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WRITING: Essay: Gay Marriage Part I: The Religious Entanglement


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27 March 2009, 06:16 AM    #1
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Part I – The Religion Entanglement

Let’s face it. The opposition to Gay Marriage is almost single-handedly due to
faith-based groups and religious, generally Christian, people. For many reasons, these
people feel that extending legal marriage to homosexuals (gays, lesbians and bisexuals)
would somehow be a bad thing for society and even themselves personally. What is amazing
to many people is that these persons and groups completely ignore the very foundation of
our law and society in an effort to prevent Gay Marriage. Marriage is not a Religious
Question. It is a Legal Status that all free people should be able to seek.

What the Bible says about Homosexuality is immaterial to the issue of Gay
Marriage

There are many countries around the globe that purport to be “Theocracies” or at least
deliberately incorporate religious belief as a basis for their laws.

Fortunately, for Americans, our founders had the wisdom to understand that making
religious belief a foundation of law is a terrible mistake. They felt so strongly about
the separation of “church” and “state” that they wrote this into the United States
Constitution.

It is the very First Amendment to the Constitution which specifically limits our
government and the making and application of laws.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

First a limitation of the Federal Government, through the enactment of the Fourteenth
Amendment and subsequent U.S. Supreme Court rulings, this limitation also applies to the
individual States.

The Equal Protection Clause, part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution, provides that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its
jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". The Equal Protection Clause can be
seen as an attempt to secure the promise of the United States' professed commitment to the
proposition that "all men are created equal" by empowering the judiciary to enforce that
principle against the states.

Very simply then it should be understood that no matter what the Bible says or any
religious text or teaching or church says about homosexuality, those beliefs and teachings
should not be a basis for making laws of the land.

One would think that most people would easily understand this. It should be easy to
understand that we would not want whatever popular or majority religious views to define
our laws. Imagine if the United States was primarily a Muslim country. Would you want that
religious teaching defining our laws? That is how it is in many Muslim countries of the
world and most Americans recognize that they would never want that as the state of things
for their own country.

And in the past, such popular morality did define the law. Slavery was popular in some
states and legally protected. Women were not permitted to vote. It wasn’t very long ago
that blacks and other non-Whites were not afforded the same rights and privileges as
Whites. And even inter-racial dating and marriage was largely looked down upon and even in
many states and local jurisdictions prohibited by law.

These things changed not just because these archaic views changed among the population,
but also because our legal system and our government recognized that it is fundamentally
wrong to conflate popular morality and religious teachings with laws and the government of
the people.

Likewise, whether homosexuality is wrong (or not) according to the Bible, is completely
and absolutely irrelevant to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be legally
allowed to marry each other. At least in this country, there is no place for the inclusion
of religious belief to dictate what the law should be.

It is a question of what is fair under the law and there should be no discussion about
“morality” and especially religious or biblical teaching serving as the guiding basis
for deciding whether to legalize Gay Marriage. Persons who demand or assert such religious
teaching as the basis for law making are not only acting unconstitutionally but they are
undermining the foundation of our society. Unbelievably, while they can point to Muslim
and other countries and say “how wrong it is to mix religion and government” when it
comes to doing that here in this country they have no qualms about being hypocritical.

It is true that laws reflect the prevailing morals of the society in which they exist. But
they should not be permitted to reflect only part of the society’s members. Yes laws do
not and almost never reflect every individual’s personal morality but they should at
least not exclude a significant portion of the society members. In the United States there
is a significant enough portion of society that is not opposed to Gay Marriage and as a
basic principle of fairness and equal protection under the law, the right to legally
married should be extended to gays and lesbians.


Doesn’t the Bible say that Homosexuality is wrong?

Yes, the Bible appears to say that homosexuality is wrong. These are the scriptures which
seem to touch upon the issue of Homosexuality.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, ...nor men kept for unnatural
purposes, nor men who lie with men, ...will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what
some of you were. But you have been washed clean, but you have been sanctified, but you
have been declared righteous…

Rom. 1:24-27: God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to
uncleanness, that their bodies might be dishonored among them . . . God gave them up to
disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural use of themselves
into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the
female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males,
working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for
their error.

1 Tim. 1:9-11: Law is promulgated, not for a righteous man, but for persons lawless and
unruly, ungodly and sinners, . . . fornicators, men who lie with males, . . . and whatever
other thing is in opposition to the healthful teaching according to the glorious good news
of the happy God.” (Compare Leviticus 20:13.)

Jude 7: Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, after they . . . [had] gone out
after flesh for unnatural use, are placed before us as a warning example by undergoing the
judicial punishment of everlasting fire.

Genesis 19:4, 5, 24, 25 – this is the account of Lot in Sodom (where the term Sodomite,
Sodomize and Sodomy meaning anal sex are derived). In this account, the men of Sodom want
to rape the men (angels) that Lot has taken into his house. Later, Sodom and another city
of Gomorrah are destroyed by God for their wicked inhabitants. 


Doesn’t the Bible’s condemnation of Homosexuality mean we should reject it? And
doesn’t this in turn mean that we need to oppose Gay Marriage?

Whether to “accept” or “tolerate” or engage in homosexuality or to associate with
homosexuals is of course a personal decision. It goes without saying that many people give
no heed to the Bible and do not recognize it as any authority for them. That is their
belief. 

Others, including myself, view homosexuals as my “neighbor” in the world, and
therefore choose to weigh what the scriptures say about both not “judging” others
unfairly and more importantly, about loving our neighbors. (The so-called Golden Rule.)

Some Scriptures to meditate upon:
 
Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy
people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. 

Leviticus 19:34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born
among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt:
I am the LORD your God. 

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye
even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. 

Matthew 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall
I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good?
there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the
commandments.18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt
not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour
thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 
Matthew 22:35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him,
and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him,
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all
thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it,
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law
and the prophets. 

Mark 12:28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and
perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of
all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The
Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and
with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first
commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 32 And the scribe said unto
him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other
but he: 33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with
all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more
than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered
discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after
that durst ask him any question. 

Luke 6:31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 

Luke 10:25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what
shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how
readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as
thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath
fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou
shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be
any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love
thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the
fulfilling of the law. 

Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself. 
James 2:8 If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and
are convinced of the law as transgressors.

ON JUDGING

Many people cite Matthew 7:1 by itself "Do not judge, or you too will be judged” as
though it means that the Bible is saying it is wrong to condemn anyone or anything. But
this completely overlooks the context of the scripture as well as numerous other
scriptures throughout the Bible that indicate that persons are to “judge” particularly
learn to discern between righteous and unrighteous conduct and things as well as condemn
and hate the wicked in the world.

In context, Matthew 7 states:  1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same
way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be
measured to you.”

Jesus then goes on to give the famous illustration about persons not saying they want to
remove the straw in their neighbor’s eye while having a beam (rafter) in their own, and
so on. All of this means that one is to be fair in judging -- that the same principles and
standards that a person would apply to them should be applied to others!

Can it not be seen how this principle of fairness goes hand-in-hand with the Golden Rule?
If we truly love our neighbor we will apply the same standards to them and judge them by
the same standards as we would judge ourselves.

Can it not be seen that just as we extend the privileges of a legally constituted marriage
to heterosexuals that to deny these privileges to homosexuals is a violation of both the
Golden Rule and treating others fairly? Indeed, we are judging homosexuals by a different
standard and that is wrong according to what Jesus is saying.

Having said the above, again it is completely irrelevant what one may personally believe
regarding the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality. Our laws should not be based upon
religious teaching or what the Bible says or what we understand it to say. Thus even if
one feels personally that homosexuality is wrong, to assert that the law should reflect
that belief is to mix church with state, religion with government, and that is both
unconstitutional and bad law making as well as bad social policy.


Are there other possibilities of what the Bible means when it talks about
Homosexuality?

Yes. When writing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul appears to have coined a new Greek word,
“Arsenokoitai,” which when translated modernly appears to refer to
homosexuality. 

The word, "Arsenokoitai" is made up of two parts: "arsen" means "man"; "koitai" means
"beds." So literally perhaps “men’s beds” or a “man’s bed” or perhaps
“bedding a man” is what it should mean. It was originally limited to males but modern
translators have widened the term to refer to homosexuality of both males and females. 

The term has been translated as "abusers of themselves with mankind" in the King James
Version (KJV):

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived:
neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of
themselves with mankind", Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

The KJV was finished 1611 CE when there was no single word that referred to homosexuals or
homosexuality. The translators were forced to use this awkward phrase. The term
"homosexual" was only created in the late 19th century. More recent versions of the Bible
translate arsenokoitai here as:
•	"homosexuals," (NASB); 
•	"homosexual perversion," (NEB); 
•	"homosexual offenders," (NIV). 

The author of 1 Timothy also used "Arsenokoitai."

Christian theologians generally agree that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians circa 55 CE. However,
they differ on the authorship and date of the three Pastoral Epistles -- 1 Timothy, 2
Timothy and Titus. 
•	Conservative Protestants generally believe that Paul wrote the Pastoral epistles
during the interval 62 to 64 CE. 
•	Liberals generally believe that they were written up to 85 years after Paul's
execution, circa 100 to 150 CE by an unknown person who pretended to be Paul. 

What is interesting to note is that if Paul had meant “homosexuality” in his letter to
the Corinthian congregation he didn’t need to make up a new word, he could have used the
common Greek term in use at the time, namely “paiderasste" (which gives us
pederasty). This was the Greek word that referred to erotic relationships between males
and had Paul used it, it would have been completely clear that he meant homosexuality in
his writing.

The fact that he didn’t use “paiderasste” but instead made up a new word
Arsenokoitai instead suggests very strongly that Paul had something different in mind than
homosexuality.

It is impossible to know exactly what Paul meant, but some persons believe that what he
meant wasn’t homosexuals in general but rather “homosexual offenders” or in other
words, sex-offenders. If that is what Paul meant, it is clear that he wasn’t condemning
homosexuality itself but rather criminal homosexuals that engaged in sexual offenses. If
this was the case, we can see that it would be just as wrong an interpretation to condemn
all heterosexuals if what Paul had written was a condemnation of heterosexual
sex-offenders.

Another possibility is that Paul was referring to male prostitutes, either temple
prostitutes, or male prostitutes in general whether they had male or female customers.
Still yet another possibility is that Paul was referring to “pimps” or men who made a
living from exploiting others engaging in prostitution.
Finally, at the time of Martin Luther, "arsenokoitai" was universally interpreted as
masturbator. But by the 20th century, masturbation had become a more generally accepted
behavior. So, new translations abandoned references to masturbators and switched the
attack to homosexuals. The last religious writing in English that interpreted 1
Corinthians 6:9 as referring to masturbation is believed to be the [Roman] Catholic
Encyclopedia of 1967. 

[Source: http://www.religioustolerance.org/homarsen.htm]

So from this, we can see that at least as far as what the Bible states at 1 Corinthians
and 1 Timothy, two of the major scriptures cited by anti-gay Christians, it is very
possible that it is not meant as a condemnation of homosexuality.

Other Considerations Regarding the Bible

Without kicking up too much dust in a side area that is worthy of its own extensive
discussion, speaking personally, I’ve studied enough about the Bible’s construction
that I am not confident that what the Bible says about homosexuality should be a guide
even in our personal view of the topic. Knowing that some books were included in the
Canon, and that others just barely excluded, that the pretty portrait of an apostle or
prophet “being inspired” and in secretarial fashion writing down the “Word of God”
is undoubtedly an oversimplification of the process at best and a gross false myth at
worst, has to give me pause about whether I should base how I treat other human beings. 

As someone who allows for other possibilities too, I can’t help but be frightened by the
fact that if the Bible was not a valid authority, then how could I justify it if I
denigrated gay, lesbians and bisexuals because I thought it was how God feels about them?
Can we really know the mind of God? (Not too mention: What if there isn’t a God?) I
think only fools say or argue that we can know God’s mind. Perhaps, if the Bible is true
and truly inspired by God it provides us with some insight into His viewpoint but really,
even then, man cannot know the mind of God. 

My conclusion is that if God condemns homosexuals but I do not condemn them, then I make
myself a sinner (really no more than I already am). But if God does not condemn
homosexuals but I do condemn them then I make myself to be better judge of righteousness
than God – and how could that ever be?


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