Monday, March 08, 2010

It makes you think

I may be wrong, and whether or not I am, a lot of people will disagree, but at least it's something to think about; I've always believed that it should be okay to talk about anything, including sex, politics and religion. Here's an example of talking about all three at once.

Recently a student asked me to fill out a political survey for a story he was writing for the school newspaper. There weren't any questions about the deficit or Afghanistan, jobs or the economy. He did ask about health care and gay marriage.

Ordinarily I try to avoid forming opinions (let alone sharing them) on this issue, but that morning my devotion had been on Matthew 22. In Matthew 22:30 and Mark 12:25 the Sadducees, a group of religious teachers who didn't believe in the resurrection and Heaven, challenged Jesus. The custom was that if a man died without any children, his brother was supposed to marry his widow and have children for him. The Sadducees gave Jesus a scenario where seven brothers all marrying and dying in turn. They asked Him who's wife she would be in Heaven. Jesus knows it's a trap and corrects them, "For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven."

This got me thinking- mind you, I am not condoning homosexuality or promoting gay marriage, but good grief, it seems to me that what Jesus is saying (in part) is that marriage is a temporal, human, perhaps even a civil institution, not necessarily something quite as perfect and Divinely ordained as many of us seem to think. Don't get me wrong, besides my salvation, I personally think that my wife and our marriage is one of the greatest things God has given me. I try thanking Him for Bethany every day. But if marriage is in fact, a covenant, a contract between two people, the 14th Amendment prohibits states from denying everyone equal treatment under the law.

I think, speaking metaphysically here, that some of what Jesus was getting at is that perhaps in Heaven we'll be asexual- it will no longer be necessary for reproduction nor will it any longer be a stumbling block in terms of sin or temptation. Like all other good and natural things, it's been tainted by our sin and selfishness this side of Heaven (for those of us who're straight, just as much as for those of other preferences).

I'd also like to think (as hard as it is to imagine) that all of our conventional social, familial, hierarchical, and relational structures won't have the same meanings or purpose anymore in heaven. A maxim used by many Christian marriage gurus is that as we grow closer to God, we grow closer to each other. At the risk of sounding too Eastern in my thinking here, it seems to me that we will have such a great unity both with God and with all of each other in the next (perfected and sanctified) life, that things like marriage, cohabitation, civil-unions, and nuclear families will become obsolete. (See Jesus' prayers in John 17).

I'm not talking about Hippie "free-love" or sexual liberation here, as I just said in the previous paragraph, in Heaven we will be liberated from sexuality. One of the greatest problems with sexuality in this fallen world is that it becomes self-indulgent. I think that this is what Paul was getting at most in Romans 1: 24-27 (a passage used most often to prohibit or condemn homosexuality).

Whatever your position politically, philosophically, or theologically on homosexuality and bisexuality, it is important to take Romans 1 as a whole, and in context of the whole Bible, and not just zealously apply verses 24-27 to whatever position you're predisposed to. Just reading Romans 1:28-32 levels the playing field for both gays and straights. 

To paraphrase a little, "we have all become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. We are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. We are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless." 

Carers? Consumerism? Ambition? Affluence? (Greed)  War? Political campaigns? Movies, music, TV, and video games? (depravity) Tabloid TV? Blogging and facebooking (slander and gossip)? The attitude that customer is always right? It's not MY job!? Fight for your right to par-tay? Sue to get yours or to get even? By any means necessary? The ends justifies the means?

I can't claim to be innocent of all of these sins and I certainly don't perceive the FOX networks or the tea party movement as being immune from them either. As a matter of fact, these days 50% of straight marriages end in divorce. 

In other words, as Paul puts it in Romans 3:23, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

We don't live in a perfect world, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard." (Matthew 19:8).
I'm not trying to justify or excuse homosexuality. If I'm honest about it, I'm as homophobic as the next heterosexual American male. But it seems to me that both the due process and the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment entitles anyone of voting age to be able to enter into an agreement which would secure certain legal, financial, custody and health care provisions for both parties.

However, I do not think that church bodies should be required to perform, recognize or "bless" same-sex unions. Whether or not a marriage is sanctioned by, witnessed by, or prayed over by a church body should always be at the discretion of the individual church body. If the Baptist, Catholic or Lutheran church won't marry you, try an Anglican or Unitarian one, or see a justice of the peace. Be that as it may, marriage licenses are issued by the state after all, not churches. So one wonders, is this a case of  "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's?" (Luke 20:25, Matt 22:21, Mark 12:17).

I realize that this is probably enough for some people to want to burn me at the stake as a heretic, and others to try to have me excommunicated- I really hesitated to even write about it here, if only because this blog is programmed to automatically post on facebook. I'm not really excited about having to listen to the negative feedback. I guess as much as I enjoy provoking people to think by trying to stir up cognitive dissonance, I'm a coward when it comes to hate mail and argumentative comments.

As I said, I'm not trying to advocate or promote homosexuality. I'm not even sure I'd go so far as to say that I condone or advocate for gay-marriage, although I guess that I can see a logical secular case for it. I just thought I'd share some thoughts that occurred to me after reading Jesus' answer to the Sadducees in Matthew 22.

If nothing else, I hope that this helps readers realize that it's a difficult and complicated issue that calls for a great deal of thought and careful consideration.

1 comment:

  1. Could a modern reading of Galatians 3:28 go something like this? "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, (gay nor straight) for you are all one in Christ Jesus."