Last Saturday I volunteered for Washington United for Marriage, wandering the crowds at Fall City Days in the beautiful Cascade foothills, asking if people would sign a card of support for our Marriage Equality campaign. (The Washington State Legislature passed a bill authorizing same-sex marriage and the governor signed it this spring, but opponents were able to force it onto the ballot this fall.)
One of the very first people I approached was an older guy, heavy-set, a little gruff looking but pleasant. “May I ask how you stand on marriage equality?” I asked.
“Absolutely not,” he answered. “I’m agains…” Then he interrupted himself, looked at me quizzically, and asked, “Wait. What do you mean by marriage equality?”
“Well, marriage for same-sex couples as well as heterosexual ones.”
“OHH!” he said, frown melting away. “Oh, I’m ok with that. I thought you were asking about equality between men and women in marriage. That’s what I’m against….” He ambled away.
I haven’t had a good laugh like that in a long time. His adult daughter ran back to me just long enough to say, “So, it doesn’t surprise you that he’s no longer married, right?”
Although an unexpectedly hilarious response helped make the day a highlight for me, so did replies from 95% of the people I talked to. The most common response was, “I can’t figure out what the big deal is, why this is an issue. If two people love each other and want to make a public commitment…who does that harm?” Only 4 or 5 answered, “Sorry, I follow the Bible and it says marriage is one man and one woman.” I didn’t argue, although it’s so tempting to ask, “What about Adam and Eve’s 6th-generation grandson Lamech, who had two wives? How about the multiple wives that Esau and Jacob had? What about the laws in Deuteronomy for a man with two wives? What about the son of Joash who had 70 wives and a concubine?”
[That last one reminds me of that great old line, “The definition of bigamy is ‘one wife too many.’ Some of us think that’s also the definition of monogamy.”]
And of course the list goes on, with Solomon and his 700 wives and 300 concubines at the top.
If I had answered with those questions, they’d have countered with, “But those were different times,” or (more to the point), “But there are no same-sex marriages in the Bible, and there are passages condemning homosexuality.” All of those passages can be answered with explanations that are devastating even to “parrot theologians.”
But all those objections and rebuttals take precious time away from what we Christians–progressive and fundamentalist alike–have in common: to celebrate and imitate a living God Who came to earth to be with us. To BE WITH US! Amazing, isn’t it? The gospels didn’t say Jesus called His disciples to teach them, to model good living for them, even “to save them.” They say He called them to be with Him. (John 14:3 and 17:24 are instructive.) I’m so impressed by His criticism of the scribes and the Pharisees for tithing each sprig of mint but not loving their neighbors. He could be talking about us who engage in these discussions when we could be feeding the unemployed, tending the sick, fostering the orphans, housing the homeless.
Thank God most of us do affirm equality in marriage (unlike the gruff-looking guy who made me laugh), even if some aren’t yet affirming equality of marriage for my honey and me. They’ll catch up. “The arc of history bends inevitably toward justice…”