Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marriage

Marriage has been a hot topic lately, at least according to Facebook and how many posts, status updates, and profile pictures have been dealing with it.  Specifically, marriage equality - whether or not people who are homosexual should be allowed to legally get married.   I've got friends and family who come down all over the spectrum, from saying outright that they shouldn't to saying that it isn't a big deal and everywhere in between.  And everyone feels strongly about their point of view.  Initially I thought I could simply not take a stand and just let things be as they will be, after all it wasn't really affecting me, was it?  But I can't just not take a stand.  My conscience won't let me be apathetic about it. It also won't let me blindly follow after others.   So here come my views.  If you don't like them, fine.  You don't have to like them.  If you decide you don't like me based on my views, that's fine too.  My worth is not based on what you think of me. So without further adieu...

Somewhere at some point in time, we got it in our heads that marriage was between one man and one woman.  This was "normal" and "right" and even "biblical".  Now don't get me wrong, I am a Christian and I value what the Bible has to say very highly, but I struggle with the idea that the one man, one woman model of marriage being biblical.  Yes, the Bible speaks of Adam and Eve being the first couple, the first people G-d created, if you will.  But, it also talks about Jacob, one of the forefathers of Israel (Jacob from "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" - the big three).  Jacob had at least three wives, and from these three wives came the twelve tribes of Israel, G-d's chosen people.  If you trace the genealogy carefully and over many years, Jesus  himself was a descendant of Jacob.  Even without tracing the genealogy, Jesus was a Jew and the Jews are descendants of Jacob.

King Solomon, one of G-d's anointed rulers over the people of Israel, and reputedly the wisest man who ever lived, had multiple wives (1 Kings 11:4).  His father, King David, also had more than one wife (He had at least one wife and then still took Bathsheba to be his wife after having her husband killed...wonderful story that one is).  Jesus was a direct descendant of David.   These are a few examples of prominent figures in the Bible having multiple wives.  So I don't believe that the one man, one woman construct of marriage is directly biblical.

Another "biblical" argument that I often hear against people who are homosexual being able to get married is that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin. I will not deny that the Bible speaks against sexual immorality and even against homosexuality.  However, the verses that deal with those topics need to be taken in context. There are passages in the Old Testament law, notably Leviticus, that speak against a "man laying with a man as one would lay with a woman"  (Lev. 18:22, 20:13).  However, this same book says that it is wrong to eat pork, shellfish and other unclean meats, to wear clothing woven of two different types of fiber, and that anyone who has a skin blemish is to be exiled.   I don't think it is right to pick and choose which Old Testament laws are to be followed and which ones are to be ignored.  If you want to use the Old Testament laws against homosexuality, then please be prepared to follow them all, not just the ones you want to, so tattoos are out as well!  

In regards to the law of the Old Testament, Jesus and the apostles were pretty clear on the old covenant (law) being replaced by the new covenant (law) made by Jesus' blood.  The Old Testament law was done away with when Jesus died on the cross (and then rose again) as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Also, as a demonstration that the old law was in fact old, a vision appeared to Peter in which G-d instructed him that he could eat any animal for food, regardless of its previous status of clean or unclean, a direct contradiction to Old Testament law.

But what about the New Testament passages that condemn homosexuality?  Again, I will not deny that they are there.  However, right alongside homosexuality, lying, drunkenness, cheating, unruly behavior, and more are also condemned.  No one things is condemned more than another.  Unless one is completely perfect, one has no room to be judging others.  As Jesus said to the crowd who was getting ready to stone a woman caught in adultery "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7).   Jesus also pretty clearly said that the greatest commandment of all was to love G-d, and the second greatest to love your neighbor. He even went on to tell a parable to demonstrate who your neighbor was, using a man from Samaria, the people most hated by the Jews, as an example of who should be considered a neighbor.
Given the evidence, I cannot accept the proposition that hating people who are homosexuals is biblical.  I also cannot accept the proposition that the one man, one woman model is biblical.
http://ryangrantlong.blogspot.ca/2011/01/marriage-in-bible.html

So Bible aside, what about the proposition that homosexual marriage is just not normal?  At this point in time, it is definitely not the majority position.  However, in the not too distant past, bi-racial marriages were not the majority position and were in fact, illegal.  If my limited understanding of history is correct, the Bible was even used to make a case against bi-racial marriage.  Today most people accept bi-racial marriages as perfectly normal, and those who do not are referred to in rather derogatory terms.  I have a number of friends who are in bi-racial marriages (and boy do they make beautiful babies!) and their marriages are no less valid or sacred than the marriage I have with my (mostly) white husband (in all technicality he is half Hispanic).  What was once considered an aberration is now considered normal and even beautiful.  

Some will also argue that children need both a mommy and a daddy, which is actually a completely different argument aside from the issue of whether or not people who are homosexual should be allowed to marry. It's about children, not marriage.  But since it often comes up in the discussion, here's what I think.  Children need both male and female role models.  Preferably role models who are not in jail, addicted to drugs or alcohol, who are not abusive, who actually care for them.  Many children are blessed with these role models in the form of parents.  However, many are not.  Many children grow up in single parent households, like my husband for example, or households that have less than ideal parents.  These children find their role models elsewhere.  If their father is absent, perhaps they find their male role model in a cub scout leader, a teacher or an extended family member.  Same if their mother is absent, except it's a female role model that they seek.  Any child, regardless of their parent situation, likely (hopefully) has multiple female and male role models.  If homosexuals should not be allowed to marry and raise children, then single parent households should also be disallowed, yet I don't see anyone jumping on that bandwagon.

Another argument: allowing people who are homosexual to marry will destroy the sanctity of marriage.  My biggest problem with this argument is that it is blurring the lines of religion and legality.  Do I believe marriage to be sacred?  Yes.  When I married my husband seven and a half months ago, I vowed before him, my family, my friends and my G-d that I would be faithful to him and forsake all others.  He vowed the same.  I believe our marriage to be sacred and forever binding, as long as we both shall live.  That's a religious view on marriage, particularly a religious view on marriage that is in line with my religious beliefs.  
However, the government doesn't care that we were married in a church, that we made our vows before G-d or that we view marriage as a lifelong, binding agreement.  In their eyes, we are a pair of people (at least, last time I checked we were people) who have entered into a legally binding relationship with one another.    We are no different than (fictional) Jane and Bob who have no religious affiliation and were married in front of a judge.  Both David and I and Bob and Jane have equal standing in the eyes of the law.  I don't see Christians, myself included, complaining that non-Christians (Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc) getting married is destroying the sanctity of marriage, because the sanctity of marriage is a religious issue, not a legal issue.  I'm relatively sure that Muslims hold marriage between believers to be sacred as would Buddhists, and Hindus, and followers of every other religion in their own ways.

By making marriage between people who are homosexual legal, the sanctity of marriage is not threatened any more than it is threatened by anyone else getting married.
I am not saying that I necessarily support churches allowing people who are homosexual to be united in marriage in a religious ceremony.  That's a religious issue and is way to huge for me to tackle in a general sense.  I'm also not saying that churches should not allow people who are homosexual to be united in marriage in a religious ceremony.  That's an issue that every religion, church, couple, and individual has to wrestle with on their own.  (Personally, if I were to ever become an ordained minister of word and sacrament, I would, at this point, given where I stand now, not conduct a religious marriage of a homosexual couple...if you want to know more on why I feel that way and believe that, ask and I will tell you, but that's not the issue at stake here.)

The bottom line is, at least for me, that the debate over whether or not people who are homosexual should be allowed to legally marry, is not primarily a religious one and we should stop trying to make it a religious one, unless we also want to create a debate over whether people who are Atheist or Muslim or Hindu should be allowed to marry, and I for one, am not willing to go there.   The issue is simple: should two men or two women be allowed to enter into a legal partnership with the same rights and freedoms as one man and one women are, regardless of race or religion?   The simple answer, for those of you who want it spelled out what I believe, is yes.  In my opinion, allowing homosexuals to be married does not threaten the sanctity of marriage in any way, and this is not a religious issue, but a legal and ethical issue.

Comments are welcome, but please keep them respectful.

6 comments:

Chelsea Bell said...

This is such a heavy topic, I have a lot of thoughts myself. I know I have much to learn too--so I want to do this with some humility and stick to what God says.

"... Jacob had at least three wives, and from these three wives came the twelve tribes of Israel, G-d's chosen people...King Solomon, one of G-d's anointed rulers over the people of Israel, and reputedly the wisest man who ever lived, had multiple wives (1 Kings 11:4). His father, King David, also had more than one wife...These are a few examples of prominent figures in the Bible having multiple wives. So I don't believe that the one man, one woman construct of marriage is directly biblical."

A couple thoughts:
All the OT figures you mentioned had multiple wives, but that doesn't mean the belief of "one man, one woman" is unbiblical just because OT figures lived their lives differently. What's biblical isn't necessarily how these Old Testament figures lived their lives. We see plenty of sin, turning away from God, and wickedness in their lives, as we both know. I don't think looking at how these OT figures lived is what we are meant to be doing. They were still fallible, sinful human beings--even though there were things they, by the grace of God, they got right and can teach us. The Word is true, but not everything everybody did (or didn't do) was right.
I think it's good to note though that Paul teaches about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, regarding a man and a woman, quite clearly. His letters focus so much on teaching sound doctrine, whereas we see God unfolding His plans and history in the OT. So, in light of context, when we look at Leviticus, the old covenant, etc., we need to think about what genre this book is in. Not everything in the OT was written to "teach". There are examples to follow, examples not to follow, etc. But all of Scripture does reveal more and more of God's character, through His commands, actions and dealings with His people.

"...However, the verses that deal with those topics need to be taken in context. There are passages in the Old Testament law, notably Leviticus, that speak against a "man laying with a man as one would lay with a woman" (Lev. 18:22, 20:13)...I don't think it is right to pick and choose which Old Testament laws are to be followed and which ones are to be ignored."

You're right--that's when most people get in trouble with Scripture--ignoring context. Let's not mistakenly believe that the OT law was only relevant for that time or culture though. There's a reason that the law was there. We have to be careful and think, what is the purpose of the law in the first place? We have to look at the culture yes, but ALSO why these laws were given.

Jesus came to FULFILL the law, not abolish and do away with it completely (Matt. 5:17) The old law is not completely useless. There are timeless principles and truths that we can take from the OT, especially books such as Leviticus that seem only culturally relevant but are so much more. What would the reasoning be behind God giving the law in the first place? What is God's heart behind why He gave the commands and laws that He did? I think that's what we have to ask. We have to look at every one of those laws specifically to see what the eternal principle is behind them, we can't just lump them all together. We have to look at the reasoning.

I think God doesn't mince words on what he thinks of homosexuality, both in the OT and NT. It is sin in his sight. It's offensive to our holy God. It's also not unforgivable--there is grace because of the blood of Jesus and because of the new covenant. Praise Him for that.
I'm called to love my neighbor, but I'm not loving people truly when I don't call sin as it is and point them to what God says. I want people, and I want to myself, be walking in truth and in the light.

Love ya, Joy. Thanks for being bold and sharing your mind!

Joy said...

I agree that we all need to approach this issue with humility as there is so much that we don't know. Our understanding is limited and I am glad that you have chosen to enter this conversation with humility and grace, and I hope to do my best to respond that way.
I agree that the OT is full of stories about fallible, sinful humans. However, in my opinion, if the people in the OT who had multiple wives (David, Solomon, etc)were living in a manner displeasing to G-d, we would read about G-d's displeasure towards them. Rather we read that David was a man after G-d's own heart, and that Solomon pleased G-d so much that G-d allowed him to build the temple and granted him the gift of wisdom, with no caveats that they needed to be united with only one wife. When G-d rebukes King David through the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12) for having Uriah killed so that he could be with Bathsheba, David is not rebuked for wanting another wife, but for taking the wife of another man. In fact, G-d even says, through Nathan, " I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more." (2 Sam 12:8)
Many times in the OT G-d speaks out against sin - against intermarrying with people of other religions, against blasphemy, against lying, and so on, however, to the best of my limited knowledge, in the OT he does not speak out against men having multiple wives.

On the topic of marriage laws in the OT, laws are included such that a man who rapes a woman must marry her (Deut 22:28-29), prisoners of war can be married regardless of whether or not they were willing (Deut 21:11-14)and that a slave owner could give his slaves to each other in marriage (Exodus 21:4). We certainly don't keep to these laws of marriage today.

I agree that G-d does not mince words when He speaks about homosexuality. I believe it is a sin as well. You may have noticed that in the blog post itself I never once said that I thought homosexuality was okay. Whether or not it is or isn't a sin, is a religious issue. I fall on the side of it being a sin (along with many other things). The issue that I was trying to address was whether or not people who are homosexual should be allowed to legally marry - a legal issue as opposed to a religious issue.

Marriage is not longer a religious issue. If it were a religious issue, then people with no religion would also be excluded from marriage. There can be a religious aspect to marriage if two people choose to be united in a faith based marriage. As the law stands today, the marriage between two people (male and female) of faith performed in a church by an ordained minister or priest are just as binding, and equal, in the eyes of the law, as a marriage between two atheists (male and female)performed by judge (or other appointed official). Religion does not factor into marriage in the eyes of the law. If religion does not factor into marriage as the law stands today, why should it factor into marriage in the future?

I don't know if that clarifies my position more or just muddies the water more. Please know that I am not trying to attack your point of view, just continue the dialogue in a humble and gracious manner. Thank you for being willing to engage the dialogue.
Love you lots!

Mike Ottens said...

I think this was very well said, Joy, and I enjoyed reading it.

Chelsea Bell said...

There is a lot we agree on. We both believe homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle, I noticed that you did state that. No doubts!
As for the OT, you're right. God speaks out against certain acts that we can be sure of. We do know that polygamy caused a lot of tension and other issues were brought up as a result—not ideal. But we can't ignore that God already did establish marriage “For this reason a man will leave his father, and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). That was & is God's divine intention—monogamy, union between a man and a woman. That language is clear, that's marriage. God's design hasn't changed—even if people aren't religious. This still happens to be God's world, we don't get to redefine what marriage is. By its own definition, it can't be anything different. “Marriage” doesn't exist between anything other than a man and a woman.
I also think it's important to consider what marriages on earth are meant to be an illustration of. They are an earthly institution, marriage won't exist in heaven. Marriage is meant to be a beautiful reflection of the Church's relationship w/ Christ, and ultimately, be pointing us to Him. All our longings will be filled in Christ.
However, you also brought up the New Covenant beforehand. When we read the NT, there is a shift in attitude towards marriage (1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5:25, etc), which includes marriage roles and such. I don't notice any mention of polygamy in the NT or anyone mentioned as having multiple wives. It seems that by this time, this was not a common practice anymore. Again, the divine plan, God's original design is still intact, hasn't changed (even if times and attitudes have).
The tricky thing is what you mentioned--religion doesn't factor into marriage in the eyes of the law. That doesn't mean our law is right. Regardless, nonbelievers do get married, believers get married to non, etc. There's no stopping that. I don't think it's wrong for non-believers to get married to each other. Granted, God desires everyone to come to the truth and saving knowledge of Him, but He gives grace and good gifts even to non-believers (which marriage is). But here's what I wrestle with—again, it's the definition of marriage. What is marriage? What has God originally defined it as? What has it always been defined as? We live in a world where we are so tolerant and twist whatever we want to fit our own desires and appetites. We want to change the definition of a word to make it something that it is not. Men “marrying” men, women “marrying” women....I can't support gay “marriage”--that doesn't actually exist. The term “marriage” would have to be completely thrown out. Call it something different—but it couldn't be the same.
To be okay with gay “marriage”, I would have to say that I support the lifestyle as well...because marriage is intended to be a lifelong union. At that point, it would be contradictory of me to say I don't support the lifestyle because well, they've made a lifelong commitment to each other. It may be a legal issue—but God's the God of the legalities and we can consider where some of our laws today have roots in, ironically. We've come a long way from what God's original design is for many things (including the family), but a changing culture isn't license to continue going down that path. We may not be able to say much that will change the future, but we need to continually go back to what God's opinion on the matter is, regardless of what others around us may or may not believe. There may be a separation between church and state--but again, I will keep saying it, it's still ALL of God's world. He'll have the final say. He still wants us to be faithful to the truth and His good,loving plans and designs.
By the way—I really appreciate that we can have friendly dialogue, Joy! Seriously, no hard feelings at all as I read your response and am writing back.

Joy said...

Once again, thank you Chelsea for this dialogue. It helps me to really sort out what I believe and why.
You quoted Gen 2:24, and I'm going to push back a little against your use of the verse, not because I think you are necessarily wrong, but because I'm wondering if the verse can be taken slightly differently.
"A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh". I agree that it is clear that it is talking about the union between a man and a woman. Could it also be read to speak of a man being united with many women? Yes, the word wife in this instance is singular (or at least English translations render it singular - I don't know Hebrew so I can't translate for myself), but does the singular use of the word wife preclude multiple wives? For example, if I were to say "I'm going on a trip with my brother", the word brother is singular, but my use of the word brother in the singular does not preclude the notion that I have more than one brother (in fact, I have 3). Could the same logic be applied to Genesis 2:24?

Another thing I wonder: is it possible, or even probable, that the word "marriage" has come to have a double meaning? Could it have a religious meaning and a secular meaning? A very poor example to try and illustrate my point: Consider the word "dinner". It's generally accepted that the word "dinner" refers to a meal, and often a hot meal, eaten once a day. However, the word "dinner" can refer to either a noon meal or an evening meal, and it can actually be either a hot meal or a cold meal, it can be formal or informal, a single course or multiple courses, a sit down meal or a meal eaten on the run, a meal eaten with family or a meal eaten alone. There are many connotations to the word "dinner", yet they are all accepted as being called "dinner". Could it be, in a similar fashion, that the word marriage has come to mean two different, but similar things? Could the word "marriage" mean, in the broadest sense, a union between two people (just as "dinner" in the broadest sense means a meal)but have different connotations such a religious marriage and a secular marriage (as dinner can mean either a cold meal or a hot meal, an evening meal or a noon meal)?
I'm not saying this is necessarily so, however it is something I wonder. Language is such a limited tool. Perhaps our language needs updating to fully express nuances of meaning.

I acknowledge that all the world belongs to G-d and that He has good and perfect plans for His world. However, I also acknowledge that many have chosen to live outside of these good and perfect plans. I wish that it were not so, but I know that on this side of heaven it will always be so. It is a tension that we live in and will live in until Christ comes again.

Chelsea Bell said...

Hey Joy...long time, no talk on this issue. ;) I actually was thinking a little bit more about this topic and wanted to come back to it. I've been learning a bit this semester in my Hermeneutics class on interpreting Scripture and wanted to see if any more clarity could be brought to this issue. You asked if Gen.2:24 could be taken differently—and I don't think it can. If we look at Ephesians 5:31, this verse reiterates Gen. 2:24—and says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and the two will become one flesh.” I also don't know Hebrew, but depending on the English translation used, there are some very accurate, almost word-for-word translations out there and we don't need to be highly educated in Hebrew (or Greek) to take the right interpretation and understanding. Praise the Lord for that. :) The use of the word “two” seems to be clear here—speaking of a simple equation of one man and one woman. This doesn't mean that men didn't have multiple wives, as we've talked about already—but the union that Paul speaks of in the NT is monogamous and did not seem to be an issue in the NT and again, that can be traced back to creation in the OT. That passage in Ephesians is so helpful to read, especially because of Paul using the word “two” and also comparing a husband/wife relationship to Christ's with the Church. In the OT, God equated Israel running after other lovers with being an adulterous people; the own jealous relationship God had/has with Israel and that Christ has with his bride, the Church, was always intended to be a monogamous relationship. There is supposed to be a single devotion—no other gods, no other lovers. This was a covenant between God and his people (clearly, which was violated over and over again...) God calls himself Israel's husband, his people unfaithful.

You raised some good points with the word marriage and the possibility of a double meaning. I think it is probable. Marriage, as originally instituted by God, is a covenant, right? Not unlike what we see throughout both the OT & NT...entering into a covenant made before God, and to each other. Like we said before...many people make commitments to each other under the law..but are they making a covenant before God, if they don't know God?? Technically, are they married in God's eyes, by his definition? I know this is a different direction, and it's something new that was brought up to me by a friend. But it makes me wonder about the definition of marriage altogether.

Just some thoughts...hopefully I made at least some sense. :)