Why we celebrate gay marriage in Rutgers church.
(Written for church newsletter)
(Written for church newsletter)
This summer, New York State finally changed the law allowing people of the same gander to marry. The Marriage Equality Act was passed by the State Legislature, signed by Governor on the same day, and thus became effective on July 24, 2011.
Unfortunately our denomination – the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.,) is less progressive than the secular authority of our state. Our denomination unequivocally allows ministers only to bless same gender unions in special ceremonies. However, our denomination is slow to embrace change and our church law is completely unclear about ministers conducting marriages in states where “gay marriage” is now allowed and legal. [Please understand that this article and blog was written and published before our denomination (PCUSA) changed its Book of Order - the church' constitution. Actually this article was part of our campaign striving for this change.]
One of the strongest biblical arguments (at least in my opinion) for gay marriage might surprise you. It comes from the Ten Commandments, a biblical passage which has been otherwise widely abused and misinterpreted by conservative evangelicals. The seventh commandment in the traditional translation states: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” In the Hebrew original there are just two words, a negative particle and a verb. I do not want to go into any detailed linguistic analysis, but anyone can understand that when two original words are translated by no fewer than five words, there is a substantial interpretation going on even on this most elemental level of language translation.
We might be in for some more surprises if we decided to understand and interpret this commandment for our times. The Biblical concept of adultery was quite specific and technical: A man could commit adultery only with someone else’s wife, thus undermining the other man’s marriage. A woman could commit adultery only if married, and it undermined only her own marriage (or more precisely, the marriage of her husband to her).
Thus adultery was a hostile act that undermined the committed relationship of another male member of the society. It is clear that this legal and moral concept was fully rooted in the culture of a patriarchal society. Thousands years later, we do not live in patriarchal society any longer. This commandment must be re-interpreted. Quite often its meaning is simply expanded into any area of sexual morality. That is a clear example of what is called “easy-gesis,” a lazy interpretation that completely misses the main point.
The original intention of the biblical concept of adultery was: undermining someone else’s committed intimate relationship. This concept must remain at the center of any attempted modern interpretations. Our current social structures and definitions of relationships are different, but their protection should remain central to this commandment.
We also need to recognize that, in our modern times, there are different ways to undermine other people’s relationships. One of ways of undermining other people's commited intimate relationships could easily be self-righteous religious campaigns against the same gender marriages! They vociferously reject providing security and protection to same gender couples. De facto they publicly break the seventh commandment and they achieve it regardless of their own marital fidelity. (Just try to visualize it! It would almost be an amusing idea, if it were not so sad.) On July 24th, New York State finally extended its protection to the same gender committed relationships. We rejoiced in this change in our congregation, and we extend our recognition and protection of committed and loving relationships to all our couples. We want to live, as faithfully as we can, according to the tenets of our reformed faith and in harmony with biblical testimony. We hope that our denomination will soon find clarity in this matter, just as it did in the matter of ordination of LGTB deacons, elders and ministers.
Once again, Rutgers Church is offering its cultural and theological leadership.