so many remarried people. What C.S. Lewis’ Marriage Can Tell Us About the Gay Marriage Controversy ☀
“The defense for Fundamentalists’ obsession with homosexuality is the Bible, which they claim to read literally. If this was true, they might notice the words “poor” and “poverty” appear 446 times and that “wealth” is mentioned in 1,273 verses, rarely positively. Only five or six passages discuss homosexuality, though nearly every American can recite them, hearing each one quoted so often. If Fundamentalists fought LGBTQ equality as a hobby, after fulfilling their duty to fight poverty, they might be chastised and forgiven. They’ve revealed, though, they will abandon the poor, to condemn not only gay men and women but anyone who tolerates them. In doing so they’ve denied the very faith and savior they claim to revere. Whatever religion Fundamentalism is, it isn’t Christianity, and it’s time to revoke that label. Categorizing homosexuality, not injustice, as the greatest evil is absurd and disturbing, but it reflects a whole moral system that contradicts the essence of Christian Scripture.”
This quote (why bother reading the rest of it?) is a yawn-fest of red herring filled tripe. Pardon the mixed metaphor.
Wow, that’s a wallop of a substantive rejoinder. Sullen blind dismissal with overused metaphor FTW.
Volume of verses is hardly the primary indication of a particular topic’s importance. The word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible at all, yet it’s one of the core doctrines of Christianity. Jesus talked more about hall and damnation than he did about love.
First, you do realize that there are a lot of Christian groups and denominations that hold to nontrinitarianism. I don’t personally subscribe to such a view, but I’m not going cast them out of the Jesus fold. Furthermore, many, perhaps most, Christians have little or no understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. And they couldn’t care less.. Myself, I struggle with all the tumult over the fine details of trinitarian aspects, like the perichoresis or why the schism erupting rancor over the Filiolique clause. But the words (and deeds) of Jesus on loving your neighbor, loving your enemies, is a constant drumbeat in the gospel of Jesus.
Second, flat out, Jesus did not talk “more about hall and damnation than he did about love”. If we want to get technical, he really didn’t really speak of “hell” as it is theologically constructed by contemporary fundamentalists and conservative Christians — allusions to Hades or Gehenna are translated to “hell”, and while some Christians equate these words to a state of eternal conscious torment, there are other theological streams that hold to a different scripture backed interpretation. But even if we grant those verses, there still are no more than a dozen or so in the four gospels. In Paul’s letters, Gehenna or “hell” is never used, though “Hades” is referenced a few times (but translators believe “death” or “grave” is a more appropriate term). But that’s being generous, and equating every admonition from Jesus on justice and judgment as an exhortation on hell is a twisted way of viewing “good news”.
But I only see a couple of times where Jesus talks about hell — in Matthew 25 and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In both, the rich (or the goats) are judged for neglecting the poor, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned, etc..
People with a retributive spirit tend to see judgment through the perspective of punishment. But “judgment” may not be as reciprocity minded, tit for tat inclined fallen human worldly sensibility confines it, but more so in the vein of destruction of evil side of which humankind chooses to elevate and that God chooses to kill, not the person. We can go back and forth ad nauseam on whether it is punishment, annihilation, or cleansing of evil — as there is scriptural support for all these views.
That said, Jesus was pretty clear about his mission:
God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
Later, Jesus response to disciples of John the Baptist, that inquire if Jesus truly is “the one” they’ve been expecting:
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth
have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them.
Sounds like a message of love to me, not one of hell and damnation.
Those are just the highlights, but the words (and actions) of Jesus throughout the gospels are replete with love — are you going to tell me that the Sermon on the Mount is about hell and damnation, and not about loving your neighbor (and enemy)?
However, on the other hand, I will grant, that in some respects, simply tallying up scripture verses doesn’t represent the totality of the biblical scorecard ;) That some matters go to the root, are more fundamental and leave other parts of scripture sublated. Here’s Jesus again:
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. One of them, a legal expert, tested him. “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
Love never fails. …the greatest of these is love.
Now, finally, we’ve arrived at the crux of the displeasure (honestly, while the author of the original article strikes some good points, I believe it’s above his pay grade to be kicking out those with theology he finds distasteful) — outrage over protest in treating LGBT people as full fledged brothers and sisters in Christ.
Also, Christian affirmation of human sexuality as defined by Scripture and the created order implies nothing about how they will treat homosexuals or the poor. What a jumble of polemical nonsense.
You’re blinded by your own cultural and/or traditional accommodation. You impose upon Scripture standards of your own which are not to be found there, and you accept as binding specific rules that suit you, while completely ignoring or discarding many other Biblical proscriptions and rules that you do not like. In other words, you pick and choose, and your “affirmation of human sexuality” is more a combination of social convention and prejudice, which you support by cherry picking carefully edited portions of Scripture.
Here are a few instances of “biblical teaching” on sexual relationships that most today would deem detestable:
- no ban on men having multiple wives, though it’s recommended that bishops should have only one wife [1 Tim 3:2]
- David and Solomon and many other patriarchs had many wives, and are never criticized for it
- concubines permitted, along with stoning to death for adultery [Deut 22]
- death penalty is instructed for homosexual relations [Lev 18]
- death penalty for adultery [Deut 22]
- death penalty for being disobedient to your parents [Deut 21]
- death penalty for sexual relations with one of your father’s wives (shouldn’t that be covered under “being disobedient to your parents” already :)) [Lev 18]
- marriage to your dead brother’s wife is under certain circumstances compulsory [Deut 25]
The point is not to descend into absurdity but to illustrate how we have reinterpreted Scripture with new social situations.
I believe monogamy is justified on the basis that it grants for full mutual respect, loyalty, trust between covenantal entrants, and preserves the security of children. These are important Bible themes, but just like the Trinity, not actually spelled out verbatim in the Bible itself, and it needs to be worked out in just the same fashion. That Jesus teaching on universal respect, compassion, love, and justice be applied.
We really don’t need to debate the issue of the Scriptures and same sex marriage at all, given that we recognize all the many Scriptural moral rules we have rejected. Because the reason we rejected them is that they conflict with these great fundamental Biblical moral principles:
- Unrestricted love of neighbor — we should treat all humankind with the same concern that we treat ourselves.
- Unrestricted compassion — we must always have in mind the ultimate good of others, even when we are compelled to restrain or punish.
- Freedom from law to walk in the Spirit — all written laws should be tested that they do indeed encourage relationships of trust, loyalty, honesty, and friendship. Christ is the end of the law. [Rom 10:4]
The tragedy of fundamentalism is that it is so utterly unbiblical. It insists on the literal truth of a few selected passages, neglecting or twisting the interpretation of many others. A truly Bible-based faith would see that fallibility of the human understanding of divine revelation and the many different human perspectives on divine revelation, even as it corrects that understanding and moves us on to new imaginative visions of the divine. What the Bible teaches, at least to Christians, is that we should take responsibility for our own moral decisions, always being motivated by the basic Christian principles of the self-giving, agapistic love and thew new and joyous life of freedom that is to be found in Christ Jesus. That is Biblical morality, and we should never try to disguise it by hiding behind a few written rules that often show the limitations of past moral perceptions that the Spirit calls us to leave behind.
What would really help is supporters for traditional marriage renting a clue and reading a book or two about marriage’s historical origins and its placement within the political economy of society, its role in the subjugation of women and the enforcement of patriarchy. Then perhaps this utterly profane institution will be demoted from the ranks of the sacred and take its rightful place among other social customs, each with its own historical origin, each rooted in human needs, and each serving very particular ideologies. Also: why not replace “traditional marriage” above with “the bigoted exclusion of gays from social rituals”? Ross Douthat is Feeling Sorry for Bigots ☀
Maybe that is just sloppy english, but it appears to say that there is a movement to undermine traditional marriage. But why would I, or anyone else, want to keep people from getting married? It seems that we’re talking past each other until you realize that Douthat is talking about more than just men and women making lifelong commitments to each other. He’s talking about a view of marriage. It’s a view that places little importance on love and commitment, and sees the whole endeavor as a way to propagate the species. It’s a view more consonant with cultures that have arranged marriages than it is with American or European culture. The thing is, even in cultures that arrange marriages, it’s not so much about procreation as it is about money, power, and prestige. Families and their fortunes are joined for the purposes of mutual advancement. In these cases, the families take precedence even over procreation. In other words, I don’t think Douthat’s kind of marriage actually exists anywhere in the real world, except in his imagination. Booman Tribune ☀
If a woman who is fit for marriage has a husband who is not, and she is unable openly to take unto herself another—and unwilling, too, to do anything dishonorable—since the pope in such a case demands without cause abundant testimony and evidence, she should say to her husband, “Look, my dear husband, you are unable to fulfil your conjugal duty toward me; you have cheated me out of my maidenhood and even imperiled my honor and my soul’s salvation; in the sight of God there is no real marriage between us. Grant me the privilege of contracting a secret marriage with your brother or closest relative, and you retain the title of husband so that your property will not fall to strangers. Consent to being betrayed voluntarily by me, as you have betrayed me without my consent.” I stated further that the husband is obligated to consent to such an arrangement and thus to provide for her the conjugal duty and children, and that if he refuses to do so she should secretly flee from him to some other country and there contract a marriage. Martin Luther ☀
Conservatives often claim to have faith in America, in American exceptionalism. I wish they’d have a bit more faith in the institutions that they claim are valuable and in Americans who aren’t rich. Marriage “passes the market test” in America among people who could afford, in social and economic terms, to adopt more informal Scandinavian lifestyles. Rich liberals aren’t shamed, exhorted, counseled, bribed, or propagandized into marriage. They choose it. There are rational, remediable reasons why poorer Americans don’t make the same choice. I wish we would address those reasons rather than pretend the choices are mistakes or moral failures. Pro-family, pro-children, anti-”marriage promotion” ☀
Trying to shoehorn women whose expectations of equal treatment have been rising into marriages with men whose economic prospects have been falling is no solution to contemporary work and family dilemmas. “Women are far less likely than in the past to put up with the kind of behavior that so often accompanies economic loss and chronic employment stress—such as drug or alcohol abuse and domestic violence—and we should not encourage or incentivize them to do so. Stephanie Coontz ☀
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