Friday, March 11, 2011

Lent and Equal Marriage

Law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Romans 5:20

It was in many ways the perfect Lenten experience.

Last night I spent almost six hours at the Rhode Island State House attending the State Senate hearing on Marriage Equality.

When it was finally my turn to testify, I spoke briefly (but passionately, I hope) about how I believe that God is always calling us forward as Abraham and Sarah were called to leave home and journey toward "the land that I will show you." We are working toward the Kingdom of God and we are impatient with the present because we look for a future that will be more just. And I believe that Marriage Equality is part of a more just future.

While I waited and watched, I had a lot of time to reflect and meditate. (A good Lenten discipline.)

As a Christian it is painful to hear the Bible (and Jesus!) misused to promote an unholy trinity of tradition, fear and ignorance. One woman lamented the fact that until her testimony, no one had mentioned “the sin of sodomy.” She assured us that a same sex couple cannot really teach children about sin because their lives are immersed in sin. She told us that “it grieves our Lord and Savior, and his Blessed Mother in heaven.”

The Bible has over 30,000 verses, and there are, in fact, six brief passages that condemn homosexuality. None of them are in the Gospels. Oddly, they only condemn male homosexuality. Each of the passages is problematic in one way or another. And not one of them is addressed toward a faithful, committed, monogamous same sex relationship. But listening to some of these folks one would think that everything from Genesis to Revelation was written just to condemn homosexuality.

At times I felt like I had fallen into the Bible Study from hell.

“But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

There were wonderful grace-filled stories told by parents about their gay children and by children about their gay parents. Partners told of their struggles to build a life together. A neuro-scientist talked clinically about studies of sexuality and the brain, and then introduced his brother, who is a pediatrician and cannot marry his partner.

Altogether it presented a very vivid illustration of Paul’s argument about law and grace in Romans. The more the tradionalists invoked the Law (Natural and Religious), the more “the trespass multiplied” by them against their sisters and brothers. The Law was used as a club; in the apparent belief that if they could pound home their point with sufficient force, then they could make homosexuality go away.

They are against Same Sex Marriage because they are against homosexuality, and they are against homosexuality, at least in part, because they do not believe that the Bible is a living Word. It is a dead letter. As Paul argued in his second letter to Corinth, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The dead letter of the Law can be used to wound, but it cannot heal and it cannot bring life.

We need to remind ourselves that we are called to be “ministers of a new covenant, not of letter, but of sprit: for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (II Corinthians 3:6)

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