Friday, May 11, 2007

The Problems with Mitt Romney's Religious Opposition to Gay Marriage

Mitt Romney, a candidate for the Republican nomination for President, has made his opposition to marriage for same-sex couples the centerpiece in his claim to Conservatism. And this Sunday he set himself up as a Man of Faith by using Scripture to justify his advocacy.

In an interview with Mike Wallace, he introduced the notion that his civil principles may rest on his religious doctrines. And that, I suspect, may not ultimately play out to be a wise choice. Although I believe this may have been an attempt to showcase his shared values with conservative Christian Republicans, I think his statements contain elements that could instead give rise to concerns for those who are leaders in conservative Christianity.

"This isn't just some temporary convenience here on Earth, but we're people that are designed to live together as male and female and we're gonna have families," he tells interviewer Mike Wallace, according to an excerpt CBS released Friday. "And that, there's a great line in the Bible that children are an inheritance of the Lord and happy is he who has or hath his quiver full of them."

There are, as I see it two problems with the above quote.

Although the first statement may initially seem to refer to commonly shared faith, it does not. While Mormons do believe that marriages consecrated on Earth may be bound in Heaven and that spousal relationships can carry beyond the grave, this is not a belief of orthodox Christianity. And one reason Christians do believe that marriage is, indeed, temporary and here on Earth could be something that Romney would prefer to remain undiscussed – second marriages. Introducing this conversation can quickly trigger anti-Mormon sentiments and doom his chances.

Another reason that orthodox Christianity dismisses post-death marriage relationships is because Christ specifically said they did not exist. Though non-Mormon Christians may sing about their loved ones waiting for them in the sweet by-and-by, their priests, pastors, and other religious leaders remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:23-30:

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. "Teacher," they said, "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?"

Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

So while this message about non-Earthly marriage may appeal to fellow Mormons, or even seem comfortable to many sentimental lay Christians, I doubt that conservative Christian leaders were much comforted by this reminder that Romney is not, really, one of their own. And I do not believe that Romney can win the nomination by emphasizing those doctrinal points in which his faith differs from traditional Christianity.

While I personally believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is within the family of Christianity, only about one third of the population are certain that they agree with me. On CNN this week the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed, was unwilling to say that Mormons are Christians.

The second part of his statement suggests either a shaky familiarity with Scripture or some rather disturbing theological notions. The “great line in the Bible” that Romney quoted comes from Psalms 127:3-5:

Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.

Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

Even a casual reading of this Psalm clearly illustrates the militaristic nature of the writer’s world. Male children of one’s youth are valuable and a blessing because they can fight with you against your enemies. This is not exactly the Norman Rockwell ‘happy man with a quiver full of children’ image that Romney seems to joyously use as his justification for discrimination.This selection troubles me.

Although I do not seek to criticize Scripture, I do believe in cultural context. I sincerely hope that we, as 21st Century Americans, do not view male children as preferable to female children. And I hope that we don’t see any of our children as military advantages.

I doubt many will read much into Romney’s Scriptural selection. But it should concern the citizenry that a man seeking to be Commander in Chief in the midst of a less-than-successful war uses sexist and militaristic imagery when talking about marriage. And it should concern conservative Christians that Romney may not be fully aware of the passages he quotes. And to the extent that his principles are based on his faith, it may concern conservatives who insist that public policy be based on their faith alone.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Heresy of Albert Mohler

It has long been the belief of Christians that salvation comes by the grace of God through faith in the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That criterion is the sole criterion in Scripture and, indeed, throughout the New Testament much caution is given that works or other criteria not be raised as a barrier between God and man.

However, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. has found a new standard: heterosexuality.

Earlier this week Mohler was subject to a protest in his office by SoulForce, an organization of devout persons - mostly Christian - who use non-violent means to bring about an end to anti-gay discrimination. Reading the testimonies of SoulForce volunteers, one cannot help but note their devotion to God. But Mohler has declared that because they are not heterosexual that therefore they are unsaved.

"The only way we have come to Christ is that we have come to desire something far more than we desire our sin," Mohler said. "We need to pray for their salvation, not merely their salvation from homosexuality, but their salvation from sin and death, the salvation by God's grace that we have come to know -- a salvation from sin equally as ugly, equally as deadly."
Mohler thinks those who challenge his bigotry will be barred from the kingdom of God. But according to the Bible that I read, Mohler's eternal soul is in much greater danger for rejecting these young people and pushing them from God.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

YSD's (Here's Your Burden - Let's Make it Heavy)

In an article today about how some African-American preachers are having to requestion their traditional anti-gay attitudes in light of the realities of their families and friends, one comment caught my attention

Mr. Hill said he agreed with Mr. Meredith that God loves everyone, including gay men and lesbians. “But God corrects you because he loves you,” he said, explaining that for gay Christians, such a correction would probably mean lifelong celibacy or eventually being with someone of the opposite sex.
Mr. Hill is probably a nice man and well intentioned. But he, like most evangelical Christians, is quick with the YSD's. He's ready to tell you what You Should Do. Not having any knowledge, experience, or desire to know or empathize, he nonetheless has his handy YSD's ready to tell gay Christians what the Law has for them.

Hill's attitude is neither unique nor new. The week in my devotions I was reading in Luke where Jesus dealt with this exact same thing. The religous leaders of his day had perfected the fine art of the YSD and Jesus had put up with enough of it.
Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them."
Todays 'experts in the law' are all ready with a lifetime of celibacy. "Here's your burden", they say. "And we all have burdens too, so it's just too bad for you. Now I have to run, it's my anniversary and the kids are at the babysitters."

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Samaratan or the Priest

Part of my daily ritual is a morning devotion. This morning's reading took me to the 10th chapter in the gospel of Luke and the very familiar story of the good Samaritan.

Reading this story again, it seemed so relevant to the recent events surrounding Mike Jones' efforts to raise funds for an AIDS meals charity and the counter-effort by preacher and ex-gay activist Karen Booth to halt that contribution. For those unfamiliar, Mike is the gay masseur whose witness exposed Ted Haggard's secret life and Mike was trying to auction his massage table on eBay to raise funds for Project Angel Heart. Karen led an e-mail campaign to stop the sale because it was "reprehensible" and "inflicted more pain and humiliation on Ted Haggard, his family and friends."

This inspired the following paraphrase:

"A man was living in Colorado, when he fell victim to a virus. It stripped him of his ability to work and care for himself, leaving him half dead. A preacher happened to be hear about an organization that would feed the man but she passed by on the other side. So too, fellow participants on her website, when they heard about him, passed by on the other side. But a gay prostitue, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He set up to sell an item through an online auction, something of value which he had purchased himself, and pledged the proceeds to a charity to feed the man. Hearing this, the preacher rushed back and lobbied the auction to withdraw the effort. She rallied those who agreed with her and they bombarded the auction with protest.

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another Bomb in the T-Shirt Wars

The ADF has found another poster-child in their campaign for the right to harass gay students on campus. This time they have Heidi Zamecnik, a young lady who in April 2006 wore a t-shirt to school on the National Day of Silence:

In response to a Day of Silence event at the school in April 2006, Zamecnik wore a shirt that read "MY DAY OF SILENCE, STRAIGHT ALLIANCE" on the front and "BE HAPPY, NOT GAY" on the back, according to the suit filed Wednesday.

Although the ADF says it is trying to "enable Christian students to express a contrasting viewpoint on homosexuality", that expression is not evident in the content of the T-Shirt. Zamecnik made no visible connection between her faith and her opinion.

Anti-gay activists such as ADF continue to draw no distinction between efforts to support students, such as Day of Silence, and efforts to condemn students, such as Zamecnik's T-Shirt. They pretend not to understand that "I support Black History Month" has a significantly different impact on the well-being of the student body than "Blacks are Inferior". In the community and country at large both ideas are protected, but in a publicly mandated institution such as a school, these are not equal positions.

I would support Zamecnik wearing a shirt that promoted her faith such as "Day of Christian Pride" but one that attacks other students has no place on campus.

And Zamecnik and ADF have both participated in yet another example to the students on her campus that Christians are hostile, litigious, vindictive, and hateful. And for that they should both be ashamed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Episcopalians Stand up to Exclusion

In other church news, the Episcopal Church has denounced the demands made upon them by the Global South to set up a parallel authority to defy the Church's authority and to represent the rogue churches who have disassociated themselves due to the Episcopal Church's inclusionary position on gay and lesbian Christians.

Responding to an ultimatum from the leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion, bishops of the Episcopal Church have rejected a key demand to create a parallel leadership structure to serve the conservative minority of Episcopalians who oppose their church’s liberal stand on homosexuality.

The church has not yet responded to demands that it stop ordaining gay Bishops or blessing same-sex couples but the language within their first response suggests that they will not be receptive to demands that are viewed as rejection of "all God's people".
What About Scandanavia?!?

That is the cry often heard from those who oppose marriage equality. Then comes some claim that recognition of gay couples has irreparably destroyed marriage in those countries and some garbled "statistics" that frankly don't make sense.

So what do those closest to the issue think?

Sweden, where same-sex couples have been able to register partnerships since 1994, is ready to make a change. Having looked at the consequences of recognition of same-sex partners, they are ready to throw them out. And replace them with marriage.

Sweden took a step toward allowing gay marriage Wednesday when a government-appointed committee proposed expanding the rights of same-sex couples.

Having spent 12 years with this system, 71% of the population favors converting the partnerships to full fledged marriages.

And what is the response of the church in Sweden? The Church of Sweden indicates they will perform same-sex marriages while the Lutheran Church says they will perform them but call them something else.

Anti-gay activists have cried, "what about Scandanavia?" Scandanavia heard and answered.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Greetings to any new readers

Some of you may have known me by my writing on Ex-Gay Watch. I am no longer writing at that site. I wish only the very best for all of those who write, administer, and otherwise participate at XGW and hope that site thrives and prospers.

I am at present uncertain where or to what extent I will continue to blog. I will no doubt do some posting here and perhaps elsewhere.

I also have other non-blog related projects with which I will be participating and hope that some of those will be able to be discussed in due time. But only time can tell.

I hope you enjoy what little there currently is at this site along with anything new that wanders through my head and makes its way onto my page.