Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Marry your like, says the Bible : Mail & Guardian Online

Marry your like, says the Bible : Mail & Guardian Online

Marry your like, says the Bible

André Müller: COMMENT

24 February 2008 11:59

I am a proponent of same-sex marriages and as a Christian minister of religion, I want to make it very clear that the Bible nowhere gives an indication that such marriages should be condemned. Most of the opposition to same-sex marriages could be ascribed to a lack of knowledge of what both marriage and homosexuality mean.

The biggest mistake most people make is the assumption that the institution of marriage has remained unchanged since ancient times. They falsely wish to adhere to a traditional value that was supposedly handed down through the ages and could be traced back to the Creator Himself. May I remind them that slavery was also a traditional value, supported by various authors of the Bible and by the church until slavery was abolished in the 18th century? The truth is that marriage has a long history of development characterised by change and evolution. Even in the Bible itself, many forms of marriage can be recognised, such as monogamy, polygamy, a man simply taking a woman, parents choosing a bride for their son, and even a very strange (to us) form of marriage called the Levirate marriage, where a man was expected to marry his sister-in-law in the event of his brother’s death. Today we wouldn’t even consider enforcing this kind of marriage -- even though it is stipulated in the Bible.

I differ strongly from traditional churches which proclaim that marriage was instituted by God. He did nothing of the kind. What He did was that He created Adam and Eve and simply brought them together. There was no ceremony, no legal documents and no witnesses. Marriage is a cultural phenomenon that developed spontaneously and assumed many different forms in different cultures. God nowhere in the Bible prescribes that we must get married or what form the marriage must take. As we read through the Bible, it is simply mentioned as a matter of fact that certain Bible characters were married or got married. We do know, however, that God was pleased with this development in human behaviour and that it had His blessing.

Two major principles found in the creation account of Genesis that could also be applied to same-sex couples is the declaration by God that it is “not good” for a human being to be alone. Therefore, it is also “not good” for a gay person to be alone. Next, there is also the motivation verbalised by God when He brought Eve to Adam, namely that she was someone “like him” -- his equal. In modern terms, Adam and Eve were heterosexual and in that sense they were like one another, and a perfect match.

If a gay person is forced into a heterosexual marriage, it will most definitely be against that person’s nature and it would be a total mismatch and a disaster. On the other hand, if two gay people get married, they are “like one another” and equals, and in this way they comply with the standard set by God Himself for intimate relationships, namely to experience another human being as “someone like me”.

There is overwhelming evidence that the early church had no problem blessing same-sex marriages -- a fact that has been well documented by the Yale University theologian and church historian John Boswell in his book The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe. There are many early-church manuscripts dating from the fourth century of liturgies used for the solemnisation of same-sex marriages. It is only in subsequent centuries where sentiment turned against such same-sex rituals of bonding.

The biggest mistake we can make about homosexuality is to think that gay people are actually heterosexuals who simply choose to be gay to rebel against the Creator. It is not a matter of choice but a given reality of creation that must be accepted. That is the way God created them and as such they are also created in the image of God. The Bible nowhere speaks about being gay as we understand it today. The few instances where the Bible condemns homosexual acts are about expressions of aggression (performed by heterosexuals), idolatry or promiscuity -- and never about only two people who love each other. Not in a single case do we find a condemnation of a loving relationship between two same-sex individuals who intend to be faithful to each other. Had that been the case, I would not have had the confidence to officiate at same-sex marriages. But, being convinced that the Bible doesn’t condemn it, I will continue to act as a marriage officer for same-sex couples and ask God’s blessing upon their unions.

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