Contrary to popular belief, the Bible has absolutely nothing to say about gay marriage, or even about loving homoerotic relationships as we know them. At Huffington Post, Professor Greg Carey of Lancaster Theological College points out that several of -the Biblical verses most closely associated with modern weddings, read in their scriptural context, have nothing at all to do with marriage. The famous passage from Ruth, for instance, “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God“, which is often used in marriage services, is Ruth speaking to her mother-in-law, not to a bridegroom.
The point is, Christian weddings rarely feature passages that directly relate to marriage. Only one passage, Genesis 2:24, seems especially relevant, while other passages require us to bend their content to our desire to hear a good word about marriage.
I would add that just as the traditionalists bend the content of scripture to fit their modern ideas of marriage, it is equally possible to select texts to support gay marriage. Several of the verses discussed by Carey have distinct overtones to those who will hear, to suggestion in themselves, or in associated texts, to same-sex relationships. Ruth and Naomi, for instance, are a striking example of an intense love between two women. In the lines from Genesis, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh”, the word translated as “cleave” has distinctly sexual associations, and is used elsewhere to describe both the love of David and Jonathan, and that of Jesus and his beloved disciple. Even the best known passage specifically describing a wedding, the miracle of the wedding at Cana, may be taken as an metaphor for Christ’s mystical marriage to his church – and was once envisioned as celebrating his own wedding to his beloved disciple.
The point is, it is useless to turn to the Bible for specific guidance on modern decisions on marriage, as there is none. The modern institutions of marriage and family, gay or straight, are light years from the patterns prevailing in the Biblical world – which in any case evolved over the centuries between the earliest books of the Old Testament, and the New.
Unfortunately, many Christians use the Bible to support their own prejudices and bigotry. They talk about “biblical family values” as if the Bible had a clear message on marriage and sexuality. Let’s be clear: There’s no such thing as “biblical family values” because the Bible does not speak to the topic clearly and consistently.
In fact, if we really want to follow the New Testament guidance on marriage, we would find we are advised to avoid it altogether, both by Jesus, who instructed his disciples to leave their homes and families to follow him, and by Paul, who advised the men of Corinth not to seek wives.
In a longer piece assessing the Biblical evidence with specific reference to gay marriage, Lee Jefferson makes four important points about biblical marriage:
- First, the institution of marriage is a secular and social institution.
- Second, the Bible does not clearly endorse one form of marriage over another
- Third, the Biblical arguments against same-sex marriage are from a scant few texts that purportedly deal with same-sex orientation – but have dubious relevance to loving relationships.
- Fourth, any reference to same-sex practice by a Biblical writer or a Greco-Roman writer has no knowledge or understanding of the concept of “same-sex orientation.
- Keith Sharpe’s “The Gay Gospels” on the Biblical View of Marriage
- The Queer Family in the Book of Ruth
- Irish Fuss over Jesus’ Two Dads.
- The Gospels’ Queer Values
- What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gay Marriage?(Lee Jefferson, Huffington Post)
- What Does the Bible Actually Say About Marriage? (Greg Carey, Huffington Post)
- My Take: Bible Condemns a Lot, So Why Focus on Homosexuality? (Johnathan Dudley, CNN Belief blog).
- Homophobia is the True “Abomination” in America (woodgatesview.wordpress.com)
- How the Bible was used to justify slavery, abolitionism (releasingreligion.blogspot.com)
- Bible was used as a Civil War weapon (religion.blogs.cnn.com)