The Only One
In what I devoutly hope is my first and last blog post of a religious nature, I am wondering what Jesus would have taught about same-sex marriage if he were on Earth to talk about it.
I believe religion to be a private matter, between each person and their Supreme Being, whether that is God, Jehovah, Allah, “the Universe”, “Divine Providence”, atheism, Tao, or whatever. I am not a believer in imposing my religious views on others, and don’t appreciate others imposing theirs on me. Because we cannot know with absolute certainty the nature of our souls, or even if there is an afterlife and what that looks like; and there are so many different views of the Higher Power; and religion is subject to interpretation by humans, it is not the most reasonable means for determining laws that are enforced by governments. There are reasons for the “separation of church and state” and they are good ones.
I am profoundly distrustful of religious zealots and fundamentalists of any stripe, because they believe they know the mind of God (or the 97%) and seek to impose their views of the world and religion on others, especially through intimidation, force, war, and terror. The ones who claim to speak for God are often the most blind, intolerant and dangerous.
Full disclosure: I am a practicing Christian and a member of the Presbyterian Church. I am active in my church and attend regularly. My church in metro Denver is somewhat liberal, which is fine with me because I value diversity in views and I like that particular church. Our pastoral staff consists of over 50% women and while our congregation is mostly white we do have some minority staff and members.
The PCUSA Changes Constitution to Allow Same-Sex Marriage
Recently I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal that the Presbyterian Church has approved same sex marriage in the church Constitution. I immediately wrote these thoughts as if I were talking to a group at my church:
I posted on both Facebook and Twitter that I was proud of our church for taking this historic step.
I realize that this is a contentious issue and that emotions surrounding it run high. But I believe that this is the right step to take and it fits perfectly with the doctrine of unity that our pastor has preached about recently.
It is not for me to judge another person’s faithfulness or interpretations of our Christian theology and scriptures. Many people, including some Christians, oppose same sex marriage and it is their right to do so.
However, in the last few years when I have thought about this subject and formed my views surrounding it, I have thought of the gay men (and women) I know who I am proud to call my friends, and have tried to think of what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would have thought and done relating to this issue.
Three passages in particular come to mind in this regard. The first is Mark Chapter Two, verses 13-17:
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I’m not singling out any group here as “sinners”, for we are all sinners. I think the message of this verse is that Jesus came to save all men and women, and that sinners were his “target market”. This speaks to the message of inclusion and unity I referred to earlier.
The second passage is this one from the Gospel of John, chapter 8, verses six through eleven. This one is about a woman who had been caught in adultery, and was brought before Jesus while he was teaching. As the Pharisees pointed out, under the law of Moses, the penalty for adultery was death by stoning.
“They asked Jesus this question, because they wanted to test him and bring some charge against him. But Jesus simply bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger. They kept on asking Jesus about the woman. Finally he stood up and said, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!” Once again he bent over and began writing on the ground. The people left one by one, beginning with the oldest. Finally, Jesus and the woman were there alone. Jesus stood up and asked her, “Where is everyone? Isn’t there anyone left to accuse you?” “No sir”, the woman answered.
“I am not going to condemn you either. Go and sin no more”.
To my mind, this passage clearly indicates that the judgement of sinfulness belongs with God, not with men and women.
Finally, marriage is about love. Here are some of Jesus’ words on this subject:
John 13:34: “But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know you are my disciples.”
I believe that Christians who are opposed to same-sex marriage should check their premises, pray on the matter, and ask themselves “What Would Jesus Think?”
Conclusion: Neither Church nor State
From a religious standpoint, therefore, I am supportive of same-sex marriage for the reasons outlined above. In the absence of a clear, unequivocal, direct, “spoken so everyone gets it” message from God on the matter, we just don’t know what God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit would have to say about it. It is for this reason alone that religion is not a valid basis to prohibit same-sex marriage.
If, for the sake of argument, there IS no God or Supreme Being, then religion would be a terrible reason for prohibiting same-sex marriage.
In any event, our Declaration of Independence talks about “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Whether being homosexual is intrinsic (born that way) or a lifestyle choice is immaterial. A person is who they are, and if being in a same sex relationship makes them happy, the Church should not deny that.
As a libertarian, I believe the State has no compelling interest in the union of two consenting adults. The State should not dictate what that union looks like. Because objections to same sex marriage are primarily driven by religion, they should be null in accordance with the concept of the separation of church and state.
By Richard D. Turnquist
April 25, 2015