Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Enough with the Bible?

Time for a monster long post! I posted the below blog entry from another blogger on my Facebook page, and a very interesting discussion ensued.

The Bible & Homosexuality: Enough with the Bible Already

Here's excerpts from discussion:

Guest One wrote:
Hi Laura! I did read the article you posted the link to and I have to say that this writer does not seem to understand that the foundation of Christian faith is the Bible. Like Martin Luther said: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia.

Without the Scriptures, then one can get all kinds of opinions.

Oh yes, one can argue, when who has the correct interpretations, and so forth.

But the point here is this writer is saying, enough with the Bible.

That is the problem. We do not have enough Bible, and too many opinions.

In Genesis 3 Amplified Version of the Bible we find this

1NOW THE serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?(A)

So we find the serpent still questioning what God said to mankind...and finding out we really don't know what God has commanded!!

Specially with the issue of marriage!

Guest Two wrote:
I didn't read the article, but the headline didn't sit well w/me... glad there are people like [Guest One] willing to speak with respect for the Bible still. People can think they are being 'progressive' when they are being 'open minded' and I do think we do need to be able to be religious and progressive and open minded, but just being open minded doesn't necessarily mean that one is progressive. Just because it forces us to really churn up our beliefs and practices and grapple with interpretations of theology, we shouldn't think an easier path will lead to progress. :-) But, like I said, I didn't read the article, just appreciating [Guest One]'s comments and expressing some things that have been on my own thoughts lately.

Guest Three wrote:
I love how liberals try to characterize Christians as fearful and mean - the very same liberal individuals who are supposed to be so open minded and "collaborative."

Just because someone disagrees with a particular view does not mean they are evil and afraid. In fact, most reasonable thinking human beings don't agree with the idea of undermining the definition of marriage. Prop 8 getting voted down by the most liberal state in America shows how a majority of normal, well-grounded people think. The people who voted down Prop 8 are not evil, ignorant, mis-informed idiots as the media would have you believe.

The longer term implications need to be taken into account, not ignored - i.e. does this action allow for even more definitions of marriage? How does this impact polygamy? Adultery? etc.?

I think there are far-reaching implications that need to be answered before we trample over one of the pillars of a progressive society.

I replied:
Hi you guys! Thanks so much for your comments. I've been thinking about how to respond, you all make such interesting points. I'll do my best to be brief.

[Guest One], you may remember from high school that I'm a Christian Scientist. I'm also a Bible scholar, and I see it as the chart of my life. Of *my* life. Of course, there will be many areas where you and I may disagree as to Bible interpretation—for example, I believe the Adam and Eve story is an allegory and not literal fact—but we could probably have a long fruitful discussion on how we both strive to live the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, I'd love to do that sometime.

What I took from the article I posted is the idea that in making legislative decisions, the Bible is really irrelevant. It shouldn't even come up as part of the discussion.

Curtailing someone else's rights or privileges based on one's own interpretation of the Bible is not appropriate in our freedom-of-religion society. One needs to justify curtailing rights and privileges some other way, perhaps by proving that giving those rights would cause harm. I have yet to hear any justification for curtailing gay marriage, other than a conviction that the Bible condemns it (a position that itself is open to interpretation).

[Guests Two and Three], you and I are share a spiritual tradition that is itself radical. So, it's always interesting to me to have fellow Christian Scientists say that what a majority of people think must be right (as [Guest Three] seemed to be saying). If that were the case, we'd all have been raised going to doctors by compulsion. In this country, however, our rights as a minority have always been protected, and we could choose to live how we wanted, again as long as we weren't harming anyone.

Which brings me to another point in [Guest Three]'s comment. In what way does homosexual marriage undermine marriage? How would it hurt your own marriage, or your own community? The examples I know of homosexuals who have legally married here in Massachusetts are folks who own their own homes, are raising children, are active in their communities, are thriving professionals. In fact, they invest more in the community because they feel like a legitimate part of it now. I've only witnessed good effects myself. Do you have examples where the effects have been negative?

No one to my knowledge is advocating legalizing polygamy or other forms of marriage that involve more than two adults or other beings, like livestock. The issue on the table is legal marriage between two consenting adults of any gender. How will or does that hurt anyone?

Thanks for taking the time to respond to the post and to read this. Have a great weekend!

Guest Three wrote:
Laura - any time one redefines an institution, in this case marriage, it opens the door to more interpretations in the future. If a man can marry a man, why can't a man (or woman) marry several women? Does this "hurt" my personal marriage? Probably not. Does it destroy our society? Perhaps not. But it does undermine one of the pillars of a progressive society and it would behoove us to consider these longer term implications.

I don't think there is value in looking at issues like this through a "this just seems right" lens, and not looking at the bigger picture.

Avoiding big picture/longer-term issues is similar to the situation that happened in the mid-90's when people honestly believed everyone should own a home. The government decided they would back loans to individuals who did not qualify. The short-term reasoning seemed compelling - it just seemed right that everyone should own a home.

Unfortunately, no one considered the longer term implications. As you know, the result was a Real Estate bubble that may destroy our society. Sadly, the very people this initiative was designed to help ended up in a much worse situation - now they can't afford a home AND they have bad credit.

Is there a way to provide rights without redefining marriage? Do we really need to redefine an institution? Do we really need to open the door to all kinds of marriage-types? I believe in the need to legally protect individuals in homosexual relationships, I just don't think redefining marriage is the way to go about it.

I could not find anything in the Bible or Mary Baker Eddy's writtings that would support your views. The chapter on Marriage is pretty specific. As a Bible scholar and CS I'm sure you have more knowledge about these issues. Can you provide any ideas from the Bible or any Christian Science literature that I could consider as I think through this issue?

I'm honestly interested as this seems to be an issue that needs much prayer and compassion. Only Love can bring clarity and happiness for all!! I know these conversations are valuable because it forces one to really think through what they believe... Thanks for posting the article (I read the whole thing)!!

Guest One wrote:
That was a great discussion and I do agree with [Guest Three] and understand his points. Laura, you said you cannot use the Bible as the foundational part for our laws...

Okay, how come in courts people swear on the Bible that whatever they say is the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God?

When leaders are sworn in, like the President of the USA, they use the Bible to swear...

Seems to me using the Bible is appropriate as a reference for laws in the United States.

Congrats on being a Bible Scholar! I am not a scholar, but I do own scholarly Bible softwares, such as Bibleworks, Logos Bible Software for PC, Acccordance for Mac...lately I have been using Logos as I have many interlinear versions and dictionaries and books for it.

I replied:
This is indeed a great discussion! To [Guest One's] point first: Here's an interesting article from a few years ago about other options for swearing in court, although it's not commonplace:

Raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth ... on the Koran?

and here's another page that talks about the swearing in of officials not being a requirement:

From the Separation of Church and State page

To me, the point would be swearing on the book that makes you more likely to tell the truth or fulfill the oath. so I hope more people are encouraged to swear on the book that means the most to them, rather than the one that means the most to me. Why should a Muslim swear on the Bible? Why should Jews have to swear on the Christian text? It wouldn't guarantee anything since they don't value the book that way. They would feel no additional impulse to tell the truth any more than they normally would by swearing that oath. but on the Koran or the Torah? Much more meaningful.

[Guest Two], I hear what you're saying, thanks for articulating it more fully. I agree with you 100% on the credit fiasco! What a mess. The virtue of homeownership is vastly overrated in my opinion. I sold my house and am now happily renting.

Anyway (and this is going to get kind of in-house between Christian Scientists, [Guest One], so forgive us), to our core documentation. I think the thing that convinced me that legal marriage is the only way to go for the homosexual couples is that without it, they're precluded from full compliance with the Church Manual. You may know I'm actively supportive of the CS homosexual community, having been the keynote speaker at their recent conference in Philly.

Getting to know these folks, who have been in committed relationships for ten, twenty, thirty plus years, who have literally no other options for being in a meaningful long-term relationship than living together but still love CS and strive to practice it, just makes my heart break. The Manual says "legal marriage." Once that is fulfilled, by changing the laws of our land, they can be in full compliance with the Manual. How amazing would that be?

MBE was writing her chapter on marriage within the context of her times. Interestingly, I believe early versions of Science and Health state, "Union of male and female constitutes completeness." She *edited* that later to read, "Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness." As her thought evolved in a more spiritual direction, so did her language. Of course, there's no indication whatsoever that she was intending this to speak to homosexuality. She just plain didn't ever write on that subject. But she was clearly in favor of legal marriage, as opposed to the "spiritual" marriage of living together.

I'd just like more of our folks to be able to fulfill that requirement.

I'm no authority on this next bit, I just know what I've read and heard from more knowledgeable sources. But apparently if you read the six passages in the entire Bible that condemn homosexuality (male only), it is possible to see these passages as taking exception with licentious activity, sex by force, self-abuse, etc. The Bible does not address homosexuality, male or female, as within a committed long-term relationship. It just doesn't, any more than it addresses interracial marriage. It does address inter-denominational marriage, i.e., marrying someone outside your faith. But as a society we've left that behind as a problem long ago.

We need to take the Bible teachings and apply them to today, not try to live as they did 2,000 - 5,000 years ago. As a woman, this is particularly meaningful to me. I can cut my hair, speak in church, own property, make decisions for my children. I can chose whom I marry, or even if I marry at all. I could not have done any of these things in biblical times. As I enjoy these freedoms, I want everyone else to as well.

My two cents for today!

Guest Three wrote:
Laura - Good points! Thanks for taking the time to fully articulate your ideas and beliefs. I too, have homosexual friends and I don't look at them any differently than I would anyone else. We've all been dealt different cards and need to try to live a life in accord with Jesus' teachings.

Everyone has things in their experience that do not blend with Jesus' teachings - if not, we'd be walking on water and raising the dead. The idea is not to change the rules, but rather change ourselves... to bring every thought into the obedience of Christ.

I think we all need to be patient and loving with one another and know that people in glass houses should not cast stones. No one is a second class citizen, but there is a requirement for us to give up all for Christ. Personally, I'm not there yet, but the journey has been wonderful because it continues to be so challenging. We need to stretch beyond this human experience to grasp immortality. That's the real point, I think.

I think it's great you can cut your hair the way you like. However, the real question is, "how does this act bring you closer to Christ?" That's the goal - to follow Jesus example. My guess, is he did not spend too much time thinking about how his hair looked (I'm sure you don't either! - I'm just using this as an example).

I think the same could be asked of homosexual marriage - "How is this bringing people closer to Christ?" Marriage between a man and a woman is a temporary measure due to our lack of understanding, our dearth of spirituality. At some point we'll recognize our oneness with Love and marriage will become unnecessary (according to Jesus).

In the mean time, the goal is spiritual growth, more compassion, more kindness, more patience, and freedom from any belief that causes us to break the first commandment. I do believe that much of this is a distraction designed to pull us away from the need to focus on our connection to Christ.

Would love to have anyone else's thoughts as well!

Happy New Year!

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or submit a question.
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At 1/01/2009 01:49:00 AM, Blogger Kate said...

I followed this thread on facebook...I am so grateful to see it shared here as you, K

At 1/01/2009 02:54:00 AM, Anonymous Julian said...

In Britain, we now have legal civil partnerships available to couples of the same sex. These confer exactly the same legal rights (inheritance, visiting the sick in hospital etc.) as marriage. The ceremonies are conducted in the same way as civil marriages, but I don't suppose many churches offer them.

I think the fact that they aren't called marriages in the legislation has helped them to be accepted, and maybe this is where proposition 8 slipped up. Of course, people are starting to speak of them as marriages and weddings anyway. I used to think that the term marriage should be reserved for traditional heterosexual marriage, but seeing the way civil partnerships have become part of our society, I no longer think that.

I wonder if those who oppose "gay marriage" are against committed gay couples having the legal rights that it would confer of just against the use of the term. If the latter, then there are ways forward as we have found this side of the Atlantic. Of course, some people will demand the right to be legally referred to as "married". Maybe it's better to go a step at a time rather than take an all or nothing approach.

At 1/06/2009 03:26:00 PM, Anonymous Columbia said...

Hi Laura,
Well you certainly start the new year here with a bang! You have brought up not one but two fascinating, important and controversial questions.

Before commenting I would like to thank you for your always kind, thoughtful and respectful approach to even the most difficult or controversial questions. It reflects a level of civility and unity which is a wonderful model for all.

Now for the first question: Should gay marriage be "allowed". I think Julian and our friends across the pond have it right. A solution I began to advocate over 2 years ago is this:

There should be an amendment to the United States Constitution that states that anywhere the word marriage appears in law in any state in the union it must always be accompanied by "and Universal Domestic Partnership". Marriage refers to one man and one woman AND Universal Domestic Partnership refers to one person and one person (gender not specified). No law may be applied to marriage unless it is simultaneously applied to Universal Domestic Partnership.

The passage of such an amendment would accomplish two things.
1 An immediate, comprehensive and universal end to legal interference in the personal and family lives of all gay Americans.
2 If we were to vote on this as an amendment each individual would have a clearer picture on what they are supporting. The real question is not “Do I think gay marriage is OK?” it is a question of universal law and rights. Are there any legal rights straight people have which can and/or should be legally denied to gay people? If so which rights exactly are those? If such an amendment came up for a vote each voter would at least for a moment have to ponder these questions for himself.

Notice that the WORD marriage is reserved for one man and one woman. Also the red herring frequently brought up is “to allow gay marriage will open the door to polygamy”. Nope. Not so. Notice the language that sets the limit at one per customer for both categories.

Your second major question about the place of the Bible in American law also to me has one simple answer. Anyone tempted to pull guidelines to turn into law from his personally chosen “book of truth” might benefit from first imagining that whichever religion he likes least has just become the 80% majority in the country. Do you really want their “book of truth” to be turned into law which will run your life? For example if you are Christian just imagine a Muslim majority has arrived and ask yourself “Do I want Sharia law?”. If as a Christian you do not want to be forced to live under Sharia law then you do not want the Bible to be used as a guideline for law either. I personally believe full separation of church and state and thus freedom of and from religion are the only circumstances that allow life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

I would love to hear more thoughts on this and again Laura I applaud your sensitivity and respect for all as we examine these challenging questions.

Wishing a fabulous 2009 to all,

At 1/08/2009 12:32:00 PM, Blogger mncnyc said...

There is a good documentary on religion and homosexuals (LGBT)
It's well made- and addresses the Bible and homosexuals.

"And the Bible Tells Me So" not sure of the exact title but this ounds right.

I suggest folks watch it - it doesn't address marriage but addresses homosexuals and religion which is where the marriage debate stems from.


At 1/08/2009 12:34:00 PM, Blogger mncnyc said...

it is "For The Bible Tells me So"


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