A STONEWALL DISPATCH: Pat Robertson thinks same-sex couples don’t want to marry and other craziness.

Over the last several weeks, I have found myself running across quite a few news stories and other items surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage and other issues that address human sexuality.  I am also very interested in the issue, so I thought it was time to post something on the subject.  The following is a small selection of some of the items I have come across recently, and a few of my thoughts on them.  I invite open discourse on the subject.  :-)

I assume everyone is aware by now that California’s Proposition 8 passed last May, amending California’s constitution to include the following: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”  One might not be surprised that that such language has spawned legal challenges.  Well, those legal challenges are starting to get interesting as the supporters of Proposition 8 are apparently having a hard time getting them thrown out without a trial.  Indeed, a recent AP story indicates that the district court judge handling the case has refused to dismiss it and that it will go to trial.

I am rather looking forward to this trial because the judge has indicated that he will require exploration of the issues surrounding the very odd claim that by allowing same-sex marriage, opposite-sex marriage will somehow be damaged, undermined, or otherwise threatened – particularly as it relates to the state’s goal of fostering “naturally procreative relationships.”  (A number of other concerns surrounding the dubious “dangers” of same-sex marriage have also been voiced, but rational animals as I hope judges are, I do not expect they will get much consideration at trial.)  This is a claim that I have never once seen backed up with any sort of evidence, research, or even reason.  Rather, it is most often presented with a reliance on the ignorance of the audience and a concurrent appeal to folk wisdom and so-called “common sense.”  In my experience, the claim that same-sex marriage is somehow a danger to opposite-sex marriage is merely a spurious and unsupported claim that runs counter to reason, so I am very much looking forward to it being fleshed out rather than simply asserted and then re-asserted more loudly.

As one might have expected based on the general lack of evidence for the claim that same-sex marriage is bad for opposite-sex marriage, the recent hearing in California has given us something of a preview of the coverage of this issue we can expect at trial.  The judge asked Charles Cooper, attorney for the defense (in this case the defense is the party in support of Proposition 8), “What is the harm to the procreation purpose…of allowing same-sex couples to get married?”  Tellingly, Cooper responded, “My answer is, I don’t know.  I don’t know.”

So, Cooper, who helped bring Proposition 8 to the ballot and who continues to support it based – apparently (doubtfully?) – primarily on his concern that allowing same-sex marriage will harm the procreative purpose of opposite-sex marriage, has no idea how or why that harm might occur, nor any idea of what that harm might be.  Put another way, the attorney in support of Proposition 8 does not know why he should support discriminatory legislation that treats people unequally.

One might expect that in a case of this magnitude the supporters of such a law might have already taken the time to research their main reason for pursuing the legislation in the first place.  One might further expect (hope?), that in a case such as this one, which involves the denial of access to certain things and the unequal treatment of certain people (i.e. discrimination), that those who support such legislation would want to be truly certain that their fears are legitimately warranted.  Sadly, it appears this is not the case.  Frankly, I find it shocking that the leadership of this movement was not prepared to answer the question of “what harm same-sex marriage would cause” with any competence whatsoever.  I do not want to have to reach this conclusion, but these circumstances seem to indicate that the proponents of Proposition 8 are aware of the fact that there is no rational basis for this discriminatory law, yet are comfortable and happy with the discrimination anyway.

Now, the claim that same-sex marriage is somehow a danger to opposite-sex marriage is interesting in that it offers us an opportunity to experience one of the benefits of our federalist system.  That is, with 50 states, we have the opportunity to have real life test cases.  There are currently six states that treat their people equally in regard to marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.  We have a test pool already set up for us.  We get to see what happens, and how opposite-sex marriage is either destroyed, unaffected, or perhaps supported by same-sex marriage.  An August column from the Chicago Tribune pointed this out, and the author put out a call to leading opponents of same-sex marriage to – now that they have the opportunity – actually indicate – in real terms – how it is that these new same-sex marriages will harm opposite-sex marriage(s).

Apparently there was some trouble getting a response, but eventually Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, did respond.  Her response was – in my opinion – remarkably similar to the “I don’t know” response offered up in the recent Proposition 8 hearing.  When asked to predict how same-sex marriage would harm opposite-sex marriage, Gallagher completely dodged.  Not one of her five responses had anything to do with opposite-sex (or even same-sex) marriage itself.  Nor did her responses contain any of the typical cries of how children will be perverted and other such speculation.  Rather she merely indicated the painfully obvious reality that as support for same-sex marriage grows, those who oppose it will become increasingly marginalized.  (To be fair, she does also speculate that there would be unprecedented intrusion by the state into the ecclesial community, though it is hard to see how such a thing would/could ever occur given the simple fact that a civil marriage and a sacred marriage are two completely and fundamentally different things.)  Given the opportunity to have the main fear of – and argument against – same-sex marriage actually tested out in real life cases, one might expect its staunchest opponents to finally tell us what the harm will be.  Like Charles Cooper, the pro-Proposition 8 attorney, Gallagher appears not to know.

Still though, the reality of the test cases that federalism provides us is there, and it has been for several years.  So, what has been the effect of marriage equality in those non-discriminatory states?  Well, as Rachel Maddow – certainly not my favorite talking head – puts it, same-sex marriage is a defense of marriage act!” Indeed, CDC numbers indicate that Massachusetts – the state with the longest history of marriage equality – has the lowest divorce rate in the country.  (Actually, the divorce rate in Massachusetts is so low that reports point out that it is down to pre-WWII levels, a fact that causes some problems for those who blame societies familial ills on the break down of the “traditional family” that supposedly began around the 60s.)  As far as I can tell, most people agree that a family in which the parents stay together is particularly beneficial to the rearing of children, which I believe is precisely the interest of the state in its goal of fostering “naturally procreative relationships.”  So, at this point it seems that same-sex marriage opponents have no idea how their bogeyman will harm opposite-sex marriage, derailing the state’s goal of fostering “naturally procreative relationships.”  Yet at the same time, the initial (and we must, of course, remember that there may be other metrics to consider and that this is all rather preliminary) data seem to indicate that there has been no harm to the institution of opposite-sex marriage.  Indeed, if a lower divorce rate furthers the goal of supporting “naturally procreative relationships,” marriage equality may very well be in the state’s best interest.  Can we expect the trial in California to end with Cooper’s continuing to state that he has no idea what the harm is of allowing same-sex couples to marry?  Will we possibly see the more deeply rooted reasons for opposing same-sex marriage start to bubble up to the surface?  I am not sure, but I am looking forward to the presentation of actual evidential and rational support for marriage discrimination.  It has been a long time coming, and the simpleminded re-assertion of unsupported statements and spurious hypotheses will no longer suffice.

Pleasantly, we will also get to see more evidence – or lack thereof – of the feared “dangers” of same-sex marriage as the government and Church of Sweden has recently decided to cease discrimination in relation to marriage.  But still, there are those in the United States who remain convinced of the impending assault on marriage that is the LGBT community.  A leading Christian has indicated publicly that he does not “believe that homosexuals want to get married,” despite their repeated calls for marriage equality.  No, says Pat Robertson, LGBT people do not want to get married, what they want is “to destroy marriage.”  Where does his ability to read minds come from?  It seems to me that it finds its source in irrational fear.  Ultimately, the voices of people such as Pat Robertson, Maggie Gallagher, et al, are voices of extremism, which, defined by Dr. Amy Gutmann, is single-minded and impervious to reason.  Such extremism runs contrary to and is a destructive element in the deliberative democratic process that lies at the heart of the American experiment.

In addition to the recent California hearing, there are other indications of incoherence in the anti-gay world.  Recently, Virginia-based Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) seem to have contradicted themselves by apparently lobbying against defending “ex-gays” with hate crime legislation and then asking Disney to include “ex-gays” in its discrimination policies.  Do they want “ex-gays” defended or not?  Most interesting is the fact that by asking for “ex-gays” to be a protected class, they are tacitly admitting that “ex-gay therapy” does not work.  If it did work, then “ex-gays” would just be straight, right?  And isn’t that the claim, that one does not have to be homosexual, but rather people can be “rehabilitated” back to heterosexuality?  If PFOX really believed that was true, there would be no reason for them to seek protection for “ex-gays” because those people would simply be heterosexual, certainly not a disadvantaged class given the heterosexism of our society.  Of course, in light of the studies and statements of reputable psychological and medical organizations, we should not be surprised that the folks at PFOX do not really believe that their “therapy” works.  The American Psychological Association (APA), for instance, strongly disagrees and considers such “therapy” ineffective at best and dangerous at worst.  Recently, the APA passed a resolution on the issue with a resounding 125-4 vote.  I do not think we should be at all surprised by the internal contradictions and general incoherence of a group like PFOX, as they too seem to be quite impervious to reason.

Other problems that accompany the unequal treatment of particular groups of people have continued to become apparent.  The case of Navy veteran Joshua Rocha has reminded us of one of the problems of our military’s “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell.” Policy.  Not only is it plainly discriminatory and yet another signal to homosexual people that they are second class citizens in a heterosexist society, but it also supports abuse of certain members of the military without offering them any reasonable recourse or way out.  Simply by reporting harassment, a gay man or woman serving in the military could be disciplined for violating “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell.”  That is to say, the policy creates an environment in which our service men and women can be harassed for the very same reason that prevents them from going to their superiors for help in ending the harassment.  Conveniently, U.S. Air Force Colonel Om Prakash has reviewed the efficacy of “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell.” The conclusion to be drawn from his work is that “Don’t ask. Don’t Tell.” don’t work.

The military’s “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell.” Policy is certainly a sign of our society’s heterosexism.  But there are other signs too, and they result in different – yet in some ways quite related – injustices.  An article in Slate covers the issue of a law targeted at gay men that was ruled unconstitutional 26 years ago.  Normally, such a ruling would only have been news at the time it was made.  But, in this case, the law is still being used to target gay men.  Literally thousands of unconstitutional arrests, prosecutions, and convictions have been made.  And tens of thousands of dollars in fines and fees have been paid.  This is a serious injustice.  But how does it happen?  Well, in addition to being plainly heterosexist, those who enforce the unconstitutional law – whether they realize it or not – are relying on the general heterosexism of society to do so.  This injustice can be carried out simply by virtue of the fact that some men would rather simply pay an unjust, unwarranted fine than risk the consequences that might come as a result of being “outed.”  So, gay men are forced to choose between two evils because our society treats them as second-class citizens.  (Notice the similarity with “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell.”)  If there were no fear for the LGBT community to be honest about who they are, there would be little reason for these unconstitutional arrests, prosecutions, convictions, fines, and fees to go unchallenged.  But our institutionalized heterosexism creates such fear and, as a result, our heterosexism fosters the perversion of our legal system, promoting injustice.  It is rather sickening that our society’s view and treatment of the honest LGBT community is so profoundly negative that people would choose to be victims of legal injustice – to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars – just to avoid the harm and negativity that can come at the hands of our deeply heterosexist culture.

In other parts of the world, the issue of homosexuality has taken a much darker turn.  For example, legislation has been introduced in Uganda that would criminalize homosexuality.  To put it succinctly, people (as I recall, estimates are somewhere around 10% of the population) would be breaking the law simply by virtue of living their lives fully as themselves.  Penalties for homosexuals would include life imprisonment and, in some cases, the death penalty.  The bill also contains penalties for those heterosexuals who fail to report the names of those they know to be homosexuals and those they know who are heterosexuals who support homosexuals.  For those, the penalty appears to be a three-year prison term.  It is interesting to note a couple of things in regard to this proposed legislation.  First, there have recently been some people who have elected to leave the Episcopal Church in America (TEC) over what they consider to be the church’s wrong-headedness on issues of human sexuality.  Those who have separated from TEC who wished to remain Anglicans – and maintain their claim to apostolic succession – have had to look outside of the United States for support.  And guess where they had to go to find it.  That’s right, Uganda.  Second, there may be a connection to this new proposed legislation in Uganda with its leadership’s relationships with American evangelical and fundamentalist Christian groups.

Clearly, our society and culture is heterosexist.  And our heterosexism is deeply rooted.  Some elements of society are working to move beyond this sad state of affairs, but others are doing their best to further entrench and institutionalize the inequality.  But what do we know about the anti-gay movement?  What do we learn about them from the stories and situations cited here?

Well, it seems that the anti-gay movement represents the following characteristics.  First, it can be simply irrational (bordering on lunacy?), as Pat Robertson so nicely demonstrates in the links above.  Second, the arguments against things like marriage equality often rely on logical fallacy, as Bill O’Reilly demonstrates in the link above above.  Third, the movement does not appear to support its key claims with real evidence or reason as Charles Cooper and Maggie Gallagher demonstrate in the links above.  Fourth, some anti-gay positions are not truly believed by those who profess them and the anti-gay is movement is often internally inconsistent, as the folks at PFOX demonstrate in the links above.  Fifth, the plans, ideas, and apparent solutions that are anti-gay (e.g. “Don’t Ask. Don’t tell.”) tend to be ineffective and potentially damaging, as demonstrated by the case of Joshua Rocha and the research of Col. Om Prakash.  Sixth, the anti-gay movement can be dangerous, as demonstrated by the proposed Ugandan legislation that criminalizes and homosexuality and threatens people with the death penalty.  Seventh, the anti-gay movement’s exclusionary, discriminatory positions relative to the LGBT community seem to match those of the third-world, as demonstrated by the relationship of the Anglican Church in North America and the Church of Uganda.

So to recap, much of the anti-gay movement appears to be ineffective, third-world-like, not based on evidence, internally inconsistent, potentially dangerous, fallacious, and irrational.  On top of that, the movement is plainly discriminatory.  And there is no getting around that fact.  Whether we are talking about marriage equality, “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell,” or any of the other issues that revolve around human sexuality, we are dealing with issues of discrimination.  Equality is not an equivocal term; it is one of the few things in life that actually is an either/or proposition.  As long as things are not 100% equal, we are experiencing inequality – it is just a matter of degree.

I, for one, believe in the absolute equality of all humankind.  As a result, any affront to equality among humans is offensive to me, whether it affects me directly or not.  Inequality – particularly when it is institutionalized – cuts to the core of my belief that we are all created, dependent existence.  So, where do you fall?  Are you for equality, or inequality?  You can’t have both.  Are all people created equal?  Are all people deserving of equal rights?  Or are some different, unequal, and unworthy?  We must decide.  But when we do, we cannot allow ourselves to ignore the realities of our decisions and choices.  No matter how it is justified, any choice against full equality is a choice for inequality.  Is inequality among humans a value of yours?

-GCC

21 Comments

Filed under Grant

21 responses to “A STONEWALL DISPATCH: Pat Robertson thinks same-sex couples don’t want to marry and other craziness.

  1. Brandon

    Grant, what a provocative post (in a good way). Sexual-related issues have always fascinated me, because I care about them enough to critically evaluate them, but probably not enough to turn sour on debating such topics. In any event, I agree with you on some points, but disagree on several others. For instance, I find Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell unduly archaic and agree that it probably lacks efficacy– however, I’m no expert on it and think that whatever makes the military most efficient and effective (whether with the policy or not) is the best course. I’m sure you can find people to argue either way.
    I find your seven-pronged thesis deficient in some senses, particularly because it does not account for perspectives like mine, and am wondering if you would begrudge me if I wrote a response post (not just here in the comments) to address it and related, but not necessarily on-point issues (relative to your post) that I’ve been thinking about the past couple years.
    As far as legal challenges to Proposition 8 goes, I must admit that I scratch my head a bit. I mean, what are they going to do– rule that the state constitution is unconstitutional? The only potential I can imagine is a federal equal protection challenge, and I see that the case is in federal court, so I’m guessing that’s it. However, that argument seems like a stretch to me, especially since family law has always been the purview of the states under federalism. Oh well, doesn’t mean a federal judge won’t buy the argument, which I would find unfortunate because I don’t think that would be a proper application of federalism, whatever the end result.

  2. Brandon

    By the way– I find the below hilarious, although perhaps that’s insensitive of me…
    http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/military_institutes_new

  3. GCC

    That Onion article is hilarious. And that’s primarily because it highlights for us the absurdity of DADT. Such guessing games are the sort if things that lead to abuse, both open and indirect, and then ultimately to discharge. I think the Onion has successful charicatured DADT, beacuse like any good charicature it is so accurate on key elements.

    This related Onion article is also hilarious: http://www.theonion.com/content/opinion/if_god_had_wanted_me_to_be

    More tomorrow…on the constitution, etc.

  4. GCC

    Thanks for commenting, B. I’m not surprised that you don’t find your perspective accounted for in those seven points. And I’m curious to know what it is, so please blog away, my friend. I’m not pretending that the list of characteristics I’ve named is either comprehensive or universal.

    Regarding the Constitution:
    I’m not a lawyer (though I play one at work), but it seems to me that there must be some sort of check/balance that could apply here. Here’s an extreme example to illustrate what I’m thinking: A majority of voters could vote to amend a constituion to include language that stipulates that all people with the initials GCC are to be killed. It seems there must be some sort of legal mechanism to overturn such an amendment. So the idea of the constituion being unconstitutional (in a manner of speaking) doesn’t strike me as unreasonable.

    Again, I’m not a lwayer, but based on the small (repeat, small) amount of research I’ve done into the 14th amendment, it seems that strict scrutiny would apply in this case, requiring a compelling state interest. As attorney Charles Cooper seems to have stated, the compelling interest is supposedly, more or less, to foster “naturally procreative” relationships. Yet at the same time, he seems to have no clue just how that interest would be impeded by same-sex marriages. Additionally, I’m struggling to see how inequality and discrimination is the least restrictive way to achieve the goal of fostering “naturally procreative” relationships. Again I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me that strict scrutiny requires something more than an answer of “I don’t know,” when asked what the threat to the compelling state interest is.

    The other interesting thing is whether or not the attorneys against equality will try to argue that homosexuals are not a suspect class. It appears the only argument to that effect would be that they do not possess an immutable trait. Boy, it would be interesting (fun?) to see the cross-examination of the (internally inconsistent, impervious to reason) PFOX folks, as compared to the APA and other reputable associations’ testimony.

    In short, it appears that if strict scrutiny applies – and I think that in 14th amendement cases dealing with a suspect class it does – the discriminatory Prop 8 language doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    So, I’m curious, B – you’re a lawyer after all – how is the 14th amendment argument a stretch? And how can one suggest that the feds have no business being involved simply because family law has been the purview of the states while there are over 1000 federal (I’m actually not sure if they’re all federal, but I think they are since the number ceomes from a GAO report, and certainly many of them are) rights and priveleges that hinge directly on marital status? It would seem to me that the feds are actually quite involved in issues of family law. Furthermore, if the feds can pass the Defense of Marriage Act, it would seem that they have indicated that this issue is their business, and any support of DOMA would indicate agreement with that position.

  5. czfinke

    DOMA makes me puke in my mouth a little bit. Then a little more when I think that Obama hasn’t repealed it.
    oh well.

    I can appreciate the stance on marriage laws in the domain of the states, so long as that represents opposition to DOMA and any federal ban of gay marriage.

  6. Brandon

    Gentlemen– I actually agree that DOMA has no place in federal law. Incidentally, I feel the same about abortion laws. You can drive pretty much any bus through substantive due process and/or expansive equal protection (kind of like the Commerce Clause before Lopez and Morrison), that it’s almost like why do the states even bother making any laws that federal judges may disagree with? I would prefer it if states had final authority on certain things, as the framers intended, such as family and criminal law. I agree that federal statutes exist in both of these areas (it’s inevitable), but in our case there’s no such thing as a federal marriage– federal law recognizes and works within the state law framework on matters that the federal authority touches. For instance, if Connecticut decided that heterosexuals couldn’t marry, I wouldn’t think it’s appropriate for the federal government to recognize heterosexual marriage of citizens of that state. What authority would it have to do that?
    I guess the equal protection argument is not that much of a stretch, as it may be recognized someday. However, Proposition 8 doesn’t involve a fundamental right (although you could probably find some dicta otherwise), and as of right now, homosexual orientation is not a suspect class according to federal precedent (unlike a handful of states). So, no strict scrutiny. I think you’re right to appreciate that the issue turns on whether someday the courts recognize homosexuals as a suspect class or not (and in any event, the closeness of the final Prop. 8 vote may prevent gays from asserting that they are powerless to protect themselves via the political process, one of the prongs for suspect classes).

  7. GCC

    Now this is interesting. From bottom to top (sort of):

    Suspect Class – This is clearly an issue in and of itself. The definition is easily met by the homosexual community. Particularly given that the part of the text from which the definition seems to stem (US v Carolene Products Co. – Footnote 4 apparently it’s rather famous) that seems to deal with the minority group’s ability to protect itself via the political process, indicates that the reason cited for why the minority group wouldn’t be able to rely on the political process for protection is prejudice against them. And it doesn’t even say that the prejudice must actually curtail the processes they would rely on for protection. Rather, it simply points to prejudice as a special condition, and cites as a reason why that is then worthy of special treatment the fact that it tends to curtail the political process on which they would normally rely. So, really, the political process may work on behalf of a particular, but if the prejudice exists, it seems they would still be deemed a special class.

    Here’s the text I’m getting this from: “whether prejudice against discrete and insular minorities may be a special condition, which tends seriously to curtail the operation of those political processes ordinarily to be relied upon to protect minorities, and which may call for a correspondingly more searching judicial inquiry.”

    But let’s say there’s no suspect or even quasi-suspect class status. So far, the pro-Prop 8 legal team isn’t even meeting the rational basis test. If the legitimate state interest is fostering “naturally procreative” relationships, there isn’t any connection to same-sex marriage, let alone a rational one.

    Marriage as a Fundamental Right – The case I’ve come across most regarding this is Loving v Virginia, in which marriage was apparently deemed a fundamental right. From a different perspective though, I wonder how the idea of marriage as a right fits into other discussions we’ve had here on what is and is not a right. First, I think it helps to rephrase the issue and call the pursuit of marriage the right, not the marriage itself. Kind of like finding and renting/buying a home (not to belittle the issue), you don’t actually have a right to the home, but you do have the right to do what you can to get it, and the government has no business impeding you or disallowing you from achieving the goal if you are able. So it is with marriage, we don’t have a right to be married insofar as the spouse is provided for us, etc. But it does seem that based on this (non-legal) standard we should be free from having the government impeding or disallowing our goal. Thoughts?

    Brandon, you’ve said that is a state does not recognize a marriage that the feds shouldn’t either. I assume then that if a state does recognize a marriage you would think that the feds should recognize it too. Is that correct? Or more simply and directly, do you think that same-sex marriages in the six states have marriage equality should be recognized fully at the federal level too? If it were the case that the feds fully recognized all marriages that are valid in the states, I would think that most people would be just fine with the idea of leaving the issue to the states. So maybe a big part of the problem is that the feds have mixed themselves into the issue by proactively not recognizing perfectly legal and valid state marriages. It would be nice if that issue could go away (e.g. repeal DOMA and have the feds recognize all of every state’s marriages), in part because we could then see how the landscape of the debate would change. In that case, people who are for inequality would no longer be able to hide behind a banner of federalism and states rights, while those who are for equality wouldn’t have to give up their passion for federalism and states rights.

    Hmmm…I just might have to write a letter to Barry about repealing DOMA. It could actually be brilliant. He could repeal that disgusting legislation AND make himself look good to real conservatives by approaching it from a federalist, states’ rights issue. Maybe I’ll just write the speech for him and drop it in the mail with a note.

    In any event, law school is once again beckoning.

  8. fourtwoseven

    ^ that’s all I got – I’m too busy to actually respond

  9. SDA

    Grant,

    I am not sure if I know you, but I know some of the other writers of this blog. We went to college together.

    I am just going to respond to your question in the last paragraph of your blog, “Is inequality among humans a value of yours?”

    Here is my question to you: what/who is the guide for your thinking? For me it is the Bible.

    The reason I ask you that question is that if the Bible is your authority for your thinking then same sex marriage is not OK. It does not matter what we sinful humans feel is equal or unequal. Homosexuals can date/have a civil union with who ever they want. One thing they can’t do is change God’s definition of marriage. So to me it is not a question of equal or unequal it is a question of what does the Bible say about the issue.

    Hope that makes sense and would be interested to hear your response.

  10. Christopher

    Well, I’ve been diligently waiting on this post for a few weeks now, waiting for someone to claim Biblical literalism as a legitimate rationale against gay marriage. Here we go.

    SDA – if the Bible is the guide to your thinking, then I assume (and correct me if I am wrong) that you believe the Bible to be the inerrant and literal Word of God. But which translation do you use? Are you a theologian with a specialty in translating ancient languages? If not, then upon which edition do you base your professed beliefs?

    Tell me then how you reconcile not only the historical knowledge we have regarding the codification of Holy Scripture (specifically: how books were selected, edited, and by whom); but moreover, how you choose the various other portions of scripture you (and I) must ignore to be a functioning member(s) in modern society? I doubt that you keep a kosher home, or refuse to wear clothes of disparate materials, or avoid keeping company with menstruating women. Do you put to death your friends who work on the Sabbath? If the Bible is truly the “guide to your thinking” as you assert, then this is the way it has to be. What say you?

    Secondly, explain to me where in the Bible God “defines marriage.”

    Understanding the historical and human basis of scripture should not undermine our faith in God. Rather, it should charge us to search for veritas in all aspects of life, particularly when we are invoking the name of God. Holy Scripture is a reminder of our history as a human race, and the potentiality of Divine inspiration in our lives. It is NOT sufficient enough upon which to base our entire belief system. For that, God blessed us with the added components of intellectual reason and the tradition of our human inheritance.

    SDA – I challenge you to quote in this forum the Scriptural basis for your disbelief in the equality of marriage rights for homosexuals. I’m really interested in discussing this with you.

  11. GCC

    Nice to blog-meet you, SDA. I look forward to having this and other conversations. Thanks for reading and commenting. Thanks to you to, Christopher.

    I’m not terribly interested in what the Bible does or does not say about human sexuality, marriage, etc. (Well, actually I’m very interested in it, just not in this context. I already way over did it on this post length-wise and intentionally left these more religious elements out of it. I find them to be rather unrelated to the points discussed.) I’m also not a big fan of “challenges.” Something about the sound of the language, I think.

    There are some things that tie in though, and I do have a response for you, SDA.

    SDA, you call the Bible “your authority.” To me, that sounds like the doctrine of sola scriptura. (I’m assuming that you mean that the Bible is THE authority for you, and not just AN authority. Please let me know if that’s incorrect.) Christopher, when you write that “[Scripture] is NOT sufficient enough upon which to base our entire belief system,” what I read is a simple rejection of the doctrine of sola scriptura. (I’m not sure if you thought of it that way, but I know you and your religious tradition, so I know you reject that doctrine in favor of Richard Hooker’s three-legged stool.) Anyway, I want to talk a bit about sola scriptura, because it’s related to a number of the points with which I closed this post.

    First, sola scriptura is essentially a form (or leads to forms) of fundamentalism, and it seems not uncommon for fundamentalists to exhibit the extremist tendencies of single-mindedness and imperviousness to reason. Other absolutist doctrines, like say, “sola ecclesia” which could include total submission to the authority of a figurehead and his tradition, are similarly fundamentalist and potentially extremist. Second, sola scriptura is a logical impossibility. (For a quick explanation of this, I’ll just point out that scripture itself is dependent on language, which is not scripture but rather tradition. So, it is impossible for us to even have scripture, let alone rely on it as some sort of authority without first having tradition. And you can add the necessity of interpretation to that. And you can add that the Torah is only readable with tradition because it is written without vowels and many of the words me vastly different things depending on which vowels are used. Oh, and what is and is not considered scripture is itself not found in scripture; that’s a tradition too. That should be sufficient for demonstrating that sola scriptura, like absolute relativism, is a contradiction in terms and a logical impossibility.) As a result, those who cling to it cling to something illogical and irrational. I find it interesting that the doctrine of sola scriptura shares the characteristics that I observed and demonstrated in the anti-gay community.

    SDA, you feel that “Homosexuals…can’t…change God’s definition of marriage.” First I’d like to point out that – in this post at least – I’m not suggesting that they should or even want to. Still though, assuming for a moment that “God’s definition of marriage” actually exists and that it is known to us, I feel it’s important to remember that that “definition” is not the same thing as the legal definition which is what I understand to be at issue. Bringing up God in this way feels to me – in this and other contexts – to be a bit of a subconscious buffer for the consciences of those who actively support and promote inequality, helping them deal with their own cognitive dissonance in this regard.

    SDA, you also wrote, “if the Bible is [our] authority for [our] thinking then same sex marriage is not OK.” There are many people who agree with you – straight, gay, clergy, lay, educated, ignorant, white, black, male, female. There are also many people who disagree with you – straight, gay, clergy, lay, educated, ignorant, white, black, male, female. There are literally millions of people on both sides of your statement. Why is that? There’s only one Bible (more or less ;-), so we know it’s not the book that’s different. But there are lots of different people with different experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, etc. And all of them bring themselves, with all their baggage, to the same book. And they find different things. It’s not surprising that they find different thing. But what is surprising is that any of those people would even think to suggest that what they find is somehow clearly and unequivocally definitive. It seems to me that we would all do better if we approached issues like this one more like this: “As I read the Bible, and because I hold it out to be my authority, I find same-sex marriage to be wrong and thus unallowable.” (The position could be (n)either side, this is just an example.) When we state our biblical discoveries this way we avoid appearing to arrogantly assume that we have found the definitive interpretation of scripture. And, more importantly, when phrasing it like this, we prompt questions like this: “Why is it that when you read the Bible, you find same-sex marriage to be wrong?” From there we can learn things from each other, and hopefully come to greater understanding and develop our sense of human fraternity. Not only that, but we are able to question our own beliefs, rather than just stating them as if they were axiomatic and have no need to be examined. It seems to me that if there is an area in which we would do well to question our convictions it is in the things that involve the mystery of the Divine.

    Finally, SDA, it appears your answer to the question I posed at the end of the main post is simple. When asked whether inequality among humans in a value of yours, your answer is just, “Yes.” You could also add, “As I read the Bible, it treats homosexuals unequally, and I derive my values from the Bible. Therefore, I value inequality.” SDA, the fact that you derive your values from the Bible does not change the fact that this is an issue of equality. You are welcome to your interpretation of the Bible, but that does not erase the reality of your support for inequality. You do not value true equality. (I do see an alternative interpretation to what you said: “I actually don’t have values in this regard, but rather just do what I’m told.) I find that to be unfortunate, but it’s OK, it’s your right, etc. Not everyone values the same things. Some people value material things above all else. I find that unfortunate too, but it’s similarly OK. That is, these things are OK if we actually own them as OUR values, as opposed to just talking about why we hold them. We must confront our values, and know what they really are. We shouldn’t hide our values behind something else (e.g. the Bible), moving their weight off of our own shoulders. In fact, if we really believe in our values, we should never have reason to do so. But, if we start explaining the source of our values and why we have them when simply asked what our values are, it is obvious that we’re making excuses and shifting responsibility. And it seems plainly obvious that if someone is shifting the responsibility for their values onto something else, it is a sure sign that deep down they are aware that what they are claiming isn’t really what they value.

    Absolute human equality is a pinnacle value for me, primarily because I see it as the ultimate expression of ethical monotheism. As long as you continue to explain why your support of inequality isn’t your decision, SDA, I will suspect that you, deep down, really value equality as well. I’ll keep in my prayers that you and all others who feel somehow compelled to value inequality will be delivered from a need to shift the weight of the values you feel are imposed on you. I’ll pray that all are able to feel pride and ownership of their values. And I’ll pray that we can all be free of compulsion in the development of our values, as we work towards healing the world.

    Footnote: I don’t think sola ecclesia is/was an actual doctrine, but rather something the reformers used in reference to the Roman Church all those years ago.

  12. SDA

    I will first respond to Christopher’s questions then at another time try to read through what Grant has to say. My post may be a little choppy but I am just trying to answer each of your questions one by one.

    Christopher I do believe that the Bible is the inerrant and literal Word of God. I use a lot of different translations of the Bible. They include the ESV, NKJV, NASB, NIV and a couple others. I am not a theologian, just a Christian. Like I said above I use many versions of the Bible that all are in line with what I said in my comment. I think what you are getting at is how do you know what version of the Bible is reliable? To that question I would say this. If the Bible translation is elevating the experience of the reader over the intent of the author you are reading the wrong version of the Bible. These versions make the reader sovereign over the text and demote the intended meaning of the historic human writers who were carried along by one divine author (2 Peter 1:19-21).

    Here is a short article for you to read about is your Bible free from error: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Questions/QA172

    Christopher you are going to need to tell me what historical knowledge we have regarding the codification of Holy Scripture. I am not sure what you are referring to here.

    In response to some of the Old Testament laws that you listed, well that is an easy response. The law was perfected by the new covenant. The old law pointed our need for a Savior as it showed it’s impossible to be perfect. When Jesus came to earth the Old Testament laws were made obsolete (Heb. 8:13). See Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34 and Hebrews 8:8 – 13. Also, many laws in the Old Testament helped with sanitary issues in a society that hadn’t discovered “germs” yet. While the kosher home had sanitary benefits in a society that didn’t know about germs, in Acts 10 God told Peter that it’s ok to eat all food.

    God defines marriage in multiple spots throughout the Old and New Testament’s. Here is the best example in Genesis 2:24. Here God sets up the family as one man and one women. The New Testament reaffirms this in Matthew and Mark. In Mark 10: 6 – 8 it says, “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’
    ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
    and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

    Romans 1:22 – 28 is another great example of how God sees homosexuality as wrong and against how He set it up from the creation of the world.

    The Bible clearly teaches sola scriptura, that the Bible is sufficient in all things pertaining to a Christian’s life. This topic has many books written about it so I am just going to point you to two passages that do the best job of explaining this point. Psalms 19: 7 – 9 and 2 Timothy 3:16. The passage in Psalms says 6 things about scripture that I will list below and that will show its sufficiency.
    1) Scripture is perfect (Ps. 19:7)
    2) Scripture is Trustworthy (Ps. 19:7b)
    3) Scripture is Right (Ps. 19:8, Ps. 119:105)
    4) Scripture is Pure or clear (Ps. 19:8b)
    5) Scripture is Clean (Ps. 19:9)
    6) Scripture is True (Ps. 19:9b)

    Pastor John MacArthur says this about Psalms 19: 7 – 9 “These three verses offer unwavering testimony from God Himself about the sufficiency of His Word for every situation and thereby counter the teaching of those who believe that God’s Word must be augmented with truth gleaned from other sources.”

    I think I answered your challenge that you want me to quote from Scripture why homosexuals should not have marriage rights.
    1) What they are doing is not marriage defined by God (Gen. 2:24)
    – This is reaffirmed in the New Testament in Mark 10: 6-8
    2) It is unnatural for men to be with men and women to be with women (Rom. 1:26-27)

  13. czf

    This idea of “marriage rights” is not biblical, it is victorian, as are almost all of the traditional views of marriage in this country.
    For better or worse, this is the case. Pre-modern marriage was not an issue of rights, nor was it an issue of love. The idea of two people falling in love, having the right to marry, restricting that to man and woman, and providing that couple with rights from the state is entirely a modern, mostly Victorian, creation.
    That’s not to say it is a good or bad, but it is certainly not biblical.

  14. John

    Biblical verses cannot clinch the sola scriptura argument because they are plenty of other verses (most in the NT, by the way) that indicate the role of tradition. For the verses and major arguments, see:

    http://www.cuf.org/FaithFacts/details_view.asp?ffID=133

    In any case, history demonstrates the ridiculousness of SS because the full NT was not available to Christians for the first three hundred years after Christ (and arguably for the first four hundred years). From the old Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on Protestantism (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12495a.htm):

    “The belief in the Bible as the sole source of faith is unhistorical, illogical, fatal to the virtue of faith, and destructive of unity. It is unhistorical. No one denies the fact that Christ and the Apostles founded the Church by preaching and exacting faith in their doctrines. No book told as yet of the Divinity of Christ, the redeeming value of His Passion, or of His coming to judge the world; these and all similar revelations had to be believed on the word of the Apostles, who were, as their powers showed, messengers from God. And those who received their word did so solely on authority. As immediate, implicit submission of the mind was in the lifetime of the Apostles the only necessary token of faith, there was no room whatever for what is now called private judgment. This is quite clear from the words of Scripture: “Therefore, we also give thanks to God without ceasing: because, that when you had received of us the word of the hearing of God, you received it not as the word of men, but (as it is indeed) the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The word of hearing is received through a human teacher and is believed on the authority of God, who is its first author (cf. Romans 10:17). But, if in the time of the Apostles, faith consisted in submitting to authorized teaching, it does so now; for the essence of things never changes and the foundation of the Church and of our salvation is immovable.”

  15. GCC

    I’m sorry for being so terribly long winded again, everyone. But I’ve been given so much to talk about…

    I believe Christopher is referring to the development of the scriptural canon. Here’s a link from Columbia University that has some key dates on it: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/a/canon.html
    There’s plenty more: http://www.google.com/search?q=development+of+new+testament+canon&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7SKPB

    Now regarding inerrancy and things like that…

    SDA, it seems you place a lot of stock in the “intent of the [biblical] author[s].” That makes sense. My problem is just the reality that we do not and cannot know this intent. Because I approach the Bible with the knowledge that we cannot know with certainty what the authors meant in each (or any) case, I also recognize the fact that we all have our interpretations of the text informed by our own experience. It is impossible for anyone not to bring his or her experience to the Bible. And because we are ignorant of the authors’ intent, we also can’t ever know with certainty if an “[interpretation] is elevating the experience of the reader over [that] intent.” Any claim that it is is little more than a power play, and an attempt to claim an authority that does not practically exist. It is unfortunate that so many people fall victim to this sort of disingenuous behavior at the hands of so many religious leaders. The bottom line is this: Anyone who tells you that you are elevating your experience over the authors’ intent is claiming authority that they do not have. You should not fall for this deception.

    The link you posted about biblical inerrancy reminds me of how I find it difficult to understand how anyone actually takes such a doctrine seriously – and with honesty. (Certainly, if someone has a vested interest in convincing others that their interpretation is the one true and accurate one and that interpretation relies on the doctrine, I can see why someone with such a conflict of interest would take it seriously, though they would be dishonest.) If, “properly understood, the doctrine of inerrancy…applies only to the original copies of the biblical documents,” and “we no longer have the original documents,” the entire doctrine of biblical inerrancy is utterly meaningless. All it says is that we believe a document we have never seen is inerrant. What really is the point? If we are using only the bible as our authority, we must be talking about documents that we do have. And apparently no one believes those documents are inerrant. This doctrine is meaningless. A religious leader such as John MacArthur seems to be either an ignorant proponent of meaninglessness or has some other ulterior motive for getting his flock to believe something that is meaningless.

    MacArthur also gives us his views on Psalm 19 as he thinks it relates to the non-existent doctrine of sola scriptura. There are a few problems though. First, the text simply does not say what MacArthur says it does. Rather, MacArthur give us his interpretation, which he derives from his experience, motives, etc. More specifically, this text cannot be used as sufficient support of sola scriptura because it doesn’t refer to scripture, and most certainly does not use that word. What it does refer to may very well include scripture, but it is by no means limited to it. Verse 7 beings with this:

    תּוֹרַת יְ-ה-וָ-ה תְּמִימָה
    Toraht HASHEM t’mimah

    The first word, which is often – and correctly – translated as “law,” is more comprehensively translated as “teaching.” But in reality, it’s just not a word that translates well. Torah is its own concept. At it’s most basic it consists of the entire body of both the oral and written law. Technically, it does not include the Christian Scriptures, so referring to this verse makes the referrence to 2 Timothy irrelevant. In all cases, Torah is MUCH MORE than mere scripture. So, to cite a verse that talks about the perfection of Torah as support for SOLA scriptura is foolishness. In fact, Psalm 19:7 undermines sola scriptura. If the verses cited in Psalm 19 “do the best job of explaining” that “the Bible clearly teaches sola scriptura,” then I think we can be certain that the Bible does not teach it. Also interesting, SDA, is that a key element of the theology that you seem to accept is the idea that “the law was perfected by the New Covenant.” Well that flatly contradicts your citations in Psalm 19, which say, “the law of the LORD is perfect.” Was the psalmist wrong? Did the law need perfecting? Are you comfortable claiming the doctrine of sola scriptura while having a general theology that openly contradicts scripture? How do you deal with that problem?

    Regarding 2 Timothy, it’s worth noting that the Apostle Paul is believed to have died c. 64 CE (http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_NDCT_Paul.htm). Given that a good portion of the Christian canon was composed after his death (http://www.errantskeptics.org/DatingNT.htm that link has a number of dating theories and comes from a site that seems inerrantist-friendly), we must determine that Paul was not referring to everything is now in the Christian canon. There is, of course, an alternative. Many scholars (even Raymond E. Brown who’s work was approved/passed on by the Vatican!) believe that 2 Timothy is one of the Bible’s many forgeries, i.e. that the Apostle Paul did not write it. Of course, that causes two problems. First, it says Paul wrote it, so if he didn’t it contains an error, and that’s bad for inerrantists. Second, if he didn’t write it, a crucial statement for support of the ideas of inerrancy and plenary inspiration come from the pen of a forger. I personally would never be comfortable basing my doctrine on the words of a forger. Imagine a witness in a court of law, saying “yeah, I lied about that one thing, but now I’m telling the truth, I promise!” Such a witnessed would be laughed out of the courtroom.

    Interestingly, you also highlight some examples of biblical contradictions (errors?), SDA. First, you point to Hebrew 8 as it relates to Jeremiah 31. This makes sense, because Hebrews 8 quotes Jeremiah 31 as what God said at one point. But strangely, the author of Hebrews gets the quotation wrong (actually it’s not at all strange, the reason for the change is obvious). The NIV translation, which you use, translates Hebrew 8:9 as “…they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.” But the passage in Jeremiah (31:32) that is being quoted is translated in the NIV as “…they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, declares the Lord.” This is a significant error in quotation. The meaning is entirely different in Hebrews than in Jeremiah. This is either an error or an intentional deception.

    Hebrews 8 also gives us another biblical problem. You interpret (reasonably, I think) the chapter to be indicating that the God’s commandments (i.e. Law of Moses) are now obsolete. Here again, your own theology contradicts the Bible, which is apparently your only authority. Deuteronomy 29:28(29) says, “…the things that are revealed to us belong to us and to our children FOREVER that we may follow ALL the words of this law.” And the psalmist says (Ps. 111:7-8), “…ALL his precepts are sure. They are established FOR EVEN AND EVER…” (Emphasis added.) So, here we have a clear contradiction between your interpretation of the author of Hebrews, and other parts of the Bible. To which authority are you looking when your determination runs contrary to the plain text of the Bible? Or, assuming that Deuteronomy and the Psalms are plenary inspired texts, was God just wrong, or playing games or something?

    Now regarding “God’s definition of marriage” and other such things…

    So it’s clear for the readers, I’m going to just post verbatim that which you suggest is God’s clear and final definition of marriage and the family. Genesis 2:24 (NIV): “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” The word “marriage” is not present. Neither is the word “family.” Here’s the text it in Hebrew:
    עַל-כֵּן, יַעֲזָב-אִישׁ, אֶת-אָבִיו, וְאֶת-אִמּוֹ; וְדָבַק בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ, וְהָיוּ לְבָשָׂר אֶחָד
    The same words aren’t there either. (Marriage in Hebrew is Kidushin, by the way. I hope you won’t fault me for not providing a transliteration this time.) So, clearly this is not a definition of marriage, despite the fact that you call it the “best example” of God’s definition. What this is, however, is material from which we can (completely legitimately) derive our own definitions of marriage. So really, SDA, what you are working with is not God’s definition of marriage, but your own definition of marriage for which you use a sentence from the Bible as inspiration or information. And that’s perfectly acceptable, it’s just dishonest to call it God’s definition. I can understand why and how one would read this text incorporate it into a one’s larger worldview, which informs what he/she thinks does constitute marriage. I do, however, have a hard time seeing how this text, which does not exclude anything, can be reasonably used to determine what is not marriage. Another problem with using this text as the sole basis for our own definitions of marriage is the myopia such a decision imposes on us. Limiting humanity to two distinct genders is simply wrong. By way of example, Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling (what an awesome name!), Professor of Biology and Gender Studies at Brown University, recognizes five biological “gender” groupings in total. (Here’s an article on intersexuality by another Brown professor: http://www.buddybuddy.com/beeman-1.html. Apparently 3 – 10 million American’s are intersexual.)

    I also find it interesting – though not surprising, we all read the Bible somewhat selectively/subjectively – that you have no problem contradicting yourself by first saying that the Old Testament was made obsolete, yet then appeal to it when it suits your purposes.

    There’s a fair amount to say about the passage you cited from Romans, but as I’m already being far to long winded – again – I hope if will suffice to point out that the Greek phrase that the NIV translates as “unnatural” – which carries particular negative overtones – would probably be better translated as “unconventional” due to the fact that the same Greek word phrase is used elsewhere by Paul to refer to positive things (Rom. 11:24) and something as benign as hair length. As a result, it is rather difficult to say that Romans 1 clearly indicates that homosexuality is unnatural. This point is underscored by all the evidence (e.g. the APA definitively saying that homosexuality is not a disorder and need not be cured) and reason that indicates to us that homosexuality is perfectly natural. Additionally, the broader context of Romans 1 provides evidence that the passage you’ve cited actually refers to heterosexuals who were engaging in homosexual behavior, something that would indeed be unnatural, but is not at issue in regard to marriage equality.

    SDA, your citations from scripture neither define marriage nor exclude homosexuals from marriage. But you do, and you inform your position in part through your own (or possibly someone else’s) interpretation of a translation of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy…of a copy of that scripture that you, apparently, do not believe is inerrant. (Again, there’s nothing wrong with having your own definition of marriage and informing that definition with scripture.) Yet your interpretation of scripture is also internally inconsistent and it contradicts the scripture you’re interpreting. Still though, you appear confident that you know the intent of scripture and its authors – confident enough to decide which translations accurately reflect the authors’ intent. How much confidence in your own ability to know the mind of God does it take to be willing to sacrifice the basic religious value and the basis of all interpersonal ethics that is human equality? One might think that from a position of doubt and insecurity (i.e. the position of all humanity) it would be better to err on the side of openness, inclusion, and equality.

  16. Brandon

    Not really wishing to enter this fray because I don’t read ancient Hebrew or Greek, I think you guys might be confusing “scripture alone” for inerrancy a bit. Just because scripture isn’t the only source of faith doesn’t mean that it can be invalidated by tradition or reason or anything else (and word– I think tradition is pretty clear on the point in question). I think that’s what SDA is claiming here– the bible is his authority, not necessarily his only one, but his best and highest one. Such is certainly not an unreasonable perspective. What that bible is saying is open for exegesis, but the *correct* interpretation of scripture cannot be trumped by anything else. If it could, we might as well construct a religion of our own preferences and reason.

  17. GCC

    I think the connection between sola scriptura and biblical inerrancy is interesting. It seems to me that the latter is a logical necessity of the former. And because inerrancy doesn’t practically exist, I think we can be further confident that sola scriptura is a non-existent doctrine.

    I also find the whole idea of invalidating scripture to be flawed. First of all, it assumes that we have access to some truly valid form/interpretation of scripture. We don’t. Second, it seems to assume (though likely not intentionally) that a change in understanding of scripture can/does somehow render scripture less significant (invalid?). I see this in so-called “traditionalists” when they claim that any new understanding of scripture is a rejection of that scripture. That’s entirely disingenuous, and is the sort of thing that is fed by the false notion that some people are using the Bible as their “highest and best” authority. The reality is that scripture only has meaning in the context of our interpretations, so “invalidating” it with new interpretation is a contradiction in terms. I think that what’s happening when people talk about scripture being “invalidated by tradition or reason,” and what they are really saying is that a particular interpretation of scripture is invalidated by those things. I’d have to search for the quote, by I remember reading St. Augustine (and a number of Jewish sages) writing something like this: Whenever scripture appears to contradict our experience (e.g. good science), scripture must be reinterpreted. Here’s a link to some advice from St. Augustine that I find very related (particularly the stuff about being disgraceful, embarrassing, and dangerous): http://www.pibburns.com/augustin.htm

    The perspective that the Bible is one’s “highest and best” authority is precisely unreasonable – although it may be more clear to call it unreasoned. The reason is that is turns a book into something that it is not, an authority. Authors have authoritative power, their books do not. Additionally, this perspective is ignorant of the reality that our traditions, experiences, reason, etc. are precisely what give the text of the Bible meaning in the first place. It is literally impossible for the Bible to have any meaning that is independent of our reason and traditions. Any interpretation of the Bible (correct or otherwise) is a product of our experience and reason, so to suggest that an interpretation can be “trumped” by the things that are a part of the interpretations source is also internally inconsistent. Ultimately, to call the Bible one’s “highest and best” authority is disingenuous or ignorant (or at least not thought all the way through – i.e. unreasoned).

    Personally, I see the best approach to the issue of scriptural authority to be the clear recognition of the reality of the situation, and an attempt to not let any of the primary influences on our worldviews (i.e. scripture, tradition, reason) become primary. From a religious perspective, I think that when we do, and we ignore one in favor of the other, we actually enter into the realm of idolatry. To me, holding the Bible out to be the highest and best authority is bibliolatry, just as doing the same with science is scientism, and doing it with tradition is some-other-sort-of-idolatrous-sounding-work-that-turns-tradition-into-an-ism. I think most major religious traditions do well in keeping things balanced. However, there are those who, for one reason or another, are motivated to elevate one over the others. In this case, I think the question is, “Why, despite the fact that it runs counter to reason, requires internal inconsistency, and smacks of idolatry, do some people elevate the Bible over God (i.e. everything else) in support of inequality and lack of love of neighbor?

    Again from St. Augustine (On Christian Doctrine): “Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought. If, on the other hand, a man draws a meaning from them that may be used for the building up of love, even though he does not happen upon the precise meaning which the author whom he reads intended to express in that place, his error is not pernicious, and he is wholly clear from the charge of deception.”
    http://personal.stthomas.edu/gwschlabach/docs/xndoct.htm#I.36

    These citations from Augustine remind me of the wonderful truth of Christianity that is too often obscured in our world. I can attest personally to the fact that the things that Augustine declares “disgraceful, etc.” are the kind of things that don’t allow people to glimpse the divine spark that is at the core of Christianity and is evidenced by the Bishop of Hippo’s emphasis on scripture’s role as a promoter of twofold love.

  18. Sara

    Shouldn’t this whole discussion be taken out of the realm of religion and into the realm of the law? After all, it is the law that would change the recognition of gay marriage – at least civilly. Religious institutions potentially could refuse to recognize a marital union between people of the same sex, just as the state can refuse to recognize religious ceremonies that bind two people together.

    My understanding of the law is that marriage is a fundamental right. It’s just not yet a fundamental right for gay people. Sort of like how non-white people were once not whole people, or women couldn’t own land or vote. Ok – I might be using extreme examples to make my point (which is that things once thought of as acceptable in eras bygone are now thought of as unacceptable – and the interpretation of the law changed accordingly).

    For a government to limit a person’s fundamental right – such as the choice of whom to marry – the law set forth by the government that limits said right must pass a certain judicially construed test. The law must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. In the case of gay marriage, the reasons set forth by the government as to why marriage should be limited to exclude gay people fail this test. There’s arguably not even a rational basis (another, less strict judicial standard for evaluating the constitutionality of limiting one’s rights) for limiting a gay person’s right to marry. But because that particular standard operates by way of presumptive constitutionality (the burden of proof is placed on the side opposing the law as to why the law is not constitutional), it is much more difficult to overturn the law. However, since the Court has yet to apply the “fundamental” status to a gay person’s right to marry, it is unclear which standard applies.

    I believe, as with the eras bygone, that it’s only a matter of time until the interpretation of the law changes as we move towards true equality.

    Well, this is starting to sound like a con law lecture. Perhaps I’ll create a new post with which we can explore some more of the legal aspects of this issue…

  19. LHanson

    Okay, I have been reading through these posts and I realize and respect most of you have very different opinions than what I would like to express.
    I am someone who reads the bible often. I truly believe and know that God’s way of communicating to humanity is through the bible, but that is not the only way God speaks. The other factor is the power of prayer, and that indicates that as we open our hearts and ask God for answers, He will reveal what we need to hear, and often that may be in the form of scripture reference.
    The bible is His word and since He is the almighty and supreme over humanity, He has all the power in the world to be able to speak through the various authors who were in the right place at the right time in order to get through his message in writing. Just as you would never build a house without a blueprint, that is why I follow the bible in order for direction to live my life with the most fulfillment.

    God’s main purpose is to have a relationship with us humans. Just like you can’t make a dog jump into your lap and force it to love you, God’s desire is that we yearn to come to his open arms and love Him on our own. He could force us to but then we would be robots, and looking at all the beauty and incredible creativity in this world, we are far from robots!

    Just as much as God wants good for our lives, the devil seeks to destroy us mainly by disrupting our communication with God. When we are apart from God, we hurt, and we try to fill that void with various destructive means. The devil will continue to lure us away from God and lead us into these things which will further hurt us, which is what sin is. Many times we don’t think what we are doing is bad, or we’ve just become too desensitized to realize our core emptiness, but ultimately whatever we are engaged in will take its toll. If not this lifetime, then when we die we will face God. That’s not to be a scare tactic, rather something to be joyful about to go to heaven, because what could be better than no pain, tears or suffering and becoming reunited with God which is what his original plan for humans was? If you haven’t read “90 minutes in Heaven,” by Don Piper, you absolutely must! It is a true story of experiencing life and death.

    Anyway, I do feel that gays should be able to have civil unions. They should receive the same tax breaks as ‘married’ (heterosexuals) and they should be able to be recognized with this specific title “civil union.” This way in the eyes of the government they would not be considered unequal.

    They may not however be considered ‘married.’ No, that term is reserved for those who embrace what God designed it for. Even if you do not follow God, as you marry someone of the opposite sex that is still following what God originally designed!

    This is not a Christian nation, although the country was founded by those who did more or less embrace the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is important that they declared a separation of Church and state and this is something I personally believe in to follow, however I really don’t think there is a separation of morality and state. Whether or not you agree with the 10 commandments, the law upholds particular ones. Why else do we have repercussions for murder and stealing? And the majority would agree that cheating, lying, being jealous and being rude to your parents are not ideal to strive for.

    When it comes to marriage, God very clearly states throughout the bible that this union between a husband and wife (there is not one reference to husband to husband, or wife/wife) is to be regarded with many clear instructions in order to be righteous in God’s eyes. God is not trying to be our boss telling us what to do, rather he communicates through scripture in order to warn and protect us. He knows that having sex before marriage, committing adultery, lusting after others who are not your spouse, not being content with what you have and instead being jealous (just to name a few) will hurt us in one way or another. This is because again sin is what separates us from God, and God is trying to do everything He can to keep us away from distancing ourselves from Him.

    GCC, you in regards to SDA’s previous Genesis reference; “So it’s clear for the readers, I’m going to just post verbatim that which you suggest is God’s clear and final definition of marriage and the family. Genesis 2:24 (NIV): “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

    You did post verbatim only one verse, number 24! What about all the rest of Genesis chapter 2? I’d like to say that this is not by any means God’s final definition of marriage, but it’s pretty clear what God has created! Let’s go back a few vereses to Genesis 2:18 “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner…”

    God’s vision for Eve was that she would be Adam’s “helper” which in Hebrew is ‘ezer’ and its definition is to “surround, to protect, or aid or help.” She would be side-by-side with Adam as his “other half” (a term we still use today, or “better half”:)

    In verse 20: “The man (Adam) gave names….to every animal; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.”

    What a pastor pointed out in a sermon I heard a few years ago was that it is very symbolic that when God created Eve, what body part did he use? He did not take a bone from Adam’s feet because she was not meant to be behind him, and God did not take anything from Adam’s head because Eve was not meant to be in front of Adam. No, God went to the rib cage, which you know how the ribs form the rib cage/cavity together, and in order to take one rib out would be from the side.

    So how fitting that to create Eve was from the side, that Adam and Eve would be side-by-side. What would be more a more natural union than this?! And I hate to bring up the age-old joke, well, it may not be interpreted as a joke but I’ve seen it on t-shirts before: “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Hey, it’s true, God has created many Steve’s, they are just not meant for Adam…

    Now back to verse 24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Verse 25 even goes to give us a visual, in case you can’t figure out what “one flesh” is, as we are all adults here: “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

    Not to make anyone blush, but really the key point in that last verse is that they are not ashamed, as this is right before the first sin, which studying the bible explains the fall of humanity and the reason we have sin in the first place. God gave Adam and Eve free will, so they would not be robots! And yet they chose to distance themselves from God, and humans thousands of years later are still falling into this trap.

    But how obvious to comprehend that if God physically makes a woman from a man and designs just the two of them, each from the only two different genders he created to live together, to be united as one? This is in fact God’s design for what a marriage would be. God created only two genders, and yes there may be people who fall in between genders now, but that I believe is from the fall of humanity because anything other than the two genders is not perfect. And Adam and Eve for the basis of the beginning of humanity were perfect. You’ve heard of the phrase “Back to Eden?” Eden is paradise, and perfect, so of course given a choice we should want to go back there, which is what I believe Heaven to mimic. Eden is ideal, and since we can’t physically go back to the actual garden of Eden, what is still certainly attainable in our daily lives is to live in communion with God, just like Adam and Eve before they became separated from God. If we are not sinning, then we are not separated from God.

    I have many gay friends and I love them just the same as my straight friends. And interestingly enough, the ones I have been very close with have told me that “No, they would not choose to live this lifestyle.” So I realize they could have biological, environmental, etc, factors that influence them. But at the core it is still a lifestyle that that is not what God wants for their lives. Yes, what they do privately is their own business and I never vocally tell them that I think what they are doing is wrong, mostly because I know they may not be able to change it at times. But I still know that homosexuality stated in the bible is a sin because it is un-natural and further separating them from God. And for the record I will state that I have sinned many times and am not perfect, but I know and acknowledge what is sin in my own life. And so for this reason I hold it important to advocate for the truth and pure form of what God’s design for his union between only a man and a woman. That doesn’t mean I can’t still love gay people! When a child does something wrong that puts them in danger, like say running after a ball into on-coming traffic, is it loving for a parent to reprimand them? Out of protection because they knew better? Of course, and can you see along the same lines how God looks out for and wants to protect humanity?

    God gave humanity the beauty of language, different dialects to evolve from his different people groups he created. Although the term “marriage” itself is not in the bible, the word has evolved throughout history. However, whatever we call it, it is still the same of God’s vision for this holy union between a man and woman. For those who will follow God we are to continue to protect this and hold this in the highest honor. Do straight people make mistakes and fall short of God’s instructions? Of course they do! But they, along with homosexuals, should be able to recognize they have made a mistake, sinned, and by living to repair their damages in their lives and against God is really what life is worth pursuing; to be made whole.

    So do I expect every American to live as a Christian? Of course not, as this country is a mosaic of different cultures and backgrounds. But when it comes to what marriage has been embraced for centuries it must be kept only between a man and woman. Anything else would be a slap in our face, not to mention God’s, for those who know the clear picture as God created man and then made woman to complement him and marriage is God’s “fix” for the fact that “it is not good for the man to be alone.”

    If I am drinking orange juice and you are drinking beer, I cannot say that I too am drinking beer because orange juice obviously is not a beer! They are both forms of drinks, and which ever one I use to quench my thirst is my personal deal. In the same way I choose to pursue a lifelong partnership to emulate the way God connects with his people will be between me and God, but should be a visual and obvious testimony witnessing God’s design. And based on what I can prove is the truth from the bible, I will choose to fight for the natural way God designed as heterosexual, and for these reasons supporters of gay marriage will continue to face a backlash from supporters and advocates for God’s one and only design promoting the man/woman union.

    I am sorry but that is not discriminating against the gay people, but it is discriminating what I believe are the wrong choices, which is really bringing to light and holding accountable what is sin. Love the sinner, hate the sin? Yes, in this case, just as much as God hates sin because of how much it hurts humans, we also should and do hate the sin of adultery, of husbands disrespecting wives, (vice versa) of envy, fornication, rape, killing, etc, because it is not what God created. This might be controversial, but I have personally studied a lot of God’s design for marriage, and my love and reverence is above every other relationship I have because God is the most powerful and fulfilling in my life. That is why I will push for God’s original design.

    For these reasons, gays can have civil unions because it is not created in the bible; it has been created by society. I will advocate for gays to have the same ‘rights’ as marriages from the government, (i.e. taxes and the partnership title) and so I hope that gays can have their civil unions right along side of heterosexual marriages. But to call what gays have a marriage would tamper with what I have been trying to display as what I, along with millions of others, believe in, and I long and pray for there to be a common understanding and respect for what God’s true union is, which is in fact marriage between only one man and one woman.

  20. Christopher

    LHanson – thanks for joining the discursion.

    I have two questions for you, Libby: If you believe in the separation of church and state, and you also believe that marriage is a divine term ordained by God through scripture, then why should the state be involved in something religious? That’s incongruous with your other statement.

    Secondly, you are vehement that the word “marriage” can only be used to describe the relationship of one man and one women. How does any deviation from this “traditional” (quotes used due to historical inaccuracy) definition of marriage personally encroach on your rights as an American?

    I look forward to reading your succinct responses!

  21. Pingback: Resources for Deuteronomy 29:28 - 29

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