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.
I 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