Since its beginning in 1985, the Ecumenical Catholic Church has
understood that gay, lesbian, and heterosexual marriages between
two Christians are sacramentally equivalent. Our canon law
forbids distinction between these various forms of marriage, and
the wedding liturgy is the same whether the marriage is between
two men, two women, or a man and a woman.
in fact, the prescribed Bible lessons were easier to find for
the gay and lesbian weddings than the heterosexual marriage.
The Old Testament readings we use deal with love stories.
We use 1 Samuel 18 and 20 and 2 Samuel 1 for the love story of
David and Jonathan. We use Ruth 1 for the love story of
Ruth and Naomi. In order to find an Old Testament example
that connected love and marriage for a man and a woman, we had
to use the story of Tobias and Sarah in the Book of Tobit, part
of the "Apocrypha." The Old Testament, you see, is full of
heterosexual sex, but it very seldom connects this with love.
Adam and Eve
of the Bible, let's talk about Adam and Eve. The
anti-marriage folks (the conservatives and fundamentalists who
oppose the marriage rights of all) often do. But what does
the Bible really say about them? You'll be surprised!
Adam's story should not be used against gay marriage, but in
support of it.
to the Bible (Genesis 2), God created Adam and then wanted to
make a close companion ('ezer, or "helper" in Hebrew) for
him. God made the birds and wild animals, but none was
suitable. Adam was not satisfied. Then God put Adam
to sleep and made Eve out of Adam's rib. When Adam awoke,
he was happy and said "This one at last is bone ('etsem)
of my bones and flesh (basar) of my flesh!"
delighted Adam was that Eve was just like him.
not delighted in Eve's femaleness. Presumably some of the
birds and mammals brought to him as potential companions had
been female. Adam was delighted in Eve's humanness.
It is a
perversion of Scripture to pretend that the story of Adam and
Eve precludes same-sex marriage. It explains why people
love each other more than they love other animals. It
explains why two people can bond together. It explains why
children leave their parental homes and form new pair-bonds.
The example happened to be a heterosexual pairing, but that is
not what the focus of the story is. Just as
the example's dyadic (two-person) nature of the relationship was
not used by later Biblical figures (including Abraham and Jacob)
to preclude polygamy, so its heterosexual nature must not be
used to preclude homosexual marriage.
delighted in Eve because she was the same as him, and thereby
became his true helper. Notice also that the delight
does not have to do with her ability to produce children either.
Adam and Eve are symbols of deep companionship (the real purpose
of marriage), not heterosexual reproduction, which the other
animals already had before Eve was made.
Marriage in the Bible
of polygamy, let's talk about marriage in the Bible. The
anti-gay folks like to talk about same-sex marriage being a
"slippery slope" toward polygamy and incest and a whole lot of
other things. But the fear really should be the other way
around. It is the Bible -- not the modern gay community --
that is full of polygamy and incest.
look, for example, at Abraham, our father in faith -- the
patriarch that Jews, Christians, and Muslims hold to be the
founder of the great monotheistic religion. Sometimes we
speak of Abraham and his wife Sarah as if they were like any
other modern married heterosexual couple. But Sarah was
Abraham's half-sister, the daughter of his father but not his
mother (Genesis 20:12).
For a long
time Sarah was unable to have children. So she gave her
slave-girl Hagar to her husband so she could bear children
through her. There is no indication that Sarah was
offended by her husband sleeping with her slave (it was, after
all, her idea), and there is no indication that Hagar any choice
whatsoever in this event. Hagar bore Abraham's first son
Ishmael. (Genesis 16: 1-2)
is Jacob, renamed Israel, the father of the twelve Tribes of
Israel. We must not forget that the twelve tribes resulted
from Jacob having four women -- his two wives and his two
concubines. So who were Jacob's wives, Rachel and Leah?
They were his first cousins, the daughters of his mother's
brother. (Genesis 28:2). Jacob fell in love with his
younger cousin Rachel and worked for his uncle seven years in
order to buy his wife. On the night of the wedding,
Jacob's uncle took his older daughter Leah and she slept with
Jacob and she became his wife. Jacob was upset about being
tricked, but his uncle agreed to give him his younger daughter
as well if he would work another seven years for him. So
they did, and Jacob got both his cousins as wives, even though
he only loved one. (Genesis 29).
story continues. Leah bore Jacob four sons. Rachel
was jealous and worried because she hadn't borne any children,
so she gave her slave-girl to Jacob and she bore children for
her. Then Leah got jealous and gave her slave-girl to her
husband to bear more children. And finally Rachel herself
bore children. From these "biblical family values" the
national of Israel, the chosen people, came.
carefully note that God did not condemn any of this action.
In fact, God consistently says that it is through Abraham and
Jacob that the world will be blessed. These are the
ancestors of Jesus, the ones He, like all Jews of His time,
called "our fathers."
our sense of marital propriety has changed through the years.
But "biblical family values" most certainly includes not just
polygamy, and not just incest, but even incestuous polygamy.
is not to support either incest or polygamy. The point is
that it is simply not true when people say that "marriage has
been the same for thousands of years" and that it is blind
hypocrisy to worry that gay marriage will be a slippery slope
toward incest or polygamy when one is touting "biblical family
Gay Love in the Bible
some who say that whenever the Bible speaks of homosexuality, it
does so negatively. That is not true.
much evidence that King David was the lover of Jonathan, the son
of his predecessor King Saul. The evidence is not 100%
concrete because the Bible usually only talks about sex in
conjunction with children being born -- not to state that sex
should only be about having children, but because when the Bible
mentions specific people having sex, the purpose of mentioning
that is to document parentage.
we must take David at his word when he says in 2 Samuel 1:25-26,
"Jonathan, by your dying I too am stricken, I am desolate for
you, Jonathan my brother. Very dear you were to me, your
love more wonderful to me than the love of a woman."
David certainly had lots of women with whom to compare Jonathan.
Today we would most likely call King David "bisexual," not
"gay." And David was not Jonathan's biological brother.
The term "brother," however, was often used in the ancient Near
East for male lovers (just as "sister" was sometimes used for a
wife). When you read through the complex stories of the
books of Samuel as they describe the life of King Saul, his
children, David the shepherd-turned-king, Saul's jealousy of
David, his mistrust, etc., the stories just make a lot more
sense if you view David and Jonathan as lovers. Even
though Saul's daughter was one of David's many wives, it was his
son Jonathan that Saul did not trust because of his relationship
with David. When David appeared as a rival to Saul, it was
Jonathan who had made a pact with David that King Saul
feared would supersede his son's duty to his father. This
pact was apparently viewed and stronger and more important than
David's marriage to Saul's daughter (and Jonathan's sister)
Michal. (Curiously the Bible says that Michal fell in love
with David, but never says that David loved her, stating rather
that David entered the marriage for political gain.)
As for sex
between David and Jonathan, 1 Samuel 20:41 has a phrase that
uses the Hebrew word gadol, which is an emphatic form of
"to exceed." There is some evidence in other ancient
writings that it was a slang term for orgasm. Most Bible
translations have a footnote that reads something like "Hebrew
unclear." Might it be that translators really just didn't
want to clarify it?
David and Jonathan married? Not in the same sense that we
view either gay or heterosexual marriage today. They
certainly weren't exclusive lovers. But then neither were
any of David's wives. We wouldn't consider keeping a harem
of women consistent with modern marriage either, yet presumably
Michal was not overly worried about either Jonathan or
Bathsheba, just as Jonathan wasn't worried about the women.
"Marriage" just meant something different back then. It
meant an arrangement by which one produced children with legal
entitlements. It was arranged. It involved
commitment, but apparently not as strong a commitment as David
and Jonathan's because, remember, Saul was worried that Jonathan
would side with David if push came to shove. He didn't
worry about that with his daughter.
again, we must not just note the existence of these polygamous
bisexual relationships, but we must note that neither God nor
the religious authorities condemned them. The Bible does
not say that David was wrong because of either Jonathan or
Bathsheba, in spite of his being married to Michal. The
Bible does, however, very clearly condemn David for having
Bathsheba's husband killed in order to get her. The crime
was murder and betrayal, not having a extra lover.
lesbian love, the evidence is less certain. We must
remember, though, that women were second-class citizens in the
Bible. (The Old Testament also does not have any
discussion, let alone condemnation, of lesbian sex.)
However, we all have seen this phrase used at heterosexual
Wherever you go, I shall go,
wherever you live, I shall live.
Your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God.
Ruth 1:16. It was said by one woman (Ruth) to another
(Naomi). It is one of the Bible's most beautiful stories
of love and commitment. On earth we may never know if it
was sexual, but clearly it was love between two women.
Homosexuality in the Bible
purposely list the positive before the negative. There is
all too great a tendency to make the Bible, and even God, into a
negative. That is very unfortunate and wrong.
of Leviticus, the main legal code of the ancient Hebrew
religion, condemns many things that we ignore today and don't
even think of having a "moral" component. There are people
who try to parse Leviticus into "ritual" and "moral" sections so
that they can throw out the "ritual" and hold on to the "moral."
This is simply dishonest. The ancient peoples made no
distinction between these concepts.
people are vaguely family with the dietary laws (Leviticus 11).
Many Jews and Muslims still do not eat pork or shellfish because
of these moral laws. Others of these faiths consider these
laws no longer relevant for today's world. Christians
almost uniformly ignore them, based in part on Peter's dream in
people are aware of the Biblical moral law regarding mildew in
their house (Leviticus 14:33-57). The Bible is very clear
about removing plaster, taking it to a toxic waste dump ("an
unclean place outside the city") and then using a live bird to
sprinkle your house with the blood of a dead bird once you have
new plaster. Some of this lack of concern may be the
result of relatively poor translation. The ancient Hebrews
did not distinguish between "mildew" and "leprosy." (Think
about it, they sort of look alike.) Some Bible
translations say "leprosy of houses," but they really mean mold
and mildew. If we were really concerned about Biblical
morality, we would have a lot more bird blood on our walls,
especially in humid climates the the South where mildew is a
truth is that most people really don't care what the Bible says
about living moral lives. Rather, they pick and choose
from the Bible's prohibitions. They choose to cite the
Bible when it calls male-male sex "abomination" but ignore it
when it says that God finds shrimp and lobster "detestable."
You cannot have it both ways. Either the Bible is the
literal and sole source of your morality, or it is not.
many fine books dealing with sexuality and the Bible,
including Salvation, Scripture, and Sexuality by Archbishop
Mark Shirilau and Abbot Robert Hall. We will not go into
excessive detail here.
issues are important to note, because they relate to the general
cultural perspective of biblical times as compared with that of
First, idolatry was the major issue.
When you read the Bible, you can almost say it is the only
issue. Everything had to do with God alone being God and
no other gods being anything. Everything associated with
the other religions was wrong and evil. The great sin was
to participate in any of their rites.
those rites were sexual in nature. The local cults
included rites in which people would have sex with the priests
and priestesses in order to promote the fertility of the earth.
It was a harsh land, and humans were just learning about life
and the connection between nature and human actions and abundant
crops. Since sex brought children, they thought naturally
that sex with the representatives of the gods and goddesses
would bring abundant food. When the Bible uses the term
"prostitute" it means these priests and priestesses, not the
"streetwalkers" or "ladies of the evening" that we think of
today. The Hebrew terms for prostitute qadesh (M)
and qadeshah (F) derive from the word "holy."
prohibition against male-male sex in Leviticus is followed
immediately by a prohibition against semen sacrifice to the
pagan god Molech. It is a prohibition against sex with the
pagan priests in a sexual liturgy. It is not talking about
love relationships, and it was never used against David and
Jonathan, neither of whom were pagan priests.
is true of Paul's writing where he uses the term arsenokoitai.
This was not the usual term for the homosexual relationships
common in the Greek world at the time. Rather, it was
derived from the Greek translation of Leviticus and relates to
the pagan priest-prostitutes, which were still common in Paul's
Second, the world of the Bible was a harsh desert with
no modern conveniences. Hospitality was a major issue and
a major obligation. When a person wandering through the
desert came to your house or town, it was your moral obligation
to treat them well and offer them hospitality. This is
what the people of Sodom did not due to the angels God sent.
Likewise, we cannot conclude that God decided to destroy Sodom
and Gomorrah because of what the men did to the angels because
God had already decided to destroy them before sending the
of our modern association of Sodom with homosexuality, the Bible
itself did not make that association. Ezekiel 16:49 says
"The crime of your sister Sodom was pride, gluttony, calm
complacency." Jesus compares Sodom to the town that will
not welcome the disciples (Luke 10:10-12), an obvious
implication of Sodom's sin of inhospitality.
Complementarity and "Natural Law"
Protestant fundamentalists tend to cite the Bible, the Roman
Catholic Church cites a very bizarre and difficult-to-understand
concept called "natural law." Misinterpreting Scripture is
at least rather easy to follow. The natural law concept is
so foreign to modern reality that it is confusing seems to
appear out of nowhere. This concept is the reason the
Roman church has hang-ups about issues such as birth control
that seem to come out of nowhere (since the Bible doesn't
discuss that issue at all and there is no apparent logic to call
law" has nothing to do with nature as we know it. It is
not the same, for example, as the laws of physics, which
certainly are natural. Saying that homosexuality or gay
marriage violate "natural law" is not the same thing as saying
it doesn't occur in nature. This is unfortunate, because
there are so many examples of homosexual behavior among animals
that such a statement would be easy to refute.
law" is based on medieval concepts. It is the same type of
argument that enabled the Vatican to argue against Galileo when
he said the earth revolved around the sun, and not vice versa.
Of course Galileo was right, and the heliocentricity of the
solar system is a fact, whether the Church or Galileo or anyone
else acknowledged it. But "natural law" said otherwise
because God, after all, had become incarnate on the earth and
not the sun.
It is just
a system that confuses theology with science and blends them in
a very destructive manner. It is difficult to understand
why the Roman church even holds on to any aspect of this
concept. Nonetheless, it does, and, as it did with
Galileo, it holds back truth and science in the process.
It is from
"natural law" that the concept of "complementarity" comes.
This idea holds that unity can only be achieved when male and
female come together. This sounds much more like the
androgyne of ancient Greek paganism than it does
argument is that only different-sex marriage is capable of
achieving this complementarity. We would tend to agree
that a certain "complementarity" is one of the charms and
wonders of marriage -- one of the reasons why marriage enables
two people to do more together than they could do apart.
The problem with the "natural law" argument is the assumption
that this complementarity is sexual in nature.
of marriage is not in blending some strange cosmic forces that
appear as "male" and "female." The value of marriage is
that two people balance each other. It would seem logical
that emotional complementarity would be a far more important
parameter of a truly good marriage than would simply that one
partner be male and the other be female. Except for giving
birth to children, that seems irrelevant.
lies one of the problems. There is an assumption in
"natural law" that marriage is about raising children.
Again, we must not get confused into thinking this means that
marriage is the natural way to raise children. Clearly
that is not the case because no animal species other than
Homo sapiens raises children through marriage.
(And not all species even use heterosexuality to procreate.
There is a species of lizard with only females, and snails are
both male and female and any two can fertilize each other.)
It is hard
to precisely refute the "natural law" arguments because in order
to do so you have to understand them. This is a virtually
impossible task for anyone trained in the modern scientific
approach. On the other hand, a simple comparison may help:
you don't believe that artificial birth control is immoral, then
don't let the Vatican use the same twisted logic against gay