Friday, December 12, 2008

Gay Marriage, Anyone?

If you haven't read Lisa Miller's article in Newsweek about the Bible and gay marriage, you're in for either a shock or a treat, depending on your--dare I say it--stance. Entitled "Gay Marriage: Our Mutual Joy," the piece takes a daring swing across the pages of scripture and the words of selected churchly marriage rites to draw what I would think is the obvious conclusion for Christians: Jesus was about inclusion, not exclusion, and if you're going to throw the Bible at gays and lesbians, you'd better remember that the Bible's many models for marriage include some pretty repugnant arrangements.

For every biblical pronouncement on male-male sex, there are at least a dozen different interpretations, each dependent on the extent and quality of the interpreter's biblical exegetic training and tools and on his or her politico-theological orientation. For every strict constructionist, there are at least a dozen thorny issues to be explained or waved away--including the story of David and Jonathan, and the story of Naomi and Ruth, not to mention the explicit teachings of Jesus and the values and precepts implicit in his life, or the fact that adultery is mentioned in the Ten Commandments, along with killing, but same-sex marriage just isn't. You'd think, if it were in fact a fatal assault on one of society's main bearing walls, it would rate a mention in the grandfather of all No-No lists.

It's a very good piece for a mainstream popular magazine (as contrasted with a scholarly tome). Since I lambasted Newsweek recently for another piece in its Religion section, I think I owe it the courtesy of a favorable review for this one. Read it. These are among the kinds of questions students at good seminaries wrestle with, with the aid of good scholarly tools like Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew, contemporaneous documents, comparative translations, and a few hundred years' worth of critical scholarship in many languages, from many traditions--aids not really referenced in this piece.

Most pew-warmers, however, don't get even a tiny taste of what goes on intellectually behind the doors of a good, tough seminary classroom. And that's because most graduated preachers don't have the courage to deal with the politics of issues like the place of homosexuals in our society today, or the integrity to take on the theocratic Right.