Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gays, God, the Bible and the bishops (Contribution)

The wrangling over faith, homosexuality and Proposition 8, which overturned the legalization of gay marriage in California, is taking some interesting turns this week -- all based in some way on how one reads the Bible.

Archbishop of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony said in a letter to homosexuals in the weekly archdiocesan paper, The Tidings, that the Catholic Church's vociferous support of the ballot initiative "does not diminish in any way (your) importance" nor "lessen your personal dignity and value as full members of the body of Christ."

Mahony wrote:

We are saddened that some people who opposed Proposition 8 have employed hurtful and accusatory language, and even threatening actions, against those who voted for Proposition 8. This is most unfortunate since such strategies obscure the basic matter at issue: the preservation of the ordered relationship between man and woman created by God.

In a blog, LA Weekly wasn't buying this, calling it "wacky double-speak."

And the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and seven other dioceses announced they would ask their national denomination to retract its General Convention's 2006 ban on the election of more gay or lesbian bishops.

(The election of actively gay bishop Gene Robinson in 2003 was the rallying cry for a splinter group of about 10% of U.S. parishes to pull out of the Episcopal Church and form their own new conservative Church, the cornerstone of which is a literal reading of the Bible which they say forbids homosexual behavior.)

To make the point even sharper, Bishop of Los Angeles Jon Bruno announced a new policy on the Sacramental Blessing of Life-Long Covenants and included an official liturgy for the diocese -- another step officially discouraged by the national denomination.

The next Episcopal General Convention, where clergy and lay leaders set policy for the Church, will be this summer in Los Angeles.

And lastly, something to rile up religious conservatives of all persuasions: In the newest edition of Newsweek, Lisa Miller -- who writes on culture and beliefs (past stories have headlines like "Is Obama the Anti-Christ?") -- uses the Bible in a novel way to argue that it does not, in fact, forbid gay marriage or serve as a modern model for ideal family life.

First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second ... no sensible modern person wants marriage -- theirs or anyone else's --- to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes ...

Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions. Why would we regard its condemnation of homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice, which is far lengthier, on the best price to pay for a slave?

All these discussions turn on a larger question on whether one takes the Bible exactly on its own textural terms or whether you think it should be interpreted in the context of the time it was written and reinterpreted for modern times and cultures.

Do you think the Bible is an open book?

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The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: CNM)

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