What do those two things have in common?
Honestly, the only thing I know of right now is they have both been in the news lately on issues relating to gays.
You can read about it here:
Rowan Williams Backs Gay Bishops
New law clears way for gay marriage in New York
Of the two I’m sure the one most widely known is the latter.
Gay marriage is one of those issues that I think have been wrestling with since college. Mainly because in the 2000 and 2004 elections the Republicans (or at least this is how I feel) made it an issue in order to mobilize the Religious Right to vote and keep Bush in office. I’ve gone through two phases I would say… one is the theological aspect, the other is the political aspect. I would say that now after, at least, 7 years of wrestling with the issue, I have come to some conclusions.
I personally am a fan of Williams’ opinion in the matter; however, I do know of dissent regarding the opinion on both conservative and liberal sides. The conservatives have a weak argument, honestly. To say that they can’t serve simply because they identify as homosexual is absurd. I find that such an argument ignores the fact that humans, pastors especially, need to not only know of and accept their sinful nature, but identify with it as well. To not identify with it is to deny their own fallen humanity and will feed pride and arrogance. More than likely, numerous pastors in America are unfit to serve, because they do not struggle with their own personal sin. Either because they don’t deal with it, or because they get bogged down and busied with other business. I do understand the argument, they would desire that such an individual not be intimate with such an identity but struggle with it.
However, that’s a tall order. I find in my own life that the sin I am most intimate with is the most prevalent one and its the one I deal with the least, by sheer fact of its habituality as well as its permeation into practically every area of my life. I don’t think, however, that such struggle and depravity disqualifies me from the ministry, nor should it. In the same way, if one is to consider the biggest sin that needs to be dealt with for a gay person is homosexuality, then they also need to realize how it is much more than merely sexual preference (and if it is merely sexual preference, I would pick a much worse sin… say pride?). And let’s not forget about the genetic and environmental aspects that, I believe, play a heavy role in any sexuality, gay or straight. However, I think Williams’ proposal almost forces the pastor/priest in position to be in struggle with it, because it denies them the liberty of living out the lifestyle; I think it not only allows for, but supports, struggle of some sort. Such as, what aspect about themselves do they want to pursue more.
Yet, I am unconvinced that those on the opposite end of the spectrum, who think that they should not only be allowed to be bishops and pastors, but allowed also to marry, have a strong argument as well; it is my personal opinion that they are bending their biblical interpretations to their will, of course the same could be said of me and those with whom I agree…
I’m sure the most well heard arguments against gay marriage are of the creation story and Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis, the verse from Romans and the two verses from Leviticus. How they have traditionally been interpreted in regards to homosexuality, I think, are fair interpretations. Unfortunately, I think a major problem with their interpretations are twofold. 1) They have focused solely on the verse and developed a theology around that, and have not understood they surrounding verses as it relates to the larger picture that is being drawn. 2) Fueled by the 1st, they are used to single out homosexuality and gays.
Both are terrible, one leads to a simple, terrible understanding of God and the other leads to a terrible view of others. I honestly don’t blame anyone who wants to do away with the traditional view of homosexuality and this interpretation of Scripture; primarily because it’s used to tear people down in the guise of building up of God and the faith. But, as I said, I don’t think much of the theological reasoning behind it is strong.
Most interpretations are leveled at the relevance of such views today, for instance the two verses from Leviticus. I’ll admit that some of the laws in Leviticus bear little relevance for today (animal sacrifice perhaps?), but I don’t think the relevance of Leviticus is based solely on how literally applicable or relevant its rules are. Often times the laws are understood only by their letter and not by their spirit (for instance two unlike clothes should not be sewn together), nor by their revelatory nature depicting the nature of God (for instance, the only justification for the laws are something along the lines of “because I am GOD” that, to me at least, is clearly revelatory in some way). Then there is also the theological jockeying and word play over the original languages and their true meaning, but I’ll admit I’m not well versed in the discussion (unfortunately, I already have the bias that pro-gay arguments do a bit of gymnastics with the words… at least I can admit it right?).
I do support the critique of marriage being solely about procreation; this understanding is definitely not the case; if so, it has got to be the weakest, lamest, most pathetic, most uninventive argument for marriage ever, as well as totally wrong, its not even good for a scientific or biological argument. Marriage is much more than that, it is a picture of God and God’s relationship with the church and then some; of course, this view also has to be understood in light of the nature of who God is and what God’s relationship with the church is, which is a heavy task.
All that to say is that I have a conservative theological view point on marriage, without having to explain the whole system of which it is.
On to my bigger issue.
My biggest problem is how proponents of such a traditional view go about spreading and politicizing it. For one it spreads and breeds hate, but also I do think there is, could be or should be, a distinction between what laws of Scriptural influence should be put into political practice. Again, I don’t want to go into the whole system of it, but suffice it to say laws against murder, theft, perjury, adultery are good ideas, whereas laws against homosexuality and those making divorce difficult (The problem isn’t divorce, its people knowing better who they should marry; I don’t think we should punish ignorance influenced by socially driven romantic ideals) are probably bad ideas. It could probably be summed up as: Laws that protect individuals from the malicious sin of others are good, whereas laws that regulate the purity and morality of individual lifestyles and theological realities are generally bad. Yes, it is a rather ad hoc summary, so I’m sure it has its, probably major, fallacies.
Marriage laws are an example. Homosexuality is really not a danger to me, unless it influences someone who heavily disagrees with my views to seek me out and kill me; then of course that is murder and not homosexuality. Laws against homosexuality are attempting to regulate interpretations of purity and a theological worldview (much like prohibition did a while back…).
And marriage licenses are the tool by which this is being done.
Marriage, as I see it, and have tacitly explained it, is a depiction of something divine and unseen, thus it is a theological reality. This, aside from its atraditional nature, explains the hub-bub over gay marriage. The state has a certain power in the administration of a theological reality. Christians, as well as others, don’t want to let others “in the club” because, to them, its not just a law; unfortunately, this means gays are essentially locked out of a legal institution.
It is, therefore, very discriminatory. The state is empowering a certain theological interpretation over another understanding of reality. In the form of government that we have in the US, this isn’t just. But I also don’t think it should allow for homosexual marriage… the reason being is because you would be giving something a theological title that I don’t think should have it…
Since I believe that marriage is a theological reality, not a legal or political one:
I would argue that government should do away with marriage licenses all together…
The only reason I think we have marriage licenses is because the idea formed when there weren’t many, if any, gays clamoring, or trying, to get married, at least this is my understanding of history. So, it probably wasn’t a big deal for governments to name such a contract a “marriage license” because of that, and also of the church-state union of the times. There simply wasn’t much else to consider, at least anything else that wasn’t hush-hush and swept under the rug. (Forgive my simplistic take of history here)
Instead of marriage licenses, I think the government should only register licenses for civil unions. There is no theological or religious weight attached, all sorts of unions can now become equal and anyone could change their name and have the same rights under the law. The government is still able to recognize what churches have deemed a theological reality between two individuals, as well as the choice of two consenting individuals regardless of its theological nature (It seems like a lot of build up to such a simplistic solution… perhaps too simple… I’ve not even considered a counter-argument).
There might be an argument that such a view is not promoting the Kingdom of God here on earth, and in a legal, institutional sense… perhaps. But then of course God’s Kingdom is not of this world and political institutions as we have them are of this world… so maybe it is that such a Kingdom comes through the Church not through the government. And the Church, of course, has a right to hold fast to theological realities.