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LIBERAL CHRISTIAN VIEWS FAVORING SAME-SEX MARRIAGES

BACKGROUND MATERIAL

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

bulletBackground material from:
bulletThe book of Genesis
bulletThe rest of the Bible
bulletScience

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Background material from the Book of Genesis:

One liberal interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis is as follows:

bulletAccording to the "documentary hypothesis," The first creation story in Genesis was written by an anonymous author, often referred to as "P." 
bullet"P" writes in Genesis 1:20 to 1:27 that during the fifth and sixth day of creation, God formed the fish, birds, land animals, and one (or perhaps more) man and woman. All of the species, including the humans, were expected to be fruitful and multiply -- to reproduce and populate the earth.
bulletThe other creation story starts half-way through Genesis 2:4. Its unknown author is generally referred to as "J." He describes, in Genesis 2:7, how God made Adam out of mud.
bulletGenesis 2:18 contains a sentence of great importance to the understanding of human nature and the discussion of committed relationships and marriage: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." (King James Version - KJV) "Help meet" also appears in the Jerusalem Bible. It is translated "helper" in other translations (e.g. Amplified Bible, An American Translation, James Moffatt Translation, New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New International Version, New World Translation, Revised Standard Bible, Young's Literal Translation). The Living Bible, New Living Translation, and Today's English Version use a phrase like "a suitable companion to help him." Actually, the original Hebrew word implies a partnership of two equals, rather than a relationship between persons of unequal status. "Co-worker" or "partner" might be a better translation. The Contemporary English Version, New American Bible, and Revised English Bible use the term "partner" indicating an equal status between Adam and Eve.
bulletMany of earth's animal species are loners. Bacteria propagate themselves, by division. Some female spiders eat their mates after conception. Some wild cats live alone, joining up with another of their species only to procreate. But humans are apparently designed differently. Our basic makeup creates a need in most of us to be part of a couple -- to form a committed relationship with another person that we love, so that we will have to face life alone.
bulletFor some reason that is difficult to comprehend, God paraded all of the land animals and birds past Adam, trying to select a mate -- a partner -- for him. Adam was apparently not interested in bestiality. He found none of them to be an acceptable partner. So, as described in Genesis 2:21, God took one of Adam's ribs and made a woman for Adam to love and bond with. 
bulletGod conceivably could have created the first humans with either a heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual orientation -- i.e. with feelings of attraction to members of the opposite gender, to the same gender, or to both genders.  God is recorded in Genesis as creating one male and one female with a heterosexual orientation (Adam and Eve). By doing this, he simultaneously satisfied two prime goals:
bulletHe made it possible for the first couple to be fruitful and multiply. It is obvious, from verse Genesis 1:20 and onward, that God intended humans, animals, fish and birds of all species to grow more numerous and fill the earth. If God had created a gay couple, the development of the human race would have ground to a halt, limited to only two individuals.
bulletHe satisfied the needs of Adam and Eve for companionship and made it possible for them to be involved in a loving partnership.
bulletOne of many models of heterosexual marriage is described by "J" in Genesis 2:24: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh." (KJV).

Conclusions about SSM from Genesis: 

bulletAccording to Genesis 2:18, God said: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." This applied only to one man, Adam. However, we might infer that it is a general rule that most men should not to go through life alone. By extension, we can infer that the rule also holds for women. Since gays and lesbians seem to have the same capacity and need to love, one could conclude from this verse that homosexuals should also form loving couples.
bulletGod had to create Adam and Eve as heterosexuals so that they could be fruitful and multiply. If he had created Adam and Steve, the world would not have become filled with humans. Nowdays, with our overpopulation problem, gays and lesbians offer the advantage of having a low birth rate, thus alleviating some of the population pressure.
bulletAt least in the first part of Genesis, a couple is considered as two equals.
bulletGenesis 2:24 describes one of the possible models for marriage. It is the most common type today: one man and one woman.

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Background material from the rest of the Bible:

It is important to realize that the Bible contains descriptions of many types of marriages and family structures. We have discovered eight. We may have missed some:

  1. The standard nuclear family: Genesis 2:24 describes how a man leaves his family of origin, and joins with a woman. They consummate the marriage, and live as a couple.
  2. Polygamous marriage of one man and more than one women. Solomon had to 700 women.
  3. Levirate Marriage: a woman would be forced to marry the brother of her deceased husband. This is potentially a highly abusive arrangement for the woman.
  4. A man, woman and female slave: This is also potentially highly abusive.
  5. A man, one or more wives, and concubines: Concubines were typically slaves kept for sexual purposes. They had a very low status compared to the wife/wives.
  6. A soldier and female prisoner of war: Women taken in captivity were often forced into concubinage. This would likely be an abusive relationship.
  7. A male rapist and his victim: Women who had been raped would be required to marry their rapist. This would almost certainly be an abusive relationship.
  8. A female slave assigned to a male slave: Slave owners could assign one of his female slaves to be wthe wife of one of his male slaves. The opportunity for abuse would also be great.

More detail about marrage types in the Bible

There are two biblical passages which condemn men involved in polygynous marriages: Solomon and Herod the Great. But the criticism did not relate to polygyny itself; it was over their choice of wives. Solomon chose many foreign women, who worshiped other Gods and Goddess. Herod chose his brother's wife.

Otherwise, these various marriage types were not criticized in the Bible. In fact, God showed his support for levirate marriage when he killed Onan for trying to avoid procreation.

Conclusions about SSM from the rest of the Bible: 

There are at least eight different types of marriages mentioned in the Bible. Most have a strong potential for sexual abuse. Marriage between two persons of the same gender is not one of the eight.

SSM bears little similarity to the many potentially abusive forms of of marriage. It is closest to the nuclear family described in Genesis 2:24: Two persons make a commitment to each other, leave their parent's home, have sex, and form a new family unit. One might infer that if the writers of the Bible had been familiar with the the concept of diversity of sexual orientation, and knew of loving, supportive, committed gay and lesbian couples, that they would have written about SSM and patterned it after the Genesis 2:24 model.

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Background material from science:

Liberal Christians generally make use of the findings of medical, physical and social sciences when developing a position on moral and ethical issues. This supplements and sometimes replaces information that they obtain from the Bible.

There is a near consensus among human sexuality researchers and mental health therapists that:

bulletPersons with a homosexual orientation are, by definition, sexually attracted only to persons of the same gender.
bulletHeterosexuals are sexually attracted only to members of the opposite sex.
bulletHomosexuality is one of three normal, natural sexual orientations. None are chosen; none appear to be changeable in adulthood.
bulletGays and lesbians, being humans, need companionship, love, sexual outlet, etc., as do heterosexuals.
bulletCommitted homosexual relationships can be as close, supportive and long-lasting as for heterosexuals.
bulletResearchers have tried to convert persons with a homosexual orientation to heterosexual through electric shock treatments, aversion therapy, castration, breast amputation, frontal lobotomies, and other invasive methods. None have succeeded.
bulletCurrently, reparative therapists and transformation ministries attempt to change people's sexual orientation. A peer-reviewed study is yet to be published on the effectiveness of these approaches. However, from the available data, it appears that very few, if any, adults have successfully changed their orientation.

From studies of heterosexual couples, we find that:

bulletLongevity data consistently show that couples in committed relationships tend to live longer than singles.
bulletOther studies show that individuals in committed relationships tend to be far less promiscuous than singles. This reduces the spread of STDs, and increases social stability.

It seems reasonable to expect that homosexuals in committed relationships would have a greater life expectancy and a lower level of promiscuity than single gays and lesbians.

Finally, in the area of political science, religious liberals have traditionally been strong supporters of human rights. One of the most fundamental and important civil right is the freedom for a couple to declare their love and commitment before family, friends, and God, and to marry each other. In the U.S., this automatically assigns over 1,000 rights, privileges and obligations to the married couple. In the 19th century, there were many groups who were not allowed to marry in America. Until the end of the civil war, this included African-American slaves. Until 1967, inter-racial couples were also prohibited from marrying. Currently, gay and lesbian couples are the main remaining group that is prohibited from marrying. Many religious liberals feel that the right to marry should only be restricted on the basis of age or health considerations, not on the basis of sexual orientation.

Conclusions about SSM from science:

A substantial percentage of adult gays and lesbians seek to form loving, committed relationships with members of the same sex. Side benefits of SSM would include longer life span, lessening of promiscuity, increase in social stability. In a democracy, a group of citizens who are defined by their sexual orientation should not be prevented from exercising a primary human right: that of marrying the person that they love and to whom they have made a commitment.

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Copyright 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-1
Latest update: 2002-MAY-4
Author: B.A. Robinson

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