Is the Defense of Traditional Marriage Like the Defense of Slavery?

I’ve noted before how labeling the struggle for same-sex marriage as a Civil Rights struggle on a par with the struggle for racial equality makes further conversation on the matter nearly impossible.  While I believe (and I would encourage all Christians to believe) that every homosexual individual deserves all of the same rights and protections that heterosexual individuals enjoy — and preventing gays from suffering bullying, for instance, is absolutely a civil rights issue.  I believe all humans are, essentially and in themselves, equal in the eyes of God and ought to be treated as equal before the law.  But just as it does not follow that every human action is equal in the sight of the law (the state has every right to treat people differently on the basis of their actions), so it does not follow that every human relationship need be equal in the sight of the law.

So while I have openly wondered whether the time has come for evangelicals to allow the American legal system to be neutral between competing models of marriage, I reject the argument that homosexuals have a civil right to see their relationships treated identically with heterosexual relationships.  Framing this as a civil rights issue on a par with racial equality not only turns every traditional marriage defender into another Bull Connor but it also will make it much harder to preserve religious freedoms for those who disagree.

But this post is not about my views.  I just wanted to share why I think this issue is so important, and why I’m pleased to share this guest post from Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

*

Adam Hamilton’s Unilateral Reinterpretation of Scripture

By Mark Tooley

Prominent United Methodist pastor Adam Hamilton, who recently preached at the National Cathedral prayer service for President Obama’s inauguration, has opined in The Washington Post that current Christian disapproval of homosexual practice resembles earlier church approval for slavery.  In reading the op-ed by Hamilton, whom I know and admire, I was reminded of a “fundamentalist” West Virginia friend whom I recently visited.

My West Virginia friend had a born again experience some years ago and has decidedly conservative views. Recently visiting his remote rural home, he explained to me that he no longer attends any church, as none of them teach the Bible correctly.  The Bible is very clear to him, and he is compelled to worship correctly, at home.

Undoubtedly my friend would disagree with Hamilton about homosexuality.  But they both ultimately have a similar view that the Bible can be reinterpreted, privately, apart from the historic Church.  In their hyper-Protestant view, each believer is apparently free to develop his or her own theology, even if it contradicts universal Church teaching as practiced across millennia and across cultures.

Hamilton dismisses a “handful” of biblical scriptures opposing homosexual practice.  He compares them to one hundred or so Scriptural verses that sanctioned ancient slavery, to which pro-slavers in the old pre-Civil War U.S. South pointed in defense of their own practice.

Previously Hamilton has cited homosexuality as a “grey” area, like just war versus pacifism, about which Christians may disagree.  Last year, he urged the United Methodist Church’s governing General Conference to replace its official disapproval of homosexual practice with recognition of disagreement.  But it seems homosexuality is no longer so grey for Hamilton and is now black and white.  He predicts that in the future sermons disapproving of homosexuality will sound as archaic as pro-slavery sermons do today.

Actually, historic Christianity’s understanding of marriage and sexual ethics rests on considerably more than a few scriptural verses.  The iconic image of permanent fidelity between husband and wife is endlessly interwoven with the biblical imagery of God’s faithfulness to His people, and Christ’s fidelity to His Church.  Christ is Himself the eternal bridegroom whose bride is The Church.   As scholar Robert Gagnon emphasizes in his magisterial book, “Homosexuality and the Bible,” Christ Himself, when speaking of adultery, assumed a Jewish understanding of it that included as taboo all sex outside of marriage between man and woman.

No less importantly, every Christian by faith becomes a member of the universal Church, which is the Body of Christ.  No individual believer is completely autonomous but a member of the larger Body, to whom he or she is accountable.  Under no traditional understanding of Christianity, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, may an individual unilaterally or in a sect reinvent central teachings of The Church.  Christianity traditionally understands itself as not singularly defined by any one person or group of believers but as the whole community of believers, collectively known as saints, both on this earth, and in heaven, all mystically tied together forever as one indivisible Church.

Confusing sociology with theology, Hamilton suggests Christianity will change because young people have more permissive attitudes towards sex.  But transmitting the traditional faith to the next generation is a constantly repeated, 2000-year-old challenge.  And the Christian sexual ethic of chastity, calling for monogamy in marriage and celibacy in singleness, the official standard even in Hamilton’s and my liberal denomination, was as much a challenge for the first century Church as it is today.  The whole Gospel, calling for constant self-denial, love of even unlovable neighbors, forgiveness for evil doers, and giving away of wealth to even the ostensibly undeserving, is never easy and certainly not readily popular.  Yet the message perseveres and today has more adherents (albeit always flawed) than ever before.

Even setting aside theology for sociology, there’s little evidence to support Hamilton’s progressive thesis.  Even in the U.S., only declining denominations have affirmed homosexual practice, and their membership spirals accelerated after their formal shift.  Virtually all growing denominations in the U.S. are more orthodox.  It’s hard for a church to grow while also denying the authority of Scripture and the universal continuity of the central Christian message.   There are a few successful liberal congregations, usually thanks to dynamic clergy.  There are no successful liberal denominations.  Of course, Christianity is dramatically growing in the Global South, where it is overwhelmingly orthodox.

Maybe most distressing about Hamilton’s op-ed is his equation of traditional views on sexual ethics with the evil of slave holding.  Stigmatizing traditional faith in today’s America is increasingly common and portends a growing threat to orthodox expressions in the public arena.  The Obama inauguration’s cancellation of a popular pastor scheduled to pray because he had preached against homosexual practice 15 years ago vividly illustrated the widespread stigmatization of all orthodox faith.

As to Hamilton’s slavery comparison, slavery was never a central teaching of Christian faith, and over the centuries, wherever Christianity spread, slavery, once universal, receded.  The arcane attempt to defend slavery with the Bible by some southern apologists in the early 19th century was an unsuccessful effort to uphold a particular culture against the Christian ethic.  Traditionalists today believe Hamilton’s argument demands that The Church once again surrender to a contemporary culture.

Unilaterally reinterpreting the Bible apart from the universal Church, whether by a popular pastor like Hamilton, or my West Virginia friend, is an old past-time for individualistic Americans, for liberals and conservatives.  But whatever today’s fads in our culture, the Church and its message together will persevere.

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • Alex Grabb

    Thanks for this post. This is a response that needs to be heard more often in gay marriage/equality debate. The claim that marriage equality is a civil rights issue on par with slavery is ludicrous in my eyes. There is no where near the amount of dehumanization towards LGBT people as there was to slaves. The LGBT community can easily avoid and stay way from the bigots without loosing much if any of their quality of life. Slaves were treated like animals and could hardly escape it without significant intervention.

  • MountainTiger

    This is an interesting read, but the historical argument about slavery in Christian societies falls flat. It is wildly inaccurate to claim that “over the centuries, wherever Christianity spread, slavery, once universal, receded.” Slavery flourished well after Christianity became dominant in late antiquity, declining only when traditional Roman society collapsed into much simpler forms. While medieval Christian societies did not keep slaves in the same numbers that ancient Roman society had, slavery never died out. As European Christians spread their influence in the early modern period, they established massive slave systems throughout the Americas, slave systems developed out of whole cloth rather than inherited from the previous inhabitants of the regions they covered.
    Obviously, this remains far too simple. Christians have debated about and practiced slavery for centuries, and neither the debates nor the practices can be adequately summarized in a few sentences. What can be said is, first, that while the idea that slave holding was intrinsically evil was not entirely novel to modern abolitionists, the Christian justification of slavery also did not originate with 19th century American slaveholders. Second, the idea that the spread of Christianity has inevitably meant the decline of slavery does not fit with the evidence. If you wish to defeat the comparison by appealing to history, you need to deal with the complexity of the historical record and the long pedigree for Christian justifications of slavery.

  • Hal Espen

    Apart from saying thank you to Mountaintiger for that excellent clarifying comment, I’d like to answer the headine question, a textbbok demonstration of Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, which means the answer is always no. Defending “traditional” marriage or condemning homosexuality (or propunding racism) on theological grounds is an absolute First Amendment right, and any legal sanction of that right would be an evil just like slavery is an evil. The thing that is tantamount to the historical sin of defending slavery is arguing for a civil society that limits marriage to heterosexuals on theological grounds.

  • Ashley

    “Framing this as a civil rights issue on a par with racial equality not only turns every traditional marriage defender into another Bull Connor but it also will make it much harder to preserve religious freedoms for those who disagree.”.

    How does expressing marriage equality as an issue similar to racial equality make it harder to preserve religious freedoms for those who disagree? I’m not sure how your religious freedom is threatened by this, nor what remedy you believe is needed. When I’ve heard other religious people make this argument, it seems like what they’re asking for is the right to condemn homosexuals and to oppose same-sex marriage without facing any criticism for it. That ain’t gonna happen. You have a right to call homosexuality immoral and to oppose same-sex marriage on theological grounds. I believe those views and your actions are morally degenerate, and I have the right to express that belief. You don’t like being called a bad person? Then stop being one.

  • Dorfl

    I too would like to answer the headline question:

    I don’t think opposition to gay marriage is like defending slavery. I do think it is like opposition to interracial marriage. The arguments that SSM-opponents use today, are more or less the same as were used against interracial marriage a few decades ago. While opponents of gay marriage tend to resent the comparison very much, their disagreements with it tend to boil down to the fact that most everyone today agrees that racism is awful, but they obviously don’t agree that their own homophobia is awful. Attempts at explaining what actually makes their arguments different, tend not to go so well.

    • Mr. X

      Opponents of inter-racial marriage didn’t dispute the possibility of different races marrying one another, they disputed its desirability/morality. Opponents of same-sex marriage dispute the possibility of people of the same sex marrying one another. That’s a pretty important difference right there.

      • Dorfl

        Wouldn’t that make ‘opposition to same-sex marriage’ a bit like ‘opposition to flying by flapping your arms really hard’ or ‘opposition to eating the moon’? I don’t see what the point would be of opposing something that you believe is impossible anyway.

        • Mr. X

          The point is that the government is trying to promote the idea that it is not in fact impossible, i.e., it is trying to promote a falsehood. I’m sure you don’t need me to explain why people might oppose that.

          • Dorfl

            Fair enough.

            So if an opponent of interracial marriage said “My reading of the Bible leads me to believe that marriage between a Caucasian and a is not really a marriage, not in God’s eyes”, you would consider that to be qualitatively different from other opposition to interracial marriage?

          • Dorfl

            Huh. Patheos ate part of my text. The imagined quote should read:

            “My reading of the Bible leads me to believe that marriage between a Caucasian and a (black person) is not really a marriage, not in God’s eyes”

          • Mr. X

            Yes it would, although the question is rather irrelevant, since (to my knowledge at least) nobody actually said that.

          • Dorfl

            I agree that no-one seems to have phrased it that explicitly. They did, however, say that

            “[...] connections and alliances so unnatural that God and nature seem to forbid them, should be prohibited by positive law, and be subject to no evasion.”

            If the institution of marriage is created by God, and God forbids one particular marriage, it seems like a very weak semantic point to insist that it is still a ‘real marriage’. So no, I still don’t see an important difference between the arguments against gay marriage and the arguments against interracial marriage.

          • Mr. X

            Firstly, do you have a citation for that quotation? One half-sentence ripped from its original context isn’t a particularly firm basis for an argument.

            Secondly, to “forbid” something presupposes that it is possible to do it. For example, a parent might forbid her children to cross the road unaccompanied; they could do so, but it would be a bad idea. On the other hand, a parent wouldn’t bother forbidding her children from turning into giant killer robots and taking over the world; because it’s literally impossible for them to do so, any prohibition on the matter would be meaningless and otiose.

            Thirdly, even if you prove that the logical structure of (some) arguments against interracial marriage is the same as that of arguments against same-sex marriage, this still wouldn’t prove that there was no “important difference” between the two; you’d have to show that the premises of and motivations behind the two arguments were the same (in all important respects).

          • Dorfl

            The quote turns up in ‘Interracialism : Black-White Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law’, which you can find in google books. The reason I quoted such a small portion is that Patheos’ spam-catcher tends to react to long quotes.

            While the word ‘forbid’ usually has that meaning, it doesn’t necessarily do so in legal matters. For example, the law both forbids you from making counterfeit money, and states that any you do make aren’t real money anyway. I still think it seems like a semantic quibble, but I doubt that the court imagined God looking at an interracial couple and saying “I’ve expressly forbidden your marriage, and the very concept of marriage only exists through me, but I still consider you to really be married.”

            We seem to disagree on what things are actually important. I don’t particularly care what anyone’s motivations are or were, unless I know them personally. The stated premises may also be very different, but so? They still end up producing the same basic arguments: “This is against my God’s will”, “This will break down the family and so damage society”, “Your lack of tolerance for my intolerance is the real intolerance”, etc.

          • Mr. X

            My long reply seems to have been eaten, so to skip ahead to the most important part:

            “We seem to disagree on what things are actually important. I don’t particularly care what anyone’s motivations are or were, unless I know them personally. The stated premises may also be very different, but so? They still end up producing the same basic arguments: “This is against my God’s will”, “This will break down the family and so damage society”, “Your lack of tolerance for my intolerance is the real intolerance”, etc.”

            I’m sorry, but this is just ridiculous. So what, segregationists were concerned about harming society, therefore anybody else who’s concerned about harming society is tainted by association? Come on. You might as well say that people who want punctual public transport are morally on par with fascist Italy, or that anybody who tries to reduce unemployment is just like the Soviets.

          • Dorfl

            Yes. If I had said that the arguments against gay marriage are bad because they have the same overall form as the arguments against interracial marriage, that would have been ridiculous for exactly the reasons you say. But I don’t.

            I think the arguments against gay marriage are bad because they’re either based on unsupported premises, or don’t actually follow from their premises. I can explain in detail why I think every specific argument I’ve heard so far against gay marriage fails, on its own merits. I haven’t done that here, because it’s not what this discussion has been about.

            Having found reasons to think the arguments against gay marriage are very bad, I don’t have any compunctions about then going “Hey, look at all these similarities! Aren’t you just repeating the mistakes of the people who fought against interracial marriage?”

  • John Evans

    “But just as it does not follow that every human action is equal in the sight of the law (the state has every right to treat people differently on the basis of their actions), so it does not follow that every human relationship need be equal in the sight of the law.”

    This is a deepity. It sounds good, but it doesn’t really have any bearing on the discussion. No, the law does not treat every relationship equally. I am very pleased that it doesn’t treat the murder-victim relationship the same as the employer-employee relationship, for instance. The question is not should laws treat relationships differently, it is should laws treat these specific relationships differently, and why? Under the Constitution ‘because the Bible says so’ is not a reason the government is allowed to use.

    So the question remains before those who say these relationships should be treated differently – why?

    I have yet to hear a convincing argument for that position.

    • Matt Thornton

      I agree with John. This is the fundamental question – Why should these relationships be treated differently under *civil* law?

      The related question is what dog ‘defenders of traditional marraiage’ have in this fight. Tim muses above that framing this as a civil rights issue “makes it much harder to preserve religious freedoms for people who disagree”. How so?

      • Ray

        Matt, Framing it as a civil right issues mistates the case. Homosexuality or any other sexual practice is pretty much legal between consenting adults. I know of no Christian group trying to change that. Secondly there are a number of Christians who, while holding to the believe that the traditional view of sexuality nonetheless have consider or may in fact allowing gay marriage for those who choose. The question is whether the ability to get any church to marry them, any licensed marriage counselor to counsel them, etc. is a civil right. This crosses over. What if people are so angry at these “intolerant Christians” that they think they are justified in physical violence? That is the next step and don’t think it won’t happen if intolerance continues to escalate.

        • Matt Thornton

          On what basis could a person ‘force’ a church to perform (less still endorse) a marriage? If I walk into a Catholic Church and seek a marriage to a person of the opposite sex, the church is free to refuse me today. I don’t think I’m following the logic.

          As for the physical violence part, I get that as a general possibility, but that’s true riding the bus or ordering a hamburger – idiots can get violent most any time. Is there something specific you had in kind?

          To the point of gay marriage – seems very much like interfaith marriage. Many/most are fine with it, some aren’t, not all churches would mperform such a marriage. Religious orientation is a protected attribute under the law. Why is sexual orientation different?

    • Keith Beveridge

      One reason is that it has been scientifically shown in a widely lauded academic study that children of “gay” couples experience higher rates of abuse than those of heterosexual parents. Google ‘Regnarus Stdy”)

      Marriage is a tradition to foster family building. Simply put, in the light of fostering healthy families, the government has a duty to protect children from abuse and to foster healthy families.

      • Josh Lyman

        Regnarus did not study children of gay couples.

      • Matt Thornton

        Stopping abuse is a great goal, but hands down, the vast majority of abused children are abused by heterosexual adults. It’s just the math of a large, mostly heterosexual populations. If the state’s interest is protection from abuse, isn’t gay marriage, at best,a side show? We don’t forbid heterosexual marriage on the theory that a child might be abused.

        Also – the science doesn’t say what you seem to think it says.

  • Joe Canner

    “…only declining denominations have affirmed homosexual practice, and their membership spirals accelerated after their formal shift.”

    Pragmatic appeals to numbers are generally inadvisable for both sides, but while we’re at it…While this may be indeed be true, there is no evidence presented that affirmation of homosexual practice is responsible for the decline. Even if it is, it is a temporary shift at best. The younger generations will continue to support gay marriage in increasing numbers and either leave traditional churches in protest or stay for other reasons but continue to support gay marriage at the ballot box. In either case, the church’s influence with respect to this issue is in decline.

  • Jon

    A few comments.

    1) Hamilton differs from the fundamentalist who won’t attend Church because everybody has it wrong in the following way – he is engaging the Church in a debate about the best way to interpret the scriptures. Hamilton is making a reasoned argument that the Church has been getting it wrong about homosexuality. That isn’t hyper-Protestantism. It’s just Protestantism. As Martin Luther said: “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

    2) Tooley dodges the thrust of Hamilton’s argument about slavery. Hamilton contends that certain bible passages give clear instruction regarding the treatment of slaves, which many people, for understandable reasons, took to be a biblical endorsement of slavery. Now, we interpret those passages as a reflection of historical context rather than the will of God. Hamilton is saying – if that gloss on the slavery passages is permissible, why can’t that gloss be applied to the homosexuality passage? Once we open the door to that interpretation of the Bible, as virtually every contemporary Christian has in the slavery case, then how can we ever again say “the bible condemns/permits x or y, so it’s an open and shut case.”

    3) Tooley criticizes Hamilton’s use of sociology to stand in for theology, but isn’t the argument “this is the tradition of the church” merely an argument from sociology as well? And if so, doesn’t it make sense for Hamilton to make a sociological argument in response? The sociological argument is a challenge to the idea that because the interpretation is traditional, it is correct.

    4) As an aside, Tooley is letting Christendom off the hook a bit easily. He stated that “over the centuries, wherever Christianity spread, slavery, once universal, receded.” But for centuries, Christians brought not the receding of slavery to North America and Africa, but its intensification.

  • Sven

    I continue to be baffled by the rhetorical device “defense of traditional marriage” as if “traditional marriage” is somehow under attack. Is anybody proposing that heterosexuals should no longer to be able to marry? Is anybody proposing that churches be banned from conducting wedding ceremonies? The so-called “defense of traditional marriage” is really the defense of privileged supremacy.

  • Joe Chip

    Hmm.. Glad to see this conversation continuing with more voices. A few points:

    1. As noted by “Dorfl”, it’s a bit of a misdirection to equate opposition to same-sex marriage to promoting slave ownership. The issue at bottom is that those in power are using the dictates of their religious book to impose their will on a minority. While this is a reprehensible thing to do, it certainly hasn’t been limited to the pro-slavery / anti SSM crowd. Opposing interracial marriage is a much more apt comparison.

    2. The line: “the Obama inauguration’s cancellation of a popular pastor scheduled to pray because he had preached against homosexual practice 15 years ago” is misleading and false. Obama canceled nothing. Louie Giglio “withdrew from participation in the inaugural, stating, “it is likely that my participation and the prayer I would offer will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration.” (wiki)

    3. The entire guest post ultimately dodges the question at hand, which remains: Why is it okay for a religious group use the power of the State to discriminate against, and deny rights to, people they don’t like? We wouldn’t accept Shaira law and we shouldn’t have to accept Christian Fundamentalist rule, either.

  • Joe Chip

    Hmm.. Glad to see this conversation continuing with more voices. A few points:

    1. As noted by “Dorfl”, it’s a bit of a misdirection to equate opposition to same-sex marriage to promoting slave ownership. The issue at bottom is that those in power are using the dictates of their religious book to impose their will on a minority. While this is a reprehensible thing to do, it certainly hasn’t been limited to the pro-slavery / anti SSM crowd. Opposing interracial marriage is a much more apt comparison.

    2. The line: “the Obama inauguration’s cancellation of a popular pastor scheduled to pray because he had preached against homosexual practice 15 years ago” is misleading and false. Obama canceled nothing. Louie Giglio “withdrew from participation in the inaugural, stating, “it is likely that my participation and the prayer I would offer will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration.” (wiki)

    3. The entire guest post ultimately dodges the question at hand, which remains: Why is it okay for a religious group use the power of the State to discriminate against, and deny rights to, people they don’t like? We wouldn’t accept Sharia law and we shouldn’t have to accept Christian Fundamentalist rule, either.

    • Mr. X

      “The entire guest post ultimately dodges the question at hand, which remains: Why is it okay for a religious group use the power of the State to discriminate against, and deny rights to, people they don’t like? We wouldn’t accept Sharia law and we shouldn’t have to accept Christian Fundamentalist rule, either.”

      So are you in favour of allowing incestuous and polygamous marriages? If not, isn’t that “discriminating against, and denying rights to, people you don’t like”? Or is that sort of thing only wrong when religious people do it?

      • Rick

        Practitioners of incest and polygamy ARE denied rights, because they are criminals. Probably not the best example.

        • Stephen

          It’s a great example. The bottom line is that homosexuality is a sin. It’s a moral issue. Like it or not government often makes laws to regulate moral issues. The above reference to polygamy and incest is a perfect example of this.

          • Rick

            The government doesn’t regulate the sin of homosexuality at all, anymore than it regulates the sin of fornication or devil worship or overeating. Do we deny marriage rights based on the Christian traditional view of sin? If homosexuals are too sinful to be married, then why do we let despicable straight people get married (aren’t they sinners as well)?

          • Mr. X

            So why is it OK to deny rights to people in incestuous and polygamous relationships, but not to deny rights to gay people?

          • Rick

            Gayness is not a crime, unlike the other two. I’m not sure why you asked this question a second time.

          • Mr. X

            Given that you’re advocating for a change in the law, I don’t think you’re on very firm grounds appealing to the current state of the law to support your position.

        • Mr. X

          Cool. So maybe we could pass laws against homosexuality too. Problem solved, right?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Joe, thank you for these thoughtful contributions to the discussion here. I would disagree with 2. It seemed pretty clear – and Giglio’s language strongly suggested – that he was pressured out by the White House. The inaugural committee, partly on the recommendations of Obama’s faith-based office and its director Joshua DuBois (who left shortly after this, for what it’s worth), decided to extend the invitation to Giglio. After the piece came out in ThinkProgress, “the White House” (presumably not Obama directly) had a talk with the inaugural committee and with Giglio. When he was describing what happened, he shifted into the passive at that point. Something along the lines of “The White House got involved, and now I will no longer be delivering the prayer at the inauguration.” I can’t put any inside sources on the record, but I have spoken with them, so ultimately it’s just a question of whether you trust me on this, but from these (very) inside sources it was very clear that the White House made it known that they would strongly prefer he withdraw. It was one of those not-technically-but-for-all-practical-purposes-forced withdrawals that allows a person to save face but ultimately gets the guy out the door.

      It’s remotely possible that this is wrong, but Mr Tooley does have good reason to describe events in the way he did.

  • Rick

    It dodges a lot of questions, actually. As an evangelical, I consider homosexuality a sin. But what does that have to do with them wanting a specific legal right (the right to marriage)? I also consider occultists to be sinning, and yet they can get married tomorrow without me picketing the courthouse. In fact, I think all kinds of sinners are getting married all the time, simply because our country opens marriage up to all, not just the saints. Also, if Bob and Ted get married tomorrow, I’m not sure how it weakens my traditional boy-girl 25-year marriage, so the longer evangelicals couch this in the ridiculous terminology of “defense of traditional marriage” the more irrelevant and incoherent they sound. Just admit what you really mean — you find homosexuality to be an abomination and you can’t stomach such people getting married.

  • Mr. X

    I’m always vaguely amused when people claim that SSM opponents all secretly want to institute a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. Yeah, because obviously the only reason somebody could disagree with you is because they’re a Christian fundie. That includes all those atheists/agnostics who never advocated for gay marriage. Clearly they were just Christians in disguise, and were pretending otherwise so nobody realised their secret master-plan to turn the entire world into a real-life version of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Oh, and all those societies which existed hundreds of years before the birth of Christ actually had widespread gay marriage, it’s just that no evidence has survived because it’s all been systematically destroyed by fundamentalist Christian historians and archaeologists. It’s all a massive conspiracy, I tell ya! And it was going so well until we got rumbled by a few pseudonymous internet commentators. I guess you guys are just too smart for us. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.

    • Dorfl

      I’m always vaguely amused by the word ‘pool noodle’. That’s not relevant to anything that’s been said here either.

      • Mr. X

        Try reading the thread again. Lots of people have claimed/assumed that SSM opponents are motivated by Christian fundamentalism.

        • Joe Chip

          Well, in point of fact, they are. And especially on this blog, which is a discussion of Christianity in the marketplace of ideas.

          Hint: What do The American Family Association, Focus on the Family, the National Organization for Marriage and the Catholic church all have in common?

          • Mr. X

            See my post on Feb 25th @ 7.45 pm.

            (Also, as a point of fact, the Catholic Church isn’t a fundamentalist organisation under any usual definition of the term. I’m not sure about the other groups you mentioned, but given your somewhat elastic definition of “fundamentalist”, I’m disinclined to put much faith in your opinions of them.)

        • Dorfl

          There’s a pretty big difference between ”are motivated by Christian fundamentalism” and “want to institute a fundamentalist Christian theocracy”, isn’t there?

  • http://areformedcatholicinthepcusa.blogspot.com Reformed Catholic

    I’m looking at the comments, then I look at the actual post, and I don’t see anyone advocating for or against ‘same sex marriage’. I see a post that takes someone to task for lousy biblical scholarship.

  • lha

    The slavery argument it a non-sequitor. I think the most powerful analogy is that of interracial marriage. However, interracial marriage is not opposed in Scripture at any point. One difference between homosexuality and what Rev. Hamilton argued about slavery is that slavery is regulated, not recommended. The Old Testament allows divorce, not because it is a good thing but because of hardness of heart. The Old Testament likewise restrains and tries to govern bad behavior such as slave taking, revenge, vigilante justice in much the same way. Homosexuality is not regulated in Scripture, it is simply forbidden. It might be useful for those who want to explore that to look at Gangon’s work on homosexuality.

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    I believe all humans are, essentially and in themselves, equal in the eyes of God and ought to be treated as equal before the law.

    No you do not. I know you think you do, but your hollow version of “equal before the law” renders such sentiment functionally worthless. And I honestly don’t see the distinction between this and an argument against interracial marriage. If relationships are merely “actions,” if commitment and responsibility are merely “actions,” then what, legally, is the difference between outlawing interracial marriage and outlawing same-sex marriage? Every relationship need not be equal in the sight of the law, right? (To be fair and in anticipation of slippery-slope objections, I don’t really disagree with that; a line is always drawn somewhere. The charges of bigotry come from the poverty of the case for where precisely you would draw the line.)

  • Evan

    I agree with the author. Trying to equate opposition to SSM with advocacy for slavery stretches the analogy too far. That being said, I don’t see too many peopleon the pro-SSM side (besides a few loudmouths) making this argument. So, I’m not sure what the article accomplishes, aside from knocking down one of the least persuasive arguments in favor of SSM.

    Tooley fails to address the more persuasive argument in favor of SSM, which is the argument that the Supreme Court will be weighing this term. When the government makes a distinction between classes of persons, such distinctions must (1) be rational (i.e., based on observable real-world facts, not religious dogma); and (2) be substantially related to a legitimate governmental purpose. In general, deference is given to the government on such questions. Butthere’s an exception: The Court is less deferenetial when the policy is primarily serving as a means of expressing the majority’s disapproval of a particular minority. For example, the state cannot restrict the location of group homes, if the intended purpose is simply to keep group homes (and the people who use them) out of certain neighborhoods.

    There may be some bases in fact for refusing to confer the legal benefits of civil marriage onto same-sex couples. But these are not the reasons why we continue to ban SSM in some states. To the contrary, we continue to ban SSM in large part because of religious objections to homosexuality.


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