TALKING TO PEOPLE OF FAITH:  A Religious Perspective on Marriage

Guest Blogger: Tim Palmer

Isn’t the Bible against it?”

A widely-held misconception is that 1) the Bible, 2) the church, or 3) God stands squarely against anything other than the one man-one woman model. The truth? The Bible does no such thing. As for those other two ideas, it depends on the faith tradition, and the God, you listen to. Here are some facts and figures to leaven a faith-based argument for marriage equality.

1) The Bible doesn’t prescribe a single model of marriage.

True, the texts recognize the union of a woman and a man as one expression of sexuality and love. But the Bible also embraces polygyny and “levirate marriage” (in which a man must procreate with his brother’s widow). The Bible even celebrates loving, sexual relationships between unmarried adults, notably in the Song of Songs.

The concept of marriage between same-sex partners was alien to ancient Near East cultures; still, the Bible portrays intense emotional attachments between women (Naomi and Ruth, in the Book of Ruth) and between men (David and Jonathan, in 1 and 2 Samuel). Looking at the Bible as a whole, the predominant message is of love and justice in all human relationships.

2) Plenty of pastors, priests and rabbis preach equality.

Several major denominations, growing numbers of dioceses and presbyteries, and thousands of individual clergy support marriage for same-sex couples. The United Church of Christ, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Unity Fellowship Churches and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association all support marriage equality. Clergy in American Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Quaker congregations already bless the unions of same-sex couples. Last fall, in advance of the Prop 8 vote in California, more than 2,200 ordained clergy from all 50 states and 50 different faith traditions signed the Religious Institute and Freedom to Marry’s Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality.

Neither church nor synagogue speaks with one voice on marriage, and the voices for equality grow stronger every day.

3) And God says …

Too many people, on too many issues, claim to know the mind of God. I won’t go there. I’ll simply reaffirm the words that those 2,200 clergy endorsed last fall:

From a religious perspective, marriage is about entering into a holy covenant and making a commitment with another person to share life’s joys and sorrows. In terms of these religious values, there is no difference in marriage between a man and woman, two men, or two women. As our traditions affirm, where there is love the sacred is in our midst.”

Timothy Palmer is Director of Research and Communications for the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing. He recently graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in the city of New York.