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It is Not Good That The Man Should Be Alone
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"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils,
speaking lies in hypocrisy,
having their conscience seared with a hot iron,
FORBIDDING TO MARRY."
-1st Timothy 4:1

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The following is a  brilliant commentary on the question of same-gender marriage from our Christian brother Justin Lee, host of  Justin's World, GayChristianNetworkGCN Radio, and a featured guest of The Dr. Phil Show.


This essay was originally written as a response to a message posted in another online group. I've modified it slightly. Essentially, I want to answer this question:

"Is it hypocritical for a Christian to support same-sex marriage

while continuing to condemn other behaviors such as polygamy?"

My answer is no. I don't believe it's hypocritical at all. Read on, and you'll see why.

I believe that God blesses the loving commitment of two people in marriage, regardless of their sex. But a Christian acquaintance of mine complained that this is faulty logic. In his view, a "marriage" consists of two people: one man and one woman. He felt that it was inconsistent of me to say that a marriage should be between two people if I don't think that they have to be of opposite sexes.

You may have heard this argument before. Essentially, this man was asking, "How can you justify saying that a marriage should be between two people when you've already thrown out the male-and-female aspect of it, as depicted in the Bible? You're only keeping part of the Biblical model, and you're throwing out the other part. Why not go all the way and support polygamy?" Here is my personal response.

First of all, this argument suggests that there are only two big conditions for a marriage -- that it have two members, and that they be of opposite sexes. It says that we are using "one part" of the model and not "the other part."

But there are many more than two conditions for a marriage that we could derive from Scripture! For instance, what about the age of the partners? If our only conditions were "two people" and "male and female," then even if we followed those conditions, we'd still be supporting relationships between a grown man and a young girl (since such a relationship has two partners, with one male and one female!) Obviously we do NOT want to support those relationships. So there must be something else going on here -- some other standard we can appeal to.

There are two ways we could approach this. One would be to begin listing all the supposed requirements for who can get married: "Two." "Opposite sexes." "Adults." "Human." And so forth.

The other way to approach it would be to look at what a marriage is, fundamentally, and what purposes it should serve. Based on that information, we can draw conclusions about who would be fit for marriage, and what the marriage should be like.

For now, let's take the first approach, where we list requirements. Our first task would be to compile that list. As we've seen, "two" and "opposite sexes" aren't enough. So where do we find all the traits?

A common suggestion is to look to the "Biblical model." In other words, we could look at the marriages mentioned in the Bible and try to figure out what they have in common.

But ultimately, we run into a lot of problems that way. Consider for example:

  • We can't say "adults," since young teenagers frequently entered into marriages in the Bible, including Jesus' own mother.
  • We can't say "two," since Old Testament kings had multiple wives, and this was not condemned by God. In fact, God referred to David's wives as a "gift" from Himself, contrasting them with the sin of his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:8). God even provided rules for how to treat a second wife, rather than condemning the practice (Deut. 21:15-17).
  • Until recently, many Christians would have added the requirement "of the same race." This also can be supported by looking at the "Biblical model" (Ezra 10:10-11, Neh. 13:27).

There's another problem we run into with this approach. When we look for examples of moral behavior in the Bible, we are limited to things which are BOTH supported by God AND practiced in the culture of that day.

If something wasn't practiced in the cultures where the Bible was written, then of course it won't appear (positively or negatively) in the Bible. For example, the Bible doesn't discuss open-heart surgery, sign language, or wheelchairs. If we were to determine that "speaking" and "writing" are the only two forms of communication mentioned in the Bible, and that therefore sign language is not supported by God, we would be making a false assumption. Of course, there were deaf people in Bible times, but they did not have the benefit of a universally recognized language of hand symbols as today's Deaf culture has. It wasn't practiced back then, so it isn't mentioned.

The same would apply to gay marriage. In Bible times, there was no gay marriage. All marriages were between men and women. There were some extra-marital sexual activity (including homosexual activity), and that was condemned. But there were no "gay marriages" to condemn or to support.*

* A side note: there were certainly gay relationships in Bible times. However, here I'm specifically responding to someone who is arguing about marriage, and there was no institutionalized marriage for gay people in Bible times.

I've shown why simply "listing requirements" for a marriage (such as the number of people or gender of the partners) isn't a good way to determine what makes a marriage.
 
But I also mentioned that there was another approach we could take. Rather than simply looking at examples of marriages in the Bible, condemning what we don't find and condoning what we do, we can look at the definition and purpose of marriage, and then extrapolate from that.
 
So what is a marriage exactly, if we leave out the part about who can be in one?  Well, it is a committed, lifelong union.  It involves a physical (sexual) melding, binding separate souls together as "one flesh."  Essentially, a marriage is a permanent bond for as long as we are on the earth.  It does not progress into heaven.  [see Matt. 22:23-30.]
 
From what I can determine, a marriage has several purposes:
 
1) Companionship.
God said that it was not good for a man to be alone.  It seems that we have, built into our nature, a desire for a unique kind of companion which is different from mere friendship.
2) Unity.
The persons in a marriage behave as one entity.  From a Christian perspective, this means they strengthen each other in their spiritual walk.  This is the reason Paul did not want anyone to be "unequally yoked."
3) Procreative Stability.
Children are produced by sexual activity.  Marriage means that the children would grow up in a more stable environment, rather than as the accidental result of someone's fling.
In addition to all of this, marriage serves a social  purpose as well, but that purpose tends to vary somewhat depending on the culture.
 
So a marriage is a lifelong, exclusive, and totally unique relationship bound by both covenant and sexual activity.  It is designed to best achieve the purposes listed above.
 
Notice that I've explained the idea of "marriage" without defining who is involved in the marriage. So now, based on this information, we can analyze the different potential configurations we discussed earlier and see if they're really fit for marriage.
 
First of all, what about an adult and a child?  Can they form a relationship of this sort?  Well, no, for several reasons.  Children are below the "age of consent," and thus they cannot enter into a covenant relationship of any sort.  They're not old enough to make that decision.  The exact age at which this changes is dependent on the culture (which is how we account for the young marriages in the Bible), but there is always an age at which you become able to make that kind of decision.  Before then, you cannot get married.
 
Also, an adult-child relationship has another huge problem.  Presumably, the only reason such a relationship would exist is if the adult were sexually attracted to children rather than to adults.  This automatically brings up a question: If the adult is only attracted to children, how can he form a lifelong relationship with someone who will only be a child for a few more years?  In fact, groups which support pederastry do NOT support lifelong relationships for this very reason.
 
What about interracial relationships?  Can they be classified as "marriages"?  Absolutely.  There is nothing about a person's skin color, ethnicity, or national orgin that alters their ability to form a lifelong relationship as described above with another human being of any race.  An exception to this can be found in the Old Testament, where Jews were forbidden to marry non-Jews for religious reasons.  In that case, the concern had to do with forming a bond between God's people and those who worshipped idols, thereby bringing idol worship into the Jewish community (which is exactly what happened).
 
[Rev. Jim's note:  And even here we find a loophole in this prohibition, for we see that Moses' second wife was a Cushite (black) woman; and when Moses' sister protested, she was instantly struck with leprosy from God for seven days.]
 
What about polygomy?  Can a marriage include three or more people?   Well, if I'm going to consistenty apply the features of marriage I described above, I'd have to say no.  Remember that our goal in marriage is a stable, unique bond.  It provides unity by making its participants "one flesh."  But when a man has multiple wives or a woman has multiple husbands,  there is a necessary inequality in the relationship.  It does not create unity as much as it creates division, puting the wives (for example) in competition with each other for their husband's affections.  The procreative stability of the relationship is also undermined; if the father's attention is divided between multiple wives, each with their own children, the children will have a  necessarily less stable environment.
 
Note that the Bible does not put it quite this way, but it does strongly hint at these problems.  In the Old Testament, polygamy served a social purpose, and so it was permitted by God in limited cases (although I can't say that I totally understand why.)  In Deuteronomy, God provides provisions for cases where "a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other" (Deut. 21:15, NIV) - a phrase which reminds us of the perils of bringing more than two people into a marriage.  (Notice also the situation of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah in Genesis 29.)  It is inevitable, I believe, that in such a case, there will always be someone "left out" or "less loved."  Clearly, such a relationship cannot embody the traits of a marriage as I defined them above.  And if a relationship does not fit the characteristics of a marriage, why would we call it a marriage?
 
Now let's apply the same standards to a relationship between two people of the same sex.  I do not see any reason why two committed Christians cannot form a "lifelong, exclusive, and totally unique relationship  bound by both covenant and sexual activity."  Furthermore, such a relationship can provide companionship, unity, and stability just as well as any other, regardless of the sex of the partners.  In fact, while I have not encountered any pederastic or polygamous relationships which come close to providing the traits of a marriage as I described  them, I have encountered quite a few same-sex relationships which provide those traits better than many heterosexual relationships.
 
[Rev. Jim's note: It should also be said that, Acts 17:26 tells us that God has "made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth",  and though usually applied to race/nationality, it also applies to one's sex.  Humans, male or female, are of the same flesh, are created in the image of God, are procreated the same way, and come from the same place (human womb). Remember that only EVE herself was separatly made, but every male and female after her comes from the same source. This means that same sex unions cannot be compared to bestiality.]
 
There is only one trait which I can imagine being called into question with regard to same-sex marriage, and that's the issue of procreation.  Two men or two women cannot procreate, and isn't that one of the functions of marriage?
 
Almost, but not quite.  Procreation is one of the functions of SEX.  The function of marriage is to provide the stability needed for the children that result - which is why I listed trait #3 as "procreative stability" rather than "procreation."  A gay marriage still provides that stability, whether there are children or not.
 
But still - there would be sex in a gay marriage, so doesn't that make it immoral, since the sex could not achieve the function of procreation?
 
Well, no.  Sex, like many gifts from God, has multiple purposes.  The Bible explicitly tells us that one of the purposes of sex is to provide a physical bond within marriage.  This is still a valid use of sex, even when there is no chance of procreation.  (Otherwise, infertile couples could not have sex, and older couples would have to abstain once they were past their child-bearing years.)
 
[There are also those who have had to have their reproductive organs removed, such as with hysterectomies or castration, due to physical damage, cancer or other diseases, but their marriages are no less valid.]
 
Gay couples are not unique in their inability to produce children.  There are many causes of infertility, but that does not in any way lessen the importance or validity of the marriages in question.  With that issue resolved, I see no reason to deny marriage to gay couples.
 
I hope these comments were helpful to you; my goal was not to address all the questions surrounding gay marriage, but rather to address the single question, "Is it hypocritical for a Christian to support same-sex marriage while continuing to oppose polygamy?" I would be happy to hear any comments or questions you have about this essay.  Please contact me at justin@alumni.wfu.edu with your thoughts, or to obtain permission to use this essay elsewhere.
Thanks, and God bless! --Justin Lee

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GAYS & ADOPTION
 
I would just like to add a little to the topic of gay marriage and children.
 
It has been presumed by the Religious Right and others that children raised by gay couples will be influenced to be gay themselves. The very fact that ALL homosexuals come from male/female unions (heterosexual) is proof that this is not so. One's sexuality is not necessarily persuaded by his or her upbringing, else there would be no homosexuals at all - especially in America, where the "macho man" ideal is pumped into boys from day one.
 
And we find that most children who are born to a male/female couple, where one or both parents are homosexual (such as a child born to gay parents experimenting with the opposite sex),  are generally heterosexual, regardless of the homosexuality of the parent(s).
 
It is sad that so many orphaned children will lose out on a loving home because of fear that homosexuals will try to convert them to a homosexual "lifestyle". It is preferred in our society - and the church - that a child have NO home or family (and the emotional stability that comes from a loving home and family) at all, and to be passed around from orphanages to foster homes, than to live with a homosexual couple who will care for them no less than a heterosexual couple or single parent. - Rev. Jim Cunningham
 

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