I’ve recently been accosted – as many have – with the vitriol of the conservative defense for traditional marriage. Let me be one hundred percent clear when I say I support some version of traditional marriage, and God willing I’ll get traditionally married one day, and perhaps even find a way to sneak another “traditional” into a sentence without overreaching. That said, here are a handful of my personal thoughts and convictions that might or might not matter.
1. “Biblical Definition”
The Holy Bible defines many things, some better than others. In the Old Testament, there are many painstaking definitions of how to properly eat, dress, copulate, and style your hair. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve modernized your take on which biblical traditions are appropriate to follow and which ones are no longer relevant, because most of the Christians who haven’t made these kinds of decisions prefer to live without electricity and internet service. That said, maybe you like the Internet and follow Deuteronomy to the letter. If that’s the case, save yourself some frustration and stop reading now.
Especially lately, I’ve been subjected to the claim that “the Bible defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” which is more polite than saying “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” but equally ignorant. Here’s a shocker: one thing the Bible doesn’t actually define is “marriage.” When you look it up in a concordance, more than half of what you find is more primarily concerned with polygamy, incest, war, marriage by purchase, marriage by obligation, marriage by an acceptable number of severed foreskins, and other unseemly things we tacitly ignore, but no “biblical definition” of marriage. We tend to ignore this embarrassment of marital weirdness throughout the Bible, though it’s not because we’re bad people – or bad Christians – it’s that the world moved on, and cutting off a high number of other people’s foreskins to marry two of your first cousins is no longer in good taste.
What most conservative Christians, today, uphold as the model marriage is the union of one man to one woman. Why? Most of the monogamist marriage traditions we now practice were in fact common legal practices in the early Roman Empire. Many Jews – who could afford it – still practiced polygamy well past the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but those subject to the mercurial laws of the Roman Empire eventually had to get hip to this idea of one-on-one. Paul of Tarsus said Christians should “submit to the law of the land,” a council met at Nicea to decide what documents were canon to an actual ‘Bible,’ and sometime later Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of Rome. The tradition of hetero-monogamy became synonymous with Christian marriage because Rome and Christianity were setting policies in parallel.
Now, here are a few facts that build a case against non-traditional marriage from the Christian worldview:
• Homosexual relationships were – as a law – not tolerated by the Jews
• Homosexual relationships were – as a custom – abhorred by Paul of Tarsus
• Homosexual relationships were – as a practice – tolerated by the Roman Empire
• Homosexual unions were observed, usually with a slave – one man owned the other
Now we have a few things to consider about the idea of marriage as the Roman Empire went away, but the Roman Catholic Church remained:
• With the Roman Empire dissolved the Roman slave trade (no more men to own)
• Women were still bought and sold as property, no matter how kindly they were to be loved
• The only material that had been approved by the Nicean Council labelled homosexuality ‘sin’
• Tolerance for homosexuality (and most sexually divergent behavior) was abandoned.
All this to say, marriage amounted to ownership of another person, pure and simple.
2. New Ideas
Somewhere along the line, Western Europeans decided they didn’t want to keep playing in the sandbox where there had to be kings and queens, so a few of them killed off the natives in the new world to make “America.” By now, the Dutch had made a new slave trade by rounding up Africans and were making a killing by selling them to business ventures in a world that espoused values of “equality.”
Ah, constitutional equality. Still in quotes, here, because even the crude notion of equality then was a brand new idea. It would take a long time for the slaves to be freed and for women to be seen as equals, but the word “equal” had been committed to a serious document, and what unfolded is that over which we battle constantly.
If all of us are born with equal rights protected by the constitution (which is not to respect one religion over any other), then we have wrinkles to iron out. When it comes to marriage, racial equality means a member of any race can now marry a member of any other race. Social equality means a poor person can now marry a rich person. Gender equality means a woman can now choose to whom she should be married if she wants to marry at all.
Great stuff. When it comes to sexual orientation, however, the constitutional right to equality (while guaranteed) seems to be limited to assuaging the more old-fashioned forms of persecution. If you want to get married to anyone other than a single member of the opposite sex, then that all depends on the whims of the state in which you reside. Things to consider:
• Christians founded this nation, but guaranteed religious freedom for all
• Christians trust atheists to serve their food, teach their children, and keep them safe
• Christians observe marriages of other faiths, and intermarriages between faiths
When it comes to the basics, modern Christians don’t try to micromanage the concept of marriage. As long as it’s between a pair of consenting adults of mutual admiration and respect, they don’t care what the people believe in, if anything. It simply doesn’t personally impact their lives enough to matter. Can the same be said for homosexual practices? It all depends…
Most modern Christians, though explicit in their definition of homosexuality’s wrongness, will politely overlook homosexual practices of the generalized others in their lives. Again, it doesn’t personally impact their lives enough to matter. But, as was inevitably the case, there were eventually enough sexually divergent people that realized that they were not alone, they were not evil, and that they hated the stigma associated with their identity. Eventually, they discovered that they’d rather die than refrain from discussing it any longer. Many of these people came from Christian households. Many of them are, themselves, Christians. Suddenly, for modern Christians, the whole thing becomes personal – these aren’t generalized others anymore… they’re not anonymous, faceless abstract concepts… they’re people. Real people.
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if I have a religion that says it’s a sin for you to wear blue. It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t believe in my religion when you wear blue, because the law of this equality-obsessed land in which we live has guaranteed you the right to wear all the blue you want. Why? Because it doesn’t affect me if you wear blue or anything else. I can think it’s wrong all day, but I can’t legislate my morality to keep you from wearing blue. So why are we preoccupying ourselves with the moralizing of what others do that doesn’t affect us, especially if they don’t claim to believe what we believe?
But many of them do claim the faith of modern Christianity. This brings some Christians to the breaking point and others to an uncomfortable silence. Most modern Christians will say you shouldn’t treat the Bible like a buffet, taking only what you want and leaving the rest. Well, here’s some proverbial food for thought:
• If you’re a Christian, you’re subscribing to someone’s buffet mentality of the Bible (sorry)
• The Christians that don’t subscribe to yours aren’t trying to keep you from getting married
• Christians don’t own the patent on marriage in the first place, but
• Christians are instructed to observe the law of the land (remember that “equality” thing)
If you’re wondering why the Bible didn’t have a lot more to say about equality than “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” it’s because equality is a new idea. If you’re wondering why the Bible doesn’t have more to say about gay marriage, gay marriage as it exists today is a new idea. Marriage is no longer about the ownership of a human being, it’s about the consensual love between two adults who are of common intellect and respect. Marriage equality is a new idea.
And it’s a great idea, if you ask me. You know why? If you’re ‘traditional,’ it doesn’t affect you enough to matter. If you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, it affects you deeply.
3. Chicken Sandwiches
I think we all know what I mean…
Some people think the whole scandal centers on President Dan Cathy’s right to think/feel/say that homosexuality is wrong. I will refer those people to my “religious objection” to the color blue. The case against Chickfila’s corporate donations to various anti-gay groups is as follows:
• These are groups that define homosexuality as “a disease” that can be “cured”
• These are groups that lobby to criminalize homosexuality and divergent sexual behavior
• These are groups that advocate harm of homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgendered people
• These are groups that are not comfortable to live and let live
The president of a family-friendly, Christian fast-food chain drew attention to information about his corporate donations that was already well-known and understood to anyone who had been paying attention. Whether intentionally or accidentally, his words ignited the national debate of so-called “biblical marriage,” and the former governor of Arkansas saw the opportunity to sell a few chicken sandwiches in the name of activism.
Suddenly, we all have to pick a PRO side or an ANTI side…
What the fuck just happened?
It was suddenly no longer acceptable for Christians who hadn’t made up their minds to sit on the fence. It seemed like it was no longer possible to have a median opinion… either you were Christian, or you were queer.
This part is me formally calling BS on the whole thing.
The same people who engaged in “Chickfila Appreciation” activity to support the “biblical definition of marriage” drove cars, wore clothes, drank coffee, and used cell phones made by companies that donate to groups who lobby for marriage equality. Turns out the presidents of those companies were trying to engage in charity without making their benefactors’ missions their brand positions. If you’re implicitly supporting or condemning marriage equality based on the products and services you buy, you’re probably leaning further left than you think.
As I said before, I’m a Christian. I don’t think that gay marriage is for me, but that’s because I’m not gay. I will hence not be getting “gay married,” and I’m not going to make it my business to convince anyone else to do so, or not. That said, I support gay marriage. Here’s why:
• I’m not God, and I can’t pretend you’re God either (sorry)
• Malicious acts/legislation against these people is neither constitutional nor Christian in nature
• Christians have moved on from other “strictly biblical” practices in good conscience
• Christians never owned the patent on marriage to begin with (nor the Jews before them)
• Equality, though a new idea, is a more intellectually defensible position than religious suprematism
• There are plenty of chicken dives that don’t mix our personal lives with their brand positions
If that says to you that we can’t be friends, I can’t say I’m sorry. I can say, in good conscience and with absolute clarity, I think you’re on the wrong side of this argument. I can also say that if I was confronted with the fact that my political or religious inclinations closely paralleled that of the Ku Klux Klan, I’d find my beliefs sufficiently uncomfortable to start entertaining other arguments.
Simply put, it won’t kill you to let people marry who they love.
It won’t even hurt a bit.
xoxo – Pikey