Mark Joseph Stern made an excellent point over at Slate, Two Clerks Resigned to Avoid Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses. Good for Them! His point is that there are all kinds of homophobic bureaucrats who want the special right to not do their jobs. At least the two clerks who he talks about in the article showed integrity: they saw that their personal feelings stopped them from doing their jobs, so they quit. Although I think they are wrong about their positions on same sex marriage (so does Stern), I respect people who are willing to suffer a loss for it rather than just whine, which is the normal reaction.
But I’m struck by the fact that Christians seem to think that God cares about same sex marriage. If one is not a literalist, there is no problem at all. The discussions of homosexuality in the New Testament is mostly indirect, and when it is direct can be interpreted as discussing homosexual lust — and the whole Bible is down on lust as a general matter. Most of the Biblical arguments that people make against same sex marriage are based upon passages that actually just talk about procreation and opposite sex marriage — there is nothing explicit about same sex marriage. And if these passages mean that God doesn’t like same sex marriage they also mean that he doesn’t like marriages between old people.
But I’m more interested in the Biblical literalists. Leviticus 20:13 says, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.” This is awkward syntax, but the point is that the men shall be put to death, not something like, “Well don’t be shocked in God strikes them dead!” The New Living Translation, for example, translates the passage, “They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it, “They must be put to death; their blood is on their own hands.” The International Standard Version provides, “They are certainly to be put to death.”
So God wants homosexuals put to death long before they start marrying. Yet everywhere you go in America, you find Christian literalists — lots of them — who are not putting Neil Patrick Harris to death. In fact, they are not even calling for his death. I think these people lack integrity. But I understand. It really does go against natural human impulses to kill other people, even if your holy book says you should do it. But why is it okay to be wishy-washy about something God told you to do (killing the gays) and not about something that he was at best unclear about (stopping the gays from marrying).
According to Gallup, roughly 30% of Americans think, “The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.” This must be the group that is so concerned that giving out marriage licenses to same sex couples will cause them to burn in hell. But I just don’t see God saying to these people, “Well, you didn’t do what I explicitly told you to do. You just brushed that aside because it was hard to do. But you did make a big deal about giving out marriage licenses to the people I told you to kill. I guess that’s good enough, welcome to heaven!” I don’t see it happening that way. But for all the literalists’ claims, they seem to think that they can finesse God. And that, beyond anything else, is offensive.