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Topics covered in this essay about same-sex marriage (SSM):

bulletWhat the Bible says about SSM
bulletLifestyle options available to gays and lesbians
bulletHow religious liberals interpret the Bible

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What the Bible says about same-sex marriage (SSM):

We know now that the vast majority of adults are either heterosexual or homosexual. Also, a small minority are bisexual. However the authors of the Bible seem quite unaware that some persons had a homosexual orientation. The authors knew of certain forms of same-sex behavior that they considered ritually unclean, degenerate, and/or harmful. But they seem to have been totally unaware of loving, supportive, same-sex committed relationships.

The authors did condemn what they regarded as sinful of sexual activities -- both opposite sex (between a man and a woman) and same-sex (between two men or between two women). Among the condemned practices in the Hebrew Scriptures (aka Old Testament) were:

bulletOpposite-sex: (Deuteronomy 22:25; 2 Samuel 13:1-22)
bulletSame-sex: (Genesis 19; Judges 19:14). 
bulletRitual Pagan sexual behavior:
bulletOpposite-sex: (Exodus 32)
bulletSame-sex (Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13). 
bulletOpposite-sex: Deuteronomy 23:17 and others
bulletSame-sex: (Deuteronomy 23:17; 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12, 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7).

The authors of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) condemned additional practices that they considered degenerate and/or harmful: 

bulletHeterosexual men and women engaging in same-sex Pagan orgies. This meant that they were going against their basic nature: (Romans 1:26).
bulletMen who sexually molest boys -- and the boys that they abuse: (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:9).
bulletBestiality: Men engaging in sex with males of another species (angels in this case): (Jude 7).

Since the authors of the Bible were unaware of homosexual orientation, they could not conceive of loving and committed gay or lesbian relationships (i.e. same-sex marriage or SSM). Thus, the Bible is silent on same-sex marriage. All positive references to human sexuality relate only to heterosexual sex. All committed sexual relationships discussed in the Bible are heterosexual.

We can derive a Christian policy towards SSM for the 21st century by studying those positive passages that describe human sexuality and heterosexual marriage. We may then be able to infer what the Bible writers would have said about same-sex marriages, if they had known about them. This is not a unique process. Christians have to develop policies about other matters that were not mentioned specifically in the Bible: Contraceptives, movies, and abortion are examples.

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Lifestyle options are available to gays and lesbians?

Many conservative Christians consider homosexuality itself to be a lifestyle. However, the word "lifestyle" is normally used to refer to a person's choice. Examples are: whether to live in the country or the city; whether to be self employed, or work for a company; whether to drive a car or use a bicycle for transportation. Religious liberals generally believe that sexual orientation is not a choice and that it is unchangeable. Thus, the word "lifestyle" will not be used here to refer to a person's homosexual orientation, but rather what choices gays and lesbians make about their lifestyle choices in terms of the relationships that they seek.

Heterosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals all have the same three lifestyle options open to them. Gays and lesbians can choose:

  1. Celibacy: They can choose to remain sexually inactive, single, and not within a committed relationship. Friendships are sought, but sexual involvement is not a goal.
  2. Sexually active single: They can choose to remain single (i.e. outside a committed relationship) and engage in sexual activity with one or more individuals.
  3. Committed relationship: They try to find a loving partner of the same gender and enter into a committed, monogamous relationship. This can take a number of different forms:
    bulletThey can simply "live together" without registering their partnership with the government.
    bulletThe can register their partnership as a civil union with the government of Vermont or as a domestic partnership with the government of Nova Scotia in Canada. Scandanavian and other European countries also recognize and register such relationships.
    bulletThey can simply marry a person of the same gender. As of mid-2001, this option is available only to residents of the Netherlands.

We will examine each option below, from a liberal Christian point of view.

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How religious liberals interpret the Bible:

Christianity is a divided religion. Many view it as being composed of two quite separate faith groups -- one conservative and the other liberal. They share little more than the name of the religion and the text of the Bible.

The main cause of their disagreements is derived from their assumptions about the nature of the Bible. Liberal Christians typically do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible as do conservatives. Further, they interpret much of the Bible, including the important creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2, to be religious myths. The seven days of creation, Adam, Eve, the snake, the Garden of Eden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the flood of Noah, the Tower of Babel, etc. never existed. The two creation stories were actually adapted from earlier Pagan religious myths of neighboring Middle Eastern countries. Although the content of these chapters has no grounding in reality, the myths have profound symbolic meaning.

Religious liberals also view ethical matters, including same-sex marriage, from the standpoint of human rights. One of the most intimate and important of all civil rights is the freedom to marry the person that you love and to whom you wish to make a lifetime commitment. With the exception of residents in the Netherlands, this is currently a special right, reserved only for heterosexuals. It is denied to gays and lesbians in North America and throughout most of the rest of the world.

From the first two chapters of Genesis, and other passages in the Bible, religious liberals can assemble a case in favor of promoting committed same-sex relationships and marriage for gays and lesbians.

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Copyright © 2002 and 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-1
Latest update: 2004-JUN-1
Author: B.A. Robinson

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