Betty Greene Salwak

An Open Letter To My Fellow Straight Christians About Marriage Equality

Filed By Betty Greene Salwak | August 08, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: gay marriage, marriage equality, Prop 8 repeal, same-sex marriage

I write to you who are still ambivalent about the issue raised by Judge Walker's repeal of Proposition 8 in California: is it a sin to support the marriage of two people of the same sex? Let me explain why I believe it is my call as a Christian to support marriage equality.

Believe Out Loud.pngI study the Bible with the understanding that not all things in it are equal. Every Christian is a "selective" Christian; that is, we all choose which parts of the Bible we will embrace. Even those who claim to take the Bible literally do not stone to death those found guilty of blasphemy or adultery. We must be selective because not all of the warnings and exhortations of the Bible apply to today's world in a modern context.

Our interpretation of the Bible has changed with improved scholarship of translation. New insights into ancient languages and the people who used them have given us a better understanding of the writers' intent. The word "abomination" used in the King James Version conveys a deep sense of moral transgression in English that does not exist in the original Hebrew words used in Leviticus. Those words are more fittingly defined as "ritual taboo" or "moral offense." The term Paul created in 1 Corinthians was employing a stem word that meant "shrine prostitution" for centuries before and after 1 Corinthians was written. The word "homosexual" was coined in 1896 by a social scientist and included in a Bible for the first time in 1947. Languages change and so do meanings. We must be careful to employ context when translating.

Our understanding of application of the Bible has changed with the transformation of civilization; some things once viewed as supported by the Bible (slavery, polygamy) or condemned by the Bible (eating shellfish, re-marrying a former spouse) are no longer seen as relevant in our current culture. We have learned to apply the lens of Jesus Christ to our interpretation of the Bible. He has given us the ultimate commandment: love God and love your neighbor. When we study the Bible through this lens, we can see that many of the instructions referred to the practices of a different culture in an earlier time.

One thing that has changed through time is the definition of marriage. Marriage has not historically always been between one man and one woman. One needs only to read about kings David and Solomon to see that. In fact, it wasn't even about love until nineteenth century American women were permitted by their families to choose their husbands. Until then women were seen as the means to transfer property and power among men, and little else. Two people of the same sex bring a refreshing equality to the definition of marriage that I hope would be an example to mixed-sex couples.

When it comes to what the Bible says, there are compelling arguments for both sides of this issue and there are problems with both sides. So it really comes down to the overall message of the Bible: is it condemnation or grace? Jesus tells us that the message of the Bible is love: God's love for us and our love for God and each other. In any marriage two people are solemnizing their love for each other in a formal ceremony that declares to the world their commitment. When same-sex couples have the right to make that commitment, it will be a gift to us all.


Graphic courtesy of Believe Out Loud


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I made sure to put this on Facebook right away so it could reach a broader audience than Bilerico's mostly LGBT reader base. Thanks Betty.

Yeah, that was the idea. I'm glad to see people linking it through Twitter and Facebook.

It's always fascinating to me to see how people pick and choose Biblical verses like a smorgasbord. It's like a Biblical personality test.

The Bible can be treacherous ground. Tracing the genealogy of Jesus you will find that he is directly descended from various ancestors who violated every single one of the ten commandments. Jesus is recorded as doing many acts prohibited under Mosaic law. Jesus not only spoke to lepers but actually touched one. Jesus not only drank but his first miracle was to provide wine for about a thousand people at a wedding after they had already consumed all the wine provided by the hosts. I would even bet you that if good cigars had been known during his day the last supper would have included 12 disciples sharing bread, wine and good stogies. Of course that is speculation.

I recently attended services at a small pentecostal church and was treated to a sermon by a traveling evangelist. The evangelist told us that you can't enter heaven if you drink, smoke or chew tobacco and if we hear otherwise we are being deceived. I had to stifle a laugh because one of the things I look forward to is sharing a good glass of wine with Jesus. I guess we'll be sharing it in Hell but one thing is certain. Wherever we are that preacher will avoid the venue like the plague. That's great. I'll drink his share.

Dan Massey | August 9, 2010 9:31 AM

The ability to appreciate pleasure, including all forms of erotic joy, is a gift of god. Jesus, as the physical incarnation of god, knew this well, but suffering under the limitations of a human being, could not openly communicate the necessary revelations; however, some of his deeper understandings were communicated to one of his followers, the youth John Mark, who traveled to Rome with Peter, wrote the gospel which bears his name, and traveled on to Alexandria, where the "lost gospel" of "Second Mark" was written and formed the basis of much spiritual inquiry which the "church" subsequently labeled heretical and suppressed.

A new revelation of truth to our planet is correcting the superstitious silliness we have lived under, imposed in the name of a false and purely human vision of deity, for thousands of years. This new revelation is permanently discrediting the delusions of religion and government and other falsely "organized" human institutions that ignore the truth.

Those who will not live by the truth shall perish by the truth.

We enter the future under a divine aegis, which annihilates falseness and error in accordance with three great principles of divine intervention:

To free humanity from fear, that we may learn to love.
To enable all to fulfill the will of god for their lives.
To show us how to lead the world into the New Age.

The long agony of cosmic error is over. Existence will henceforth be fabulous to the end of time itself.

Beautiful, Betty...
The Bible is a long-view experience as it was written, not a buffet of quotes from which to pick a particular justification. People who read it with this long-view orientation are forced to recognize the message of love it contains, despite the many side tracks. And the personal message of Jesus is one of compassion, peace, justice and love, not sulphur-spewing vengeance, anger and fear.

Joe-Allen Doty | August 9, 2010 12:25 PM

Gregory, picking and choosing Bible verses to suit one's own agenda is called "proof-texting," aka taking the verses out of their original contexts.

The author of my Biblical Hermeneutics class textbook said that the dividing books of the Bible into chapters and verses was not actually a good thing because it allowed people to use verses outside of their original contexts to suit one's own agendas.

Exactly- which is what has been happening since the invention of writing... (grin)

My recent long blogpost on Marriage Equality. I am a straight Evangelical Christian and have worked in this arena for 5 years--PRO marriage equality and FAITH equality!
http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/?p=925

Joe-Allen Doty | August 9, 2010 12:09 PM

Re>The word "abomination" used in the King James Version conveys a deep sense of moral transgression in English that does not exist in the original Hebrew words used in Leviticus. Those words are more fittingly defined as "ritual taboo" or "moral offense."

The Hebrew word is transliterated as "to'ebah" and in my theologically educated opinion, I interpret that as "we don't do that in our culture." A to'ebah was not always a sin. Leviticus chapters 18 Through 20 needs to be read in one context because it is YHWH Elohim (LORD God in English translations) telling the Israelites not to do what the Canaanites did in the country of Canaan, aka the Promised Land, when they got there. Well, many of the Israelites adapted/adopted the pagan fertility rituals and other rituals of the Canaanites.

Re> The term Paul created in 1 Corinthians was employing a stem word that meant "shrine prostitution" for centuries before and after 1 Corinthians was written.

In my opinion, that Pauline-coined word "arsenokoitai" literally means "females who bed a male." It is cannot refer to "shrine prostitutes." A prostitute is "porne" in the Greek Text. I prefer to say the word refers to women with lose sexual morals. In Bible times, a single woman couldn't be accused of committing adultery when she had sex with a man.

Joe-Allen Doty | August 9, 2010 12:18 PM

Did you folks know that the word "Christian" was actually created by Greek-Speaking pagans in Antioch, Syria when Paul and others were preaching about The Anointed One (Ho Christos in Greek)?

It was created as a hateful epithet sort of in the same way that Oklahomans who moved to California during the Great Depression were called "Okies."

The followers of Jesus called themselves "Believers" and their belief system was called "The Way." Even the apostle Paul called it "The Way."

I jokingly say, "'Christianity'? It ain't in the Bible." The "religion of Christianity" was started in 325 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine in Nicea (in Turkey). And he presided over the 1st of the 7 Church Councils. He politicized the churches and with his help, he demoted the role of women in church ministry.

There were women who were pastors, deacons (male gender of the word was literally used since it was a church leadership position), teachers and evangelists in the 1st Century Church.

Joe-Allen Doty | August 9, 2010 12:50 PM

My own mother, who was the wife of an Assemblies of God evangelist and pastor (my father actually), surprised me when she had me read Ecclesiastes 4:7-12. She told me to read it first and then she would tell me here interpretation. I am using the NIV Bible version here:

7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: 8 There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless-- a miserable business!

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

After I read it, Mom said, "Doesn't this show that God approves of same-sex marriages?"

I told her, "It certainly looks like it. I had never read those verses that way before."

I did some academic style theological search in the meaning of the Hebrew words. The gender of all involved in those verses is MALE.

The word translated as "friend" is transliterated as "khaber" and in modern Hebrew it can mean "boy friend."

The "warm" word in the Hebrew is also a euphemism for "have sexual arousal" in certain scripture contexts. (I say that after having a husband of my own for almost 7 years and being sexually active with him, doing "it" by myself is not sexually satisfying.)

The "lie down together" is interesting because it is the very same "lie with" Hebrew verb "shakab" that is found in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, where a "man lies with a male."

But, in the Leviticus context the male was a "kodesh" a male votary who is in service to any deity.

The KJV folks mistranslated "kodesh" as "sodomite" when the religion had to do with that of the Canaanites. A Canaanite kodesh dressed up like a woman to represent the Canaanite fertility goddess Asherah, aka Astarte.

In the annual fertility rituals, a HETEROSEXUALLY-MARRIED HETEROSEXUAL man had sexual intercourse with the dressed-in-goddess-drag votary.

In his mind, it was like having sex with Asherah instead and that was equal to "as with a woman."

And, I'll just throw this out there, America isn't a theocracy so imposing Biblical law, whatever one interprets that to be, on the rest of us is inappropriate.

Great post, BTW.

Betty, this is a twisted message that can cause more moral confusion to those who are easily influenced and ignorant of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, you are mixing some of the old testament ways of life that Jesus clearly condemned, with new testament teachings.

First, when you say Jesus said love thy neighbor, and love one another as i have loved you. He did not say "accept" everything thy neighbor does.

You see, I like many Christians can love someone who is confused sexually. That does not mean I am to accept this behavior, promote it, glorify it and teach it to influential young people going through adolescence.

Love one another. DO NOT just accept the ways of the world and say "well, things are changing, gotta change to"

Thank you, Garry, for your thoughts.

What you call moral confusion I call reflective thinking. I’m hoping to get people to really think about cultural norms and determine for themselves whether they should continue to support them.

What you believe is a purely biblical directive about sexuality I find to be a cultural bias. I say this because there are plenty of directives in the Bible that we elect not to follow. Why this one and not others? Probably because heterosexual people who have grown up in a restrictive atmosphere are uncomfortable with the idea of homosexual acts. It isn’t natural for them, so they make the assumption it isn’t natural for anyone.

Think of a sanctuary filled with a thousand believers. How many sexual practices are represented in that crowd? You know there are hundreds of people sitting in those pews who enjoy a variety of sexual practices within a loving relationship of trust and exploration. Homosexual sex is no different in that regard.

When we use our interpretation of the Bible to condemn others, we are putting ourselves in God’s place. I know for a fact that affirming people who are LGBT will save lives; I know too many stories of people who took their own lives because they could not reconcile the person they were born to be with the message from the church.

You referred to “sexual confusion.” Young people might be confused because they have no reference for what they are feeling. The only support they see is for heterosexual relationships. There are few role models for what it’s like to grow up gay. I am hopeful that the right to marry will begin to provide a template for a successful same-sex relationship. Those who are not inclined will not be swayed into homosexual behavior any more than you or I. It is an orientation, not a choice.

I take the Bible seriously and treat it as an entire entity. Like all Christians, I shape my faith to be consistent with how I see the nature of God. I am humbled and astonished at God’s love for me, and I know his love is for all people, all the time, no matter what. Let us lift up all people of all orientations that they may use their gifts to God’s glory.

Garry please refrain from taking God's name in vain.