I return to this very sensitive subject, knowing how divisive it is, with a slight sense of foreboding. I have had several friends lovingly challenge me on my position during the past week, expressing heartfelt concern and, in some cases, admonishing me for my departure from my former conservative ways.
Conflict of any kind is never a fun thing, but challenging one another inside of civil discourse always leads to growth; I am convinced of that.
At the same time, I have a renewed vigor and resolve. Since my last post, I have spent a great deal of time in study and prayer, and am more convinced than I have ever been that the traditional reading of the Bible regarding passages concerning homosexuality does not accurately reflect the original writers’ intentions and must be revisited in light of what we now know about human sexuality and the human condition in general.
And so, I turn now to the traditional set of texts used to perpetuate the argument against same sex marriage and homosexuality as a whole.
Genesis 1-2 The Creation Story
I begin with the Old Testament and The Creation Story found in Genesis 1-2.
Many critics of homosexuality go immediately to the Genesis story of creation and Adam and Eve to make their point that God did not create man and woman to be anything but heterosexual. After all, God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, as I once heard Little Richard say in an interview. But, the danger one runs into when looking at this story through the lenses of post-Enlightenment science is that the authors of the Genesis story were doing just that–telling a story. The story they were telling about creation was intent on answering an extremely important, yet very complicated question: Where did we come from?
To say that, because it excludes homosexuality from its verses, the story privileges heterosexuality is a very weak argument. It never mentions the single life or the choice of a celibate lifestyle, for example, nor does it deal with parents without children.
The creation story was never intended to be a history of anthropology, nor was it intended to be a run down of every human relationship. It is not meant to be the standard by which every marriage is judged, but, rather, a story about the establishment of humanity and its society.
Because relations between a man and a woman (“Adam” and “Eve”) were needed to begin and then perpetuate our human society (and still are to this day, of course; no one is denying this biological fact), the story focuses on this aspect of human relationships.
The story of Creation in Genesis could never have been written to be understood through the lenses of “creationist science.” The way in which we talk about scientific ways of knowing did not exist in that day. It is, and was originally intended to be, a beautifully constructed myth that serves as an explanation for the beginning of things.
Does that make the story untrue? Absolutely not! The story is ripe with truth and will always be one worthy of discussion. However, it does not fall into the realm of biological science.
About five years ago, I heard a wonderful lecture given by Dr. Marcus Borg (Canon Theologian; Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Oregon State University) in which he gave the most remarkable definition of the word Myth I had ever heard:
“A myth is a story (and it is always a story, by the way) about the way things always are but never were.”
This means that a myth does not have to be “factually true” in order to be “profoundly true.” Actually, it is the case with most everything to do with the human condition that when we wish to find the “truth” of things, we turn to the great works of art, theater, music and literature. The Creation Story, in this sense, tells us the profound truth of how humanity came into being.
Is the relationship of marriage between a man and a woman as seen in the story of Adam and Eve one that has been created and sanctioned by God? It most certainly is. But, to claim that it is the only relationship created and sanctioned by God, simply because it mentions no other type, is not a solid ground on which to argue the point.
In my next post, we will remain in the book of Genesis and spend some time with a doomed city– Sodom.
Until then, peace be with you!