Richard Mouw and Proposition 8

In this week’s edition of Newsweek, Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, penned an essay, “Less Shouting, More Talking,” in which he addresses the issues around Prop 8.  It’s clear that he wrote it, in part, as a response to the infamous issue of Newsweek in which both Jon Meacham and Lisa Miller wrote about same sex marriage and Christianity.

drmouw-profile-photo.jpgBefore I say anything else, let me be clear that I am very fond of Rich Mouw.  He was the provost of Fuller when I was a student, and he has ably guided my alma mater in his presidential tenure.  I took classes from him while at Fuller, and we’ve kept in touch since.  He was even kind enough to endorse my latest book.

But I have some nits to pick with his essay.  He begins by writing of tears welling up in his eyes on election day when he saw demonstrators on either side of the issue shouting at each other.  He did not see this as a positive reflection of our democracy, but instead as something that saddened him.

His next paragraph, I must say, is the most confusing of the whole essay:

I voted for the ban. As an evangelical, I subscribe to the
“traditional” definition of a marriage, and I do not want to see the
definition changed.


What I dislike most about this is Mouw’s equation of evangelical and
defender of “traditional” marriage, for two reasons: 1) I know plenty
of self-described “evangelicals” who favor same sex marriage; to be evangelical does not preclude support of SSM
.

And 2) Rich Mouw is well-versed in history, and he knows full-well that the heterosexual monogamy that we know today and that some proclaim to be “traditional marriage” is in fact relatively recent and relatively Western.  I don’t know how far back he thinks “tradition” goes, but from what I remember of the classes I took from him, it goes back a lot further than the Enlightenment.

Mouw goes on to write that he does not want to “impose my personal convictions on the broader population.”  He celebrates pluralism, he says, and he and his friends have been at the forefront of evangelical advocacy of “racial justice, gender equality, peacemaking, and care for the environment.”  Indeed, Mouw was one of the authors of the Evangelical Manifesto (a document of which I was critical).  That document tried to broaden the interests of evangelicals, pushing beyond right-wing politics and making social concerns a part of the evangelical agenda.

So Mouw and his compatriots advocated ideas that would have been anathema to their evangelical grandparents and are still anathema to the evangelicals to their right like James Dobson and Al Mohler (creation care, equality of women in the church), but they stopped short of actually progressing the evangelical agenda.  IMHO, they picked issues for which there is already a consensus among centrist evangelicals, thanks to the work of Claiborne, Wallis, McLaren, and Sider (and, no doubt, Mouw himself).

What they could have done is to work more proactively toward the inclusion of GLBT persons in the life of the church and society.  But they didn’t.  And so, Mouw writes in Newsweek, he’s being “relegated to the margins of civil dialogue” based on his opposition to SSM.

Really?  Last I checked, Prop 8 passed in California.  That puts Rich Mouw in the majority, not on the margins.  And with his vote, he did the very thing that he claimed he didn’t want to do: impose his views on the broader population.  By voting his religious convictions, he did impose his views on others, just as those who voted against Prop 8 were doing.  The only way to not impose his views would have been to not vote.

I think we can have the civil dialogue that Mouw desires, and that he has advocated in other issues among evangelicals.  The back-and-forth in the pages of Newsweek is just that: civil dialogue.  But I fear that Mouw’s vote on November 4 might seriously inhibit his own ability to gain the trust of GLBT persons and the evangelicals who favor their ability to marry.

  • EricW

    How many brides does Christ have?
    How many wives did the First Adam have?
    What gender is Christ portrayed as having at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb? What gender is the Bride/Wife of the Lamb portrayed as having at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?
    What gender is Christ likened to in the passages where marriage is compared to the relationship between Christ and His church? What gender is the church likened to where marriage is compared to the relationship between Christ and His church?
    To what extent is Christ The Man, i.e., the ne plus ultra? To what extent are Christians and the church to grow up into Him, and to imitate Him? To what extent should Christians and the church let the Scriptures guide their understanding of God’s understanding of “marriage”?
    What Bible do you read, Tony?

  • cp

    Well, if “the church” is the “bride” of Christ, doesn’t Christ actually have millions of brides? And aren’t a great deal of them male?
    LOL
    Who are we to define anyone else’s gender and the rules by which that gender operates? I do believe that God is beyond gender, no?

  • EricW

    cp:
    The One Bride is many-membered, not many-brided. You have millions of cells in your body, as well as numerous organs, bones, etc., but you are one body, not many.

  • http://karmatarsis.wordpress.com Natanael Disla

    The Bride of Christ as female… Is Christ really male? Or is it Jesus? Is the Church as Bride of Christ female?
    First Adam… let us think about the construction of the Adamic history in times of the Babilonian exile, where the priests and prophets of Israel tried to recompose the Judean society from being «contaminated» in Babylonia.
    Traditional marriage as the norm of the society tends to overpass alternative lifestyles that claim for a proper space in society.

  • http://p-berry.blogspot.com/ pberry

    I’m imagining EricW brushing his hands together as if he’s just finished a good days work. Or perhaps hitting the Easy Button because, of course, that was easy. In all seriousness, I’m not sure that these rhetorical questions are helpful in this conversation and don’t think it promotes the respectful dialogue that Tony, Dr. Mouw and dozens of other evangelicals are seeking on this issue.
    But this works both ways. Tony, you may be right that a ‘yes’ vote on Prop 8 hinders Mouw as he attempts civil dialogue. It may well be that he loses a bit of trust with some. But it seems this is not a Mouw problem. I would submit that most Californians were not ready for a vote on this, Mouw included. Mouw wants to continue to talk. But with the issue brought before him, would you suggest that he should have voted?
    Our vote should not disqualify us from further discussion. Far from it! If GLBT persons and the evangelicals who favor their ability to marry wish to see change, they must go about it with (if I might quote you quoting Newbigin) proper confidence.

  • EricW

    pberry:
    You can’t understand the shape by looking at the shadow. You are to copy the heavenly things. Human marriage is a copy of The One Real Marriage. It is a mere shadow of the Reality. But what has been revealed to us in the Scriptures as written and spoken and given by God’s apostles and prophets, what has been revealed to us Christians of and about Reality and things Eternal, which we can see as we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, is a Man – the New Man, the Second Man, the Last Adam – wedded to His Bride. Not a woman wedded to a woman, nor a man wedded to a man, nor one man wedded to many women, nor one woman wedded to many men. We see The Man wedded to His Bride. That this is a picture of the eschaton, and not our present time, does not delimit its application only to the age(s) to come.

  • Rick

    “By voting his religious convictions, he did impose his views on others, just as those who voted against Prop 8 were doing. The only way to not impose his views would have been to not vote.”
    Let me get this straight, Tony…are you saying that Dr. Mouw was right in that he voted based on his religious convictions or wrong in that he did so?
    Just need some clarification from you on this.

  • http://apprenticeofjesus.blogspot.com/ Keith Rowley

    Rick,
    Dr. Mouw was right in that he voted based on his religious convictions – but he needs to realize that doing so IS imposing his views on others and not pretend to himself or others that it is not.

  • Jason

    Hooray for Dr. Mouw!
    Romans 1:27
    1 Corinthians 6:9-11
    1 Timothy 3:2
    A man who takes the Bible seriously!

  • Mike K

    Pardon me but a lot of us don’t give a crap about your god or what it says in your silly bible. This is why we have a constitution to protect us from your ridiculous “opinions”.

  • Your Name

    Mike K February 13, 2009 1:56 PM Pardon me but a lot of us don’t give a crap about your god or what it says in your silly bible. This is why we have a constitution to protect us from your ridiculous “opinions”.
    Pardon me, but this is BeliefNet. Did you confuse this with an Atheist discussion site?

  • http://emergentpillage.blogspot.com/ emergent pillage

    –1) I know plenty of self-described “evangelicals” who favor same sex marriage; to be evangelical does not preclude support of SSM.–
    Well, the old “find some exceptions to demean the rest” tactic. Of course, those are “self-described”. Maybe like how an athiest like Caputo can “self-describe” himself as some kind or variety of Christan.
    –Rich Mouw is well-versed in history, and he knows full-well that the heterosexual monogamy that we know today and that some proclaim to be “traditional marriage” is in fact relatively recent and relatively Western.–
    Really? And you say this based on what support? Maybe the Bible, where God made a man and a woman in the Garden of Eden?
    –Really? Last I checked, Prop 8 passed in California. That puts Rich Mouw in the majority, not on the margins. And with his vote, he did the very thing that he claimed he didn’t want to do: impose his views on the broader population.–
    By this reasoning, any vote could be consider “imposing a view on the broader population”. Why do I doubt that if he had voted the other way, you wouldn’t be here lambasting this man for it?
    –But I fear that Mouw’s vote on November 4 might seriously inhibit his own ability to gain the trust of GLBT persons and the evangelicals who favor their ability to marry.–
    Yeah, right, whatever.

  • Tony Arens

    I applaud Dr. Mouw for voting based on his convictions. He’s got courage. I can support marriage between and man and a woman AND
    work more proactively toward the inclusion of GLBT persons in the life of the church and society. Why is this so difficult for you to understand? Or is it the courage that is necessary to say it that you lack? Is it all for the sake of tolerance and relativism, or is your philisophical ego creating blinders to the truth?

  • http://p-berry.blogspot.com/ pberry

    EricW:
    By this logic, one could argue that we should still be performing sacrifices to point to the ultimate sacrifice. Is there a substantial difference between these two biblical signposts?

  • EricW

    pberry:
    I’m not talking about “logic.” I’m talking about revelation and the suprarational, things the Spirit reveals and teaches and shows. Colossians 3:1ff.

  • http://p-berry.blogspot.com/ pberry

    EricW:
    I just want to make sure I’m getting you. The last thing I want to do is misunderstand you. Do the revelation and suprarational things you are referring to come from the Spirit through Scripture or some other means? Also, could you please quote the part of Colossians you are referring to?

  • EricW

    I can’t tell you how God might open a person’s eyes to see things beyond the logical/explainable. Sometimes it’s through Scripture (most often, I think). Other times it’s an impression. Sometimes it’s through a prophetic/inspired word that someone speaks, whether they know they’re speaking by the Spirit or not.
    In this instance I was specifically thinking of Colossians 3:1-4, but those verses have a context within the entire epistle, so they shouldn’t be read just by themselves. Read the whole book. Read Ephesians, too.
    As for the marriage/shadow/reality thing, Hebrews 8:5 hints at it. And then there are, of course, the ending chapters of Revelation.
    Don Basham once wrote: “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know whether what you are doing is taking towards your goal or away from it?” What is God’s goal or eternal purpose?

  • fern

    I liked this it reminded me of Columbus.
    “Don Basham once wrote: “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know whether what you are doing is taking towards your goal or away from it?” What is God’s goal or eternal purpose?”
    Traditional marriage one man one woman, of course, but we have to realize that from our great great grand parents to us old farts (I’m 60) homosexuality has always been well hidden, ignored and whispered about, this was a no-no, being called a (name) was the gravest insult. It’s only about forty years ago they started to come out. So this is all new to us and we feel uncomfortable with it and it didn’t take much for organized religion leaders to brainwash their flocks.
    Yesterday I saw a couple of “them” in a streetcar, the world didn’t exist for them, the “she one” was all over the boyfriend, nothing inappropriate though, and I thought “look at these two clowns now”, but one has to admit that love is a beautiful thing regardless of gender and should never be repressed or denied.

  • EricW

    On a related note, I watched the movie “Save Me” (2007) last night. It’s about a person who goes to a Christian group house to be healed of his homosexuality. Remarkably, the movie didn’t satirize and demonize the Christians, nor was it overly/overtly pro-gay, nor did it firmly imply either that gays could change or couldn’t change (though it seemed to tip more toward the latter). The characters were portrayed sympathetically and as real and flawed humans. It was on Showtime instant HD/video on demand (Verizon FiOS), I think, but if you have Netflix, you can view it via Watch Instantly on your PC (or TV if you have the Roku Player). Rotten Tomatoes reviews: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/10007923-save_me/

  • RJohnson

    Those who defend the Biblical model of marriage forget that polygamy was an acceptable marriage arrangement throughout the text of the Bible. From early in the Old Testament, through the letters to the various churches in the NT, polygamous marriages were acknowledged as legitimate and blessed by God.
    Now, do today’s defenders of traditional marriage really want to embrace ALL of the teachings of the Bible, or are they cherry-picking their texts?

  • EricW

    RJohnson wrote: From early in the Old Testament, through the letters to the various churches in the NT, polygamous marriages were acknowledged as legitimate and blessed by God.
    While I’m familiar with the Old Testament polygamous marriages (more correctly polygynous, since polyandry seems to be absent from the OT), would you please cite where “the letters to the various churches in the NT”* acknowledge polygamous marriages as “legitimate and blessed by God.”
    * I assume you mean Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and 1&2 Thessalonians, since those are the letters to specific churches versus letters to individuals or non-church-specific groups.

  • Abu Qdabra

    Where, in the Word of God, does God lift up any other marital arrangement than that of a man, as husband, and a woman, as his wife?
    Where He joins a man, as husband, to a woman, as his wife — WHAT, not who — does He include the joining of a man to a man [who's the husband and who's the wife?], or of a woman to a woman [who's the husband and who's the wife?]?

  • Abu Qdabra

    We’re not surprised that those who claim to be homosexual, their supporters and activists are choking on our questions above.

  • Ethan

    “Those who defend the Biblical model of marriage forget that polygamy was an acceptable marriage arrangement throughout the text of the Bible.”
    WHAT??? Where does the text of the Bible cite polygamy as acceptable?

  • Ethan

    “but one has to admit that love is a beautiful thing regardless of gender and should never be repressed or denied”
    should love (in the sense you speak of) be repressed or denied if it is for an animal? how about for multiple people? how about for a relative?

  • Tony Arens

    Would someone please tell me where the Bible says polygamy is acceptable? Please let us know! The Bible sites that it is reality, but does not site it as acceptable. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
    (note – it doesn’t say wives) Here we go again… redefining and reinventing scripture to approve our pathetic sin. Is it any wonder that scriptures warns us that our wisdom is God’s foolishness.

  • Mr. Incredible

    Again, they fail to explain where the discrimination is in a law that defined “marriage” as the union of a man, as husband, and a woman, as his wife, given that all of Man is either male/man, or female/woman. They aren’t claiming to be members of a third sex.

  • Mr. Incredible

    ==… marriage properly applies only to male-female unions. ==
    Plus, if, for instance, a man who claims to be homosexual wants to have children, he must go to a woman, in one way, or the other, in order to have children of his own blood.
    Now, let’s say that a man who claims to be homosexual “marries,” in his view, another man who claims to be homosexual. They need children to indoc. After all, there is an agenda to propagate.
    So, this “couple” engages the “services” of a female. That would be adultery. However, we guess that, if people are going to play so many mind games to justify homosexuality and so-called “same-sex ‘marriage,’” they WOULD have no trouble justifying adultery.

  • Mr. Incredible

    ==…to be evangelical does not preclude support of SSM.==
    No one can fear God through Christ and disobey God at the same time. Those who disobey God have made a god of their own.

  • panthera

    Oh, dear.
    Tony, I give up. How do you stand it?

  • Howard

    In theory, an evangelical could advocate or accept same-sex marriage in the political sphere. She cannot recognize it, or polygamy, under canon law in the church. And yes I think the evangelical church shouldn’t recognize at canon law all state divorces and remarriages, but should make its own judgment. This is one thing the Catholics got better than we did.

  • Mr. Incredible

    ==In theory, an evangelical could advocate or accept same-sex marriage in the political sphere. ==
    An evangelical — that is, one who is born again — must align with the Word and Will of God. If he cannot, then he isn’t truly born again.
    Loving God, through Christ, means wanting to aligng oneself with the Word and Will of God, not twisting Him to align with one’s own word and Will.

  • JenRunyon

    So intertile women that have embryos implanted are really adulterous bisexuals?
    I’m with you panthera!

  • Mr. Incredible

    ==So intertile women that have embryos implanted are really adulterous bisexuals?==
    That’s one way to describe them.

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