Wait a minute, Jon Meacham. I am confused by your Newsweek column, “A Victory For Liberty In California”. You argue that “the religious case for gay marriage is a strong one,” appealing to “Western monotheistic traditions [that] hold that human beings are made in the likeness and image of God, and are thus all equal in the sight of the Lord.” In the next paragraph you dismiss “those who assert biblical authority in support of traditional definitions of marriage” because “Scripture is not inerrant [without error].”
Maybe you don’t realize that the basis for believing that all human beings bear the likeness and image of God derives from the biblical account of creation in Genesis 1-2. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). We appeal to biblical authority as the basis of our understanding of human nature.
This biblical assertion has profound implications for most social issues. In fact, any discussion of human rights must begin here. All other beginning points ultimately fail to establish human equality without ambiguity. The establishment clause for marriage is also contained in the creation story of Genesis 2.
If you are willing to accept the first two chapters of Genesis, as your argument indicates, then you must accept the next chapter to the creation account, what we call the story of man’s fall. Genesis 3 explains the titanic disruption to man’s existence. Adam and Eve violated God’s only law for them, eating from the one tree God restricted from them. With this act, sin entered human experience. God expelled them from paradise. And human history would be littered with the fallout of their act of rebellion.
You make an important assumption to your religious argument. “If a person is homosexual by nature – that is, if one’s sexuality is as intrinsic a part of one’s identity as gender or skin color – then society can no more deny a gay person access to the secular rights and religious sacraments because of his homosexuality than it can reinstate Jim Crow.”
That assumption has never been established. No study or research has determined with any degree of certainty that sexual orientation embeds itself in human nature in the same way race and gender do. Your whole argument collapses if this assumption is untrue. The Bible actually disagrees with this assumption.
Returning to the religious argument, the Bible clearly reveals God’s attitude toward the practice of homosexuality. It consistently, both in the Old and New Testaments, denounces it as a manifestation of the sinful tendency of man. And where did this sinful tendency come from? You only need to refer back to Genesis 3 for the explanation. But this presupposes that you still want to appeal to biblical authority.
You conveniently abandon this appeal when you know that it will be used against your case. You point to the Bible’s laws regarding lending money, haircuts, subjugation of women and slavery to discount its authority on some levels. God gave these laws to a specific nation in a specific context for specific reasons. They must be interpreted in their context in order to understand God’s intent for commanding them. Your casual reference to them is unfair and irresponsible to the discussion.
On what basis do you arrive at the conclusion that “Scripture is not inerrant?” Entire books have been written on this subject. Theologians have devoted themselves to research this topic and reach carefully reasoned conclusions. Have you read these books and refuted their conclusions with your own careful reasoning?
I am confused that you would take the time to dismiss biblical authority when you indirectly relied upon it to build your religious case. Many people decry the creation account in the first two chapters of Genesis as errant, allegory, man’s unscientific attempt to explain human origin. Those who do not accept the existence of any Deity would scoff at the claim that humans are stamped with a divine likeness. So much for the religious case for equality.
The Christian faith continues to appeal to biblical authority when deciding how to treat homosexuals. The same Bible that classifies homosexual practice as sin also teaches us to “love your neighbor as yourself,” including your enemies, “live peaceably with all,” “love does no wrong to a neighbor” and “condemn not, and you will not be condemned,” to name only a few. A well-reasoned biblical theology will explain the ability to love all people while rejecting some moral practices.
The Bible is too easily quoted when it serves a person’s cause, but discredited when it does not. It deserves a fairer and more consistent treatment.