It’s about Love, Stupid! A word about Religion & Gay Marriage from a theologian
Dr. Matthew Fox
When I read churches pontificate about what God says against homosexuals my stomach gets knots in it. The “God says” argument doesn’t hold water because the Bible is filled with “God says” items that do not cut the mustard any longer. Consider for example the following admonitions from the Bible: Ex 35.2 says a person working on the Sabbath should be put to death. Leviticus 11:10 says eating shellfish is an “abomination” (just like homosexuality). Leviticus 25.44 says you may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. Do you think Canadians would mind? Or Mexicans?
Like anything else in life, one has to use the brains God gave us to determine priorities even and especially when reading Scriptures. Which of the priority teachings might apply to gay marriage in the Bible? I would propose three.
One is the admonition that “God is Love.” That is quite startling and still, after centuries and centuries, quite fresh. God is Love. Where we give love and receive love there is God. Love is the better part of ourselves as human beings. And it is God showing through our giving and receiving in good times and bad, in sickness and in health.
My Bible does not say “God is heterosexual love.” (Does yours?) But that God is love. Marriage is supposed to build on love, develop it, nurture it and celebrate it. A good argument for gay marriage. Marriage celebrates and protects love. Of whatever stripe.
The second Biblical teaching that honors gay marriage is Jesus’ teaching to put justice first, to support the anawim, those without a voice, the outcasts, the oppressed ones. Gay and lesbian people have clearly been oppressed. Some were arrested, some were put in mental hospitals and given lobotomies, some were beat up, some were murdered (such as the late Matthew Shepherd), most have had to hide and pretend—even from their families (I know one gay man who, as a child of ten, was sat down by his father with his four brothers and told: “If I ever found out that one of my sons was gay I would hang him from a lamp post and pull his guts out.” I know a Philipino man who, thanks to the Roman Catholic hierarchy, felt so ashamed of his sexuality that he went to live in Africa for nine years rather than shame his family. (And, since I am on the subject of the pope, why not be honest and say pedophilia is a sin but human love is not so please, sir, clean up your own house and put it in order before you pontificate about the “sickness” and “sinfulness” of gay love.) Clearly, then, Jesus’ teaching to stand by the oppressed applies to a sexual minority as it does to any other minorities.
Lastly, the religious rhetoric against gay love is always buttressed by the famous line, “it’s not natural. It’s against nature.” But Science, whose job it is to explore nature, has found just the opposite. That there are gay couples among at least 464 other species ranging from dolphins to birds, from dogs to seals. So it is natural…. for a minority. (It is not natural for a heterosexual but neither is heterosexuality natural for a homosexual.)
Religious people have to study creation as well as Bibles, just as St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the thirteenth century when he said: “A mistake about creation results in a mistake about God.” (He did not have the scientific evidence at that time that we have today about the naturalness of homosexuality for 8 to 10 % of a given human population.) Homophobia makes a very big mistake about God, the author of nature’s immense diversity. Including sexual diversity. God is author of nature and that means that God is author…yes, of gay as well as straight passions.
The love that is celebrated in gay marriage is society’s love, not just that of man to man or woman to woman. We all profit from faithful love whether such joy be lived out in heterosexual or homosexual contexts. Indeed, rather than “threatening” heterosexual marriage, I would predict that gay marriage will help resuscitate a dying institution because it is bringing joy back and gratitude for love from a segment of the population that has been denied it for so long. All marriage will prosper from gay marriage.
So let us all rejoice that notions of God is Love; and Justice Matters; and Nature is God’s Doing are happening in a fresh way in the state of California. And let us move on to other topics of pressing and genuine moral concern such as the fate of the Earth.
Matthew Fox is an Episcopal priest and author of 28 books on spirituality and culture including Original Blessing and One River, Many Wells.. See www.matthewfox.org.