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CONSERVATIVE RELIGIOUS OPPOSITION TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGES

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A contrasting liberal Christian view is explained separately.

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John Stott's book: Overview:

John Stott's book: "Same-sex partnerships" will be used as the main reference for this essay. 1 It is worth noting that the book's subtitle is "A Christian perspective" (emphasis ours). This may indicate that the author considers his explanation to be one of many Christian perspectives.

He does differentiate between casual sex and loving relationships among gays and lesbians. He opposes both. He believes that God calls gays to remain celibate.

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John Stott's book: Terminology used:

On Page 14 of his book, Stott clarifies two very important points which are often overlooked during religious discussions on homosexuality and homosexual relationships:

bulletHe differentiates between a person's sexual orientation (which he calls sexual preference) and their sexual behavior -- i.e. between a person's basic identity and their sexual practices. He feels that any discussion of homosexuality must clearly differentiate between orientation and behavior.
bulletHis term "sexual preference" appears to mean the same as "sexual orientation" -- the preferred term of gays, lesbians, psychologists, psychiatrists, other therapists, human sexuality researchers, etc. We also prefer to use the word "orientation" because it implies a description of the person's feelings. The term "preference" can be misleading, because both heterosexuals and homosexuals do not prefer one gender over the other for their sexual fantasy and behavior; they are solely interested in a single gender.
bulletHe differentiates between casual and often anonymous sex, and "...homosexual partnerships -- lifelong and loving..." This is a clarification that many persons critical of homosexuality do not make.

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John Stott's book: Biblical texts about homosexual behavior: 

In Chapter 2, the John Stott interprets four of the biblical proof texts about homosexuality. He describes the beliefs both of conservative Christians and of the "homosexual lobby." He concludes that the latter have little merit. He believes that one of the sins of the men of Sodom was homosexual behavior, and that "the plain, natural interpretation" of the two verses in Leviticus "is that they prohibit homosexual intercourse of every kind." He admits that it can be argued that the passages in 1 Corinthians and Romans refer to catamites (boy prostitutes) and the men who sexually abuse them.

Stott concludes that the proof texts are not that significant. Christians should not reject homosexual marriage on the basis of a few ambiguous biblical passages. Rather, they should discard the concept as unbiblical because it is in conflict with the "positive teaching in Genesis 1 and 2 about human sexuality and heterosexual marriage."  Otherwise, Christians' "perspective on the homosexual question is bound to be skewed." He criticizes most gay-positive essays on the Bible because they concentrate only on the famous story of Sodom, on the two Leviticus stories, and excerpts from 1 Corinthians and Romans and Jude.

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John Stott's book: Biblical texts about heterosexual marriage: 

Stott analyzes biblical passages about marriage in Chapter 3 (pages 31 to 40) of his book. He makes the following points:

  1. The place to begin the discussion on same-sex relationships is Genesis 2 where God creates the institution of marriage.
  2. Genesis 2:18 teaches the general rule that it is not good for a man to be alone. God is love. God created humanity in his image. Thus we have the ability and need to love.
  3. Also in Genesis 2, God parades all the animals past Adam, looking for a companion and mate.
  4. God takes a rib out of Adam and fabricates Eve.
  5. The term "flesh" which represents sexual intercourse, is repeated three times in this chapter, apparently for emphasis.
  6. For Adam, a sexual encounter with Eve is a type of reunion, "a blending of complementary personalities through which, in the midst of prevailing alienation, the rich, created oneness of human being is experienced again."
  7. Jesus, in Matthew 19:4-6, endorsed heterosexual marriage by repeating parts of Genesis 2.
  8. Jesus affirmed:
    1. Heterosexual gender is a divine creation.
    2. Heterosexual marriage is a divine institution.
    3. Heterosexual fidelity is the divine intention.

    John Stott writes that "a homosexual liaison is a breach of all three of these divine purposes."

  9. "Scripture defines the marriage God instituted in terms of heterosexual monogamy...Scripture envisages no other kind of marriage or sexual intercourse, for God provided no alternative...every kind of sexual relationship and activity which deviates from God's revealed intention is ipso factor displeasing to him and under his judgment. This includes polygamy and polyandry...cohabitation...and homosexual partnerships..."
  10. Committed, loving, homosexual partnerships violate the statement in Genesis 2:24 that a man shall be joined to his wife: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (KJV)

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John Stott's book: Critique of his analysis:

A liberal Christian might make the following points in rebuttal:

bulletThe English translations of the homosexual passages of Genesis, Leviticus, 1 Corinthians, Romans and others clearly attack all homosexual behavior. But a thorough analysis of the original Hebrew and Greek shows that their targeted behaviors are much more narrowly defined: homosexual rape, homosexual ritual sex in Pagan temples, heterosexuals engaged in homosexual sex, men who sexually abuse boys, and the boys that they molest. The Bible is silent on loving, committed homosexual relationships. 
bulletGenesis 2 does indeed describe one form of marriage: a one-man-one-woman partnership of equals. But, Stott's point #9, that it is the only form of marriage mentioned in the Bible, is just plain wrong. There are at least seven other styles of marriage mentioned in the Bible. None are condemned. One of the other marriages, levirate marriage, involves a widow forcibly being married to her brother-in-law, in order to produce a son which would be credited to her late husband. God appears to have strongly favored this form of marriage because when Onan tried to circumvent his obligation to impregnate his sister-in-law, God killed him.
bulletMost of the seven alternative forms of marriage have strong potential for spousal abuse. Homosexual marriage is quite similar to the marriage form of Genesis 2, except for a single factor: the gender of the spouses. Otherwise, they are identical. If God can approve a levirate marriage with its strong potential for repeated rape, one might infer that God would also approve a same-sex marriage, with its strong potential for love, respect and support. As noted before, we can only infer God's will because the Bible is silent on the matter. Also, a pilot study that we have conducted indicates that it is impossible to assess God's will through prayer.
bulletGay and lesbian marriages were not mentioned in the Bible. The concept of sexual orientation was unknown during biblical times. Thus, the further concept of a committed, loving, supportive same-sex relationship would also be unknown. Same-sex marriage simply were not described in the Bible, just as there is no mention of condoms, locomotives, movies and the Internet.
bulletStott's point #6 above about "a blending of complementary personalities" accurately describes equally both a loving, committed, same-sex couple, and an equivalent opposite-sex couple. Any two loving spouses have complementary aspects to their personalities, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
bulletHis point #7 about Jesus endorsing heterosexual marriage is accurate. However, it does not imply that Jesus would condemn a homosexual marriage. If Jesus discussed a same-sex marriage, his listeners would not know what he was talking about.
bulletIn Stott's point #8, Jesus was asked a specific question by the Pharisees: a query about a one-man-one-woman marriage of equals. And so he answered the question in terms of that type of marriage. Stott says that Jesus affirmed:
  1. "Heterosexual gender is a divine creation." True. God created one man and one woman, in their own image. Male gays are men; lesbians are women.
  2. "Heterosexual marriage is a divine institution." This is a valid comment. However, as mentioned above, many more marriage types were mentioned in the Bible. But on the topic of homosexual marriage, the Bible is silent. It is difficult to argue definitive conclusions from silence.
  3. "Heterosexual fidelity is the divine intention." It certainly is for a one-man-one-woman marriage of equals. But it could be equally argued that fidelity is the divine intention for a homosexual marriage.
bulletStott's point #10 about a man being joined to his wife is certainly valid for the type of marriage described in Genesis 2:24. However, it is not valid in the other seven forms of marriage mentioned in the Bible. In the case of a same-sex marriage, it would be one woman being joined to her wife, or one man being joined to his husband.

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Focus on the Family: Statement on same-sex marriage:

Focus on the Family is a very large and influential Fundamentalist Christian organization centered in Colorado Springs, CO. They have published a position statement on same-sex marriage, last updated on 2000-OCT-4. We are only able to legally quote small excerpts from their essay because of copyright considerations. To read the full text, go to Reference 2.

Focus on the Family makes a number of points in their statement:

  1. They are totally opposed to what they call "legal sanction of marriage counterfeits." This includes granting of financial benefits to couples in a same-sex marriage, homosexual civil unions, heterosexual cohabiting couples, etc.
  2. Men and women complement each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  3. A main function of marriage is to have children. Heterosexual marriage is the best environment in which to raise children.
  4. Children raised in gay or lesbian household suffer in comparison to those raised by a heterosexual married couple
  5. Children raised in a homosexual home are more likely to become homosexual.
  6. A child needs both male and female role models.
  7. The goal of homosexual activists is not to end discrimination based on sexual orientation; it is to change and undermine marriage.
  8. If we allow homosexuals to marry than there are no logical limits to what constitutes a marriage: polygamy (polygyny or polyandry) for example.
  9. The five major world religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism) teach that homosexual behavior is sinful or wrong, and that marriage must be restricted to heterosexuals.
  10. The Bible condemns all forms of homosexual behavior
  11. God created heterosexual marriage as the foundation for the continuation of the human race.
  12. Marriage is good for individuals and society.
  13. "Any efforts to redefine marriage [will] destroy the institution."

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Focus on the Family: Critique of their analysis:

Analyzing each point in turn:

  1. Their position is the majority position in the U.S. and a minority position in Canada.
  2. Spouses complement each other "physically, emotionally, and spiritually" whether they are same or opposite gender.
  3. Some heterosexual couples do not have children. Some gay and lesbian couples do have children. The best environment in which to raise children is marriage, either heterosexual or homosexual.
  4. During the trial to determine the constitutionality of same-sex marriages in Hawaii, all of the witnesses, both for the plaintiffs and the defense said that "Gay and Lesbian couples are as fit [as parents] and loving as opposite sex couples."
  5. All but one study that we have evaluated found that the percentages of gays and lesbians raised in homosexual or heterosexual parents are equal. However, children of gay and lesbian parents tend to be less judgmental, and more tolerant of minorities.
  6. With a bit of effort, gay couples, lesbian couples, and single-parent families can and should expose their children to role models of both genders.
  7. The goal of most homosexuals generally is to end homophobia, gay-bashing, and discrimination which victimizes gays and lesbians. Legalizing same-sex civil unions (as in Vermont in the U.S. and Nova Scotia in Canada) and same-sex marriage (as in the Netherlands) goes a long way toward achieving these goals.
  8. A marriage is precisely what a government defines it to be: no more, no less.
  9. Judaism is only the 11th largest religion in the world, not the fifth. Actually, the liberal wings of many religions approve of same-sex marriage, whereas the conservative wings do not.
  10. The Bible condemns homosexual rape, homosexual ritual sex in Pagan temples, men molesting boys, heterosexuals engaging in same-sex behavior and men engaging in bestiality. The Bible is silent on same-sex marriage.
  11. Seven other forms of marriage are mentioned in the Bible in addition to the one-man-one-women-equal partners format that is defined in Genesis 2.
  12. Agreed. It helps both heterosexuals and homosexuals.
  13. Marriage has been redefined to make it more inclusive on two occasions in the last two centuries: Only in the later 19th century was marriage between African-Americans allowed throughout the U.S. Only in the late 20th century were inter-racial marriages made legal everywhere. Somehow, the country survived. It can survive a further change in the direction of inclusiveness.

Not mentioned in Focus on the Family's statement was a consideration of human rights. Surely one of the main human rights is the freedom to stand up before one's friends, family and God and declare one's commitment to the person that they love, to have that relationship recognized by the government, and to receive approximately 1,500 benefits from that recognition. This right is open to any heterosexual, assuming age and blood relationship limits are met. But it is currently not open to any homosexuals, unless they are  residents of the Netherlands. That remains a fundamental injustice.

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References:

  1. John Stott, "Same-sex Partnerships?: A Christian Perspective," Fleming H. Revell, (Reprint: 2000). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  2. "Focus on the Family Position Statement on Same-Sex 'Marriage' and Civil Unions" at: http://www.family.org/cforum/research/

Copyright 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUN-7
Latest update: 2001-JUL-8
Author: B.A. Robinson

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