A few weeks ago, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out in favor of same-sex marriage. Having first allowed her husband to send up a trial balloon, Mrs. Clinton revealed that she had, like President Barack Obama, finally “evolved” in her thinking.
Given how much ink has been spilled on the subject by an obsessed and advocating press, and the strong moral certitude with which Democratic (and occasional Republican) members of the House and Senate are making their evolutionary pronouncements, it is difficult to remember that at this time last year, the issue of gay marriage had much less energy surrounding it.
That is a remarkable forward propulsion for evolution. Until last May (for some) or last week (for others) many of our best and brightest had missed what they now say is an important and morally obvious point: Of course the freedom to form civil unions will never be enough; only “marriage equality” will do.
Once having shed their own principles like snakeskin, the newly enlightened discovered that all other principles are illegitimate—not only illegitimate but anti-God, for we are told by Jimmy Carter, Stephen Colbert, Bill O’Reilly and others that if you look in the Bible, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality or gay marriage.”
Of course, in chapter 10 of Mark’s Gospel Jesus states definitively that divorce cannot exist; these are his actual words, and they don’t matter a whit to our society, yet we must now glean our wisdom from the words Jesus did not say. The argument puts one in mind of a skit from Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, in which comedienne Totie Fields, dressed as an enormous toddler, sang,
Nobody told me that I couldn’t paint the baby
I was just told not to paint the walls and floors
but nobody told me that I couldn’t paint the baby
so I did.
For the five or six thousand years preceding the last fifty, no one needed an explicit pronouncement that marriage was an office involving opposite sexes because it seemed obvious. In the last half century, however, human sexual mechanisms have become utilized less for production and more for pleasure, and our national endorphin overdose has left us disoriented enough to argue that if Mom doesn’t say we can’t go skeet shooting with the good china, it must mean we can.
It is a puerile and pathetic argument, meant to guilt people into acquiescence, but since it is being entertained, we must ask whether it is true. In Mark, Jesus denounces divorce and describes marriage as explicitly “male and female.” In Matthew’s Gospel he does the same, but he says something more:
But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”
In Christ Jesus’ statement there is no judgment and no denigration of those who are “incapable of marriage”; it is a simple, respectful teaching, and it condemns no one. Is it too politically incorrect to wonder if Jesus is here speaking—with typical love and grace—of marriage as an office that is both exclusive and exclusionary? Jesus does not lie, and he seems to be suggesting that either through nature or nurture or religious inclination, there are humans who are as beloved as any others—equally, in the sight of God—but not meant to marry.
He certainly seems to be saying something along that line. He, of course, would not have said “homosexual”; scholars assert that neither the word nor the concept existed in his time. (It is worth noting that words like “trinity” and “incarnation” are also absent from Scripture, and yet the concepts are encompassed in its teachings).
To bring this up will perhaps inspire some cries of “bigot!” and “hater” from those for whom the words have become a knee-jerk response to any argument made in opposition to the zeitgeist. Still it only seems right, if Jesus is to be dragged into the debate on same-sex marriage, that we give at least as much consideration to the words he did say, as to the ones he did not.
People are as free to ignore the verses from Matthew as they are to ignore the verses on divorce in Mark, but let us at least acknowledge that the words exist, out of respect for Christ Jesus, the Word Incarnate, whose every syllable is meant for our good.