Better to Marry Than to Burn

I posted the concluding thought on Facebook a few weeks ago and family members were a little miffed that I “misused” scripture, so I decided to misuse it for a larger audience. After all, misuse of scripture is one of our proudest Protestant traditions, and one which I have discussed many times before. Martin Luther believed the scripture was accessible to all and should be the responsibility of Christians to interpret.

Like many of my own evangelical family (although he would not have considered himself evangelical) Luther thought the scriptures were transparent and not open to interpretation. Open reading of the scripture was preferable to the Catholic practice of reading scriptures in Latin and telling the laity (or idiota) what they meant. Unfortunately, the meaning of scripture is far from obvious, as is made obvious by the constant fracturing of Christian ideology.

For example, many fundamentalist Christians choose to exclude same sex couples from the rites of marriage based on a single passage in Genesis (2:24) repeated in Matthew 19:5, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.” This is the only verse that really can be used to address marriage since other verses addressing homosexuality condemn them to death and eternal damnation. The latter is out of our jurisdiction and just about everyone, except for a few ultra-right crazies, prefers to ignore the former.

The problem is, Jesus is pretty specific that the verse applies to divorce, not same-sex marriage. Nor, unfortunately, does the word “marriage” actually show up in either passage. Jesus uses the verse as an analogy to the lifetime commitment entailed in marriage, telling us it is wrong to set aside our wives for anything but adultery. Husbands, by a literal interpretation, are off the hook, but we would be loathe to restrict the literal meaning of the verse to a wive's adultery. In other words, we don't even apply the same standards of interpretation to a single verse.

So let's try the same approach to other scriptures to see what we can come up with:

In Romans 1 Paul does not label homosexuality a sin but he merely says they “burn with lust” for each other. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul says the best way to stop couples from extramarital sex is for them to marry, because “it is better to marry than to burn.”

So I don't see any way around it. By using the same principles of interpretation used by opponents of same sex marriage, it turns out that God actually wants gay couples to marry so they will no longer engage in promiscuous extramarital sex. Gay marriage has the scriptural seal of approval after all.

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Love is not “not hating”

A couple of weeks ago, CNN commentator Don Lemon did a day of hot topics, filled with so many guests I couldn't keep track of them, and, to be truthful I was only watching because Carol loves CNN, and I hate college hoops. I use the word “hate” for a reason.

The topic turned to gay marriage, most likely because Lemon is openly gay, and the most vocal opponent to same-sex marriage kept insisting he didn't hate, or even discriminate, against gays. Gay marriage isn't marriage because (we all know the line) marriage is between a man and a woman.

Let's be up front. Marriage as an institution between two sexes is a Christian concept, not a Constitutional one. When called upon to justify the claim, opponents of same-sex marriage, inevitably invoke the Christian scriptures, most frequently Matthew 5:31-32. Granted the Jewish and Moslem scriptures condemn homosexual behavior, but they don't say that same-sex can't marry any more than witches, adulterers and infidels. The Matthew verse seems to seal the deal for marriage. This makes the opposition to gay marriage uniquely Christian.

It's important to make this distinction because that makes laws preventing same-sex marriage uniquely discriminatory. They deny couples a civil right (and civil marriage is a civil right) based on the views of a religious minority. It would be okay for churches to decline to marry gay couples on religious grounds, but couples would still be able to seek civil approval. So to argue against same-sex marriage based on the Bible is to sidestep the issue. The New Testament holds no authority over the Congress or the Constitution.

So much for not discriminating. How about the not hating part?

Being raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK), I know from long experience that “hate” is a code word for denying responsibility. I've heard it since childhood. “We don't hate the sinner, we just hate the sin.” It's as if “not hating” excuses a multitude of sins.

It also misses the point. Jesus does not command his followers to “not hate,” he commands us to love. In fact those are really the only two commandments. So when Christians try to let themselves off the hook for discriminatory and hateful behavior by saying they don't hate personally, they're not off the hook.

If we truly love someone we want what is in their best interest, not our own. We do not hold them subject to the standards we hold ourselves to, should they choose a different path. And we do not use the government to impose a Christian morality on those who aren't Christians. Rather, we embrace them, invite them into the light and give them time to grow in the love of God.

If they choose not to follow, it is not our job to punish them, or even judge them. And if you haven't figured that out by now, you need to reread the New Testament. Not one verse or six. All of it.

Sidebar:

Did Jesus affirm a gay couple?

I ran across an interesting article on the web. Evidently the original Aramaic lends room to suggest that Jesus held a gay Centurion and his lover to be an example of faith. Since, I'm no Aramaic scholar, I can't attest to this validity of the conclusion, but the original Greek was used to justify so much bad theology when I was growing up, I thought it would be fun to give you the link.

Bishops behaving badly

The Catholic Church decided allowing a parish priest to campaign for Romney's election wasn't provocative enough. Those crazy guys had to suggest, first that gay Catholics shouldn't be allowed to take communion, and then that Catholics shouldn't take communion if they support same-sex marriage.

Is this a sign of the Catholic Church stepping openly into the political arena? The Newark archbishop claimed that marriage is a “prepolitical” issue, but that hasn't stopped a number of archbishops from enlisting their parishioners in political campaigns against same sex marriage.

I do find it slightly disturbing, however, that Bishops would tell Catholics they shouldn't take communion for being wrong thinking, when they still allow priests to take communion for wrong-doing. Nor do I think I need to elaborate on the irony (especially since molestation was often same sex as well).

The Church's open political maneuvering has led to renewed calls to remove their tax-exempt status. I think this is what they intended all along. I think the Corporate Christian Complex (CCC) wants the Obama administration to move to challenge the Church's tax exempt status.

What better way to prove that Obama has declared a war on faith? Can you imagine the screaming? No matter that the Church has violated the terms of their tax-exempt status by openly promoting a political campaign, or that they violate separation of church and state in the process.

My advice? Be patient. Sooner or later the Republicans will be back in power. They always convince enough people that Jesus loves them more that sooner or later they have to win. Then they will take away the status of a Unitarian church whose minister unwittingly offends them.

Or, even more likely, the Republicans will overstep their bounds and piss off the Pope, who will decide even they are too liberal for Jesus. The Pope will then learn that once you question the Republicans, they will find a way to make you pay.

Kill them. Then let them marry.

So we’re back on the gay marriage thing again.

It’s tough to ignore when Christians across America decide Carrie Underwood albums are no longer fit to sit next to their stereos. Apparently the Holy Spirit can’t bless the songs of gospel singers when enemies of Christ cross the same laser beam.

I’m assuming .mp3s are even worse, because all those secular bytes might get scrambled in RAM with the God-fearing ones.

And, of course, now that she’s fallen so far from the grace of God, her music might well create Satanic ear worms that cause good Christians to want to run out and sin. Or marry a someone gay.

What did Carrie do? If the lead didn’t tip you off, Carrie confessed that she supports the rights of same sex couples to marry, and, even worse, she worships at a gay friendly church. Which means no church at all, by the way, but rather a coven of Satanists disguised as angels of light.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Carrie Underwood. Not because she isn’t a tremendous talent, but because I can’t warm up to contemporary country. And if I did like country, I would listen to Taylor Swift (but I don’t because I don’t like country).

I would also bet Taylor Swift supports same sex marriage too. She did date Jake Gyllenhaal.

Gay marriage took a hit from another front. According to a study by the University of Texas (funded by a conservative think tank and conducted by a marketing research group), gay parents are really bad for kids. According to Mark Regnerus in his Slate Magazine article (which reports the results of—get this—his study), children of gay parents:

were more apt to report being unemployed, less healthy, more depressed, more likely to have cheated on a spouse or partner, smoke more pot, had trouble with the law, report more male and female sex partners, more sexual victimization, and were more likely to reflect negatively on their childhood family life, among other things.

I really love the “among other things” part. As if it could get worse. He went on to say that these children fared almost as poorly as children in single parent homes. This is an important comparison because, in fact, the children of gay parents studied were, in fact, children of divorce. Just children of divorce (or separation) with one gay parent.

I read the study, went through page after page of boring methodological description and even read the entire survey with programming instructions directing respondents to different areas of the survey. The study only focused on children with parents who split up, in other words, children with one gay parent. Not children adopted by gay couples.

Nor does the study, as best I can tell, distinguish between children who lived with the gay parent or the straight parent. The survey confuses the real question. Do children adopted by gay parents in a stable relationship fare worse than children of straight parents in a stable relationship?

Of course, Christians against same sex marriage also confuse politics with the Bible. The Bible makes it very clear that gay men are to be killed (Lev. 20:13). We are also supposed to kill adulterers (20:10) and, get this, kids who curse their parents (20:9).

That’s right. If you kid ever tells you to go to hell or that they hope you die (even if it’s behind your back), you’re required by the Old Testament to kill them. In fact, kids who curse their parents are considered a higher priority on the death list than adulterers who are a higher priority than same sex couples.

The Bible doesn’t say anything about stopping them from getting married.

So there we have it. If we really want to do the Lord’s will we have to kill same sex couples, adulterers and uppity kids. And if we deny same sex couples the right to marry we have to extend the Defense of Marriage Act to adulterers and uppity kids as well.

Or maybe the Christian right is overreacting. I don’t know. What do you think?

In the meantime, if you like Carrie Underwood you might as well keep listening. After all, supporting same sex marriage is better than voting Democrat.

Rejoice in the Lord but don’t be gay

North Carolina joined the ranks of the states willing to secede (or resecede) from the union when it declared same sex marriage and civil unions to be unconstitutional. After all, nothing poses a greater threat to marriage than couples who can’t produce kids.

Cousins can still marry cousins and further narrow the gene pool. But that’s not a threat to marriage at all. Just society in general.

Jesus didn’t speak to me about that. That’s just my opinion. But opinion seems to carry the weight of Gospel these days, so I might as well add mine. Carol was listening to a pundit on CNN while I was in the bathroom this morning so I didn’t get his name (and I didn’t find it worth rewinding), but he argued that gay marriage is a threat to society because homosexuality is picked up from our environments.

His implicit conclusion? Having more gay couples accepted will make more kids gay. He didn’t come out and say this, most likely because the interview would have been posted to YouTube with a laugh track. Facts are facts. Kids grow up in the same communities with the same exposure to gay couples. Most turn out to be straight. So clearly environment isn’t an issue.

Personally, I think the all those Defense of Marriage Acts should be called the Defense of the Definition of Marriage Acts. After all, if we define marriage as “between two people” then same sex marriage isn’t an issue.

So one question we should ask is, does the Bible really define marriage as “between a man and a woman?” The traditional answer is Matthew 19:5 where Jesus said, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.” But that verse doesn’t say a wife is a woman. So what’s all the fuss over men marrying men? Maybe we could twist the verse to mean that women can’t marry women. But clearly there’s no prohibition against men marrying men.

I can already anticipate the objection. But Jesus says in the previous verse that God created male and female. So clearly “wife” means “woman.” But I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK) and I know that it’s dangerous to make one verse’s meaning depend on previous verses. (It’s called “context.”) Otherwise we would be forced to acknowledge that homosexuality and gossip are equally distasteful to God (read Romans).

Besides, if we are going to insist on context, Jesus is talking about divorce, not same sex marriage. Based on that verse, the defense of marriage would prohibit marriage between previously married partners.

What amazes me is that the Christian right, who is all about religious freedom, wants government to dictate to churches who they can and cannot marry. Banning same sex marriage not only affects the legal status of gay and lesbian couples, it dictates whether or not churches can perform rites for their parishioners, should they choose.

Think about it. Your church accepts that same sex marriage is unlawful in the eyes of God. Even before the defense of marriage act, no government would force you to marry a gay couple. Nor would you need to. If a gay couple was even brave enough to admit their love to the congregation (assuming they were clueless enough to be members of your church) they would still have to get married in a state that accepted same sex marriage, and they could have a civil ceremony if they couldn’t find a liberal elitist secular church that would marry them.

But you would be furious if the government told your church it had to marry that couple. In fact, I can imagine that if the government included divorced partners in the defense of marriage act, your church would be up in arms.

This may seem inconceivable, but forty years ago many churches (including the Catholic Church) felt the same way about divorced couples that many Christians feel about same sex couples now. Some churches thought it was heresy for a church to sanctify a marriage involving a divorced spouse. I suspect those same churches would insist on first marriages between a man and woman only. This, in fact, was the point I was making about the original intent of Matthew 19:5.

The defense of marriage acts deny churches the right to marry same sex couples if they feel that is the Christian thing to do. This sets a dangerous precedent. By refusing to allow citizens their Constitutional rights, Christians are opening the door to government to curtail their own rights as well. This is not just hypocrisy, it’s stupid.

Jesus did not endorse or approve of this blog. At least not explicitly.

So far as I know.