Monday, June 23, 2014

Sin and the marriage debate

Just a quick post with a single thought. I had a conversation recently with a colleague who sees the issue of marriage equality/ordination of lesbians and gays differently than I do, and as usually happens in holy conferencing, our conversation helped me gain better understanding of his perspective.

It's a common belief that the ongoing conversation about unity in the church is deeper than the presenting issue of same-sex marriage. Adam Hamilton, among others, has said that the difficulties surrounding our conversation about sexuality stem from our different understandings of Biblical authority. I resonate with much of Hamilton's reasoning, but I am starting to think that in some ways, this line of argument misses the mark. Let me explain.

One of the lines of discussion in the same-sex marriage debate is related to God's design for humans. The argument goes this way: God's design is for a man and a woman to be united in marriage. So, too, are children part of that plan. Anything other than this arrangement is contrary to God's plan.

I could say, all right, perhaps this is God's plan, but things happen. Infertility happens. Differences in sexual orientation happen. These things are not necessarily the result of sin. They are simply the result of being human. Things just happen.

And yet many of those who see same sex marriage as inherently sinful do not buy the "things just happen" line. Instead, some would argue that original sin cannot be separated from issues like infertility. So while infertility may not be God's plan for marriage, the argument goes, it is ultimately the result of human sin. Same-sex attraction, then, would likewise be a result of original sin, compelling Christians to stand against it.

I don't mean to cast aspersions; I am just trying to understand the dynamics of the conversation, and if you think I'm being unfair, feel free to comment below. But this is all to say that the difference in perspective may not simply be about different understandings of scripture, but rather different understandings of sin.  Maybe this is obvious to everybody but me, but I found it to be something of a revelation.
update, 6/24: I have been thinking about this post and want to make sure that I am fair. This is not a line of argument I ascribe to, so I am obviously not the best person to defend it. That said, maybe a fairer way to talk about the original sin argument is to say that it presumes that God's plan for marriage is that it be between a man and a woman. If the man and woman choose not to have a child, that's a value-neutral decision. If the man and woman choose to have children but cannot, the resulting infertility can be traced back to original sin. Like I said, not an argument I buy. I am just trying to understand the dynamics involved.

1 comment:

  1. I think the idea of different conceptions of sin is spot on, but I'm not necessarily convinced by the reasoning that any kind of sexuality that doesn't result in children is a result of original sin or the cosmic nature of sin. And I think even if the debate does center more around the conception of sin, that still falls under the umbrella of debates over the authority of scripture. The undergirding issue is still hermeneutical, I think. It's difficult for us (impossible, maybe?) to understand concepts such as sin in the same way as Paul did in the first century (my opinion). Paul obviously understood things like slavery and violence in a different way than us - why do we have a difficult time acknowledging a humility in interpretation on the issue of sexuality on both sides?

    The interpretation of sin is an important lens to consider in the conversation. Thanks for bringing it up.