So it was that I came upon a most fascinating article on the front page of the local section of this morning's Virginian-Pilot. There, to my amazement, was the story of an older (67) southern Evangelical white Christian woman right here in Norfolk, VA, well known for espousing conservative views regarding the importance of the family, who had written and gotten published a book actually arguing in favor of gay marriage from a Christian perspective.
But those same pro-marriage evangelicals may recoil from her book's subtitle: "A Christian Case for Gay Marriage." In it, Scanzoni argues that neither the Bible nor "family values" are incompatible with homosexuality.
"Marriage, this idea of sex, love and commitment for life, is the ideal," she said during a recent interview at a coffeehouse in the Ghent area of Norfolk. "Why shouldn't everybody be invited into this institution?" [emphasis mine]
Scanzoni co-authored the book with David G. Myers, a Michigan social psychologist and scholar. Both stated in the book that they are heterosexuals, and Scanzoni herself was married for twenty seven years with two children.
What makes this so very interesting is that even though they disagree with some of the basic assertions made by the gay rights movement (including the oft-quoted figure of 10% gays in any population), they do make one key point:
Reviewing the scriptural passages most often cited by opponents of homosexuality, Scanzoni and Myers conclude that biblical writers criticized same-sex activity such as rape or prostitution but never addressed homosexuals living as monogamous, committed couples.
"We still take the Scripture as authoritative, but it's amazing the new things you find as you look at it," Scanzoni said.
That, I think, is extremely important, and is something we have asserted right from the start. Even the sections of the bible which do condemn homosexual activities are generally surrounded by other commandments which have been largely written off by even the most God-fearing as obsolete and rendered irrelevant by the new testament. I dare say you'll not find a single fundamentalist who hasn't committed at least one and probably several of the abominations listed in Leviticus (modern fashion alone renders it all but impossible not to).
I have not read the book yet (though I certainly intend to), however the article misses one very important part even if the book itself does not. Arguably the most tangible and pragmatic benefit of long-term monogamous relationships is the reduction in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Certainly, if we're worried about the spread of AIDS, we should be doing everything in our power to encourage them and discourage people from playing the field. One would think even the most ardent fundamentalists could see and agree with that point. Therefore, it strikes me as inane to ban gay marriage and tell the people who are making that extraordinary commitment that theirs is somehow not valid, solely on the basis of a millennias old text of somewhat dubious origins and authenticity and even more questionable translation.
Thus you can imagine why people like myself get so incensed at the mention of the "sanctity of marriage" and certain abominations. Such arguments only serve to alienate people and play off of baseless fears rather than address the real important issues facing our society. We are desperately in need of a rational approach to this debate and it pleases me no end to finally see prominent evangelicals offering one.
I therefore strongly encourage anyone interested in this debate to acquire a copy of "What God Has Joined Together?: A Christian Case for Gay Marriage," and support these two authors in their efforts to resolve one of the most divisive issues of our time. As they demonstrate, we are no longer confined to either persecuting homosexuals or abandoning Christianity: there is a third, pragmatic way which deserves thoughtful consideration and support.
The article which inspired this essay, "Same-sex marriage gets an unlikely supporter" (Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads 07/03/05) is unfortunately not available online for free, however you can find it on the Virginian-Pilot's e-Pilot web site for a $2.95 one-day pass, should you so desire.