If Mom didn’t say we couldn’t…I guess we can!

That’s adolescent reasoning, and of course, dishonest, but it’s also the reasoning meant to buttress up the case for gay marriage, except instead of “Mom”, the non-prohibitor is Christ Jesus, and I’m writing about it at First Things:

…we are told by Jimmy Carter, Stephen Colbert, Bill O’Reilly and others that if you look in the Bible, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality or gay marriage.”

Of course, in chapter 10 of Mark’s Gospel Jesus states definitively that divorce cannot exist; these are his actual words, and they don’t matter a whit to our society, yet we must now glean our wisdom from the words Jesus did not say. The argument puts one in mind of a skit from Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, in which comedienne Totie Fields, dressed as an enormous toddler, sang,

Nobody told me that I couldn’t paint the baby
I was just told not to paint the walls and floors
but nobody told me that I couldn’t paint the baby
so I did.

For the five or six thousand years preceding the last fifty, no one needed an explicit pronouncement that marriage was an office involving opposite sexes because it seemed obvious. In the last half century, however, human sexual mechanisms have become utilized less for production and more for pleasure, and our national endorphin overdose has left us disoriented enough to argue that if Mom doesn’t say we can’t go skeet shooting with the good china, it must mean we can.

It is a puerile and pathetic argument, meant to guilt people into acquiescence, but since it is being entertained, we must ask whether it is true. In Mark, Jesus denounces divorce and describes marriage as explicitly “male and female.” In Matthew’s Gospel he does the same, but he says something more:

You can read the rest, here and find out where that goes.

While you’re at First Things, take a look at this film review of Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, which has convinced me that I must see it.

Only through generous surrender to the other in the context of unshakable loyalty do we access the permeating love that surrounds us, the “divine presence” which is already within us. Transformation occurs not through activism, but through the right kind of passivity. Losing the fear of commitment is nothing more than acknowledging the reality of a love that never changes.

To the Wonder startles us into realizing that the world is shot though, positively charged, with presence. Whether that presence is fructifying love or slinking destruction stands as an accusing question throughout the film. The most frightening aspect of all is that it is our choice to accept the love that surrounds us, or to keep ourselves destructively closed off from it, and thereby spread fear and absence of life. Far from idealizing this moment of choice, To the Wonder understands that choice comes not in a moment of critical decision, but in a thousand moments that minutely move us toward one side or the other. To show the radically different possibilities Malick sets two characters side by side: Neil and the priest.

Yeah, you’ll want to read all of that, too

Painted Baby image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • Adam

    Is this argument a distinctly American phenomenon? For better or worse, the United States has distinctly Protestant origins, and no matter how much the Catholic population has risen here, we’re always viewed with that “fringe group” perspective. Hence, the primary argument against homosexuality always seems to be the Bible, Bible, Bible (Leviticus! Paul!), and the counterargument always reducios to the absurdum (Do you follow ALL the Levitical laws? Paul is Paul, but he’s not Jesus, right?)

    I’ve grown to accept that the Bible is not all-encompassing in its wisdom. I mean, it IS in the very macro sense (love God and neighbor), but you won’t find a lot of specifics outside the Pentateuch or the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible–at least from a New Testament standpoint–is arguably silent on homosexuality, abortion, contraception, and polygamy…but then it’s also arguably silent on air pollution, littering, marijuana legalization, and speed limits.

    What I have come to realize is that we are–duh–not a sola scriptura church. We have twin pillars of traditions taught through a church hierarchy instituted by Jesus himself, and we have a sacred scripture *as well.* They’re meant to compliment each other, just as two beams on a bridge are meant to give equal support to the weight above it. So there’s plenty of material that can be extracted from the Bible in support of opposing certain matters, but the opposition really comes from mother church telling us not to. Scripture merely lends support to what mother is saying.

    Anyway, my original question: is this largely an American problem? I’d hope that our Latin American brethern aren’t as easily phased by the argument that “it’s not in the Bible.”

    [I don't know if it's a distinctly "American" perspective. An argument was made using the bible, so it needed addressing from the bible. -admin]

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    @ Paul

    Why dont’t Christians follow Leviticus?

    The distinction between what Christians follow in the Old Testament and what they don’t I believe has to do with the distinction between laws of ritual and laws of ethics/morality. Difference terms may be used but that’s how I’m remembering it now. We do not follow the ritual laws (i.e. circumcision) but we do follow laws of ethics (i.e. the ten commandments). Homosexual acts are clearly acts of ethics/morality. And St. Paul follows up with it in the New Testament. There is no getting around it; homosexual acts are sins.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Oops, typo there. I meant “Different terms may be used…”

    Also Anchoress, wouldn’t Matthew chapter five apply in that all lust in one’s heart is a sin. Since there is no procreative process to homosexual acts, wouldn’t that de facto be a sin since what else can it be but lust? And that would be from Jesus’s mouth.

    Nonetheless, homosexual acts are clearly a sin in the Bible, whether Jesus explicitedly said it or not.

  • Strife

    The Gospels never mention Our Lord’s opinions on pedophilia, pederasty, incest, or cannibalism either. But since we’re going to base our actions on Morality-By-Omission perhaps those aberrations are worthy of societal acceptance as well. Of course all of those things along with homosexuality were understood to be morally corrupt (and even abominations) in Christ’s day.

    But of course, the Word Of God is hardly limited to the Gospels. And the old Testament and Paul’s writings are quite clear on the moral depravity of homosexuality, not to mention the first century Catechism: The Didache.

  • Rich Fader

    The “paint-the-baby” thing sounds like Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann (and dat’s da troof! pfffffftttttt!). Which doesn’t mean you’re not right about it being Totie. It just means I could very easily imagine that little scamp painting a baby.

    But yeah, arguments that are why I was reading my Facebook newsfeed and thinking “Dear Supreme Court: Pull the trigger already. Make a decision one way or the other, even if it’s the wrong one. Just make it *stop*!”

    [It may have originated with Edith Ann, but I distinctly recall Totie's recitative (with a jaunty instrumental behind her). That voice was not easily forgotten! Loved her! -admin]

  • Connie

    I am reminded of an experience as a teenager in middle school girls’ gym class playing basketball. I was trying to pass in but nobody on my team could get free to receive the pass. Finally, I bounced the ball in and then retrieved it myself. The gym teacher blew the whistle and asked me what in tarnation I thought I was doing. My response, quite serious: “Well, nobody told me I couldn’t…”. She was not amused. I did learn that it wasn’t okay.