UPDATE: Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson Suspended Indefinitely after Anti-Gay Remarks

Phil Robertson. Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/A&E.

Phil Robertson. Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/A&E.

A&E has indefinitely suspended Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson after his anti-gay remarks.

Good for A&E. Bigoted Christian fundamentalism does not belong in the public realm.

“A&E has placed Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following anti-gay remarks he made in a recent profile in GQ.”

A&E issued the following statement:

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” A&E said in a statement. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

Good. Bigotry has no place on TV, or in Christianity for that matter.

As I said earlier, they know the show is on the decline, and they have enough speaking engagements lined up in the conservative Christian community to make plenty of money and sustain their business for years to come.

“It seems that the Duck Dynasty folks have finally reached that point that Tim Tebow reached when he realized that he was approaching the final days of his “day job”, and he decided to leverage what was left of his popularity into one final evangelistic appeal before his time on the public stage was done. I believe that’s exactly what Robertson meant when he said: “Let’s face it. Three, four, five years, we’re out of here,” Robertson told GQ. “You know what I’m saying? It’s a TV show. This thing ain’t gonna last forever. No way.”

The sooner, the better.

Right on cue, here come the anti-gay comments from Duck Dynasty

Proud Rednecks. Proud Christians. Proud Southerners. Proud Bible quotin’, gun totin’, pro-Jesus, anti-gay redencks.

If this is describes you, then here are your role models.

Phil Robertson's anti-gay comments are receiving backlash from the LGBT community. (L-R) Willie Robertson, Phil Robertson and Si Robertson attend the A+E Networks 2012 on May 9, 2012. (Andy Kropa/WireImage) | Andy Kropa via Getty Images

Phil Robertson’s anti-gay comments are receiving backlash from the LGBT community. (L-R) Willie Robertson, Phil Robertson and Si Robertson attend the A+E Networks 2012 on May 9, 2012. (Andy Kropa/WireImage) | Andy Kropa via Getty Images

We’ve seen that as the Duck Dynasty folks become more popular nationally, their fundamentalist religious beliefs are coming more to the forefront.

From their Restoration Heritage Church of Christ roots at Harding University, to their upcoming involvement in a fundamentalist Christian propaganda film, and now, right on cue, here come the (explicit) anti-gay remarks in an interview with GQ.

Comments include gems such as:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” [Phil] Robertson told GQ.

“That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying?

But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

and

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

and

“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job,” Robertson told GQ. “We just love ‘em, give ‘em the good news about Jesus – whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ‘em out later.”

Yes. “Homosexuals, drunks, terrorists.” All equal threats to your well-being.

I shake my head.

It seems that the Duck Dynasty folks have finally reached that point that Tim Tebow reached when he realized that he was approaching the final days of his “day job”, and he decided to leverage what was left of his popularity into one final evangelistic appeal before his time on the public stage was done. I believe that’s exactly what Robertson meant when he said:

“Let’s face it. Three, four, five years, we’re out of here,” Robertson told GQ. “You know what I’m saying? It’s a TV show. This thing ain’t gonna last forever. No way.”

Duck Dynasty: The Tim Tebow of Rednecks.

For more:

HuffPo: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/18/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson-gay_n_4465564.html

GQ: http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson?currentPage=1

CBS: http://houston.cbslocal.com/2013/12/18/duck-dynasty-star-a-vagina-is-more-desirable-than-a-mans-anus/

The Biblical Dilemma of Denouncing Slavery, Yet Opposing Homosexuality (again)

In light of recent claims that one most “possess the Holy Spirit” in order to interpret the Bible “properly”, I’d like to ask someone who believes he/she DOES possess the Holy Spirit and who is therefore eligible to translate this passage “properly” to interpret the following passage for me? (I only have a PhD in this subject, and have addressed this issue before, but those are the “thoughts of men” and multiple of my graduate degrees are from a “secular, public” university, so that doesn’t count to many who claim to possess the Holy Spirit.)

Would someone possessing the Holy Spirit please read the following verses and answer the following questions for me:

Lev. 25:44 As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that YOU MAY ACQUIRE MALE AND FEMALE SLAVES.

Lev. 25:45 You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; AND THEY MAY BE YOUR PROPERTY.

Lev. 25:46 You may KEEP THEM AS A POSSESSION for your children after you, for them TO INHERIT AS PROPERTY. THESE YOU MAY TREAT AS SLAVES

Q1. Is this the “inspired, word of God”?
Q2. Is God the objective ethical foundation for all morality in the world?
Q3. Does God of the Bible – at ANY point – ever rescind this command regarding slavery?
Q4. Does the NT command slaves to continue to obey their masters?
Q5. Do you believe that foreign persons can be acquired as slaves, bought and sold, and passed on to subsequent generations as inherited property?
Q6. Have you written your local congressman, or donated money to, or supported a constitutional amendment banning the “redefinition” of slavery?
Q7. Have you stated publicly that regardless what our “godless, secular government” does, you’re going to still listen to a “higher authority” and condemn homosexuals and endorse slavery?

Morality: Slavery vs. Homosexuality: Guess which one the Bible's OK with?Leviticus 25:44-46 is just as much the “words of God” as any other biblical command regarding social institutions in the Bible. The Bible never rescinds this command(!!), and the NT only reinforces the institution of slavery by commanding slaves to obey their masters (Col. 3:22; 1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:5 – thus, you can’t dismiss it and say, “Well the Old Testament was nailed to the cross”.) It doesn’t matter how one “defines” slavery; it has been defined quite accurately in the verses above above: owning people as property, and passing them along as inherited property to children. And we FOUGHT A WAR against people who attempted to argue that the above biblical endorsement of slavery should still be valid in this country in this modern time.

(Seriously, I must ask: why do so many of those who oppose same-sex marriage hail from the former Confederacy? Is there some demographic connection? Has any research been done on this?)

If you’re not going to embrace and defend slavery, then WHY ON EARTH, would you continue to condemn homosexuals?
WHY ON EARTH, then, would ANYONE continue to deny gays the same privileges and rights enjoyed by heterosexual individuals?

The God of the Bible CLEARLY says it’s OK to own and pass on slaves as property. HOW DO YOU ARGUE AROUND THAT FACT? Seriously: Have you given ANY THOUGHT WHATSOEVER about how you theologically argue around God’s endorsement of slavery in the Bible? And if so, WHY can’t you do THE SAME THING with homosexuality??

If you’re going to appeal to the “inspired, revealed Word of God”, from which you cannot pick and choose the verses you want to follow and dismiss because, “culture isn’t the final arbiter of truth, revelation is,” then why aren’t you using THE SAME LOGIC (and same hermeneutic) toward gay people as you do toward slavery?

THIS IS WHAT I MEAN when I say, “YOU ARE THOSE PEOPLE“. That’s you. When you condemn homosexuals and when you argue that they shouldn’t have the same rights and privileges as we have, THAT’S YOU defending slavery. THAT’S YOU making the SAME argument. That’s you appealing to the Bible to condemn a victimless so-called “crime” against God.

The irony, of course, is that in SLAVERY, there IS a DEFINITE VICTIM – THE SLAVE! – and it is therefore a crime. BUT, in a HOMOSEXUAL relationship between two consenting adults, there IS NO VICTIM!!!!! Point to the victim. There is no victim! And if there is no victim, there is no crime!

Slavery is ENDORSED and AUTHORIZED by God, DESPITE the obvious hardships imposed on the victims/slaves. And yet, there is no victim in homosexuality, and yet THAT is the verse you choose to defend, and not slavery????

YOU ARE THOSE PEOPLE! Those who oppose slavery yet condemn homosexuals are UNABASHED HYPOCRITES, because they read the Bible one way to dismiss slavery, and the opposite way to condemn homosexuality.

YOU ARE AN ILLOGICAL, UNASHAMED HYPOCRITE if you condemn homosexuals and do NOT endorse slavery. You are unworthy of being called “righteous”, or “scholar”, or even “humane”.

It’s that simple: YOU ARE “THOSE PEOPLE”. You should walk around with a sandwich sign around your neck saying, “I’m a Christian hypocrite, because I think some explicit social commands of God can be ignored, but others must be maintained”, especially those commands that condemn victimless activities like picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36) and homosexuality.

Let me say this to those who oppose same-sex marriage – ESPECIALLY IN THE NAME OF GOD: You are deserving of all public shame, chastisement, loss of reputation, and abandonment of friends and colleagues (both secular and Christian) that accompanied those who freely chose to defend the divinely ordained institution of slavery. You deserve the loathing you receive, for you have chosen to suppress the rights and privileges of your fellow human because you think God told you to do so, but you don’t condemn evenhandedly. You deserve to be intellectually exposed and called out publicly, because you condemn in the name of a god who ENDORSED, LEGISLATED, and MAINTAINED SLAVERY!

YOU ARE “THOSE PEOPLE”.

An Observation on the God of the Bible and Slavery

God meme "kills thousands of Egyptian children in order to free his people *from* slavery (Exod 12:29-30) immediately instructs his people how to *make their own slaves* (Exod 21:2-7; Lev 25:44-46)"

Has anyone ever noticed that in the Bible, God slaughters thousands of Egyptian children in order to free his people from slavery (Exod 12:29-30), BUT then immediately instructs his people on how to make slaves of their own (Exod. 21:2-7; Lev. 25:44-46)?

Exodus 12:29-30

“At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. (30) Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.” (NRSV)

Exodus 21:2-7

“When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. (3) If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. (4) If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. (5) But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,” (6) then his master shall bring him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life. (7) When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do…” (NRSV)

Lev. 25:44-46

“As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. (45) You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. (46) You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness.”

So God is OK with slavery, as long as they are foreigners.

[And in the NT, slaves are commanded to continue to obey their masters.]

Col. 3:22

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.” (NRSV)

1 Pet. 2:18

“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” (NIV)

Eph. 6:5

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ” (NRSV)

So, tell me again how God is the objective moral foundation for all time?

(And please don’t claim “prooftexting” or “out of context”: these verses mean exactly what they say, and they mean the very same thing in their fuller context. Besides, in what context would the supreme God of the universe ever say that it’s OK to own other people as property?)

(And quick, someone tell me how I am not reading this properly because I do not “possess” the seer stone Holy Spirit. Please tell me that this “revealed Scripture” doesn’t really mean what it says.)

(And before you make the “slavery was totally different back then” argument, read here.)

I welcome comments.

I AM ON RECORD in support of marriage equality for all Americans

I AM ON RECORD for Marriage Equality for all Americans.

I AM ON RECORD for Marriage Equality for all Americans.

Come on folks. It’s time to stand up and be heard on this issue. Marriage equality for same-sex couples is now before the Supreme Court.

Stand up and be counted.

PLEASE DO NOT stand idly by and hold the coats of those who would openly discriminate against the civil (not religious, civil) rights of other Americans!

 

I am ON RECORD as a professor of RELIGIOUS STUDIES at the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA in support of marriage equality for all Americans!


Read more (from most recent to oldest):

why fundamentalist evangelical republican politicians scare me (and should scare you too)

Georgia Congressman Paul Broun

Georgia Congressman Paul Broun, standing in front of a wall of mounted animal heads, tells the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet that he does not believe in “evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory”, which he defines as “lies straight from the pit of Hell”. Broun is a Republican representative on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

This is the US Congressman from Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, Dr. Paul Broun. He is a member of the Republican Party and the Tea Party Caucus.

He recently gave a speech to the “Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet” (yes, THAT exists, I kid you not) on September 27, 2012, in Hartwell, Georgia. (This explains the WALL OF MOUNTED ANIMAL HEADS that serves as a backdrop for the Congressman.)

Watch a clip of the speech:

Here is the transcript of what he said:

God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.

And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.

Now, I’ve come to accept that there are some people on this earth that will NEVER accept science, no matter how logical, rational, or intellectually compelling it is because they are not interested in facts; they are interested in maintaining the beliefs and worldview compiled thousands of years ago by desert nomads. But this is not the problem.

Every American has every right to be religious. And every American has every right to make religious speech (just not in places where others are compelled to listen to it or participate in it, like public schools). And every American has the right, if they so choose, to deny reality. You can argue that aliens created human technology, Santa Claus, whatever – you have that right.

Every American, if they so choose, can choose to deny basic science, facts, and data. That too is OK…foolish, but within one’s constitutional rights. Likewise, every American has the right to elect as their representative someone reflects their skewed, ancient, and defunct worldview – a representative who also denies facts and information that science provides. Therefore, even though such behavior is utterly foolish IMHO, Americans have the right to believe what they want, deny reality if they want, and elect someone as their representative who reflects the denial of science, facts, and reality. It’s foolish, but they have these rights as Americans. This too is not the problem.

The real problem, and what frustrates me to no end, is that the Republican Party would place someone like Paul Broun, who obviously has a disdain for science and the factual reality of the world around us, to THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, SPACE, AND TECHNOLOGY! Forget the fact that he’s been married four times. Forget the fact that he’s a Conservative Evangelical. These aren’t the problem. The problem is that, based upon his fundamentalist religious convictions, he DENIES the fundamental tenets of science. Yet, despite this, the Republicans named him the CHAIR of the SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS AND OVERSIGHT!

The Republicans bring this upon themselves.

While I’m sure the Medical College of Georgia is embarrassed to have Dr. Broun represent them as an alum who rejects the “lies” of basic medical disciplines like “embryology” and other tenets of basic science, they can’t help what he chooses to believe and deny today. But the Republicans can! The Republicans do themselves a major disservice when they promulgate the perception – one rightly deserved – that they are anti-science, and that they are anti-science precisely because they are conservative Evangelicals.

Do you see the problem? The Republicans don’t have to promote a scientifically ignorant congressman to the Committee on Science. Yet, they do. Thus, the Republicans completely deserve to continue to be chided as the party of anti-intellectualism and anti-science, because they continue to elevate people who see no possible compatibility between their faith and the reality of the worldview that basic science has provided. For fundamentalist Evangelical Republicans, faith and science are an either-or choice. And they choose faith. And that’s OK. But that the GOP elevates them and puts them in places of authority over budgets and curriculum for science and technology, this is the problem.

I shake my head.

this week’s example of bigoted child abuse in the church: child sings ‘ain’t no homo gonna make it to heaven’ in church

Some people ask me why I spend so much time debating the issue of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Apart from the academic side of the intellectual argument, and the textual/theological argument, we often forget that the outcome of this debate and the charges and claims made during the debate itself hurt real people and adversely affects their lives. And I’m not just speaking about those gay individuals who are discriminated against on a daily basis, but I’m also referring to the children who are taught to mock and even hate by their parents from a very young age in church!

For example, watch this latest video taken from the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana, the same town where a gay high school student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg IN, Billy (William) Lucas, recently took his own life apparently due to the anti-gay bullying he was receiving from his peers.

Listen to the lyrics of the song sung by the child, and watch the reaction of the adults in the audience.

The child sings the following lyrics:

I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
Romans one and twenty-seven (Rom 1:27)
Ain’t no homo going to make it to heaven.

Watch the room full of white adults stand and cheer and laugh in approval. The pastor nods and laughs. They are celebrating bigotry. They are celebrating their belief that gay Americans are going to burn in hell. One person is even heard to yell proudly, “That’s my boy!” And toward the end of the video, they have the child sing it again. Note that in the first performance, there is another child standing with the boy, and they boy ends after one verse, but in the second performance (see the 1:07 mark in the video), there is no second child, and the little boy sings the verse multiple times. This was no accident or lapse in judgment, it was an encore performance!!!

And what’s worse, from this point on, this child knows that every time he calls a gay individual a “homo,” he’ll have the cheering support of his church behind him. Remember, he’s a child: someone taught him this song! Every time he condemns a gay individual to hell, his parents will applaud. They might even invite him up in front of the church to sing of the gay individual’s condemnation to the church, who will shower him with applause and laughter.

This is child abuse. It is hateful indoctrination at its worst.

The pastor in the video is Jeff Sangl of the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle at 1114 Westridge Parkway W in Greensburg, IN 47240. You can email Pastor Sangl at jsangl@tds.net or call him at the church office at (812) 662-8224. You can also contact him at his family business (I kid you not), the Flatrock Whitetail Deer Farm, where they raise whitetail deer to hunt them at (765) 525-9488.

Apparently, shortly after this video was posted online, and the public outrage began, the pastor abruptly left on vacation. The church immediately posted a statement on its website, stating among other things:

The Pastor and members of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason. We believe and hope that every person can find true Bible salvation and the mercy and grace of God in their lives.

We are a strong advocate of the family unit according to the teachings and precepts found in the Holy Bible. We believe the Holy Bible is the Divinely-inspired Word of God and we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.

So once again, while the church simply denies that they teach hate, the video shows otherwise. AND, we see that the church is quick to excuse and dismiss its abhorrent behavior by invoking religious freedom stating that “we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.” Once again, even in their non-apology, “religious freedom” is used to excuse hatred taught to children.

THIS is why I take this issue so seriously. What “thoughtful conservatives” see as the simple upholding of “traditional marriage” is all too often manifest as teaching children to mock and hate their neighbor…in church. It has to end, and I for one as a scholar of religious studies, will stand with the oppressed on this one.

imagine that picture of you protesting same-sex marriage 40 years from now: YOU ARE ‘THOSE PEOPLE’

Imagine that picture of you protesting same-sex marriage 40 years from now, with your Bibles and your flags and your signs:

Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years: Mixed Marriage vs. Same-sex marriage.

Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years: Mixed-race marriage vs. Same-sex marriage.

In 2008, I wrote:

“I ask Californians, especially Christians, to look within their hearts and ask themselves whether we want to treat homosexuals today as we treated women in the 1920’s, and blacks in the 1850’s. Will we look back in 40 years’ time in disgust and shake our heads and ask how we ever voted to deny civil rights to groups based upon a personal sexual choice?”

An artist sums up what I wrote in one picture.

If you are campaigning AGAINST same-sex marriage, that’s you. In the picture. That’s you. You ARE that person. You are the person in the picture that we look back on in disgust, shaking our heads, and asking, “How on earth were people EVER that mean? Why did they EVER believe that? How could those people discriminate against others that way? And use the BIBLE to do so?”

YOU ARE “those people.” And in an age of social media, where EVERYTHING is written down, captured, and remembered, it will be that much easier for us to show our children and grandchildren the faces and the names of those people who argued AGAINST the civil rights of others. And our children will look back in disgust at the images of people protesting same-sex marriage the SAME way we look back and shake our heads at the bigots protesting mixed-race marriage 40 years ago, or desegregation before that, or women’s right to vote before that, or slavery before that, and using the Bible to do so!

YOU ARE THOSE PEOPLE!

(HT: Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill via FB)

article: fundamentalism, biblical interpretation, feminism, and gay rights at bible and interpretation

David A.J. Richards

David A.J. Richards, the Edwin D. Webb Professor of Law at New York University School of Law

There is an article at Bible and Interpretation entitled, “Against Fundamentalism in Christian Bible Interpretation: The Biblical Case for Feminism and Gay Rights,” that is worth a read. David A. J. Richards, the Edwin D. Webb Professor of Law at New York University argues:

What is astonishing about all the forms of American fundamentalism—new natural law, Protestant fundamentalism, and Mormonism—is that their hostility to feminism and gay rights rests on a reading of ostensibly Christian texts that pays little or no attention to the life and teaching of the historical Jesus.

The article concludes:

What they fail to see is how the alternative anti-patriarchal reading of Christianity I propose clarifies what Jesus thought were the difficulties for us of an ethics of love under patriarchy and why he expressed these difficulties through the command to love even our enemies under the terms of a patriarchal culture that made such love unspeakable, indeed unnatural. The familiar King James version translation of Matt. 5:48 is: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Bible, Matt., 1998, 8). Jesus models our love for one another (including loving even our enemies) on God’s love for us, as relationally responsive and responsible persons and as equals. If so, the deepest impulses within Christianity call for a love only possible for us as equals in responsible relationship, the basis for what is distinctive in contemporary feminism and gay/lesbian rights.

Give it a read.

It Is OK for Christians to Vote No on Prop 8

below is a piece i wrote on facebook prior to the november 2008 election. i’m posting it here now so that i can refer to it in a forthcoming post. enjoy! (and forgive the caps – i don’t usually do that ; – ) – bc

=======

Introduction

Christians are regularly asked to vote upon political measures that have tremendous secular significance but often possess few ethical or religious implications. These include tax increases and school bond measures. As a result, Christians are routinely divided along typical political lines, such as party, gender, or age on civil issues, with their faith playing no observable role in many of these decisions. But on certain occasions, Christians are faced with issues and ballot propositions that force them to vote along a different demographic line: that of faith. These measures have included issues of abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment, among others. This year is no exception.

California’s Proposition 8 has emerged as a high profile issue on the November 2008 ballot because of its simple, yet highly consequential implications for the definition of marriage in the eyes of the state. In fourteen short words, Proposition 8 states: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” While the proposition is intentionally terse and simply stated, its repercussions are far-reaching and unambiguous.

Proposition 8 would amend California’s constitution so that only heterosexual marriages are recognized by the state. This would overturn California’s existing marriage laws, which presently allow for same-sex marriage and its accompanying benefits. The benefits of state-recognized marriage include visitation rights in a hospital, authority to make decisions on the partner’s behalf in the case of incapacitation, social security, disability, Medicaid, military, veterans’, and other financial benefits, Native American eligibility status, first time homebuyer assistance, joint income tax filing status, child support enforcement, and estate and gift inheritance, among others. A complete list of the 1,049 federal laws in which marital status is a factor can be found in the US General Accounting Office’s letter to House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde on Jan. 31, 1997. Thus, there is a great deal of civil benefit to being recognized as a married couple in California.

Prop 8 is Not a Judgment Against Homosexuals or Homosexuality

Proposition 8 is not a judgment against homosexuality or homosexuals. It is a referendum on the civil benefits of same-sex marriages, with no affect upon the doctrines of any religious group. Yet many Christians will be voting for Prop 8 because of their moral opposition to the practice of homosexuality, which is forbidden in numerous biblical texts. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (NIV)

Homosexuality is clearly listed as a vice in 1 Corinthians 6. Yet, many Christians have singled out homosexuality as a greater threat than the other acts listed, and same-sex marriage has been elevated by the proponents of Prop 8 as the symbolic example of the immorality of the state’s civil law code. Never mind that the 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 passage lists several other sins such as drunkenness and adultery that are said to preclude individuals from inheriting the kingdom of God. And yet, there are no ballot initiatives that call for the elimination of civil rights and the nullification of state recognition of marriage for those who have ever been drunk or participated in extra-marital affairs. For some reason, homosexuality is singled out in this list as a sin that requires a constitutional amendment to protect the faith from the danger of homosexual couples enjoying the same civil rights as heterosexual couples.

Singling out homosexuality as an act that warrants a revocation of civil rights for married couples is a clear double standard of Biblical interpretation. For instance, Luke 16:18 states, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” According to this line of reasoning used by advocates of Prop 8, those who are divorced are adulterers, and thereby ineligible to inherit the kingdom. And yet, we see no ballot proposition limiting marriage to those who have never been divorced, even though the Bible clearly defines the act of remarriage of divorced individuals as adultery.

It is also important to draw a distinction between Biblical reasons for exclusion from the kingdom of heaven (which is the context of 1 Corinthians 6) and state civil law. The prohibition against homosexuality might be a prohibition against entering the kingdom of God, but it is not said to be a reason for not having a marriage recognized by the state.

The Myth of a “Traditional” (i.e., Biblical, Christian) Marriage

Proponents of Prop 8 argue that the measure will defend “traditional” marriage. However, proponents of Prop 8 are very careful not to use the words “Biblical” or “Christian” for fear of betraying the real reasoning behind their cause. Rather, they allow voters to supply their own reasoning for not wanting the state to recognize same-sex marriage. Many Christians argue in favor of Prop 8 because of their belief that the sanctity of marriage is rooted in the Bible and its teachings. However, an examination of the Biblical text reveals that Christian marriage is not as “traditional” as one might assume.

The Apostle Paul has a very low view of marriage. In fact, Paul encourages Christians not to marry at all. In 1 Corinthians 7:27, Paul states, “Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.” (NIV) Paul then continues to counsel Christians that while marriage is “not a sin,” Christians should ideally not marry at all. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:28, “If you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” (NIV) Again, Paul discourages Christians from marrying at all, including heterosexual marriage.

Thus, the entire argument that marriage is a God-ordained union between a man and a woman, and that this union is the preferred social institution for Christians is a myth that has been promoted by the church for millennia. The very issue of whether or not to have heterosexual Christian marriages was debated within the text of the Bible itself. For every passage like Genesis 2:18 that reads, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’,” (which ironically does not deal with marriage at all, but with the creation of females), or Ephesians 5:21-31 (which instructs those Christians that did, in fact, choose to be married or that already were married), there are other verses like 1 Corinthians 7:8, which states, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.”

Neither Jesus nor Paul ever married, and Paul continued to preach against Christians getting married, allowing for marriage only as a concession to those who could not “practice self-control” and wanted to have sex. Thus, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:9, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Paul only allowed marriage for those who lacked the self-control and discipline necessary for what he understood to be the more devout, single life as a Christian. Thus, while the proponents of Prop 8 argue that people of faith ought to fight to preserve “traditional marriage,” Christians who actually read their Bibles know that there is no consensus on a Biblical, Christian, “traditional marriage,” and that the very question of even whether or not to marry is debated in the Bible. Marriage in the Bible is far more complex than simple “traditional Christian marriage” that proponents of Prop 8 attempt to portray.

The Tactics of the Yes on 8 Campaign

The “Yes on 8” lobby is attempting to make this election into a vote on homosexuality. They are hoping that Christians and other people of faith will equate a yes vote on Prop 8 as a stance against the “sin of homosexuality” as defined in the Bible. However, this is not what Prop 8 does. Prop 8 seeks to overturn existing California law and deny civil rights to certain individuals based upon their sexual preference as defined by religious tradition.

Christians have been told that same-sex marriage is a threat to the sacred union of marriage, and that were Prop 8 to pass, the state would be able to dictate religious doctrine to religious groups. The Yes on 8 lobby routinely claims that if Prop 8 is not passed, a civil authority (i.e., the state) can impact their religious rites. This is simply not true. The state cannot affect the religious definition of anything, nor should it. A no vote on Prop 8 will do absolutely nothing to a religious organization’s understanding, sanctioning, or recognition of their own understanding of marriage. All a no vote on Prop 8 will do is continue to allow for secular, civil recognition of same sex marriages, and the civil rights, benefits, and privileges thereto appertaining.

California’s recognition of same-sex marriages will do nothing to alter any religious group’s definition of marriage. The Catholic Church will continue to view only marriages performed by a Catholic priest as religiously valid. Likewise, Mormons will continue to insist that only Mormon marriages (preferably in a Temple) will be acceptable as valid Mormon unions. Muslims and Jews will also continue to be allowed to define marriage as their traditional interpretations dictate.

Popular Vote Does Not Equal Constitutionality

State recognition of same-sex marriage is already the law in California. Prop 8 seeks to overturn this law by using a direct ballot initiative to amend the constitution and prohibit same-sex marriage. A direct ballot initiative was employed because our elected California state legislature is smart enough not to pass legislation that is deliberately unconstitutional. Likewise, California judiciary officials are wise enough to overturn any legislation that attempts to deny the civil rights of state citizens by implementing legislation that is based solely in tradition, religious or otherwise. The fact of the matter is that proponents of Prop 8 are seeking a popular vote via ballot initiative because they know the only way that the legislation can even be put before the public for consideration is to play on the fears of the population and call for a popular vote. However, a popular vote does not always equal constitutionality.

Some will certainly object and argue that the laws recognizing same-sex marriage in California are merely the product of “activist judges” legislating from the bench and imposing their will on the majority of California voters, who previously voted in March of 2000 to ban same-sex marriage under California Prop 22. Have no doubt that should Prop 8 pass, it too will be struck down as unconstitutional, despite being voted for by a majority of California citizens. This is due to the fact that just because a majority holds a particular opinion of belief does make that belief constitutional. Likewise, a popular vote does not keep particular religious belief systems from trampling on the civil rights of state citizens.

Take the issue of slavery in southern states in the 1850’s for example, or the desegregation of public schools during the civil rights movement. Were a ballot initiative proposed that amended a southern state’s constitution to guarantee the right of slavery or segregated schools, a majority of voters may have voted based upon their conscience or their religious beliefs to retain slavery and segregated schools. The results of these votes, however heartfelt, would have violated the civil rights of many citizens of the state, particularly African-Americans. Thus, it is possible, and sometimes necessary for courts to step in and strike down unconstitutional laws, even if a majority of voters support the measure. It is possible that on rare occasions, hatred, intolerance, or religious tradition can so pervade the populace that people vote to violate the civil rights of others. It has happened in the past and we rightly look back on our actions during these periods in disgust, asking how any civilized nation can openly and actively violate the civil rights of its own people. Yet here were are in 2008 dealing with a similar ballot initiative in Prop 8.

The proponents of this simply crafted proposition are relying on voters to supply their own reasoning, and for many, fears, prejudices, traditions, and religious beliefs for supporting the measure. And because there have been few Christians that have stood up and opposed Prop 8, a good case for the religious rationale behind opposing Prop 8 has not been offered. Regardless of how convincing the public policy and civil rights reasons might be, many Christians will not feel comfortable voting no on Prop 8 until a broad, theological case is made for allowing same-sex marriage to be recognized by the state. Therefore, the remainder of this editorial will provide the theological reasoning for voting no on Prop 8.

The Argument from Slavery

The process of separating civil law from Biblical teaching on issues of social importance is nothing new. Christians have had to deal with similar social issues in the past. In fact, several other Christian social positions based in scripture, which were also once endorsed by the state, are no longer held by civil government. That is, the government has stricken down laws that were rooted in Biblical teaching, because even though they had the support of the Bible, they were deemed unconstitutional.

The most obvious example that comes to mind is the aforementioned issue of slavery. Up until the Civil War, and unfortunately far beyond the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling that desegregated public schools in the south, the argument in favor of the practice of slavery was based upon religious tradition rooted in the Bible. And unfortunately, the Bible is very clear about its stance on slavery. Colossians 3:22 states, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly.” (NRSV) 1 Peter 2:18 says slaves should obey even harsh slave masters, stating, “Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.” (NRSV) Ephesians 6:5 goes so far as to equate one’s service to one’s master with service to Jesus himself, stating, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ.” (NRSV) Obviously, as far as the Bible is concerned, the state practice of slavery in Rome was not a core civil rights issue that required addressing. Rather, it was simply accepted.

And while the Apostle Paul argues in Galatians 3:28 that there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female “in Christ,” as far as Roman state practice of slavery was concerned, the Bible makes no call for the abolition of slavery, and Jesus makes no grand “I have a dream” speech. In fact, the Apostle Paul argues quite the opposite. When a slave named Onesimus ran away from his master Philemon, the Apostle Paul instructs the runaway slave to return to his slave master, writing only to Philemon to ask that he not punish the defecting slave because he had become a Christian. Far from a call for the abolition of slavery, the Bible clearly accepts the practice, and defends it with stern admonitions to slaves to accept their fates and obey their masters.

Despite the fact that the Bible essentially endorsed slavery, the United States rightly abolished the practice. But this serves as an example that while the Bible may teach a certain way on a certain social matter, it is incumbent upon Christians to do what is righteous as freedoms are won over time. Slavery was abolished by abolitionist Christians even though many southern Christians used Biblical verses defending slavery to argue on its behalf. Today, the proponents of Prop 8 are employing the same tactics to argue for tradition, and when possible, are using Biblical teachings about homosexuality to defend their position. But it does not change the fact that what they are proposing via Prop 8 violates the fundamental state civil rights of some citizens, just as slavery did 150 years ago.

The Argument from Women’s Rights

Another example is the portrayal of the role of women in the Bible. On several occasions in the Bible, women are instructed to “remain silent” and to “submit to their husbands.” 1 Corinthians 14:34 states, “Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says,” demonstrating that the early church simply accepted the existing law of women remaining subject to men. 1 Timothy 2:12 states, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent,” again reinforcing the notion that women are subject to men’s authority. Colossians 3:18 reminds women, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord,” arguing that submission to their husbands is ordained by God. Ephesians 5:22-23 makes the case for a hierarchy among men and women more clearly, stating, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church.” All of these Biblical examples have been used in the past as scriptural support for the subjugation of women, in marriage, in the church, and in the realm of civil government. When combined with the history of the subjugation of women that existed long before the Bible was composed, the Biblical injunctions against women, especially against women assuming leadership roles, were used in part to deny women the right to vote in many Christian nations, including the United States.

But many Christian women began to argue for equality, despite the Bible’s teachings. When the Women’s Suffrage movement began in France in the mid-eighteenth century, women began to argue for equal civil recognition under the law. In the United States, the movement culminated in the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1920, which prohibits states from denying any citizen the right to vote because of a citizen’s sex. Yet despite this progress on behalf of women, the Equal Rights Amendment, which was adopted by the US House of Representatives in 1971, and US Senate in 1972, still has not been ratified by the requisite three-fourths of the states needed to ratify the amendment. It may not be mere coincidence that despite the fact that 35 of the 50 states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, the area of the country that chiefly has not yet ratified the ERA is the southern Bible Belt. Additionally, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1979. Interestingly, while the US has signed the treaty, it still has not ratified the CEDAW convention, making it the only developed nation still not to do so.

Despite the progress women have made in the civil realm, there is still much to be accomplished before there is genuine gender equality in the United States. One cannot help but wonder if we are still faced with what can only be described as the unwillingness of many Christians to grant civil rights to women because of the enduring Biblical traditions against granting women authority over men. And while women have achieved the right to vote in the civil realm, and the opportunity to work many of the same jobs for nearly equal pay in the secular realm, women have yet to achieve equal progress in the religious realm, be it Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. This is due to the fact that despite the state’s persistent march towards equality among the sexes, the civil realm simply does not have the power to influence the teachings and beliefs of these religious organizations. This is a key point to remember when the proponents of Prop 8 argue that state recognition of same-sex marriage will influence a religious organization’s power to define marriage as they see fit. If many religious faiths and denominations are still opposed to allowing women equal authority in the church, synagogue, and mosque, how much influence does the state really have over these religious institutions? And why will the state suddenly have more power with regard to the definition of marriage than it does with the role of women in the church?

The Argument from Divorce

Another example of a Biblical teaching that is not expressed in civil law is the remarriage of divorced persons. If Biblical sin is the standard by which Christians are denying same-sex couples the civil rights that come with marriage, then why are other actions described as sins by the Bible, such as divorce, not also grounds for the denial of the right to marry. The Bible speaks plainly about divorce, stating in 1 Corinthians 7:11 that a divorced individual should be reconciled to his or her spouse, and should not remarry. And there is no doubt that in most cases, divorce negatively affects child rearing and gender roles (or lack thereof) in divorced, single parent homes—an argument made by proponents of Prop 8 as to why same-sex couples should not marry. Why is same-sex marriage treated differently than divorce, when both are stated as reasons not to marry?

To most Christians, divorce is just as much a sin as homosexuality. And yet, there is no proposition on the ballot arguing that the state should only recognize marriage as between a never-divorced male and female. Likewise, there is no proposed state proposition that would prohibit divorced individuals seeking to remarry from receiving state marriage benefits. This is because as far as divorce is concerned, Christians have learned to separate the scriptural teachings on divorce from the civil and state ramifications of it. Divorced individuals have the legal right to remarry in this state, even thought the Bible argues against it. Why should this be different for same-sex couples seeking to get married?

The Threat of Christian Sharia Law

Why is it important to discuss issues of slavery and women’s rights in the United States in a debate about Prop 8? Because the arguments that proponents of Prop 8 are making are the very same arguments that many Christians made during the abolitionist movement and the Civil War era, and about the Women’s Suffrage movement during the 1920’s and even up until today. We should not make the same mistakes again.

During slavery and Women’s Suffrage, Christians were faced with an ethical dilemma; Should Christians adhere to a fundamentalist, literal interpretation of the Bible, which endorsed and defended the practice of slavery and the subjugation of women, or should they part with these inhumane and civilly irresponsible practices, even though they are sanctioned in the Bible, and defend the civil rights of those who were being denied them? In the end, Christians made the right choice, but the decision was not an easy one. The division among Christians was so great, the nation fought a civil war, in part, because of the economic implications of this grave ethical decision. It was a time where many Christians decided to break with their simple, traditional interpretation of the Bible, and their previously held insistence that the Bible’s teachings be wholly integrated into civil law. Instead, many Christians adopted a new hermeneutic, or way of reading the Bible, distinguished its teachings from the civil laws of the state, and voted to abolish slavery and the subjugation of women in the civil realm on the grounds of unconstitutionality.

The same principal must guide the hearts and minds of Christians today. Regardless of one’s personal stance on homosexuality—sin or permissible, a life choice or something genetically inherited, biblically abhorrent or the by-product of ancient fears and traditions—Christians must today distinguish between their religious beliefs and state civil rights, just as our ancestors did when they made the difficult decision to abolish slavery despite the Bible’s sanctioning of it. It is the only way to guarantee the civil rights of our citizens. Likewise, it is the only way to protect against a far greater threat: the creation of the Christian equivalent of sharia law.

Sharia law” is the use of a particular interpretation of Islamic law contained within the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, for civil administration. Simply stated, it is the use of a religious text and set of beliefs to govern all aspects of civil society. This is the kind of civil law that is used, for instance, by the Taliban to keep women veiled, in Saudi Arabia to keep women from driving, and in Iran to banish and punish homosexuality. We in the West rightly decry these abuses and criticize the use of religious traditions to suppress the rights of a state’s citizens. And yet, when religious fundamentalists in the United States insist that state law only define marriage according to their particular religious interpretation, they embark on that same pattern of religious lawmaking. This same brand of religious fundamentalism has been used to oppose the abolition of slavery in the South, women’s right to vote, and mixed-race marriages in the United States. And now, this same brand of using the Bible and “tradition” to dictate civil law now backs Prop 8.

It is clear to see that the use of a religious tradition to suppress the civil rights of citizens is not only unconstitutional, it is the Christian equivalent of sharia law. It is also vastly hypocritical and inconsistent. Christians in California cannot, on the one hand, argue against the abuses of sharia law in Iran, while at the same time argue that civil rights be limited and state law be determined by traditional religious interpretations of marriage. It is the epitome of hypocrisy, where we become the very thing we despise.

If California citizens begin down this slippery slope of allowing religious institutions and traditions to define marriage for the state, we run the risk of becoming like modern day Israel. In Israel today, only marriages performed by Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, or Catholic officials are considered valid under Israel’s state law, despite the fact that a high percentage of the population are Reformed Jews, Protestant Christians, or agnostic, with no religious affiliation whatsoever. There are no civil or even mixed religion marriages in Israel. This is due to the fact that some religious entities, in this case a minority of Israelis adhering to Orthodox Judaism, continue to define marriage based upon their own religious interpretations. Israel has allowed their civil marriage laws to remain hijacked by Orthodox religious councils, who continue to dictate what is and is not acceptable for the state. And while many legislators in Israel are moving towards ending this unfortunate tradition, some here in California are hoping to adopt this trend and allow religious tradition to define state marriage law.

We cannot allow any religious traditions, or a coalition of them, to dictate state law. The separation of church and state must be maintained, even in this very sensitive issue.

Conclusion

It is ok for Christians to vote no on California Proposition 8. Prop 8 is not a sanctioning of, or judgment upon, homosexuality. It is about equal treatment under the law for California citizens. Prop 8 does not redefine marriage for religious institutions. Prop 8 does insist that same-sex marriages have the same equal protection under the law as heterosexual marriages.

Prop 8 asks the question: should religious institutions define marriage for the state? If so, another question must be asked: should the state be in the business of deciding what forms of marriage are valid? If so, what religious institution or consortiums thereof get to decide? Catholics don’t accept protestant marriage, and only see Catholic weddings as valid. Mormons don’t accept non-Mormon marriages, and insist that only marriages performed in a Mormon temple allow the couple to remain married in the afterlife. Orthodox Jews only accept Orthodox weddings, and Muslims likewise only accept Islamic marriages as valid. Who gets to decide?

The solution is a simple one. All “marriages” in California should be understood by the state as “civil unions.” This would separate the church from the state, and distinguish between the religious aspects of the sacred union of marriage as defined by one’s particular religious tradition, and the secular aspect of the union as defined by the state. Religious traditions would be free from state influence to define marriage as they see fit, and the state would be free from religious influence to administer the benefits of civil unions. This solution also renders moot any judgment upon homosexuality. People of faith can continue to debate whether the practice is right or wrong, while the state is free from any and all religious debate on the matter. Religious institutions could continue to marry their adherents according to their views and sacred rites, while couples would continue to fill out civil union licenses to confirm the union in the eyes of the state. Religious institutions can continue to define marriage as they see fit, while the state can define civil unions in a non-discriminatory manner.

The one common denominator for all marriages in the state’s eyes is that each couple files a marriage license with their respective County Recorder’s office. The state should not distinguish between which religious organizations’ beliefs are valid and which are not. Fortunately for us, this is already the case in California. A couple can already choose to be married by a non-religiously affiliated Justice of the Peace at a local courthouse. Thus, as far as the state of California is concerned, there is no binding religious obligation imposed upon marriages performed in the State of California. We should not allow Prop 8 to change this. If all marriages are defined as civil unions under the law, California would progress a long way towards finding a solution for this divisive issue.

As a Christian, I believe it is important to bless and not curse, forgive and not judge, and to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. And as an American and a California citizen, I also believe it important to abide by the law, and when given the opportunity, vote for laws that extend equal rights to all citizens, allowing all persons the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Proposition 8 stands in the way of both of these goals in that it allows a particular religious interpretation to influence and mandate state law. This is a clear violation of the constitution.

It is possible for Christians to vote no on Prop 8 on religious, civil, and public policy grounds. It is not the state’s place to discriminate against or impose limitations upon the civil recognition of marriages based upon race, class, religion, or sexual orientation. I ask Californians, especially Christians, to look within their hearts and ask themselves whether we want to treat homosexuals today as we treated women in the 1920’s, and blacks in the 1850’s. Will we look back in 40 years’ time in disgust and shake our heads and ask how we ever voted to deny civil rights to groups based upon a personal sexual choice? Or, will we as Christians choose to distinguish between our personal religious beliefs and civil law, and show the true power of Christianity: its mercy, humility, and self restraint?

I humbly, yet strongly urge everyone to vote no on Proposition 8 on November 4, 2008.

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.
October 30, 2008

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