Jun 29, 2011
“Groups opposed to same-sex marriage cite Biblical passages to endorse their rejection of any marriage amendment while condemning same-sex practice in general on the basis that the Bible “says” it is wrong. Now that the celebration of the New York vote has receded past the front page of most papers and news sites, we have an opportunity to examine the Biblical argument against same-sex marriage (and against same-sex orientation) in context. If anything, this exercise questions whether we should develop stances based upon what the Bible “says.” Simply put, the Bible is a complicated collection of documents that was never meant to “speak” to our contemporary situation, but groups often speak through the lens of the Bible and lob textual grenades on issues like same-sex marriage.
First, the institution of marriage is a secular and social institution. In different ancient cultures, marriage was more of a business arrangement, joining families together for mutual benefit. Under Roman law in the first centuries of the Common Era, there were proper opportunities for divorce and the dissolution of a marital union for both parties. However, as the Christian church grew, marriage became more ecclesiastically governed; the church dictated the rules of marriage (as well as the rules of dissolution, as many remember Henry VIII’s desire for a papal annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon). The Christian governance of marriage fractured during the Protestant Reformation. Figures like Martin Luther and John Calvin recognized marriage as a civil matter, a worldly affair, and not under the aegis of the church. Still there are many Catholics and non-Catholics alike who recognize marriage as a Christian affair, and further, believe it is divinely endorsed as a heterosexual institution. In my local paper in Kentucky, a letter was sent in to the editor lambasting the New York vote, claiming that marriage was created by God since the story of Adam and Eve is the proof-text. Advocates of this position should note, that Adam and Eve would still need to purchase a civil marriage license if they sought to get married today.”