September 4, 2014

IF NOTHING ELSE...:

Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage :  A traditional view of marriage is about much more than today's politics. It's deeply woven into the 2,000-year-old ethic at the heart of our faith. (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry | September 3, 2014, The Week)

[T]he history of Christian ethics actually shows that the faith has been surprisingly consistent on the topic of sexuality. Christian opposition to homosexual acts is of a piece with a much broader vision of what it means to be a human being that Christianity will never part with. 

The story Christians have been telling for 2,000 years goes something like this: The God who made the Universe is also, by his very nature, Love, and he made human beings with a very lofty vocation. Humans are meant to reflect His glory in the world; to be like God, that is to say, to be lovers and creators. Everything in the Universe has been put here to be used by God's children to reflect his loving glory -- and to teach them about God's love. This is particularly true, or so the story goes, of the unique sexual complementarity between men and women. The sexual act is meant to reflect God's love by fostering a union at once bodily and spiritual -- and creates new life. The complementarity of the persons in a marriage reflects the complementarity of the Persons of the Trinity, and the bliss of marital union is an inkling of the bliss of the union of the Persons of the Trinity. The fruitfulness of the marriage act reflects that God is a creator and has charged man to be an agent of his ongoing work of creation. And, finally, if God's love means total self-giving unto death on a Cross, then man and wife must give themselves to each other totally -- no pettiness, no adultery, no polygamy, no divorce, and no nonmarital sexual acts. According to the story that Christianity has been telling for 2,000 years, Christianity's view of sexuality isn't some encrusted holdover from a socially conditioned patriarchal era on its way out, but is instead deeply connected to its understanding of who God is and what human beings exist for.

Christianity's opposition to homosexuality is not the product of some dusty medieval exegete poring over obscure Old Testament verses. From the beginning, what set apart the new and strange sect called Christians from the rest of their culture was their strange sexual ethic. They refused polygamy. They refused the sexual exploitation of slaves by their owners. They refused prostitution, premarital sex, divorce, abortion, the exposure of infants, contraception -- and homosexual acts.

As the British philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe noted, in this Christianity was a great equalizing force: Because of the fact of pregnancy, most premodern cultures enforce sexual restraint on women. Where Christianity's bizarreness lay is that it insisted on the same restraint on the part of men -- whether gay or straight. Christians held a bizarrely exalted view of (lifelong, monogamous, fertile, heterosexual) marriage as reflecting the image of God himself, but, even more bizarrely, held up lifelong celibacy as an even more exalted state of life. From the start, alongside the refusal to worship the Roman emperor as a god and Christians' supererogatory care for the poor, this was what set Christians apart, and goes a long way toward explaining why Pagan writers could scorn Christianity as a religion of "slaves and women."

Of course, like all ideals, this was very often observed in the breach, but such is the lot of human nature. Human beings, societies, cultures, and religions have a worldview that includes moral "oughts," and that they only partially live up to, as anyone who has tried to stick to a diet knows. 

But the point is clear: From the start, Christians embodied a different way of life. From the start, they understood a particular sexual ethic to be a keystone of this way of life. And they understood the logic of this ethic as prohibiting (among other things) homosexual acts. 

Over its 2,000 years of existence, Christianity has been surprisingly consistent in holding the line on what our faith views as fundamental precepts of Christian ethics, some of which make same-sex marriage an impossibility. 

Christianity is incompatible with endorsing an activity that destroys both participants morally and physically.  The absence of love in the act decides the matter.
Posted by at September 4, 2014 4:27 PM
  
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