Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore has issued an order for judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. The order re-opens the issue of the legality of homosexual marriage but it also grants another opportunity for Christians to examine the theology of it, as well. Wouldn’t you agree that we treat biblical passages regarding homosexuality differently from the way we treat other passages?
Quite frankly, this should be a religious discussion. Remember the whole separation of church and state thing? It’s purpose is to keep preference for a religion out of the state and to keep the state out of religion. Cases that arise around this issue force the state to rule on something that’s only an issue for religious reasons. Cases such as theses could be greatly diminished if those bringing the suits first worked with each other through the religious material on which the suits are based.
If we begin with the belief that we are obligated to follow biblical principles, is it proper to deny marriage to gay couples when we don’t deny it to other biblical law violators? And I’m not talking about violating the dietary or other ritual laws that seem to be mentioned most often in opposition to the prevailing Christian stance on gay marriage. After all, Christians have been exempt from these laws since Paul. No, I’m talking about those who steal, covet or commit heterosexual adultery. You know, the Ten Commandments that Christians want to hang in every public building in existence.
Can we really use homosexuality as grounds to deny marriage licenses but not refuse licenses for these violations that most would consider just as – if not more – serious offenses? We don’t bar murderers from getting married but we bar gay people? Doesn’t that seem a little off base?
How about those who fail to aid the needy or love their neighbors and enemies – all of which are specifically commanded of Christ followers? Homosexuality is condemned a few times in the Old Testament and not once by Jesus in the Gospels. The call to help the poor is mentioned around 2,000 times in the Bible but we don’t ban the marriages of those who ignore that call. Shouldn’t Justice Moore and Kim Davis be checking each marriage applicant’s record on these Biblical obligations and refusing marriage to those who do not fulfill them?
It’s quite evident that we treat homosexuality much differently than we treat other biblical “laws.”
The Bible isn’t a string of disconnected orders handed down like a rule book. It’s a theological text of ethical principles that guide us on how to live a Christian life. Granted, no person can live up to its high standards but, if you are a follower, its understood that you are trying. Are those ethical principles being followed by refusing to marry couples who want to devote themselves to the biblical obligations of fidelity and responsibility to family?
Adulterers are more than welcome to marry as many times as they like. What kind of ethics support allowing that but barring couples who want to be faithful?
Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are the most frequently cited verses against homosexuality. They call homosexuality an abomination, which admittedly sounds pretty bad. However, the original Hebrew word used is toevah, which means something like “out-of-bounds.” It’s like things we don’t do but others might. It’s a pretty far jump from out-of-bounds all the way to abomination.
There are several references to toevah throughout the Old Testament but the most illustrative of the point I’m trying to make is that it is toevah for Israelites to worship idols. That action is out-of-bounds for Israelites but clearly not for those who believe in those idols.
In the biblical context, homosexuality was out-of-bounds for Israelites. There is no discussion in the Bible regarding homosexuality within a loving, loyal relationship. While it is true that the Bible speaks of marriage as the union of a man and woman, there was no concept of homosexual marriage in that time.
It’s the religiosity of gay marriage that needs to be worked out rather than the legality of it. I believe most Christians would agree that the Bible is not meant to be applied in a “pick and choose” manner. And should be left up to Christians – not judges – to decide how it is applied.