On SCOTUS, the Bible, and "Love Wins!" Language

As a hetero woman, who has never (ever) dreamt of a wedding day, I was still profoundly moved and delighted by the second SCOTUS ruling on June 26th. From my perspective it signaled a basic acknowledgement that committed, loving relationships take on many forms within the human race, and that we as a society believe in equality for all humans. It is a human rights issue, in my mind, but it has not always been that to me.

In my seminary years in particular, I was deeply conflicted on this topic. I knew and had worked with gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual people prior to seminary, but I had never been required to address the tension of liking them as people but not "approving" of their "lifestyles" from my Christian faith-informed perspective. The day arrived when I finally had to deal with it. Let me be clear, though: even after three years of studying biblical languages, translating passages from the Hebrew & Koine Greek, studying Church History's convoluted path, and surviving several semesters of intensive theological steeping, I was still not able to fully embrace a person who identified as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered. But I desperately wanted to.

The thing is, how I read the Bible at the time trumped all of the stories of people's real lived experiences surrounding this topic. What I thought the Bible said had to win the day. That was how my faith worked at the time, and so please hear me on this: that is how many kind and loving people, living in this country today, handle their faith as well. It does not matter what you think of this way of living; it does matter how you interact with and relate to such people.

Since I have already written a piece, "Biblical Marriage: I do not think it means what you think it means," here, and there was a fantastic summary this week on UpWorthy.com of the six biblical passages that people turn to in this conversation, I won't sort through the biblical content again, today.

What I would rather do is to pose a few questions or comments for your consideration.

1) Have you considered what "Let Love Win" language implies? While I fully embrace this tagline today, for someone who cannot or does not want to "get there," this language suggests that she or he is simply unloving. The thing is, most Christians I know claim that Love is central to their faith, and they are certainly loving people, in general. "Let Love Win" language is actually a bit confusing, if not also a bit offensive, to some people who do not embrace same-sex marriages. In their minds they are being loving, by protecting what Love is supposed to look like or how it is to play out in human experiences. Since this is a legal and civil issue, why not use "Equality under the Law" language or something along those lines?

2) Additionally, jumping to "let love win" overlooks the source of the issue. What the Bible stands for, for many people of faith, is an authoritative treasure trove of guidance, given to humanity in some inspired way by God. The words of God in the Bible will hold more truth than people's experiences, usually because of the belief that humanity is essentially fallen and broken, while God's guidance is perfect.

For anyone who resists marriage equality based on faith convictions (which is most of if not all such people), you actually have to address what the Bible does and does not say on this matter (see the two articles referenced above and chapter 4 of Permission Granted)

3) An essential component of this conversation, like it or not, is the role of sex for humankind. Yes, people who think that same-sex marriage is not appropriate or is defying God's will or plan are (usually unconsciously) thinking so based on biblical ideas about sex, not really marriage.

Biblical ideas of sex reflect the limited biological, hormonal, physiological, gestational, and relational beliefs about humans at the time the scriptures were written. Biblical ideas about sex do focus on procreation, and on males as dominant owners of their women/wives (usually interchangeable terms in the original), who mark their property through intercourse. We should not expect biblical ideas about sex to reflect all that we know about it today. But we will not make progress as a society on this issue without being able to understand and talk about the Bible as a source of the resistance.

4) Now more than ever, understanding what the Bible is and is not, what it does and does not say, is a crucial component for responsible citizenship for everyone living in the United States. This claim goes far beyond the current marriage equality conversation, but it is central to this particular discussion.