Why should the church support gay marriage?
May 9, 2009 9:06 AM   Subscribe

If you were writing a letter to the editor with the title, "Christian Church Mustn't Oppose Same-Sex Marriage," what facts and arguments would you include?

I'm a (quite) left-leaning Christian, and I'm appalled to find that the Church has a leading role in opposing gay marriage everywhere it's passing here in New England. I want to write a letter to the editor (and, perhaps, my Diocese) to this effect, and I want the hivemind's help in making sure it's a slam-dunk argument. For the purposes of this letter, I don't want to argue in favor of gay marriage itself, but merely that the Church should not oppose it.

The point I currently intend to make are that: (a) The Old Testament makes a few references to homosexuality being a sin, but (b) The New Testament does not (is this correct?), and (c) The New Testament is "a new covenant" with God, in which (d) Jesus, time and time again, argues that we should love everybody and "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" I.e., nothing in the New Testament indicates that Jesus would want us to oppose gay marriage, but plenty of things in the New Testament suggest he wouldn't want us fighting civil rights. I don't want to argue anything First Amendment here, since (a) It's more IRS rules than the Constitution that would preclude the Church from politicking, and (b) It's more likely to rub Christians the wrong way.

My Biblical skills are a little rusty, so I was hoping the hivemind could fact-check the above, and, more generally, point out anything I might have overlooked, whether it's things that might undermine my argument or things that I didn't think to include that could bolster my argument. Again, my aim in writing this letter is not to argue in favor gay marriage per se, but merely to suggest that the Christian Church should stay the heck out of lobbying against it.
posted by fogster to Religion & Philosophy (46 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
religious freedom doesn't just mean that churches aren't forced to perform/recognize same sex marriages. religious freedom also means allowing the churches that *do* recognize same sex marriages to perform those ceremonies
posted by rmd1023 at 9:08 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

The church wasn't in even in the business of marriage until relatively recently.
posted by availablelight at 9:09 AM on May 9, 2009

I would specify which church I was addressing, as so far as I know there's no "Christian Church" that oversees all denominations.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:10 AM on May 9, 2009

There are a lot of "Christian Churches", some of whom are a-ok with gay marriage.

Maybe instead of trying to change the institution, you consider researching a faith that better fits with your values.
posted by lilnublet at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Old Testament makes a few references to homosexuality being a sin, but (b) The New Testament does not (is this correct?)
No, it's not correct. The New Testament, like the Old, explicitly refers to homosexuality in multiple places, and never in a good way. It goes so far as to say that they deserve death, and lumps them in (multiple times) with people like murderers and thieves.
let he who is without sin cast the first stone
The "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" story, while great, is not in any of the earliest known copies of the Gospel of John (or of any other Biblical writings). It was inserted a long, long time later.
posted by Flunkie at 9:18 AM on May 9, 2009

(b) The New Testament does not (is this correct?)

That's not correct.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10
"Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolators, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers -- none of these will inherit the kingdom of God."

1 Timothy 9-11
"This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and the sinful, for the unholy and the profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me."

Romans 1:26-27
"For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error."
posted by Houstonian at 9:25 AM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: I think a better approach is this: The Bible is pretty clear that God is the one who judges (not people), that all people are sinners, and that we should not, as a rule, go around trying to do God's job.
posted by Houstonian at 9:28 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Romans 1:26-27: "For this reason (A)God gave them over to (B)degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, (C)men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God."
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:29 AM on May 9, 2009

(Sorry for the (A) etc in that first quote; I didn't notice it and edit it out from the place I copied it from.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:30 AM on May 9, 2009

To expound a bit on my earlier answer, I think you're at best on shaky ground if you want to use the Bible as evidence that Christianity shouldn't be homophobic, and I think that you would be wise to familiarize yourself with the Bible before even attempting to make such an argument.

But, if you insist:

To fulfill your intent with the "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" story (which, as noted, was merely inserted into the Gospel of John long afterwards), you might want to go with the Discourse on Judgmentalism.
posted by Flunkie at 9:31 AM on May 9, 2009

The fundamental question is not a question of theology (theology is interpreted, and much depends on the particular subset of the bible that the theologist subscribes to), and is instead a question of politics and tolerance.

Historically, the Christian churches (and religions in general) seem to do better when they are tolerant; as Christianity expanded, it tolerated and often co-opted the local beliefs, which made it a more diverse and robust belief system, capable of adapting and spreading world wide. Much of Christianity's appeal comes from the the degree to which it has tolerated schism and disagreement across a wide variety of ideas.

The question is whether Christians can tolerate beliefs of others that they disagree with- particularly when these beliefs directly conflict with some of the items in the bible. If they cannot tolerate these beliefs, then they need to decide if they should invoke the full power of the state to outlaw them. Separation of church and state has been of immense benefit to Christianity in the US; the gay marriage debate (in a christian context) is an establishment clause question, as there are few other arguments besides religion and bigotry that can be credibly made against it.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:31 AM on May 9, 2009

Here's another possible argument, that does not involve changing the way people interpret their Bible. You can argue that we use one word (marriage) to mean two things:

- Civil marriage: That is a legal contract recognized by the State. It requires paying a fee, and getting a license. It gives legal rights and recognition of the contract.

- Religious marriage: That is a contract recognized by the Church. Its requirements vary from church to church. It is generally seen as a promise between two people, witnessed by God and the congregants.

The argument for gay marriage is one that affects the first definition, not the second one. You can believe that homosexuality is morally wrong, but that has nothing to do with the argument for civil marriage.
posted by Houstonian at 9:40 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer:
Religious marriage: That is a contract recognized by the Church. Its requirements vary from church to church.
One example that you might want to specifically mention along these lines:

The Catholic Church does not allow divorcees to marry. This fact does not stop everyone from recognizing that divorcees have the legal right to marry; they just can't do it in a Catholic ceremony.
posted by Flunkie at 9:46 AM on May 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I forgot to add that, dividing the issue into law versus religion is something that you see in the pro-choice/anti-choice debate as well, and I think it works (marginally) well. That's sometimes why you hear people say about abortion, "Well, it would never be the right choice for me, but I think women have the right to choose" or "I think it's wrong, but I think it's the woman's choice".
posted by Houstonian at 9:49 AM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: Consider quoting Maine Governor John Baldacci's comments:
"I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage. This new law does not force any religion to recognize a marriage that falls outside of its beliefs. It does not require the church to perform any ceremony with which it disagrees. Instead, it reaffirms the separation of church and state. It guarantees that Maine citizens will be treated equally under Maine’s civil marriage laws, and that is the responsibility of government."
posted by ericb at 10:03 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might also want to point out that gay marriage provides civil and equal benefits to same-sex couples which straight married couples already enjoy.

I don't suggest you produce this list of the benefits of marriage, but reproducing it here may give you some fodder for thought.
"Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities.

Creating a 'family partnership' under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.

Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.

Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.

Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.

Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse -- that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse’s behalf.

Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.

Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.

Receiving public assistance benefits.

Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.

Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.

Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.

Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse’s close relatives dies.

Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.

Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.

Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.

Making burial or other final arrangements.

Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.

Applying for joint foster care rights.

Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.

Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.

Living in neighborhoods zoned for 'families only.'

Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.

Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.

Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.

Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.

Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).

Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states).

Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can’t force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.

Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.

Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.

Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family."*
What gays and lesbians are seeking is equality and not second-class citizenship.

As it stands we in the LGBT community are separate and not equal under the law.
posted by ericb at 10:12 AM on May 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Newsweek cover story from last December:

The Religious Case for Gay Marriage
"Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side."
posted by ericb at 10:15 AM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: You may want to note that we already pick and choose which parts of the Bible to accept. Most Christians eat pork and other treyf, wear clothing of wool mixed with other fibers, etc., But I don't think you'll be successful debating on biblical terms. This Google search found these pages, and more.

You may not be successful n changing their minds, but you may be successful in moving their opposition just a little bit towards reasonability, and less demonization of gays. A worthy outcome.
posted by theora55 at 10:19 AM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: Oops. Here's a link to Maine Governor John Baldacci's comments.
posted by ericb at 10:19 AM on May 9, 2009

Related comment: do not include all the arguments in this thread. The New York Times, for example, asks that letters to the editor be limited to 150 words. Keep to the limit for whatever publication you're sending the letter to, or it will likely never see the printed page.
posted by awesomebrad at 10:24 AM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: From what I remember of the Bible, Jesus was big on feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and clothing the poor. Why aren't today's American Christians fighting tooth and nail for universal healthcare rather than fighting against gay marriage? Instead of raising millions of dollars for TV ads to defeat prop 8, why not raise money for poverty relief? Do you really think that if Jesus showed up tomorrow, he would be impressed by what has been done in his name?
posted by Gortuk at 10:29 AM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Moral equivalency: The bible prohibits a host of activities, including eating shrimp (parody), and as noted above, gambling, liars and drunkeness- the Jehovah Witness folks have this angle covered. Why does the church your are writing to differentiate between some prohibited activities and others to focus on the homosexuals?

The bible is pretty strict:
those that blasphemeth the name of the LORD - he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him- Leviticus 24:16
gathering sticks on the sabbath -the congregation should stone him with stones. Exodus 35:2-3
Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death. Exodus 21:17

Over in the New Testament Paul is pretty big on keeping the ladies quiet:
Let a woman learn in silence with full submission 1 Tim 2:11
For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. 1 Cor 11:7

Some of those examples yanked from Skeptics Annotated Bible.

I haven't read it but you might be interested in what it would be like when someone took the bible literally: Year of living biblically.
posted by zenon at 10:31 AM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: I would refer heavily to the work of John Boswell. Havard historian. His book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century is a classic on this subject. A very scholarly work.

The early Christian church did NOT oppose homosexuality. The Medieval church did. The Christian canon contains early saints who lived openly gay lives.

The 7 references in the bible to homosexuality are all open to interpretation and questions of relevance. For example Leviticus 21 clearly states no homosexuality - but it also says no sexual relations with a dwarf. Today, no one doubts that a dwarf should be allowed to marry and have sex. Why is part of the chapter (on homosexuality) taken so seriously, when the the other part of it is not.

Many Christians today jump all over homosexuality (references 7 times, and never once by Jesus in a Gospel) - yet hem and haw about programs to feed the poor and minister to the sick (mentioned thousands of times in the bible, most frequently in the Gospels by Jesus)
posted by Flood at 10:32 AM on May 9, 2009

I would read the letters between Rowan Williams and Deborah Pitt; Williams went on to become the Archbishop of Canterbury, so he's pretty knowledgeable about the scripture. He also mentions a book - 'The Way Forward', edited by Tim Bradshaw.

However, those opinions were written before Williams was archbishop; when a bunch of churches in Africa threatened to split from the church of england, Williams relented, and no longer holds those opinions.

I don't want to argue in favor of gay marriage itself, but merely that the Church should not oppose it.

There's a (possibly apocryphal) quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson: "It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." You could make the argument that, while individual churches might choose not to marry certain couples, what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is none of my business.

You could argue that, if 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 means gays should be prevented from marrying by the state, then likewise adulterers, the effeminate, and the covetous should be prevented from marrying by the state. But that is obviously absurd; why is it any less absurd to ban gays from marrying, save for the fact it's easier to identify a couple as gay, than as covetous?
posted by Mike1024 at 10:34 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Look, as a number of people have already demonstrated in this thread, the bible is not so hot on same sex action. That's just a fact. For every possible "God is cool with gay marriage" example you can pull from scripture, there is a stack at least as high filled with "God is not cool with gay marriage" examples - and I think stack #2 is going to be significantly higher.

I would, therefore, approach from this angle:

Given the constitutional separation of church and state that has allowed Christian churches of all denominations to flourish unhindered in the United States, marriage in America is both a religious and a civil institution. The same laws that protect the churches from undue legislative influence must, by necessity, also protect legislation from undue religious influence.

In other words: it is your right to use religious arguments to keep gay marriage out of your church. It is not your right to use religious arguments to keep gay marriage out of your town hall.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:36 AM on May 9, 2009 [7 favorites]

This is a little result-oriented and ghostwriting-like for my taste. It seems to me that the precondition is for you to resolve what religious tenets are significant to you and how they relate to the proposition at hand. On this and many other issues, you can find supportive passages on either side of the question; you need to decide your interpretive approach and your commitment to fidelity before picking and choosing quotes.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:39 AM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: Many people make the argument that Leviticus doesn't refer to homosexuality at all, but rather a particular form of male prostitution that occurred in their neighbour's temples back in the BC day.

So, really, all there is to go on is Paul in the NT. Jesus never says a word about it. Paul is quite certain about it, though, there's not much interpretive wriggle room though people inevitably try (Bowsell, mentioned above, for example, though IMO he's been debunked somewhat). It is interesting to note, however, that Paul is lumping it in with other crimes of lust (fornication and adultery) - and those are only crimes outside of a marriage context. Here's a nice progressive overview.

I, too, like the civil vs religious argument. Marriage can't be totally religious or atheists wouldn't be able to do it.
posted by Sparx at 10:39 AM on May 9, 2009

references 7 times
And only, what, two or three of those references say that they deserve death!

Seriously, trying to apologize away the things that the Bible explicitly says about homosexuality is a losing battle. They're there for all to see, and they're quite explicit and quite nasty.

You're better off going with the other types of arguments in this thread; "only seven references" just opens your argument up for attack.
posted by Flunkie at 10:43 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another issue that you may face is that of papal infallibility. I mention this because I'm guessing you are directing your letter to Catholics? Because you mention diocese and capitalize Church?

If Catholics believe that the Pope, when making announcements or clarifications about scripture, cannot be wrong, then that presents a problem for your argument if you go the route of convincing based on their own scriptures.
posted by Houstonian at 10:50 AM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: If I had infinite time and my readers had infinite attention, I'd focus on maybe three arguments:
  1. Christian principles must draw people by persuasion and attraction, or rather by faith, rather than legislation or ignorance. The idea of a beautiful Christian world must be one where people follow Christian beliefs because they want to, not because they haven't been exposed to other ideas or because they must follow or face prison, violence, or worse -- which latter is the case when a belief is turned into law. Jesus renounced power, and even said [something like] "...render unto Caesar what is Caesar's". Marriage as Christians understand it is sanctioned by God or by a Christian community, and not, I'd think, dependent on a government to recognize it. Depending on a government to sanction marriage doesn't seem like something Jesus would want.
  2. Expecting and requiring government to enforce the literal interpretation of an ancient religious text, or even old or new interpretations of that text, would make a society no different from the middle eastern movements that seem troubling to us when viewed from outside those cultures. I think our concerns about those movements are legitimate; maybe we can use that as a reflection of what we in the west want to avoid. Bear in mind that those fundamentalist movements seem perfectly legitimate and right, to the point of passionate belief, self-sacrifice, and even martyrdom, to the people within the movements. Why are these people willing to blow themselves up? Because they want their government to force people to live a certain way, so they won't have to look at or know about others behaving in ways they find objectionable (e.g. women wearing pants and not covering their heads, men without beards). They feel just as strongly about that as some people feel about same-sex marriages, but it's sometimes easier to understand how Islamic fundamentalism is oppressive than how beliefs we ourselves grew up with might not work well as a police-enforced law.
  3. [be careful with this one - leave it for last or omit it in a short piece] Bart Ehrman's (and others') position that the Bible isn't to be taken literally. Whether scriptural arguments and quotations for and against homosexuality may be made, the overarching message(s) of the Bible are much more important than these particular points. Ehrman has made a name for himself with books that clearly show that either a) the Bible is a hodgepodge of stories that couldn't possibly have been written by a single perfect author, or b) (not his argument here, but mine) its seeming contradictions show that we can't possibly ever understand it well enough to interpret it literally.

posted by amtho at 10:59 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Shorter version: the Bible says a lot of things. Particular quotations are not the crux of the argument. Rather, what's the real underlying message of the Bible, and should we make the Bible into law punishable by prison, fines, or various other terrible consequences at all?
posted by amtho at 11:01 AM on May 9, 2009

In other words: it is your right to use religious arguments to keep gay marriage out of your church. It is not your right to use religious arguments to keep gay marriage out of your town hall.

Quoted for truth. As has been shown, it is possible to construct a religious argument on both sides of the issue. And while I'm very pleased that liberal-left religious arguments for gay marriage exist, it is my fervent belief that this issue will never be decided its religious merits, but rather on its civil merits.

This is not an issue of theology; it is an issue of democracy. To return to Gov. Baldacci's statement:
This new law does not force any religion to recognize a marriage that falls outside of its beliefs. It does not require the church to perform any ceremony with which it disagrees. Instead, it reaffirms the separation of Church and State.

It guarantees that Maine citizens will be treated equally under Maine's civil marriage laws, and that is the responsibility of government.
Those are the terms on which proponents of gay marriage -- whether religious or non-religious, gay or straight, liberal or libertarian --must frame the argument, because those are the terms on which we can (and will) ultimately win.
posted by scody at 11:09 AM on May 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

You will never be able to win if you argue that the Church shouldn't oppose gay marriage (within the Church). The Church's official position (for what happens within the Church) is for learned religious officials to decide.

Your best tack will be to convince the Church that they have no business interfering with the government's position on gay marriage. No law of the United States will or can force any religious institution to perform or recognize any marriages that it does not wish to. Therefore, spending money on Prop 8 instead of on poverty relief is a waste.

Separation of church and state the in the US means that the Catholic Church (for example; not sure which denomination you're talking about) is responsible for the souls and marriages of Catholics. The Catholic Church does not attend marriages at other churches or at town halls to object because the couple isn't being joined according to its practices. Nor does the Catholic Church lobby politically that all couples' marriages should comply with Catholic beliefs. That policy should apply to all marriages performed outside of the Catholic Church, same-sex or otherwise.
posted by thebazilist at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

John Selby Spong, an Episcopal Bishop, has devoted an entire book on exposing how the Bible has been misused often to promote homophobia, sexism, antisemitism, racism and a lot more hate promoting beliefs.

He has three chapters dedicated to clarify and reinterpret in a truer christian manner the four major terrible texts so misused by homophobics. Through scholarship and with a deep understanding of the Way, he places those texts in a historical context, exposing their incompatibility with Christian ethic.

From his book: The Christian ethic is ultimately a life ethic. When behavior enhances life, expands love and calls all parties involved into the experience of a new being, then it must be called good. But when behavior denigrates, uses, violates or diminishes one or more of the parties involved, then it must be called evil. Furthermore, no text of the Bible can ever be used appropriately to validate the prejudiced behavior of homophobia, which is clearly evil. That kind of outcome can never be derived from the "Word of God."
posted by francesca too at 11:21 AM on May 9, 2009

Best answer: francesca too's comment reminded me of something my minister said, a long time ago in a sermon. Paraphrasing, it went something like this: "If we ever reach a time when we have too much love in this world, then perhaps we can worry about what types of love are best. Until then, let's rejoice that there is love, regardless of the circumstance."

Not Catholic, but it was a religious argument that maybe you can use.
posted by Houstonian at 11:28 AM on May 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

Something which has been puzzling me, that you may want to include in your letter writing is:

If religious entities are objecting to same sex marriage because it is not within the definition of religious marriage, why are they not objecting to other marriages which are not within the definition of religious marriage? If I go to a courthouse and get married and there is no religion associated with the ceremony, how is this not objectionable to the people who believe in a God-associated marriage?

If religious entities have firm beliefs in a specific religion, why do they not object to religious marriages of other religions? Monotheists, polytheists, different branches of Christianity, and other religions have different definitions of marriage which are not overlapping.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:53 AM on May 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I mention this because I'm guessing you are directing your letter to Catholics? Because you mention diocese and capitalize Church?

I'm making the same assumption so forgive me if it's incorrect.

Before you argue against the Catholic Church's stance on gay marriage, go to a bit of trouble and find out what that stance is. Check out the catechism - it is interesting reading (really) and explains the reasoning behind Church doctrine. The short version: homosexual activity closes "the sexual act to the gift of life." The Church will not accept gay marriage any more than they will birth control, abortion, etc.
posted by txvtchick at 1:06 PM on May 9, 2009

Wow I realize I'm awfully late to the party here. After scanning the thread - please note that several answer-ers have great, huge axes they're grinding away on.

The term "sodomite" cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be translated into "modern-day type homosexual person" unless you're a prescriptivist of the worst sort. Flunkie's attempt to tie Paul's use of "sodomite" to "homosexuals" is very problematic. We don't have any contemporary context for Paul's Greek in referring to what many presume are homosexuals; furthermore, throughout history "sodomite" has had quite different definitions. Most often it refers to some form of treachery - Napolean was convicted of "sodomy," under the same legal pretense that we think of as "treason." Also, please remember that the sin of Sodom had nothing to do with homosexuality - Sodom was destroyed because they disregarded the law, and Ezekiel states specifically: "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (Ezekiel 16:49, 50)" So - biblically speaking, the practice of "sodomy" is more in line with abusing the poor and needy.

But all of this is kind of rehashing stuff that's already well published on the net. The absolute best place I can think of to point you is this website, which is the online home for the Metropolitan Community Churches. There you'll find tons of resources for this question.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:07 PM on May 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Baby_Balrog, I'm the only one who used the word "Sodomite". I assure you, I have many axes to grind, but this is not one of them. I only used them within quotes, quoting the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. I made no comment at all about the definition of that word. I provided the three biblical quotes, as the poster asked for holes in her argument. People who point to their New Testament to prove that homosexuality is a sin generally point to those three Pauline scriptures.

For me to do so, at the poster's request, was not an endorsement of that belief.
posted by Houstonian at 2:18 PM on May 9, 2009

Easy now folks-its been nice to see everybody being relatively civil. Baby_Balrog's comment provides an excellent background that I wasn't fully aware of, and it appears to be unrelated to the warning of the tribes of axe wielding nuts that run through these parts.
posted by zenon at 2:25 PM on May 9, 2009

This does not seem like a productive idea.

For one thing, you are clearly not prepared to respond to any counter argument and so you will likely do more damage than good. This is an unfortunate tendency of the left (and I say this as a left leaning non-religious type).

For another ...

Abrahamic religion v1.0 (Judaism) is unambiguous about homosexuality being against God's law.

Abrahamic religion v2.0 (Christianity) is arguably ambiguous about homosexuality being against God's law with careful selection and some mental gymnastics (ignoring the unambiguous context of v1.0, for example). Same god, but some rules relaxed in v2.0.

Forks the 2.0 version are much less ambiguous about considering it a violation of the law (Mormonism, etc.).

Abrahamic religion v3.0 (Islam) is completely unambiguous about homosexuality being against God's law. As are all offshoots.

It seems like arguments focusing on selective interpretation and ambiguity in 2.0 really do a disservice to your real goal.
posted by rr at 6:07 PM on May 9, 2009

Flunkie's attempt to tie Paul's use of "sodomite" to "homosexuals" is very problematic.
Baby_Balrog, I appreciate that you wish that the Bible wasn't anti-gay. But, for example, "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable" has very little ambiguity.
posted by Flunkie at 7:15 PM on May 9, 2009

It does, Flunkie, if you understand the context of the age in which it was written - namely, one in which armies routinely practiced mass rape in order to dispirit an opposing army; rape of both women and men. Levitical law helped do away with many of the more nefarious practices of conquering armies - you'll note that the "do not lie with a man" clause, contextualized, is surrounded with rules pertaining to warfare and retribution. Furthermore, suzerantian codes also forbade male-male rape as a tool of warfare - it's highly likely that this particular clause is a reflection of a broader transition out of the kind of tribal, retributive warfare-type culture into a more priestly or "Davidic" culture. This isn't hardcore gymnastics - it's not even decent midrash - it's just reading the gospel with an eye toward context and intent and in the spirit of a still-speaking God.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:09 PM on May 10, 2009

Assumption 1: Gay sex is a sin in God's eyes.

Assumption 2: God has chosen a Nation, and when sinning occurs in that Nation, He not only gets mad at the people doing the sinning, He gets mad at everyone in the Nation for allowing it to happen.

Now recall the following from the New Testament: God's Nation consists of True Believers, not The United States of America or any other political entity.

Irrefutable conclusion: Any Church organization that agrees with assumptions 1 and 2, and sees themselves as True Believers, part of God's Nation, should not allow gay marriage, if they want avoid God's wrath.

Should the United States of America allow gay marriage?

First, recognize it is a separate question. Now recall the concept of Religious Freedom: People should not have to follow a religion they don't believe in. Conversely, The Church should not be allowed to impose it's laws on people outside The Church. In particular, the Church has no business telling the United States of America to outlaw gay marriage.

The United States of America is not a Christian Nation. The Church is the Christian Nation. Even Christians admit this.

So why are we still arguing? Is it that Christians have a problem living together with sinners? That's ironic. Whatever happened to Be the Salt of the Earth, let your light shine, etc?

Anyway, that's what I'd say.
posted by metastability at 5:31 PM on May 11, 2009

It does, Flunkie, if you understand the context of the age in which it was written - namely, one in which armies routinely practiced mass rape in order to dispirit an opposing army; rape of both women and men. Levitical law helped do away with many of the more nefarious practices of conquering armies - you'll note that the "do not lie with a man" clause, contextualized, is surrounded with rules pertaining to warfare and retribution.
Oh, baloney.

It's surrounded by things like "don't fuck your mother" and "don't fuck animals".
posted by Flunkie at 5:50 PM on May 11, 2009

Perhaps he is referring to the frequent wars people had with their mothers and sisters?
posted by rr at 9:01 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

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