Gay marriage is one of our cultural/legal ping-pong balls. California’s Proposition 8, banning gay marriage in that state, was recently overturned after a month-long legal battle. Proponents of the gay marriage ban appealed it. So goes the push-pull of community trying to find where to draw the lines of ethics concerning sexuality.
There should be lines drawn, of course. When we draw it between gay/straight, however, I believe we miss the mark. Our rich Judeo-Christian faith has deep roots in love and covenant. The oldest and most time-tested is the relationship with God, “I will be your God, you will be my people.” The slightly newer covenant from the lips of Jesus, “love the Lord your God with EVERY ounce of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Actually these words were just as ancient as the first round but seems like we have a tendency to get distracted. Jesus said the latter of the two really is all you need to know and do to live that life of fullness and completeness or find “eternal life.”
Covenant. Words vary on what we promise each other (and God), but those like “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, … forever” are familiar. More contemporary language like “I take you from this time onward, to join with you and to share all that is to come… as long as we both shall live” seem to paint the picture pretty clearly what the marriage covenant is about.
Some see the covenant of marriage as a protection of an institution. I think it is much, much more than that. Covenants of faith and of marriage, I believe, are meant to enhance our experience of the beauty and fullness/completeness of life God has intended for us. Only through long-term, loving, trusting relationships that transcend the wild swings of ups and downs can we truly experience that which might be considered “eternal.”
Human sexuality is an important part of this covenant making. It is truly a gift of God and calls for reverent stewardship. For a couple of decades our culture has taught “safe sex”. We, the church, have been slow, however, to teach “sacred sex”, human sexuality enriched by long-term, loving, trusting relationships, that enhances our human experience of that which is divine and eternal. Teaching sacred sex to teens (through families, of course) most certainly requires different ethical sensitivities than teaching mature adults. I believe the ethical line is best drawn with covenant.
Christian mystics have long talked of sacred unions. Those are the mystical, beautiful unions between the divine and the human, between the body and soul/spirit, between ecstasy and intimacy. Isn’t it interesting that humanity has attempted throughout history to keep these in separate spheres. The ancient Hebrews would certainly die if the divine and the human ever meet… then they did meet, and in Jesus, we learned a new lesson of intimacy and ecstasy. The Greeks of New Testament years knew that the body was evil and the spirit was heavenly. It seems to me the sacred unions named by the mystics are complementary and simply belong together.
Well, this might not be compelling evidence in itself to justify men marrying men and women marrying women, but I’m convinced enough by Jesus that the ethics are in the covenant and not in the orientation.
As stated in Newsweek’s Conventional Wisdom Watch a few weeks ago, as the court overturned Prop 8, “Finally we may be over this silly debate.”
Not yet, but soon.
Peace – Bill