Sunday, February 7, 2010
"If God Wanted Gay Marriage...": A Response
In the Democratic Party “partybuilder Blog,” James Ryan said, “I am totally against Gay marriage in this country. My feeling is if God wanted Gay Marriage than [sic] majority of married couples would be gay and not staright [sic]. Instead God made us to be anything but Gay. I can't not [sic] see why someone would want to support Gay Marriage. As it is only 5 States legalizes [sic] Gay Marriage. California, Florida, NY, NJ, AZ Governors have vetoed Gay marriage at least twice.”
What follows is my answer:
James—I am assuming that you are not being ironic with this post, that you really are against gay marriage and that you are baffled by people who support it; therefore, I am going to attempt to answer you seriously.
First of all, the "if God meant us to" premise is an intellectual dead end. It has been used to justify every kind of injustice perpetrated by man and to condemn every form of progress, but it just doesn't work logically, even on its own terms. If you actually believe in Divine Providence, then ask yourself some simple questions. Does God want us to drive cars, fly in airplanes, cure diseases? If so, then why did it take mankind hundreds of thousands of years to develop these things? Why didn't He/She just give them to "Adam and Eve"?
If, on the other hand, He (I will use the politically-inspired grammatical convention of adopting the male pronoun when the gender is unknown) meant for these things to develop naturally through man's righteousness, ingenuity and quest for knowledge, then why do you assume that he condemns the variety of ways that man has contrived to live in social settings? Did he mean for us to live in gigantic metropolises? There certainly aren’t any of these in the Bible. So, do we do wrong by building these cities? Is the telephone evil? Or the computer? Or modern medicine? None of these things were even imagined, let alone discussed, by the men who wrote the holy books of any of the great religions, so they give no guidance on these subjects. This fallacy of “the unmentioned” can also be seen in the hypocrisy and intellectual absurdity of Justice Scalia’s “original intent” doctrine to which he adheres when it is convenient to his ideology.
If you believe that God created love, then why don't you accept that he created various kinds of love, including self love, erotic love, platonic love, filial love, parental love, divine love, and yes, even homosexual love? Homosexual love is not a recent invention!
If you base your prohibition on the Bible, then you are stuck with only a few passages, most of which come from the Old Testament, many of the tenets of which I guarantee you do not actually follow. Read “Leviticus” and tell me that you accept all those admonitions and rules.
If you look to the New Testament, then you have only Paul's letters; and although Paul’s letters are, in some cases, given equal status to the Gospels, his lectures and doctrinal edicts must be seen as personal opinions that do not necessarily reflect views found elsewhere. Many scholars argue that they directly contradict the message and teachings of Jesus. They certainly do not reflect the views of Jesus as articulated anywhere in the New Testament. They could not, of course, because Paul was not witness to any of Jesus’s utterances, except in his self-proclaimed discussion with a light from heaven. Jefferson, as documented in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, called Paul the "first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus."
Nevertheless, in most cases, when reading the Old or the New Testaments in English, we often face grotesque mistranslations and sometimes flagrant misrepresentations of the original Greek. Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus speak of homosexuality. If Jerry Falwell could identify and condemn a Teletubby as gay, then what would our modern day Pauls, such as Falwell, Robertson, or Dobson, honestly say of a group of men in today’s society who were as close and insular as Jesus and the Apostles, men who generally shunned the companionship of women and kept only to themselves? (I certainly acknowledge that a line of research goes well beyond Mary Magdalene to refute this male exclusivity, and I applaud that scholarship; I only point out that today’s homophobes would certainly have found Jesus’s “men’s club” suspicious and probably worthy of condemnation).
Catholic doctrine is adamantly anti-homosexual in its public declarations, yet most Catholic school boys and school girls and all adult parishioners know that many of their priests are homosexual. I am not talking about the alarming number that are sexual predators; I just refer to the hypocrisy of decrying homosexuality while being fully aware that many of their priests, their monks, and their leaders are gay. Homosexuality in the priesthood is tacitly accepted while being “publicly” condemned. The hypocrisy of the church during the recent sex scandals all across the US was clearly evident in the innumerable examples of predatory priests who were shuttled from diocese to diocese because of their flagrant behavior and because of the incredible number of complaints. More importantly, the anti-homosexual agenda of the Vatican, like its anti-contraception dogma, is not even supported by a majority of Catholics.
The same hypocrisy is obvious in the never-ending string of Evangelical preachers and “Christian” politicians caught with their pants down in both straight and gay liaisons.
Let me come back to your original reasoning. By your analysis, no one should be left handed because if God had wanted us to be left handed, a majority of us would be left handed. Surely you can see that this view is not reasonable. This handed-ness, including ambidexterity, is a natural proclivity. Yes, the individual can be forced to subdue and hide this proclivity, but it takes a great deal of denial (often accompanied by physical abuse) to counteract this natural inclination, and usually the individual is damaged by the effort.
Left or right handed-ness and sexual orientation are natural inclinations, but marriage laws and prejudice are not. They are man-made. Two hundred years ago, a majority of Americans were blatantly racist towards blacks. Are you willing to suggest that they were racists because God wanted them to be? Or would you rather assume that due to the battle that was begun by a few stalwarts who were willing to decry and condemn the hypocritical and ignorant injustice of the majority, the majority opinion was finally changed. If you think that God makes things happen, then don’t you attribute this shift in the majority opinion and this extension of justice to God’s will?
Pick out any other majority behavior you want. The “Divine right of Kings” was used to justify the wickedness, debauchery, cruelty, and injustice of tyrants. In other words kings ruled because God wanted it that way. We have devised more humane, more just, more rational systems of governing ourselves over the past centuries although we still have a number of issues to work out. “The Divine right of Kings” was superseded by the assumption “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence doesn’t say “heterosexual men.” Can anyone doubt that marriage, whether it actually procures it or not, is certainly one of the means of “pursuing happiness”?
True love is a fairly rare commodity. Certainly, participating in sex (whether heterosexual or homosexual) neither proves nor guarantees love. Neither does marriage. However, the ability of individuals to have a committed, loving relationship with a same sex partner has existed since the beginning of time. Check out David and Jonathan in the book of Samuel, especially in a faithful translation. In that book, God certainly did not condemn them.
As for marriage, in our society marriage confers specific legal rights—rights of custody, visitation, inheritance, etc.—that are not granted to the unwed. To deny these rights to individuals who love and cherish their "homosexual" partners just as much as "heterosexuals" do theirs is a gross miscarriage of justice. These rights are not predicated on whether one has sex or not, nor with whom. In fact, the rights conferred by the marriage rites are not accompanied by any guarantee of fidelity or love or longevity. Marriage simply acknowledges that the two people have consented to be wed. That’s it. The fact that homosexual males or females can find partners in whom they hope to find love, commitment, and longevity of a relationship should be rewarded for the same reasons that anyone else is allowed to marry.
Let’s face it, the “one man-one woman, till death do us part” premise has been a hypocrisy since its medieval conception. Witness the sanctioned, extramarital proclivities of males since time immemorial. Read Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth” for an alternative version of marriage—one that is devastating to the woman—but one that had (and in some circles still has) wide acceptance. In “Ist Chronicles 3” and beyond, David’s many wives (at least 8) are enumerated. Marriage for Solomon and his hundreds of wives was purportedly for political convenience; in other words, the women were given (sold) to him to consummate political alliances.
Clearly, in most societies, certainly in this society, we have “evolved” beyond these archaic conceptions of marriage. Now we embrace a pledge of mutual love and devotion as criteria for marriage, not political plunder or male prerogative. Certainly these criteria of love and devotion can be met through both opposite-sex and same-sex marriage.
How individual churches choose to address the issue of same-sex marriage is a matter of religion. Those religions that are openly hostile to gays will clearly begin to lose members as gay marriage proves to be identical to non-gay marriage. Those churches who embrace gays will not only earn gay devotees, but they will also gain converts who turn from those bigoted and backward, exclusionary, patriarchal denominations.
Superstition, groundless and spurious fears, and meaningless prejudice should not be allowed to forbid gays the basic legal rights and protections given to other consenting adults. Neither should illogical or irrational arguments be allowed to hold sway in the arena of public opinion.
Jonathan, I encourage you to read the Bible and the other holy books of the great religions with a careful and thoughtful eye and ear and heart. I encourage you to keep questioning the things that confuse you about the position of those with whom you disagree, and I encourage you to truly try to seek out the answers to your questions. If your question was, in fact, sincere, perhaps, as you examine the issue further, you may eventually arrive at a conclusion different from the one that you now hold. Rest assured, a majority of this country and the world will soon look back on the systematic persecution of gays and the denial of their civil rights as a gross and unconscionable miscarriage of justice.
The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!