All Things Being Equal

IMG_1323037234942 1On Friday Arizona became the 31st marriage equality state. In a way it was anticlimactic; a judge stated that Arizona’s ban against same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and the attorney general decided not to appeal further. Ta-da!

Since I am a Christian pastor, many folks assume that I am (or should be) morally outraged about this turn of events. I am not. In fact, I am celebrating this!

If two people are in love and committed to one another and want to be married, then they should be able to get married. If those two people happen to both be gay men, that’s fine by me. If they happen to be lesbian women, that’s fine by me too. Their marriage does not affect my marriage or my family in any way that I can see. Can anyone honestly point out how Steve and Larry getting married hurts anyone?

Christians rail against sex outside of marriage, and then say “but you can’t get married.” That just smacks of vindictiveness. Only 40 years ago, interracial marriage was illegal and was considered shocking in much of this country. I don’t believe that interracial marriage “ruined” marriage for anyone…but the same arguments against same-sex marriage were made against interracial marriage: “It’s not natural!; It’ll ruin marriage!; It’s against God’s law!; What about the children?” etc. To me, it’s the same principle.

As a pastor, I understand that there seem to be Biblical arguments against homosexual behavior, but I don’t believe the Biblical writers were familiar with the concept of sexual orientation; just as they weren’t familiar with the concept of gender equality. For instance, in the Biblical era, a woman’s testimony in court was not worth that of a man’s. The cultural belief (their worldview) was that women were only half as intelligent and half as reliable as men. It never occurred to anyone to question that idea. We now know from brain scans, university studies, and our own experience, that women and men are equally intelligent. Just as the Biblical writers would never question their idea of male intellectual superiority, they would never have believed that some people may not be attracted to the opposite sex. It simply would never have crossed their minds that someone could be oriented differently when it comes to sexuality.

I have done my research on the sexual prohibitions in the Old Testament. The Scriptures that prohibit same gender sexual relations were always addressed to heterosexual married men; not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people (LGBT). The prohibitions are actually condemnations of various forms of adultery. The list of abominations in Deuteronomy is long and includes sex with one’s mother-in-law, sex with other near relatives (incest), sex with animals (bestiality) and homosexual acts. It would seem that some heterosexual married men at the time did not consider sex with another man to be an act of adultery, because it did not involve sexual acts with a woman. On the other hand, being caught cheating on your wife with another woman (especially one related to you) could get you stoned to death, hence the Levitical laws. I might also point out that eating shellfish and wearing clothing of mixed fibers were also considered abominations.

Male-on-male rape was a recognized – but not often explicitly talked about – weapon of war in ancient near east cultures. Just read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. A crowd of men surrounded Lot’s house and insisted that he send his three male guests outside so the men in the town could gang-rape them! This particular behavior was not about sex, committed love relationships, or sexual orientation. It was about power and control. It is using sex as a weapon, and it still happens today. In fact, GQ just published a story about male rape in the military. The perpetrators of male-on-male rape do not identify as gay. The men in Sodom were heterosexual, probably married, men.

I have also done word studies on Paul’s epistles mentioning this subject, and I believe the activities Paul was referring to in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1, were actually heterosexual married men visiting male temple prostitutes. He was also speaking against the Greek proclivity for sexually using young boys, so as not to be committing adultery with a woman, or deflowering a virgin prior to marrying her.

What we read in English as “effeminate” or “homosexual,” has been translated from the Greek that Paul used. The Greek word μαλακός [malakos] is translated as soft or effeminate, and literally means a boy kept for homosexual relations with a man, or a male prostitute. The Greek term ἀρσενοκοίτης [arsenokoitēs] is a combination of arsen, meaning male; and koites, meaning sexual promiscuity. It’s been translated as one who takes an active male role in homosexual intercourse (male-on-male rape), and can also be translated as male-on-male pedophilia, or sexual promiscuity in general.

These prohibitions were not aimed at LGBT people, but heterosexual men engaging in abusive, pagan practices that have no place in a believer’s life. I believe Paul was speaking out against child rape, a loop-hole in adultery laws and specific non-Jewish cultic practices of temple prostitution in the Greek cities of Corinth and Ephesus. He was not speaking against LGBT people or homosexuality as an orientation; because again, I don’t think it ever crossed Paul’s mind that “sexual orientation is a thing.”

Every single gay or lesbian person I know has known that they were gay or lesbian since they were 5 or 6 years old. Their first crush was on someone of the same gender. They certainly didn’t choose to be LGBT. And as one friend put it, “Why on earth would I choose to be gay, knowing how much bullying and crap I would have to deal with?”

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said “Some men are eunuchs because they were born that way.” (Matthew 19:12, emphasis mine) A eunuch was a person who was considered “sexually safe” around women – a man who was either physically castrated, or unable to engage in heterosexual intercourse for some other reason. It would also be an apt description for a gay man in the first century.

As someone in the Reformed tradition, I take the scriptures seriously. I also take seriously the adage “Reformed, and always reforming, according to scripture.” The Biblical writers did not know everything. We do not know everything. We are all still works in progress, and I look to Jesus as our example of how to live.

Jesus never said one word against homosexuality, LGBT people or differing sexual orientations. Not one word. He certainly had issues with people who were self-righteous and judgmental; much more so than he did with any of the “sinners” he spent time with. Jesus instructed us to love one another. Period.

And so, I take my cue from Jesus – I am here to love people like Jesus did. And today I celebrate the fact that my LGBT brothers and sisters in Arizona can get married!

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18 thoughts on “All Things Being Equal

  1. This is certainly a well thought out, logical argument. It is a perfect example of how one can support whatever they want if they start at the wrong end of the logic trail. Certainly, the Bible is big enough that you can support anything you want if you just stretch it far enough.
    Unfortunately, if you start on the other end of the logic trail… what does God want? (what does most of scripture and history indicate of God’s intent?) … you can’t get to these conclusions.
    A careful study of the meaning of the Biblical words that we translate as ‘love’, and of their contexts, will show that caring for someone and caring about someone should be expected of all Christians, but sexual actions other than between a married man and woman (with each other) are not including in the meaning of those words. (In your word studies, you will find that sexual action is never translated into the English word ‘love’)
    Living in the same dwelling, feeding, clothing, caring for, supporting, teaching… every type of caring is both acceptable and expected, except sexual action. There is no sin in being attracted to someone until it crosses into lust, which Jesus was quite clear about in Matt 5:28. Paul, also draws that line in Romans 1:27.
    You say that Jesus didn’t say a word about homosexuality. If you want to use that logic, then you have to say that Jesus condoned the actions of the woman caught in adultery in John 8, yet he was very clear… go, and sin no more.
    You see, caring for someone… even loving someone, is a very wonderful thing. Whether between parents and children, married men and women, unmarried people, different races, different ages… we are commanded to love one another. Go for it! “By this, people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
    Unfortunately, the English language makes it easy to include lust and sex in the word ‘love’. The Bible doesn’t.

  2. I’m sorry, Lowell, but you make a logical jump from homosexuality to adultery in your penultimate paragraph that I don’t quite follow. Since we define adultery as sex outside of marriage–as cheating on the one to whom one has made vows, as breaking covenant not only with one’s spouse but with God–how is that equal with entering into a marriage covenant with someone, which is what Susan addresses here?

    I know LGBTQ people in committed relationships, more and more of them legally married, who are clearly, to me (and I am by profession a practiced observer of this) every bit as loving as strong heterosexual marriages I know, and no more lustful than they. How can I honestly say that one set of caring relationships is blessed and another not? Based on societal conventions? As Susan points out, those change.

    Based on my own observations, if the heterosexual relationships are blessed (and not all of them are) than so are the LGBTQ relationships I am citing (again, not all LGBTQ relationships are). So I go with what I see. And I may be wrong, but, as a Reformed believer, I know I am to leave it to God to judge. My job is the loving–not lusting, but caring. I will stick to that.

  3. Lowell, thank you for reading and responding so thoughtfully. However, you misunderstand my motives. I did not begin with an idea and proof-text my way through the Bible to support my own flawed idea. I have studied this topic quite diligently, and prayed over it as well. I do believe that each of us has our own filters when we read scripture – our own worldview – and we cannot help but notice things that naturally line up with our own worldview, and say “See? It’s right there in the Bible!” We all do it, but most of us are unaware that we do it.

    You cited Romans 1:27. If I read that correctly in the Greek, Paul was saying that married heterosexual men abandoned their wives/women and became inflamed with lust for other men. He is not speaking to, or about, gay men because logically, a gay man would not “abandon natural relations with a woman” since he would never have sexual relations with a woman to begin with. To a gay man, a sexual relationship with a woman would be unnatural. These men Paul is referring to were not gay – they were straight.

    If you read the previous few verses in Romans, Paul’s entire topic was actually about worship practices. In verse 25 Paul writes that these people were worshiping created things, not God. So I believe that he was referring to men visiting the pagan temples, and making use of male temple prostitutes. Similarly, in v. 26, Paul refers to women practicing pagan temple worship with unnatural acts (this could refer to bestiality, same-sex relations, or perhaps something else entirely). Either way, Paul was specifically discussing worship practices that were pagan – deviating from proper Jewish/early Christian practice. The people he was writing about were worshiping with pagan sexual practices, which he warned against. That is not the same thing as sexual orientation, or a person being LGBTQ.

    You are correct, in the case of John 8, that Jesus did not mention adultery to the woman brought before him. Obviously he didn’t condone her actions. He did, however, point out to the gathered crowd that unless they were without sin, they had no business judging her. He said “And I don’t condemn you either.”

  4. James, in the fifth paragraph, there is no break in the logic. If you understand that the story here is not as much about adultery as about sin and how we deal with it, then you can understand that Jesus’ reaction to the woman’s sin can be extended to other sins as well. Jesus did not condone her sin. He adjured her to ‘sin no more’. One of the lessons was that there may be many ways to deal with sin and the sinner. In this situation, Jesus chose a non-judgmental approach.
    In your second paragraph, you go on about relationships. Had you read my sixth paragraph, perhaps you would note that I have no argument with loving, committed relationships. In fact, I encourage us all to love one another and commit ourselves to each other in an attitude of servitude and support.
    Somewhere, you seem to have come to the conclusion that failed relationships among heterosexual couples somehow justifies another kind of relationship, and that if two people of the same sex love each other and are willing to care for each other, that justifies and blesses every action they wish to commit. I fail to find any logic.
    Let me point again to the second paragraph of my first statement. If you start on God’s end of the logic trail, you can’t get to these conclusions. God created us in His image. Faulty logic may assume then, that the fact of our five fingers proves that God has five fingers on each hand, because we are like him. (necessarily, since we are like Him, He is like us.) Perhaps, better logic would be, since God specifically mentions it, God encompasses both male and female, so He created us to encompass that aspect of His being. Further in the story, the forming of Eve completes the Adam construct, and God saw that it was very good. God created us in His image… perfect. In His image… spiritual beings. In His image… capable of thought, logic, and of making decisions.
    Then, so we could better understand His expectations after we chose the sinful path, God gave us rules and stories to illustrate the lessons we should learn. He told us there are certain actions that we must never commit. Some actions were specifically stated… worshipping other Gods, murder, stealing, coveting… Other actions, we have assumed from the examples and stories that have been preserved for us in the Bible. Incest is forbidden and even defined. You might notice that sex with very small children is never forbidden, yet every society, ostracizes the pedophile because such actions are logically abhorrent. So it becomes obvious that, as we strive for the purity of our original creation, some actions, whether expressly forbidden or logically derived from God’s word, must never be committed.
    Our society… and the Greek and Roman cultures… and many others throughout history, screams, ‘if it feels good, do it! It’s OK!’ Yes, it would feel good to have close relationships with other people. Go for it; Jesus encouraged it. Yes, it might feel good to have sex with my neighbor’s wife. STOP; it’s forbidden.
    As I lay in bed this morning with my wife’s head on my shoulder, I thought of life without her. How awful! How lonely! Yet many suffer that loss. How do you deal with it? Such is the loss, or perhaps never experienced possibility of human relationships. I have no doubt that my daughter would do her best to comfort me. She would hug me. She might tuck me in bed and kiss me on the cheek before she left for he own room. But NEVER, would either of us entertain a thought that we might engage in actions that God has forbidden, actions that might feel good and comforting.
    These considerations are how we logically seek God’s will. The problem we run into is that we sometimes make disconnected leaps or wander off on unrelated distractions. (as in paragraph 5) Such is the case with LGBTQ relationships.
    Usually, we get lost in arguments about the meaning of marriage or the definition of ‘homosexual’, or whether Jesus was concentrating on adultery or sin in our example. We argue of one’s right to a committed relationship or we separate ourselves because we don’t want to allow someone else’s thoughts to infringe on our actions, so before I make the next point, please hear this…
    We are called together to become the family of God. As His adopted children, Jesus says He lives in us and we become a part of each other. As the perfect creatures that God created, we would never have lost this connection… but we chose a different direction. When we become part of this family of God, our goal must become the inclusion and acceptance of every other member of the family. That means loving and caring about and for each one. That means teaching and training and mentoring and guiding. But it does not mean we stop recognizing sin nor does it imply that, since we accept the person, we also condone all his actions, or that we can look to him/her for leadership and example when they consistently demonstrate actions that we must not emulate.
    So here’s the point. Just because someone doesn’t conform to the social norm it does not mean that his/her actions or thoughts are necessarily good or bad in God’s eyes. So we must not, for that reason, ostracize him/her. And, just because one has attractions, or inclinations that are different from others, (s)he is not necessarily a worse sinner than the next person. The problem arises when those non-conformities and attractions or inclinations progress to forbidden action. (Eve didn’t sin in her attraction to the fruit. The sin was in her forbidden action.)
    Here is the crux of the matter. Is sexual intercourse between males or sexual intercourse between females a sin?
    If it is sin, it MUST NOT take place. If it is not sin, then a whole lot of other arguments may become valid.
    Please note: I did not say that if it is sin, it is not as bad or it is worse than other sins.
    Here is what I believe is the logical progression of the ‘God’s will’ train of thought. God created man(kind) in His own image; male and female. He went on to tell us that male needed female. The two go together. Further, He forbade certain actions and relationship… incest, bestiality, rape, etc. He told us that sinners would not enter the Kingdom of God, naming some of the sins, (but certainly not all of them) and including sodomy specifically in that list. Paul’s talk of ‘unnatural relations’ further endorses the understanding that our bodies are created to fit together naturally but not unnaturally.
    Many other of the stories that God has preserved for us contribute to build a picture of God’s ideal for His creation. We strive to reach His ideal and to move away, with His help, from what is not His ideal. In that process, we must not condemn or judge people by our own authority… we have none. But if our actions are sinful, we are condemned already. Thoughtful and caring revealing of those sins is the loving response of the Body of Christ, the church.

  5. Lowell, I really believe you when you express that you do not want to ostracize people with same-sex attractions. I go beyond that and give you the benefit of the doubt that what you want to do is show compassion, perhaps even have loving friendships with LGBTQ people, while preserving doctrine and the integrity of Scripture. AND I actually agree with you, at least in so far as Roman’s 1 is concerned. Whatever the cultural circumstances, Paul ties his argument to nature and therefore means to imply a timeless prohibition on same-sex erotic relationships.

    But you also know (I think) that I agree with Susan and James on the over all trajectory here. I am very open and affirming of our LGBTQ siblings of Christ and their full participation in the church and will tirelessly work until there is marriage equality in our country.

    If you truly want to enter into relationship with queer folks and show them compassion, I beg of you to reconsider the comparisons to pedophilia and incest. I don’t think it will find you much of an audience, even among LGBTQ folks who choose to remain abstinent for religions reasons. And if they do listen it can only do damage.

    Now major kudos to Susan! She has done her homework and I do believe temple prostitution and the practice of pederasty set much of the context for talk about same-sex erotic behaviors in the New Testament. We are only given relatively minor textual clues. Were given virtually none for the prohibitions in the Old Testament, just “thus says the Lord.” But there is always some form of moral logic at work for the very human authors. In the Old Testament perhaps – as Susan has suggested – the biblical writers (much like Paul) were not familiar with the concept of sexual orientation. And they made an observation from their limited perspective of nature. Or perhaps – a more holy and noble notion – it was out of concern for preserving the chosen people, and therefore the the promises of God. That might explain why Tamar was declared righteous for dressing up as a prostitute to trick her father-in-law Judah into having sex with her. It was an attempt to gain an heir. No doubt the hope was for a male heir.

    The complementarian argument that you’ve laid out above simply does not hold weight, on multiple levels. First, if we are going to be that literal with the text i.e. that God made male and female in his image and so the two together reflect God, then we ought to also be in serious discussion about the fact that God – for a time (in the other creation narrative) – actually considered all of the different animals of the earth as a partner for Adam before he thought to make Eve. Secondly we can’t just say God made it that way in the beginning and Jesus reiterated it in a heated discussion with the Pharisees, so therefore the one man + one woman relationship is the only sexual relationship endorsed in scripture. A wide view of Scripture shows us that: Abraham passed his wife off as his sister on two separate occasions to to a foreign dignitary out of self-preservation, putting the promise of God in Jeopardy. Sarah gave her slave girl to Abraham to be his wife and conceive a child because she could not. Then they they kicked the slave girl and the child that was conceived to the curb. David had eight wives, a few concubines and possibly a lover in Jonathan (I’ll let you re-read 1 Samuel 18; 1 Samuel 20; 2 Samuel 1 and judge for yourself). Solomon purportedly had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

    And yet Abraham is the only man the called “a friend of God” throughout the Old and New Testament Scriptures. What does David get for having multiple lovers? He get gets the honorary title of being a “man after God’s own heart.” And while the tradition does attribute his downfall to his love for foreign women and chasing after foreign gods, it also attributes the definitive book of love and romance to him: Song of Songs/Solomon. And in I Kings, Solomon gets this outstanding endorsement from God, “I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.” It is clear that there is an evolving set of sexual ethics in scripture.

    Finally, the complementarian argument from creation that essentially only male and female together reflect the image of God simply does not work because Jesus was a single male; and yet he was the perfect image of the invisible God.

    So Romans 1. I agree with you that regardless of the circumstances that Paul found the same-sex acts themselves egregious and deemed them to be wrong. It probably gave him that revolting feeling in his stomach that is comparable to the feeling (most) people get when they think of pedophilia and incest. But Paul did not know about sexual orientation. Paul did not know that homosexuality runs all throughout nature. And Paul was simply wrong. He was as wrong as the Deutero-Pauline writer who authored 1 Timothy 2:

    “Women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God.Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty” (1 Timothy 2:9-15).

    It’s essentially the old adage “a lady in the living room and a whore in the bedroom” only in religious clothing and therefore more vile. It is at odds with Paul’s treatment and empowerment of women elsewhere. And it is also in stark contradiction with Paul’s Adam/Christ typology in Romans. It does not matter what the women were doing or what the context was in Ephesus. Egalitarians (maybe most of all) have failed the church by coming up with all sorts of explanations for this passage, that amount to little more than excuses. Yes we should acknowledge context, dig as deep as we can. But that cannot be used to explain away words that can and have been used to cause great harm to many, many women.

    After we do our exegetical work we still have to do our hermeneutics. This is one place I draw strength from our shared Reformed tradition. If we look to the Belgic Confession we will notice that positively: “We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered “by human will,” but that “men and women moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God” (Article 3). It includes “two volumes” which we typically call “the Old and New Testaments.” Moreover, the confession provides us with a list of the 66 “canonical books” (Article 4). And finally, the Bible is “for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith” and we trust the things recorded in these books “not so much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God” (Article 5).

    So over and against popular ways of reading the Bible in church and culture there is no notion here of God’s revelation as some form of divine dictation. God is the source. But the authors are human. Secondly, the Bible is not a book! It is a library of books in two volumes. It contains multiple books. The authors of scripture span thousands of years. There are multiple genres, several languages, cultures and various religious schools of thought represented. Recognizing this frees us from the compulsion to harmonize apparent discrepancies. It frees us to read the Bible on its terms rather than imposing on it our categories for truth shaped by science and the enlightenment. Finally, the Bible is for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith, which I hope includes helping us sort out complicated issues that face the church today.

    But we do not receive the Bible simply because the church before us received and approved these scriptures but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God. We can trust this same Spirit to guide us as we approach the scriptures afresh as a community attempting to discern what God is saying to us today. I believe this is the groundwork we have to revisit before we are ready to theologically address questions about where life begins, reproductive rights, capital punishment, Christian Zionism, climate change, poverty, systemic racism or any number of other issues facing the church today.

    The same with marriage equality. Many people are approaching our sacred texts afresh, with the insights we have gained from science and psychology and the positive life witness of our LGBTQ neighbors as well as the many, many stories that end in tragedy. And we have reevaluated what we thought we knew. With Jesus – and the Spirit he sent us – we read the word with the living Word as our guide; and we have found space for these people in our hearts, at Christ’s Table, in our pews and our pulpits. Christ – the living Christ, the one who did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but made himself a servant and subject to death, even death on a cross – he has to be the lens through which we read all scripture. Otherwise, you’re right the Bible is big enough that you can support anything you want.

  6. What about the “Q?” This thread seem to have missed the full spectrum of sexual orientation: LGBTQ. Here’s my question, are you (you = anyone reading this comment) willing to support real marriage equality as defined by the LGBTQ community? Here’s what I mean:

    1. Do you support marriage quality for our bisexual friends who want to enter into marriage with 2 men and 2 women to fully express their bisexual “identity?” If not, why not? Why would you withhold legal marriage from them? Does scripture forbid this marriage? Did Jesus ever speak to this?

    2. Do you support marriage equality for our polyamory friends? Multiple men and women in a committed, monogamous and loving marriage? This is currently working its way through the California court system. If not, why not? Why would you withhold legal marriage from them? Does scripture forbid this marriage? Did Jesus ever speak to this?

    3. Do you support marriage quality for our polygamy friends? One man with multiple wives who desire to be in a committed, unforced, monogamous and loving marriage? Currently working its way through the court system in Utah. If not, why not? Why would you withhold legal marriage from them? Does scripture forbid this marriage? Did Jesus ever speak to this?

    Inconsistency is one sign of a failed argument. We must be willing to take the conversation, as Christians, to the full extent that the LGBTQ community is taking the conversation. Will you be consistent in how you apply marriage equality or do you see these types of relationships as different?

    To anyone willing to respond – thanks. I really mean that. It is a rare thing to find someone willing to engage this conversation at this level.

    • Jeremy,
      Thank you for your questions.
      Three things in particular, are important in the answers. First, the will of God, secondly, the practical application of that will, and thirdly, what is it that you mean by ‘marriage equality’.
      For my thoughts on the first one, please see the previous post regarding the sexual aspects of marriage.
      As you expand the question beyond the sexual question, I find no clear Biblical statement forbidding multiple marriage partners. One might stretch to use Paul’s arguments of ‘husband of one wife’, but that would be a stretch because it speaks to qualifications for leadership, (another discussion from the LGBTQ perspective) not marriage in itself. Marriage is, in most Christian denominations, legally, a civil contract that is recognized from a religious perspective. Yet, in our religious perspective, we understand that sexual union must occur only, within that context. There are an overwhelming number of Biblical marriages that included multiple partners that appear to have been condoned and blessed by God, so any argument against such a practice is probably not to be supported from there. To the best of my knowledge, Jesus never touched on the subject.
      As for practical application, at least in the American society, one might ask, with 50% of marriages failing and a huge segment of our population living in total disregard of God’s commandments regarding human sexual interaction, and with huge problems with domestic violence, slavery, oppression of women, and poverty, why would our government endorse a policy that would just exacerbate the problems? For the few people who might perceive a benefit, there would be a huge number that would sink deeper into domestic violence, oppression of women, and poverty, to say nothing of the jealousy and strife that appears inherent in many relationships of any kind that involve more than two people. Furthermore, as our society moves more and more toward the practice of requiring outside solutions to family problems, ie: police and social-worker involvement, rather than handling problems personally and internally, governmental agencies don’t need greater complications to their already heavy load. As for the current political arguments, as some seek for this change, why not one woman and multiple men?
      Strictly from a political perspective, I think it is a bad idea. I work with too many families that aren’t families and see too many social issues that are complicated enough already.
      (It might interest you to know, I’ve been told that the Chinese character interpreted as ‘trouble’ is a combination of characters representing two women under one roof.  )
      As for marriage equality, if you mean that a marriage contract should be equally available to two men or two women as it is for a man and a woman, then you have to ask, what is in the contract? The reason the LGBTQ community resists civil unions in favor of a marriage is because they want approval of sex between partners. All other advantages are available within civil unions, or if they aren’t yet, small redefinitions are all that really stand in the way, and those arguments are not religious, they are political. So, no. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Redefining it doesn’t change the previous post’s arguments.
      Please note in your second question that ‘multiple’ and ‘monogamous’ don’t coexist, though I’m sure you mean something like, ‘remaining within the confines of the defined relationship’.
      What does the Bible say about this? Some things are so obvious, that they don’t (didn’t) need to be addressed. Perhaps that’s why there is no concise description of baptism, and that’s exactly why we are having so many re-interpretations of our US constitution… who would have dreamed that anyone would not understand what was meant in the first place?
      I noted that in your first question, you use the expression, ‘… to fully express their bisexual identity’. I know that is a desire and goal for many. However, the proper desire and goal for all of us must be to fully express the identity that God requires of us. Full expression of many of our human tendencies and desires is sinful and against the will of God. After all, we were created to glorify God, not to seek our own desires.
      Lowell

    • For those who don’t know me and out of a desire to be fully transparent – I ask these questions as someone who believes that the bible reveals marriage to be defined as one man and one woman (as a timeless and unchanging truth). So, as I watch so many friends walk away from the historic biblical understanding, I’m interested to see how far you plan to go and still maintain consistent logic and hermeneutics.

      I believe scripture draws the line at one man and one woman. Where do you believe scripture draws the line? What is too far? Does it draw a line at all?

      It would be so refreshing to have genuine interaction on these questions from friends who have walked away from the historic biblical understanding. So, how far do you plan to go? Have you considered the necessary logical outcomes of your trajectory?

  7. Jesus commanded us Christians to judge other Christians. But he just encouraged the person judging to remove the log first. This is a huge part of how love is expressed in the church. Stop with this “I’m called to love not judge” crap. It’s getting old. Stop trying to justify sin in the body of Christ so you can fill church pews.

    Fear of God or fear of man?

  8. Justin,
    While you are correct that we are and will be called to judge, the story described earlier of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery is an example of how there is a time for deferring judgement in favor of saving a soul.
    If God is calling you, as He did call some of the prophets, to stand up in judgement, then do it, but understand that others have been called to reach out with tenderness and compassion until such time that the Holy Spirit works in an individual and calls him to repentance.
    The two are not incompatible, but the first is much easier, and few have the patience and wisdom to stick with the second.
    You are also correct in you statement that many seek to justify their sins so they can feel comfortable in continuing their way of life. Again, I know I don’t have the power to change them, but the Holy Spirit does, and God is often long-suffering and patient.
    Lowell

    • Lowell,
      Just because Jesus didn’t throw the first stone, doesn’t me he deferred judgement. What did Jesus say to the woman caught in adultery? John 8:11 “Go now and leave your life of sin.” He did not say, “I love you. Now go and have a nice day.” Too many reformed “pastors” are approaching the LGBT community and simply saying “Jesus loves you” and completely side stepping a call to repentance because they don’t want to flat out call sin what it is. The RCA is turning away from obedience to the Word and it begins with every pastor that has a responsibility to the Word, the Church, and to the vows they took.

      • It appears, in your eagerness to push active condemnation and judgement, you have failed to consider that, even though someone has a different perspective or different methodology, they still might be right. You are right that Jesus probably didn’t say, “I love you. Now go and have a nice day.” but you are absolutely wrong to say he didn’t defer judgement. It’s very obvious that he did just that.
        Your quotations around the word ‘pastors’ seems to imply a certain distain for those of us serving in that capacity. It might interest you to know that the word itself implies care and patience, and very often a subversion of our own judgmental tendencies to allow the Holy Spirit time to work in people’s lives.
        While, perhaps a very few people are called to preach fire and brimstone, and to pursue a ministry of scaring the ‘hell’ out of people, (as it sounds like you would have us do) most of us have been called to ministries of pastoral service and patient care. Our methods are nurture and support, and as Paul says, being all things to all people. (while trying very hard to be true to the gospel and our Lord)
        And, while you are right in your statement that some may sidestep their responsibility, I strongly doubt that the number is very high.
        By the way, if you really did read my previous posts, you would have understood that your rant against me is totally out of place and you’re putting words in my mouth that I have not, and will not speak.
        Lowell

      • Lowell, I’m really not trying to attack you. And I’m less concerned about making a point on judging or not judging. I’m also not trying to point a finger at you. To put it as simply as possible, I’m tried of pastors and bloggers posting articles that justify and celebrate sin. How we approach the sin and sinner is never easy. Leading another person to repentance requires nothing less than the work of the Holy Spirit. But, methodology aside, what the Bible calls sin is sin. God made marriage to be between a man and a woman. Anything outside of that is a perversion of His grace.

      • …But, methodology aside, what the Bible calls sin is sin. God made marriage to be between a man and a woman. Anything outside of that is a perversion of His grace… I couldn’t agree with you more, but methodology is important. When you drive out the one you are called to reach, you will never reach him.
        Lowell

  9. Jeremy, I’m sorry but I have to call bullshit when I see it. You are not looking for genuine interaction on these questions from friends who have walked away from what you believe to be the historic biblical understanding. I offered you that time and time again. Silence. You ignored messages. You didn’t meet me when we had plans to meet. And when I extended the olive branch acknowledging that difficult conversations like these are, well difficult and perhaps I had shied away too I got more silence. And a thumbs up in my FB inbox. Few people have hurt me as much as you and no one else has hurt me personally as much as you over are disagreement on “these questions.”

    And enough with west MI politeness! Don’t say: “We must be willing to take the conversation, as Christians, to the full extent that the LGBTQ community is taking the conversation” in one breath and call me a ‘friend who has walked away from the historic biblical understanding’ in the next. Have the chutzpah to be rude like Justin Montsma and say what you mean. If you think me or others are heretics say so.

    Gird up your loins like a man; I will question you, and you declare to me. Someone who has been in the presence of many LGBTQ persons saturated with God’s holy Spirit is about to speak. First Q is not a synonymous term for polyamory! But do you really not know that? Queer is historically a homophobic epithet hurled at gay people that in turn many gay people adopted with pride. Currently it is a term preferred by many gender non-conforming/gender queer persons who do not identify as transgender: butch lesbians, not so butch gay man, bisexuals and even some folks who find themselves attracted to the opposite sex but nonetheless do not conform to gender norms.

    Secondly, LGBTQ persons make up no more of a monolithic community with a unified belief system, sexual ethic and agenda than Christians do.

    Now, bisexual persons do not need to be in a relationship with persons of both sexes at the same time to “fully express their bisexual identity” anymore than than a heterosexual who finds themselves romantically compatible or sexually attracted to more than one person of the opposite sex needs to be in a relationship with them all to fully express his or her heterosexual identity. There are plenty of bisexuals in committed, monogamous relationships some with the same sex and some with the opposite sex. Do you define a person’s sexuality by their orientation or only by what they do sexually? Why did you put your hypothetical bisexual in a relationship with 2 men and 2 women? One of each would have made it polyamorous. Was it to paint an especially egregious picture for emotional appeal? If not then why?

    Now I am aware of what is going on in California and that there is a minority of LGBTQ persons – some even in the Christian community – who support polyamory. I cannot speak for other persons on this thread, but I do not support polyamory, for the same reasons I do not support “male headship.” Marriage should be a partnership of love and mutual service. I’m thinking not so much here of Ephesians 5 and arguments between egalitarians and complementarians over whether or not verse 21 sets the stage for the subsequent verses about husbands and wives. I am thinking more Philippians 2, and beyond that a Christian ethic for how all Christians are to conduct themselves in all relationships in light of the Incarnation.

    Polyamory simply lends itself too easily to imbalance and abuse of power. I know this from the first hand testimony of failed polyamorous relationships, from history and most of all from the biblical witness. All of the polyamorous relationships in the patriarchal and royal families (that I mentioned above) lent themselves to a high level of dysfunction, neglect and sometimes abuse. Polyamory leads to an unwanted child and the second wife and the child being sent away. Polyamory lends itself to the endless struggles between Jacob and Laban. Polyamory leads to a lust for more, more, more and David rapes Bathsheba and arranges for the murder of Uriah.

    I agree with you that Inconsistency is one sign of a failed argument. At least Lowell is more consistent with his biblicism than you acknowledging that there is no clear biblical statement forbidding multiple marriage partners and that it at least appears that there are an overwhelming number of biblical marriages that included multiple partners that appear to have been condoned and blessed by God. It doesn’t do justice to the biblical witness to say God made it that way in the beginning and Jesus reiterated it in a heated discussion with the Pharisees, so therefore the one man + one woman relationship is the only sexual relationship endorsed in scripture. As I mentioned above, the writers of scripture give some of the biggest polygamists in scripture some pretty big standing ovations from God. It would appear they did have God’s blessing.

    But of course they did not. They could not. Their chaotic life stories are a testimony against them even if one explicit word is never spoken. But from Luther (“I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God.”) to Lowell it scares the Hell out of me that some people would ever read the Bible that simplistically and literally.

    You obviously do not. You take a somewhat more theological approach arriving at your position Jeremy. You don’t grant that the Bible in some places endorses polygamy. You do not handle snakes and drink poison. My guess is you do not preach that women are/were inferior even before the fall like the author of 1 Timothy (but probably offer the equal value separate roles trope). So what is your hermeneutical lens?

  10. Alright, everyone take a deep breath.

    I want to respond to a few comments directly.

    Justin, I am so sorry that you feel that you are supposed to judge others and call them out on their sin. That must be exhausting. You are correct that Jesus did not throw a stone, nor did he tell the woman to have a nice day; he was making the point that unless we ourselves are sinless (and I think only Jesus qualifies) we cannot condemn others. Jesus DID tell us in no uncertain terms not to judge others in Luke 6.

    Jeremy, agree with Wayne that LGBTQ people cannot be lumped all together- they are far too diverse. So, that said, We also need to clarify why people want to get married. I don’t think anyone gets married so they can have sex. Nor do they marry to “justify” their sexuality. Marriage is so much more and the benefits of marriage are myriad. Property ownership, health care and medical decisions, parental rights, tax advantages- the list is long, and I’m typing this on my phone, but you get the idea. LGBTQ folks just want those same benefits extended to them in regards to spousal relationships. Most people I know marry because they desire a lifelong loving, equal partnership with another person.

    So, to answer your question about a bisexual person needing to fully express their sexuality, no they probably wouldn’t want to marry both a man and a woman. Marriage is more than just sex. By your logic, what would stop a married heterosexual man or woman from cheating, in order to more fully express their sexuality? Marriage is about love and trust, and doing the right thing for your spouse and marriage all the time. Each person must trust that they other is committed just as much as they are. It’s a gamble, no matter what your sexual orientation.

    In fact, I am familiar with a Christian pastor who divorced his wife in order to marry a female parishioner. I suspect that qualifies as living in unrepentant sin (which is another argument against same sex marriage) Does the fact that he is straight make his sin less offensive? Not to his ex-wife.

    As to your “slippery slope ” argument that it would necessarily lead to group marriage and polygamy, that is faulty logic. Personally I would not be for such arrangements, but as you know, polygamy was prolific in the Bible. It seems to me that it is a cultural phenomenon not found in Christian circles, but in fringe groups. The fallout from the FLDS fiascos in AZ and TX should tell us that polygamy can be harmful, especially when forced on women, and in some cases young girls. That said, if mature adults choose to enter into plural marriage, and all parties are in agreement, and no one is forced into it, why should that bother us?

    We all need to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. Jesus never said we couldn’t make disciples unless they’ve cleaned up their act first.

    I will reiterate my initial point that the Biblical writers didn’t know about sexual orientation. I also want to point out that there are only 8 verses in the entire Bible that speak to this issue. Maybe we ought to pay attention to all the other ones.

    Lowell, yes! We pastors are called to love people, and nurture their spiritual growth. It’s not easy being all things to all people. And yes, that is why I choose to please God and not men.

    And now, my friends, it’s late. I believe that as children of the one true God, we can disagree on these matters and still be respectful and loving toward one another. May the peace of Christ surround you.

  11. “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” 2 Timothy 2:14-17a

    “…a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” What a weighty phrase…

    Father, may I take seriously your Word which is Truth. I pray that the Church would turn back to you and seek righteousness that can only be given to us through your Son, Jesus. May your Spirit guide us away from all things wicked and perverse of this world. Strengthen us, your children, by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Even if it means we must suffer for the expansion of the Gospel.

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