Virginia Marriage Amendment and Conservatives
The resistance to social change has in the recent past been supported by Biblical interpretation – I could mention several examples but particularly the recent issue of anti-miscegenation laws. This makes progressive thinkers, as I see myself, suspicious of conservative arguments that seem to follow along rather analogous paths to resist a social change that they later (perhaps reluctantly) embrace. In Virginia, where I live, gay marriage is actually rather crassly being used as a political tool to fire up a conservative base who might otherwise not vote or who would vote to change their current elected representatives.
Just last night on the Colbert Report, Bart D. Ehrman, author of Misquoting Jesus, mentions that the Bible story of the adulteress woman who is saved by Jesus from stoning, may actually be a decades or centuries latter “addition” to the Bible. Clearly, there are translation disagreements among the most knowledgeable Bible experts and surely history (e.g. The Council of Nicea, the compilation of the King James Version) has influenced the Bible. And each denomination -- Eastern Orthodox, to Southern Baptist, to Episcopalian, -- has their own sacred text. Here I will take a chance and suggest this piece from Luke Timothy Johnson: http://artfuljesus.0catch.com/johnson3.html
Johnson’s message says to me that the Jesus message is expanded or informed via our own evolving spiritual growth through societal and religious institutions.
Additionally, to be consistent, such passages as 1 Corinthians 14 33-35, if argued to be taken in context of the times, then suggests that other Biblical verses be also so treated. The homosexuality of 2006 may be very different from the homosexuality of year six. It seems possible, and even likely, that such things as promiscuity, male rape of young boys, pedophilias, temple prostitution, effeminate characteristics, etc, may play a part in the rather scant verses thought relevant to this discussion. And a rather noticeable silence from Jesus on the subject conservatives find of such import. There seems to be a selective tendency to bring a modern translation based on our current society and language on much of the scriptures, but a reluctance of the majority to do the same with homosexual love – perhaps this is the tyranny of the majority.
I lived in Amsterdam for two and a half years and bristle at the use of the almost urban legend about drugs, sex, and moral decay there. And the subtle implication of obtuse correlations being causation – and this is often applied to The Netherlands and to Scandinavia. The reality is that in terms of crime, education, health care, and other quality of life measures, The Netherlands could well be an example to the United States. In fact we incarcerate 13 times as many people per population as does The Netherlands and their crime rate is commensurately lower.
I also lived in Riyadh for six years and have some familiarity with Muslims and Islam – and am well aware the Koran does not have the deficiencies of the Bible in that it has remained intact, word for word as delivered to Mohammed by God (assuming God dictated the Koran to Mohammed). I do not believe in the Koran, however, I can easily see how millions do and wonder that had I, or most any conservative, been raised in a Muslim country, would we not also -- and perhaps as fiercely and adamantly, argue its sole authority. My point is that (and this is a belief) God’s message would be universal and available to all across time and space. And the most quintessential elements of God’s message (to me) are found in Christianity, Islam, and even Buddhism. Obviously it will be God who decides, but my inclination is that at it most basic – God rewards “good” and punishes “evil”.
I don’t really see any good argument from conservatives posited to counter the evolving science on homosexuality (e.g. AMA, APA, WHO) and perhaps more importantly the seemingly natural affinity in humans towards family and monogamous relationships – I quote one paragraph from the book, Inside the American Couple, edited by Yalom and Carstensen:
“Here we are at the dawn of a new millennium still cherishing the belief that being part of a couple represents some central part of being human. Individuals, despite gender and sexual orientation, continue to search for soul mates, to move in together, to vow to love each other, and, when legally allowed, to enter into marriages. Despite myriad modern tendencies that could render long-term couplehood obsolete (such as casual sex, cohabitation, and increase in divorce and single parenting), more than 90 percent of Americans marry at some time during their lives. However anxious we may be as a society in the face of dissolving marriages and dysfunctional families, individuals continue to place their hopes in the marital bond. They exchange public promises to remain together—for better, for worse, for a lifetime. And among those who do not marry, partnering is still very widespread; few people live through adulthood without at least one lengthy, intimate relationship."
There is a dark shadow on the ickiness of homosexual sex and hardly ever the opposite perspective. I frankly have seen straight porn and find that type of sex personally icky. More to the point, recent surveys suggest a fair proportion of straights wander far off missionary position sex and apparently there is a lot of anal and oral going on in the straight community.
And there is a fair amount of broad brushing homosexuals with the promiscuity, pedophilia, cross-dressing, effeminate queen, etc. brush. These are areas where I also have concerns – in straight and gay life – but I think this is a distraction from the issue of genuine committed monogamous loving relationships.
Few conservatives address the issue of the harm that exclusion of gays does to gays, and does to our communities. I do think it is fair to say what authors have argued, that the lukewarm approach to AIDS in the early years was related to the bias against gays, and had the medical response been different, millions of people today might not be infected – including millions of children. Please don’t so blithely gloss over this – as someone who has grown up gay in America, I have first hand experience of how just being gay (not necessary even engaging in gay sex) can prejudice or even destroy one’s relation with family, church, workplace, or community.
Bottom line for me is “what would Jesus do” – and of course I don’t know. And, to be honest, at 63, I find I still revert back to my early Southern Baptist Sunday School sense of who Jesus was and what I was taught his message was. And for the life of me, I still can’t understand the fervent opposition to a loving gay relationship by fundamentalist conservatives.