Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Obama, Gay Marriage, and Me

I've yet to post on President Obama's "coming out" on gay marriage.  I was at a conference when the announcement came, and I've been otherwise distracted since then.  But, I do want to say something.  I realize that this is a political season, and that everything done and said will be seen through that lens.  So, it's no surprise that the polls suggest that this is a political ploy, maybe to nail down the base.  Perhaps it is, perhaps not.  The reality is -- in practice, the Obama administration has been proactive in addressing long standing concerns of the LGBT community.  These include ending "don't ask, don't tell," which was implemented by the Clinton administration as a half-way point to full inclusion.  His administration has also stopped defending the constitutionality of the "Defense of Marriage Act."  So, whatever his words now, the administration has in practice been opening up new avenues for gays and lesbians to enter more fully and openly into American life.

President Obama is like a lot of Americans -- his views have been changing.  The same is true of me.  The polls tell us that the scales have tipped and that more Americans approve of gay marriage than do not.  It is especially clear that those under 40 have already made this transition.  It's a non-issue for most persons under 40.  It's much more an issue for those over 65, with the rest of us in a muddled place.  

What has changed?  For one thing, the way we view sexuality has changed.  We have as a culture, with a few exceptions, moved beyond the place that sex (and thus marriage) is for procreation.  Thus, the argument that gays should not marry because they don't produce children no longer stands.  Many heterosexual couples marry without the intention of procreating, or for various reasons are unable to procreate.  Should they not marry?  There has been a concern that gay marriage redefines marriage, but the question is -- in what ways?  Perhaps, and I believe this to be true, marriage will redefine the way gays come together.  If we believe that marriage has the power to cement relationships, then would we not want this for gay and lesbian partners?  Would this not be a conservative measure?  

Our views have changed as well as Gays and Lesbians have come out of the closet and we've discovered that they are our neighbors, our friends, our brothers and sisters, or our children.  These are people we know and love.  Whatever our ideologies, these are real people, and these relationships have softened and changed the way we see the issues.  

My own views have evolved.  They began to change, when my brother came out.  I realized that this was no longer an abstract discussion.  It was personal.  It was real life.  So, I reexamined the texts and the arguments, and eventually embraced the full inclusion of LGBT folks into the realm of God.  

Now, I've yet to perform a wedding for a gay or lesbian couple.  There are several reasons for this, starting with -- I've yet to be formally asked.  I also must consider the congregation I serve.  Would this hinder their own evolution as a congregation?  We'll see, probably sooner than later.

President Obama's announcement has made this a topic of conversation.  There is no one view.  There are a variety of views present.  Some say they oppose gay marriage, but approve of civil unions (the President's former position).  Others disapprove of both.  Some believe that we might be best served by separating legal, civil union, from the sacred act of marriage -- that is, clergy should get out of the legal business and stick to the sacred side of things.  

This announcement doesn't end the debate, it only opens it up further.  But this I do know -- a decade from now we won't be having this discussion.  Gay marriage will be legal across the country.  Some will disapprove, most will approve -- just like interracial marriage today!!


Gary said...

Where in the Bible can I read about God's endorsement of homosexuality, or same-sex marriage?

Glenn said...

I can't point to a single scripture where God explicitly endorses homosexuality and/or same sex marriage. But if you're really interested, I can direct you to multiple passages that show God didn't have any problem with incest, bigamy, polygamy and/or concubinage. A traditional biblical marriage is a little broader in scope then most people think.

Gary said...

God outlawed incest in the Old Testament. God also commanded the death penalty for male homosexuality in Leviticus 20:13. That penalty was repeated in Romans 1:32. It's rather difficult to be married when you're dead.

Glenn said...

O.K. So that's a big no on homosexuality and incest. I assume you're conceding God's soft spot for bigamy, polygamy and concubinage.

Gary said...


No. I don't believe God ever approved of those things either. God created only Eve for Adam. In the New Testament, none of those things is endorsed. God expressly approves of marriage between one man and one woman. And God limits moral sex to that union.

Glenn said...

Ahhhh, now you only want to talk about the New Testament. The Old Testament is just find and dandy as long as we're talking about stoning gays, but you want to throw it out the window when it's testimony proves inconvenient. As you've stated so many times Gary, it doesn't really matter what you believe. What matters is what the Bible says. And scripture confirms over and over that God regulated and approved of the marital practices of bigamy, polygamy and concubinage (and at least for a time, incest). As you would say, the scriptures say what they say. Just because those things make you uncomfortable now, doesn't mean that you can twist it to fit your present day moral compass.

John said...

Hi Gary,
I know what you believe, and I know that you believe in it with an unshakeable conviction so I guess this post is really just an indulgence, an opportunity to try out a different way of engaging anti-homosexualism in the Christian community.

Let us assume for the sake of discussion the accuracy of the interpretation of Scripture which concludes that God abhors homosexuality among humans.  

The larger picture of God in Scripture is of a divine person:
Who deeply loves the Creation and especially humans,
Who forgives extravagantly,
Who hears the prayers and cries of people and responds with dramatic acts of salvation,
Who sometimes is so angry and frustrated with people that annihilation seems to God to be the best response, and 
Who listens to the supplications of the people and responds with divine repentance.

The same Scriptures which disclose the God of Wrath also disclose a God of Compassion.  So when the animals of Eden turn out not to be very good companions for Adam, God creates a woman.  The same Scriptures also show that God repented of the Flood, and heard the pleas of Abraham for reconsideration of the decision to destroy Sodom, heard the pleas of Hannah, Elizabeth and so many other childless men and women for children of their own , heard the cries of enslaved Jews in Egypt, and Babylon, for liberation.  The same Scriptures show Jesus resisting the entreaties of his mother to begin his ministry before he had made up his mind to do so, and responding to the implicit criticism of the Syro-Phoenician woman for refusing to heal her daughter.  Jesus responds by changing his mind and "doing the right thing" by starting his ministry, and by giving the 'crumbs' from the table of the righteous to the unclean and disreputable Gentile dogs.  

God calls each one of us individually and all of us as a community of faithful to be agents of compassion in the world, agents of healing and proclaimers of the Kingdom of God - not agents of judgment. When we are at our compassionate best, we can move God to repent, we can move God to expand God's salvific promises to include even more of God's beloved children, even people previously excluded from the covenant of salvation.

Psalm 82 appears to say that God is accountable for God's acts and omissions, when God withholds deliverance from the poor, from the outcast, from the needy; when God is not just, then God too will be judged, and may be found wanting.

All of this is to say that if we pray for compassion, even greater compassion that Scripture calls for, we have the possibility of moving God to an even more compassionate response, we have a chance to make a difference in the Kingdom, to have an impact on the divine plan, we have the chance to move God to share the crumbs for the table of righteousness with the unclean and unrighteous among us.

And the greatest of these crumbs is love, the knowledge that I am cherished by another, and especially by God, "just as I am".

Instead of praying for judgment, instead of swinging the ax of righteousness among our brothers and sisters, would our time not be better spent praying to God for more compassion, praying to God to share the crumbs of the kingdom with the outcasts, to truly open the doors to the banquet so that all are invited to the table?

Gary said...


Where does the Bible say that God approves of bigamy, polygamy, concubinage and incest?

Glenn said...


To prevent each post from becoming unmanageable why don't we start by looking at incest, I can only assume that God couldn't have had much of a problem with it, at least originally, since he began his human population with only two people and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. (Actually, he started with only one human and expected Adam to pick his "help-mate" from the local wildlife population, but we'll leave the topic of bestiality for another time) That original population of two necessitated incest and implies approval. If an all-powerful God had misgivings about incest he could have easily began with a breeding population large enough to make it unnecessary and then specifically prohibited it. That's not what happened and since you insist that people look no deeper into scripture than what's written in black and white I'm limited as to what I can conclude given the evidence presented.

Gary said...


I assume that Cain had to marry his sister since there was no one else for him to marry. God prohibited incest when He gave the Law to Moses. What happened prior to that is a mystery as the Bible does not address it, as far as I remember Genesis.

I have never heard anyone say that God expected Adam to pick a wife from the animals. Frankly, that is absurd and wicked. Trying to mate with animals won't work now, and it wouldn't have worked then.

Glenn said...

Mysteries and absurdities. Such is the world of the biblical inerrantist.

David said...

Is anyone here against interracial marriage? Were they in the past? Anyway, I was getting real tired of Obama's waiting on this issue. I'm glad it's finally behind him. No pun.

I'll be glad when it's finally resolved as a basic right.