At the heart of the traditional view of same-sex relations is “gender complementarity.” That is, men and women are designed by God physically and constitutionally to complement one another. Often gender complementarity is connected to hierarchy but most often the connection is anatomical. James V. Brownson challenges gender complementarity in his new book, Bible, Gender and Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships.
In this Brownson Challenge, we see that Genesis 1 does not teach that adam is not an undifferentiated being that is divided into male and female in Genesis 2:21 (I often refer to this as “splitting the Adam”), that the focus of Genesis 2 is not complementarity but similarity, that image of God refers to value, dominion and relationally, and most importantly that “one flesh” refers not to physical complementarity but to a “kinship bond.” The word “flesh” most often refers to “kinship group” and not to bodies.
What do you think of Brownson’s challenge about gender complementarity, patriarchy, “one flesh” or his ideas about the unitive vs. procreative sense of marriage for Protestants — or celibacy as not for all?
Thus, Genesis 1-2 does not teach gender complementarity so that any appeal to gender complementarity as the moral logic at work is mistaken.
The Brownson Challenge also examines “revisionist readings” and these are essentially the argument that since the texts of the Bible don’t deal directly with same-sex, faithful, loving, monogamous relations therefore the statements against same-sex relations pertains to other elements of same-sex relations, like extreme profligacy. His contention is that the revisionist readings’ appeal to love and justice are inadequate. What is needed is a wider set of categories.
1. Patriarchy: the Bible shows fluctuation between patriarchy and egalitarian relations but the direction is toward the egalitarian. The Bible sketches this as the direction and invites humans to live into that in the now. Hierarchy of genders therefore is not normative. When hierarchy is at work it is not normative.
2. One Flesh: this refers in Gen 2:24 to a lifelong kinship bond. The marriage bond is deepened when God reveals himself as having such a kinship relationship. The essence of marriage is kinship bonding, even when procreative possibilities are impossible. What does not happen with the whole of life is right for any area of life: that is, sexual infidelities denies the whole life element of kinship bonds. What is normal (two sexes) may not be normative (same-sex).
3. Protestants, in contrast to Catholics, teach the unitive sense of marriage not the procreative as the essence of marriage. Marriage does not require procreation to be a legitimate marriage. The lack of procreative elements cannot by itself deny the legitimacy of stable gay or lesbian relationships.
4. Celibacy: simple: since not all are called to celibacy according to Paul, though some are, not all gays and lesbians can be called to celibacy.