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Marriage does not need a defense

DeenBess Sherman

Deena Bess Sherman

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Updated: April 2, 2013 6:08AM

Last week I read in The Beacon-News how local Roman Catholics had marched in “defense of marriage.” Monsignor Archimedes Vallejo was quoted as saying, “This is God’s law, no one can change God’s laws.”

I see three different problems here: confusion about the separation of church and state; ignoring some important history; and a misguided desire to put words in Jesus’ mouth.

First, legislation should be based on our Constitution, not one particular religion’s view of “God’s law.” Thanks to the separation of church and state, each religious group — including the Roman Catholic Church — sanctifies only those marriages that conform to their beliefs. They are free to do so. But no single group decides for all others.

Not everyone — not even all Christians — share the belief that marriage is only for heterosexuals. Americans do not live in a theocracy and it was the founding fathers’ intent that we never would. Learning from history, they knew that letting one religion legislate over all others leads to repression and ultimately bloodshed.

Second, the Judeo-Christian view of “God’s laws” concerning marriage has changed over time. Plural marriages and concubines were the norm with patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Wives were seen as property — like cattle.

Note also that the leaders in the earliest days of the Christian movement were married and some were women. Women were removed from leadership when Christianity went from being persecuted to politically favored in the 4th century. Rules about celibacy came about centuries later because sons of priests (legitimate and not) often inherited control over the Church’s land and wealth without properly training for, or ever performing, the duties of priesthood.

So history shows “God’s laws” concerning marriage do change.

Most importantly, though, is for Christians to get Jesus’ priorities straight. Jesus is absolutely silent on the topic of homosexuality. He is not recorded as uttering a single word prohibiting it. He talks constantly, though, about the Kingdom of God and his mission. So if we’re looking for something to fight for in his name, perhaps we should consider Luke 4 or Matthew 25.

In Luke 4, Jesus begins his public ministry by quoting the Prophet Isaiah about preaching good news to the poor, deliverance to captives, healing the broken-hearted, etc.

In Matthew 25, Jesus congratulates those who rightly understood their mission in this life. He says: “I was hungry and you gave me meat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me; in prison and you came to me. ...Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

So if Christians want to “defend,” something, please consider defending innocent children from poverty, violence or sexual predators. Defend the wrongly convicted from incarceration. Feed the hungry. There is no shortage of work to do.

But there is a big difference between defending the defenseless and imposing your interpretation of God’s will on others. One is servanthood, the other is a power trip. Have you noticed that religions with dietary laws such as “kosher” or “halal” do not insist that people outside their faith conform? We should learn from them.

Finally, to deny rights to people in loving, committed relationships helps no one. These are consenting adults, whose lives are just like yours. They work their jobs, pay their taxes, struggle with their budgets, and cheer on their sports teams. Making them hide their relationships or telling them that the way God made them is wrong, is destructive and arrogant.

Marriage does not need us to defend it. The joy and commitment of marriage is a gift from God. Who among us is presumptuous enough to think they decide to whom God gives it?

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