Carving out the Unnecessary Brimstone
If we’re going to talk about the issue of marriage equality, we need to first define exactly what it is that we intend to discuss. When we distill down all the associated issues, concerns, and problems, here’s what we’re really talking about. 1) Should every American enjoy equal rights and equal protection under the law or should some enjoy fewer rights and less protection than others and 2) Is a belief in the Bible and Christianity a legitimate, ethical, and moral reason to deny equality to some Americans.
First, we all have to be honest about something… the Bible has, since its very beginning, been used to justify horrific crimes against our fellow human beings. Say what you will, but this is an irrefutable and undeniable fact. In America, we only need look back 155 years or so to see the truth of this. While Christians in the American colonies would eventually come to view slavery as an abomination before God, they wouldn’t come to this realization by way of the Bible.
“Those who opposed the abolitionist doctrine of immediate emancipation certainly had the Bible and historical Christianity on their side. As they pointed out, slavery had existed among the Hebrews without God’s condemnation, and Jesus had admonished servants to obey their masters “in singleness of heart, fearing God.” Christianity, following the tradition of Jewish law, did demand that masters treat slaves humanely and care for their souls. Yet never once did Jesus or the Apostles criticize slavery as an institution. Instead, they promised the rewards of heaven and resurrection to the faithful, whatever their status in the world, since each human being possessed a soul potentially capable of salvation”.
-Abzug, R. (n.d.). Abolition and Religion. Retrieved July 2, 2015, from http://www.gilderlehrman.org/…/essays/abolition-and-religion <http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/slavery-and-anti-slavery/essays/abolition-and-religion>
If we are to say that all men (and women) are created equal as did our Founding Fathers, how then are we to reconcile this with a Bible which does not? If, for example, the U.S. were to conquer some smaller, less powerful Nation and offer the defeated combatants of that Country to you as a slave, would you as a Christian accept this offer? Would you, by virtue of your belief in the Christian Bible, hold this person a slave to your whims, feeling so justified in doing? Most of us, of course, would be horrified by the mere suggestion of such a thing. Yet, clearly we are allowed to do so by virtue of Biblical text.
The Christian Abolitionists in Colonial America, up through the Civil War and beyond, in essence fought against the right to own slaves and thus, fought against the literal word of the Bible in so doing. Many of today’s Christians will tell you that the word of God is absolute, eternal, and unchanging. Why then do we not live in a world where slavery is the accepted societal norm? Because the innate morality given to us by God, inscribed upon our very souls, understands that the good of all human life necessitates human equality in all its forms, where it does not induce the suffering and condemnation of others. To do otherwise only creates a world where we too may one day be the condemned, the hunted, the ostracized. For the record, performing a gay marriage as a Biblical literalist does not amount to suffering… unless of course, if you happen to listen to your God given heart and find that you believe that some people should not be treated with equality and kindness. If so, you find yourself on the side of those who, for centuries, would stone to death those with whom they found themselves in religious disagreement.
So… can we argue that our innate nature, given to us by God, through which we possess such an overwhelming capacity and compulsion for empathy, equality, and kindness to our fellow human beings is wrong? Can we put aside all of these gifts we have been given, look another human being in the eye, and say, “you deserve less than I do… you are not as important, as favored, as beloved by God as I am and therefore, I choose to deny you the very human kindness and instinct for compassion that God has given me”.
If you can do that, then you are choosing to betray the very nature of your being and thus, the very nature of that given to you by God, and inscribed upon your soul.