More thoughts on Gay Marriage

Usually when watching the Daily Show, I watch Jon Stewart’s commentary and then skip the interview. He is not my favorite interviewer by any means. Yet, I did find this one interesting. Mike Huckabee was on promoting his new book, Do the Right Thing. The conversation moved into a debate over gay marriage. Huckabee stuck to the fact that voters defined marriage as one man and one woman. Stewart refereed to Old Testament ideas of marriage as in polygamy. Nothing Biblical fell out of Huckabee’s mouth, no scriptural reference at all.

That got me looking into the Biblical accounts of a traditional marriage. Here is what I found (please add more if you know of any)
Gen. 2:18, 21-24 – God sees Adam as lonely and desires to make a companion for him, God creates Eve.
Malachi 2:14 – speaks of the marriage covenant, but is trying to get people not to marry foreigners.
1 Corinthians 7:1-2 – Paul tells us not to marry but that if we do every man should have a woman and every woman a man.
Ephesians 5:22-33 – wives submit to husbands, husbands love your wives like Christ loved the church. Talks about how a marriage should work, as far as the relationship itself
1 Peter 3:1-5, 7 – again talks about the relationship aspect of marriage
Hebrews 13:4 – states that marriage should be honored by all

Other than these there are rules about who should can marry a widow, how to set your daughters up with good husbands. There are stories of people trading their daughters for political purposes and many more, and even weirder scriptures. Besides the ones above nothing really speaks to why marriage should be between a man and a woman. Besides the Genesis passage, all the others speak to relationships and not to why marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.

Is our stance on marriage = man & woman, based off of more tradition than scripture? Are we fighting the idea of gay marriage because of social ideals or scriptural based theology? There was a time when a black man was seen as 3/4 human and women were property. Those were social ideals that were overturned. Ten years from now will we look at this issue and think the same thing?

I have a feeling I know what some people will say. Gay marriage is cultivating unbiblical morality. If gay marriage is legal then we are promoting homosexuality. I am wrestling with that idea as well…more to come.

Jon Stewart makes some good points and I think Huckabee (as a Baptist minister) should have come out stronger on Biblical principals. Yet he is also probably still trying to run for some sort of office and may want to shun the ‘preacher’ side of things. Here is the interview.

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11 thoughts on “More thoughts on Gay Marriage

  1. I appreciate your honest wrestling with these questions.I agree the “defense of marraige” seems at times to rest on a narrow reading of Scripture. Going the other direction, you can find positive teachings by Paul, for instance, saying we should not marry at all.

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  2. There are plenty of arguments put forth by both sides. If you are interested in a short summation of a scriptural basis for marriage being between a man and a woman (rather than just a tradition based argument) I would suggest reading this summary from Dr. Gagnon. http://www.robgagnon.net/articles/HomosexHowBadIsIt.pdfFor me personally, his writings have made a clear case that scripture is overwhelmingly negative about homosexuality and the possibility of a homosexual marriage. I have not seen any scriptural based arguments as complete as these writings supporting a homosexual marriage and I have tried to find them. Having said that, I personally think what is causing so much tension within the church today, is that we have allowed ourselves to pit an ethical argument against a moral argument. Ethics and morals are not the same thing. A moral code doesn’t evolve – ethics can. For example, it was once considered ethical to own slaves, it is no longer considered ethical to do so. There was no moral code favoring or restricting slavery, simply an admonition to treat each other fairly, whether they were slave or not. It is my opinion, that in regards to homosexuality, we have a clearly demonstrated moral code – which is codified in our discipline and I think supported by scripture. But we have a lot of people beginning to question whether the moral code is ethical with the misunderstanding that an ethical discussion can overturn a moral code. It can’t. I see excellent ethical arguments being made for accepting homosexual marriage in society in general. This is an evolution of an ethics based argument not a change in the underlying morality statement that we have from our religious understanding of scriptures. Unfortunately, what is happening now is that we are being pressured to change our moral understanding because the ethics have evolved to support homosexuality in society. The church should not be put in the position of substituting ethics for morals, but that is precisely what some are asking it to do. My arguments are perhaps a little muddled, but I hope it helps to think about the difference between an evolving ethic and a moral.

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  3. Thank you for your comments. Larry B. I can see your point about a moral code influencing ethics. I would agree. Yet I still think we pick and choose a little on what we follow from scripture and turn into our ethics, especially when it comes to a denominational stance on an ethical/moral issue. For example: The scriptures are littered with directions, reasons, and permission for capital punishment, putting someone else to death. If we followed the law in Leviticus to a tee there wouldn’t be many teenagers around these days because Leviticus 20:9 states, “If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head.” There are a TON of other reasons which gives permission to put someone to death for all sorts of sins.Yet, the official stance of the United Methodist Church on the issue is “we oppose capital punishment and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.” (¶ 164.A) Also, if I would ask my congregation I would bet (although I shouldn’t as a UMC clergy) that at least 90% would be FOR capital punishment. Here we have a moral code within scripture and society that the church is against.I also think that 100 years ago there would be no words spilt on the capital punishment issue and many church goers would be seen at the gallows applauding the criminal’s demise. There were many church-going, Christ-believing people who owned slaves and whose moral code told them it was alright, which was backed with scripture. Yet the ethical situation society faced was the realization that people are not property and actually they are children of God.Scripture, tradition, reason and experience all play a part of the evolving of society’s and denomination’s ethic, theology, and moral code. Just food for thought, love to hear your thoughts as well.

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  4. Jim, I think your example illustrates nicely how the church has tried to separate ethical stances from moral codes. The official UMC website definition of the Social Principles (from which the capital punishment position comes) shows this separation of the ethics and moral code “They are a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit; however, they are not church law. “To me this leaves room for a functioning ethical debate about topics that don’t impact church law. There is nothing in the discipline that would outright disallow corporal punishment. However the ethical understanding of the church on issues can and does evolve. The problem for homosexuality, is that there is a church law present in the discipline. An ethical debate does not influence a moral code. Either you accept the moral code as moral or you reject it. You cannot argue the ethic of a moral code. You can argue the ethic of a particular position and determine if a position is unethical or not, but that is not a morality statement. Those who advocate for homosexuality, homosexual marriage, and homosexual ordination are making arguments based on ethics, not moral code. From an ethical standpoint, I think they have made some good arguments. (on marriage in particular though I don’t think they have proven the utilitarian argument in showing how removing gender as an essential component for marriage improves society). I think the advocates are incorrectly misinterpreting their winning ethical arguments as a negation of a moral code. Thus the constant turmoil caused by groups like the RMN who move in to churches and pit people against the churches moral code with ethics based arguments. There is a reason some items are church law and others are social principles. That line is being blurred and disrespected by some in the church right now and it only serves to create disorder.

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  5. I once read a book that said I should never change my socks.Do you think I should follow what it suggests?To base your moral and ethical code on a random collection of writings from the bronze age is…is……well, akin to the above.

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  6. Jim, I rely on the christian religion for my moral code. I grew up catholic and for a time accepted their teachings as the determinants for my morality. After a time I began to disagree with some of the teachings of the church and therefore chose to leave it. I actually left christianity altogether. In short though secularism and atheism didn’t satisfy my questions either. When I joined the Methodist Church, one of the main features that attracted me, was what was explained to me as the allowance for pluralism. The Pastor explained it as one of the ideals that the Methodist hold whereby non essential tenets (generally those things found in the social principles) could be disagreed with or even outright conflicted with and this wouldn’t impact the identity of the Methodist. To balance it out and not to revert to relativism, there were the core beliefs of the church set out in the discipline. I agreed with those beliefs and thus it seemed that this church had a way to establish morality while leaving room for people to work through everyday ethical issues. As I’ve said before though, what is disappointing me the most is that the allowance for working through ethical issues is being turned back on the churches moral core. If that changes, then I have no problem leaving again, because I won’t agree with the morality statements, nor will there really be a moral core to the church, just a contest of ethical arguments. I suppose what you might be getting at is how do I personally determine whether I can abide by something as moral or not. It’s not easy to explain, but falls more along the lines of CS Lewis’s description of how he came to believe in Christianity. It just seems to come together and make complete and reasonable sense. When I survey the whole of scripture, reason, and tradition, I find myself agreeing with certain moral statement and disagreeing with others. The methodist church (up to this point) so far has, I think, laid out a moral code that I am in complete agreement with. Thus the reason I would be part of the Methodist Church.

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  7. Troy, If you believe the book you read contained truth, then you shouldn’t change your socks. Your question points to the heart of the matter – each of us has to decide truth somewhere and you apparently are confident that the bronze age documents you refer to don’t contain worthwhile truth. If you care to share, I would like to hear your perspective on where you find your truth. (I quickly scanned your blog, but only found a few posts critical of religion).

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  8. Troy, I agree with Larry. If you believe the book you read is the Word of God, like I think that bronze age collection of writings is, then by all means, change your socks.Larry, I guess the my main question is where is the moral code you follow written? Is it in the Discpline, the articles of religion or some other area? Is it in the bible, in the 10 commandments or Christ’s teachings? I am wondering where you see it defined that homosexuality is sinnful. I appreciate the conversation.

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  9. Jim, Thanks for the opportunity to discuss. In regards to your last question, I use the bible both Old and New Testament, as best I understand it to determine what constitutes a basic moral principle. Specifically with regards to homosexuality, I’m aware that there are conflicting views regarding what the scriptures say about homosexuality as our society has come to regard it (secular society for the most part seems to be affirming monogamous homosexuality as ethical now). However for me, in very short summary, the explicit prohibition of homosexuality in Leviticus combined with Acts 15 discussion of bringing gentiles into the faith without requiring strict adherence to the Torah. While not requiring strict adherence to the Torah, he does leave in place 4 restrictions, one of them is from my understanding and research, a direct reference to levitical sex laws. I also think the whole of scripture is decidedly negative about homosexual activity in addition to my short summary above, and therefore, I don’t find any scriptural argument to believe that homosexuality in any form is moral.

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