Friday, May 27, 2016

Rights and Sacraments

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 11/7/2008)

I’ve been rather amazed to watch the post-election hysteria of the pro same-sex marriage crowd, holding rallies (a little late, guys) and demonstrations against the hapless Mormon church in West Hollywood.

Their view, as presented, is that a basic human right has been taken from them.

I don’t think so. Marriage between any two humans has never been a ‘right’ anywhere. They claim that two humans who love each other should be allowed to marry, forgetting entirely that marriage based upon mutual love is quite a recent phenomenon. Even in Ancient Greece where homosexuality was about as normative as it’s ever been anywhere, marriage was something that took place between a man and a woman for the purpose of raising up the next generation, for the stability of the nation itself.

But even without focusing on the historical facts, marriage is not a ‘right’ — it is a sacrament. When Caligula ‘married’ his horse, that wasn’t a marriage, it was mockery of a sacrament.

The line gets blurred for modern humanity because 1) by and large we have so little understanding of the sacramental and 2) traditionally society has accorded certain rights and privileges to the married state (these same rights and privileges are available, at least here in California and many other states, to domestic partners). The encouragement for people to take part in the sacrament of marriage benefits the state and brings stability to the nation. In a time when women at least were mostly celibate outside marriage, a man might be motivated to marry in order to have access to his own woman, to a woman he believed would be a suitable mother to his heirs.

A right is something we have inherently: we have the right to breathe, we have to right to sleep. In America we believe in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (the pursuit of happiness and not happiness itself—). We have these rights: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to keep and bear arms, freedom to vote, etc. None of these are absolute rights: we cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded auditorium; we may need to obtain a permit in order to stage a demonstration; we now require the person buying a gun to be licensed and we limit the kinds of arms a person can bear; one must be an adult citizen (and generally not a felon) in order to vote.

Marriage is not in the bill of rights. Neither is driving. The state says that you must be of a certain age and prove a certain ability, which may include the taking of courses, in order to hold a driver’s license. Throughout all of human history the state (kingdom, etc.) has said that marriage is between a man and a woman and that they must be willing participants or their parents give consent in the case of early betrothals. With extremely rare exceptions, a man cannot capture a woman and impose marriage upon her; if he captures a woman and imposes himself upon her sexually it is rape and if he keeps her it is a form of slavery.

All of these are ways of looking at marriage and seeing how it is different from a right – but why do I say that it is a sacrament? As a Christian that’s easy: Genesis 2:24, echoed by Jesus Christ when challenged on the matter of divorce in Matthew 19:4
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
Marriage is the first sacrament (well, one could argue that keeping the Sabbath is the first sacrament because God did it in Genesis 2:2) and its terms are established by our Creator: one male and female, each old enough to live without parents.

Throughout scripture God uses the example of marriage to illustrate aspects of His relationship with Israel and the relationship of Christ with the Church — marriage is unique among human institutions because of its use as an exemplar or type. He also uses father as a type to describe His relationship with His people (not all people but His people) — and we don’t try to redefine ‘father’ as ‘parent who disciplines’ or ‘legally responsible parent.’ No, ‘father’ isn’t even simply the sperm donor; ‘father’ is so much more than all that.

In fact, it is because of its quality as a sacrament that the gay and lesbian community fight to have marriage rather than civil unions: marriage entails a particular kind of blessing which is, by nature, sacramental.

But when a man ‘marries’ a man or a woman ‘marries’ a woman, it is like Caligula and his horse – it is a mockery of the sacrament and not the sacrament itself. We are created in the image of God; male and female together reflect the image of God; in order to reflect God both male and female are required. Two people of the same sex can have a legal partnership, a civil union, a committed and loving relationship; in some places they can even get a marriage license and ‘marry’ — but that doesn’t make it a marriage in reality. I can tie my shoe to my head and call it a hat but it’s still a shoe.

In California in particular we have a problem because the people of the state voted years ago to legally define marriage as “between one man and one woman” and then four California State Supreme Court judges decided that the people collectively have their heads up their asses, threw it out as unconstitutional and refused to hold off on granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples until after the November election. So this current legal brouhaha is entirely the fault of those four judges and the people who pushed the same-sex marriage agenda.

I am not without compassion; I understand the desire to be approved, to be accepted, to be “the same as” – but when I used to hang out with a group of lesbian musicians, I was not the same. They would joke with me and laugh with me and sometimes exert a little pressure on me – but it didn’t make me a lesbian. I finally stopped going out with them socially when they were amused by lesbian sexual harassment against me instead of outraged and protective. They proved they were not ‘safe’ people and their values were inherently different from mine when it came to dealing with unwanted sexual attention; there was a double standard.

I understand that the shoe pinches if you read the Bible and it says that ‘man lying with man as man lies with woman’ is a stoning offense (Leviticus 20:13) or it describes lesbian activity as a degrading passion (Romans 1:24); I understand because the shoe pinched me when I was living with my boyfriend, 30-some years ago. And the choice I had was to either agree with God and continue trying to follow Him, or to do what I damn well pleased. I knew I couldn’t do what I damn well pleased and pretend I was following God, once I knew it wasn’t okay for me to indulge in sexual activity outside of the sacrament of marriage. And my boyfriend didn’t want to marry me (—the fool!).

I did not, however, stage a political movement against the Church and the plain reading and historic understanding of the scripture passages which convicted me of ungodly behavior. My choice was continue my ungodly behavior because it was what I wanted to do (and it was very much what I wanted to do) or give up the ungodly behavior (repent) and attempt to live a godly life because that was more important than the desires of my flesh.

But the GLBT movement, without by and large embracing Judaism or Christianity, demands that Judaism and Christianity change to accommodate the desires of their flesh. This is not something the faithful can do, no matter how much they love GLBT family members and friends – because the choice is between God and man and those who desire to live righteous know that God must win primacy in our hearts.

What I don’t understand is this: why do you care what a bunch of Jews or Christians think? If you believe your behavior is acceptable to God, why do you care whether I agree or not?

Now I’ve heard the argument that the scriptural bias encourages hate crimes against the GLBT community. That makes no sense because those very crimes are forbidden by scripture itself. You cannot blame bad behavior on scripture when scripture condemns that behavior, too.

Anyone who thinks that GLBT individuals should be stoned (killed, abused, harassed) hasn’t read and understood the context of the scripture: that was the Law as given to ancient Israel, for ancient Israel. Israel was not supposed to impose their God-given Law upon the other nations but aliens living within Israel were held to the Law. Even in first century Judea that law wasn’t being enforced because the Jewish people had lost the power of capital punishment (this is why the Romans crucified Jesus, instead of the Sanhedrin stoning Jesus). The Law is valuable to us today because it shows us something of God’s heart, God’s direction for His people. The vast majority of the Law is detailed “live like this” instruction; a very small portion of the Law details stoning offenses — we should pay attention to stoning offenses because God apparently viewed them as destructive to the nation in a particular way, a contagious way.

We can argue with the Law, we can come up with all sorts of reasons God was wrong and we are right but we can’t legitimately equate mixing two different fibers with homosexual behavior because God didn’t equate them in the Law.

The relevant instruction, in this day and age, are the two great laws: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind' and 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' The GLBT community asks people of faith to love their neighbor (the GLBT community) more than the faithful love God; that we cannot do, we dare not.

The other relevant direction comes from Jeremiah 29, God’s direction to His people when they are living in exile: ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

We do not live in Ancient Israel under the Torah nor do we yet live in the Millennial Kingdom under Messiah: we are living in exile. People of faith are called to embrace their faith and live their faith and put God first at the same time that we live in an ungodly world, secular communities, a nation which demands separation between church and state. But when the state steps in and tries to redefine a God-defined sacrament, we must stand up and hold fast. Happily we live in a nation which still accords us that freedom; it may not always and then it becomes more challenging.

In the meantime we cannot disagree with God in order to agree with the GLBT community; we must resist the temptation to fall into sentimentality or to bless that which God does not bless. We are told, "Don't judge!" but making a judgment includes approval, not only disapproval — in order not to judge, we must avoid approving of these changes, too. And the GLBT community may become very angry at us because of it. That makes me sad; I still have lots of friends who define as GLBT and I don’t like it when my friends are angry with me. But I would rather endure the wrath of my friends than the wrath of God.

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