Thursday, June 27, 2013

Marriage of All Sorts and Sanctification

When I was young and radical, I thought about deciding not to get married until all people were free to marry.  Even then, back in the 1980's, I was thinking about marriage and discrimination and social justice and the best way to make/take a stand.

Of course, when I was first thinking about these issues, I didn't really know anyone, of any sexual orientation, who was particularly interested in getting married.

When I first got married, I was shocked to discover that as a married couple, we had less of a standard income tax deduction than we would have had as 2 single people living together.  That situation was changed in the 1990's, but I remember spending several years wondering about all this talk about how married people had it so much better and not really seeing it.

Of course, if my spouse had died, it would have been different.  If my spouse had been in the hospital, I'd have had more rights than I would if a significant other (of any gender) was in the hospital.

Yesterday's rulings still don't extend marriage benefits to everyone.  But it will be easier now, and I suspect that within 10 years, a marriage of two committed people will be recognized by almost every state.   Perhaps the Supreme Court will have stepped in to force recalcitrant states to extend marriage benefits to all.

I do not feel that having gay people have the ability to get married diminishes my marriage one whit.  In fact, seeing the joy of so many people who can now have their relationships recognized makes me happy to be part of a deeply committed relationship.

I do not feel the Bible condemns gay marriage.  The idea of gay marriage would have been completely alien to Bible writers--in fact, the kind of marriage like the one that I enjoy would have been completely alien too.

That's why I think that Paul is a bit more radical than we usually give him credit for being.  He gives husbands the task of cherishing their wives.  And yes, in the next breath he tells wives to submit.  But he goes on to instruct husbands to treat wives as well Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25) or as deeply as the husband loves himself (Ephesians 5:28).

Let us recognize how foreign that idea would have been.  Treat your wife like she's an extension of your body?  That would be like telling us to love our ________ the same way we love our own bodies.  I'm not sure how to fill in that blank.  What would adequately convey the low status of women?  Donkeys (but not a modern metaphor)?  Cars?    Computers?  Washing machines?

Conservatives who trot out Christian ideas often make ridiculous assertions about what Christ would have believed.  But go back and read the Gospels.  Go ahead.  The Gospels are short; it won't take you long to read them..  They're very anti-family.  Again and again, Jesus reminds us that we will likely have to abandon our families to stay true.  Hmm.

I'm a Lutheran, part of a more liberal tradition, and thus, I don't read the Bible literally, although I do see it as true.  I don't read the Bible as a behavior manual.  Conservatives are fond of referencing Leviticus.  But read that book too.  Those of us who aren't part of Orthodox Judaism just don't follow most (any?) of those principles.

I have said before, but I will say it again:  if I believed in a judgmental God, and I don't, I would believe that we will be judged on the quality of our relationships.  I do believe in a loving God who wants what is best for us.  A wide range of relationships can fit into that definition.

I do believe that committed relationships, whether they be parental or marital or friendships of all sorts, help us develop into the best people we can be.  I think one of the problems of our modern life is that we're not deeply committed to anyone or any place or any group of people.  We walk away from any situation that's difficult at the very first moment it becomes difficult.

David Brooks has written the best essay I've read about why we should all be in support of homosexual marriage:  "The conservative course is not to banish gay people from making such commitments. It is to expect that they make such commitments. We shouldn't just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage. We should regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity."

Does marriage have the power to sanctify?  I once would have scoffed at such an idea.  But now, as I prepare to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary, I have to say that I understand so much more about the power of love by having experienced it in this way.  I try so hard to treat my husband well, but so often, I fail.  I apologize, he forgives, and we go on.  He, too, makes mistakes, often the same ones, over and over again.  He apologizes, I forgive, and we go on. 

I want to believe that some day, we won't make mistakes, but I know that we are human, and thus will always make mistakes.  It's amazing to me that people will choose to forgive me, to stand beside me, and to walk with me on this journey.

It's an experience that I wish that everyone can have.  May we all become sanctified.

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