This post is courtesy of Martha Kearse, Associate Minister of St. John’s Baptist Church in Charlotte. Martha’s message transcends the political debate. She skips over same-sex civil unions and people just living together and jumps right into the fray, explaining why serious commitments before God have value for all people. To the righteous “yes” voters, she throws a pretty good religious forearm too, and helps put those selective bible verses in perspective. I hope you enjoy and learn from her message as much as I did.
I’m an advocate for marriage. I believe it is a sacred union, blessed by God, given to us as people because it is in our best interests to mate for life. I believe marriage is good for people when those people choose it for themselves—that it builds perspective, strengthens the ability to share and compromise, increases personal sense of security, and encourages a deeper understanding of the meaning of love.
I’ve been married for 20 years—20 years, seven months and 236 days—so I’m not glib about marriage. I’ve worked hard enough to “wear the ring,” as Pat Conroy puts it (he’s describing the Citadel, but I think it fits here, too) and still, I believe in marriage to the extent that I advocate for it, counsel young couples and perform weddings.
So this issue of two same-sex people wanting to get married pushes a very particular button for me, and it is this: I believe in marriage. Not civil unions—not living together—marriage. I believe in two people standing up in front of their friends and family, asking for their blessing and their help in creating a marriage, asking for God to be part of their commitment to each other. It seems to me that this works the same for two people who are the same gender as it does for people who are of different genders. The commitment is the same, the blessing is the same, the work is the same.
In the history of our country, there has never been a safe place for people of the same sex to try this, so to question its workability in terms of the history of same-sex people marrying is ridiculous.
In terms of equality and legality, anyone who opposes two consenting adults getting married doesn’t have a leg to stand on—legislation that made the way clear for people of different races to marry will certainly be used (if not immediately, then eventually) to prove that states can’t prohibit a couple who are of age and who each consent to the marriage from marrying. So most people who want to argue against same-sex marriage choose to argue on moral and religious grounds.
Putting aside the basic constitutional prohibition from combining religion with the state, (which should doom such arguments from the beginning, but somehow doesn’t), the moral argument against same-sex marriage usually goes something like this:
–Homosexuality is prohibited in the Bible.
–Homosexuality is a sin and corrupts the community by its very existence.
–Therefore marriage between two people of the same sex is sin and corrupts the nature of the community which permits it to happen.
One thing that needs to be made perfectly clear—the act of having sex with a partner of the same sex is prohibited in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:22), along with a host of other sexual issues (Lev. 18:6-23). As is the eating of shellfish and barbequed pork (Lev. 11:4-12). As is the wearing of a cotton/poly blend (Lev. 19:19). Along with these prohibitions are quite a few admonitions—such as circumcision (Lev. 12:3, the growing of forelocks (Lev. 19:27) and the welcoming of immigrants into the community (Lev. 19:33).
The New Testament goes even further and prohibits, for women, the wearing of makeup and the attendance of a religious service without a veil (I Corinthians11:4-5), and for men, keeping their head uncovered in worship (I. Cor. 11:7). Greek and Roman culture (as well as many cultures in the area of Judea) provided for the having of sex with other people (whatever sex they might be) in the service of one of the gods—the New Testament, written by people living in this culture, addresses these issues and prohibits the sacrilegious use of sex and having sex with children (often used in temple life) specifically.
What is not mentioned, at all, anywhere, is the concept of a committed relationship between two people of the same gender that is parallel to a heterosexual marriage. No such concept was available at the time, either in Jewish society or the conquering societies that ruled over theirs.
What is interesting is to look at the big lists. The Ten Commandments make no mention of homosexuality or same-sex marriage—interestingly, there is a clearly stated prohibition against adultery, and another that makes it clear that it is problematic to even think about stealing the affections of someone who is bound in relationship to another.
Jimmy Carter notes in a recent interview something many people have pointed out—Jesus makes no mention of homosexuality. In his whole ministry. He has very little to say about sexual sin at all—he mentions only adultery in his Sermon on the Mount (Mt.5:27-30) and explains that those who lust after women other than their wives, whether they act on it or not, have already committed the sin. When he does address sexual sin, there is always a sense of his telling the person to stop hurting themselves by their promiscuity—and he often includes a lesson for others on the problems of throwing the first stone.
In my mind, it is Jesus’ attitude that clenches my take on this issue. Lots of people, particularly those of the more “liberal” ilk, want to make out that Jesus is pretty easy-going and that somehow the basic tenet of Christianity is “It’s All Good.”
Conservative people are right to oppose this view of Jesus. Jesus was kind and compassionate and good, but he had little tolerance for those who sought to use their faith as a weapon, and even less for those who profited off the work and ill-fortunes of others.
Jesus got himself killed by attacking the power structure and the wealth structure behind the temple in Jerusalem. In addition, he prohibited divorce (specifically the inequality of the divorce system of his time) and modeled a respect for women that was, let’s say, controversial. So “It’s All Good” was not really what he was about.
But Jesus did listen to people—he did model love. And he said, very clearly and in many different ways, “Other people’s issues and sins are not your problem. Your problem is you. Fix yourself and leave everyone else in God’s hands.” Along with the message “love each other the way I am teaching you to love,” a basic theme of his ministry is “leave judgment to God.”
One other little Biblical tidbit that gets thrown in (with increasing force as those who want to push this agenda run out of arguments) is that marriage is for the purpose of procreation. They base this on certain passages in the Old Testament which talk about the importance of procreation and raising children in the faith.
It seems obvious to say this, but the first of those passages came when there were only two people on the planet, if you take the story literally; other calls for procreation came to those establishing a new Jewish identity in a sea of people from other cultures—so, yes! Procreate! More babies=more Jewish babies=safer culture. I would think, though, that some of those who make this argument would notice that as a planet we topped 7 billion people last year, of whom the Judeo/Christian group makes up a fair portion.
It seems to me entirely possible that, in light of the intense issues of our growing populations, God would bless the unions of those who not only don’t plan to procreate, but who consistently, willingly, and lovingly take on the children of heterosexuals to raise and love as their own.
So I believe that two people of the same sex, who have decided to commit themselves to each other for life should get married. Have the parties, buy the cake, book the church (believe it or not, there are many churches/synagogues/places of worship ready to offer weddings)—have the wedding. Invite your friends and invite God.
The great thing about the separation of church and state is that the government has no power over the services we offer—they cannot prohibit your wedding. They can only deny your legal rights—and how much harder would that be if you have a signed certificate of marriage from an ordained member of the clergy?
Get married and get ready—as the Bible makes clear, marriage is not for the faint of heart. Remember that Jesus took the whole thing very seriously and the one thing Jesus did have to say about marriage was this: “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”