same gender marriage

A Faithful "NO"

A Letter to Indiana Legislators

By Doug Sloan

One of the overarching messages of the Bible is that it continually calls us to grow and to move beyond where we are now and to more fully live as a community of God. Even the proponents of HJR 3 demonstrate this when they advocate only for Leviticus 18:22 and not for Leviticus 20:13. Both verses prohibit sex between men, but the latter stipulates a death penalty. HJR 3 does not require a death penalty and its supporters are not clamoring for it. However slight, this is a move forward and a sign of a growing understanding and a maturing faith.

The Bible was not written in English. Consequently, any English translation – at best – can only approximate the language, meaning, and connotation of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. For those of us who do not read ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, we must study the research and opinions of biblical scholars who do and who have access to the biblical source documents. The hundreds of biblical source documents range from complete scrolls to fingernail-sized fragments, were written over a span of several centuries, and source document copies of the same text can have significant differences. The books that are selected to be included in the Bible varies throughout the world – there is no single universal authoritative version of the Bible. The source documents span a lengthy time and clearly document that the text itself changed over time as it was copied. Most importantly, there are no original documents and there is no way to verify how closely the source documents replicate the original documents.

Over time the understanding of the Biblical texts has grown and matured. Slavery used to be the norm. Now, we reject it and advocate for its global abolition. Racial discrimination used to be the norm. Now, we reject it and advocate for global racial equality. Women as chattel used to be the norm. Now, we reject it. Women can own property, vote, and have access to a wide range of educational, economic, and ecclesiastical opportunities. Like the struggle for racial equality – the struggle for sexual equality continues globally, including the United States. Through all of these changes, the text of the Bible did not change. What did change was our understanding of the Biblical message, our understanding grew and matured.

Torah (best translated as “instruction”), the first five books of the Bible, has 613 instructions for the ancient nation of Israel – substantial evidence that they took seriously the call to be a people of God. The specifics of most of those instructions for the ancient nation of Israel have no relevance to us. We are neither controlled nor obligated by them. What remains is the message, gathered from the entire Bible, that we worship a God of unrestrained boundless love and unconditional grace whose deepest and most passionate desire is that we live long healthy joyous lives as a community of peace, justice, and compassion and as individuals of generosity, hospitality, and service. We do not worship a god of war, suffering, exclusion, vengeance, condemnation, sacrifices, blood debt, torture, abuse, shame, of neither punishment nor reward. We reject the universalism that declares every person is born into a state of hopelessness and condemnation. We continuously engage in lengthy, serious, deep scholarly study and prayerful contemplation of the Bible. Consequently, we proclaim the Good News that as a community, we are divinely called to a life of inclusive justice that repairs, rehabilitates, restores, and – where possible – reconciles. As a community, we are divinely called to be a people of abundant generous compassion that feeds, quenches, clothes, heals, houses, visits, and welcomes without exception or qualification.

Because it is contrary to the Good News, contrary to what God wants for us, and contrary to how God wants us to treat each other; vote “NO” on HJR 3.

Douglas C. Sloan, Elder

Central Christian Church

Terre Haute, IN

A Response to HJR-3 on Same Gender Marriage

By Bruce Barkhauer

As the Indiana Legislature considers HJR-3, I offer a few reflections. 

1. In our legacy as a country, time has not favored the suppression of the rights of a minority by the will and power of a majority. Whether it was enslaving other human-beings, forcibly taking the lands of Native Americans, failing to grant women the right to vote, interring all of the Japanese Americans during the Second World War, or any of a plethora of similar travesties; they all share one thing in common – they have proven to be on the wrong side of history and those who championed them now lie disgraced on the sideline of human progress.

2. “Letting the people decide” while politically expedient, is morally bankrupt.  If Congress in 1964 had allowed the people to decide the outcome on civil rights, in many southern states African Americans would not be able to exercise the right to vote and would still be drinking from “separate but equal - Blacks only water fountains”. [Look at North Carolina’s response to SCOTUS relaxing of voting law changes in the once segregated southern states if you think this is over-reach.] At the risk of failing to win a future election, this group stands in the privileged place of doing what is just, fair, and right.

3. I have yet to be convinced that my marriage (or the institution of marriage) is threatened by allowing same-sex persons who choose to commit themselves to one another to enjoy the same legal rights that my partner and I enjoy. 

4. Religious Communities who teach against same sex relationships will continue to be protected in their right to do so (and while in disagreement with them, I would defend their right to do so).  Churches and pastors will not be required to marry same sex couples.  As a pastor for 25 years, there were numerous occasions where I elected not to solemnize and preside over a couple coming to me who wanted me to officiate at their wedding.  No attorney or state official ever “came calling” to threaten or force me to do so.  Nothing changes.

5. The arguments made not to grant same-sex couples these rights are primarily based on religious values and a particular interpretation of sacred writings.  The very communities that claim these writings as scripture are not in full agreement about this, nor are they of one mind about hundreds of other issues. The First Amendment would suggest that such a basis for a law (solely based on religious practice) would in fact, render it unconstitutional.  Yes, many of our laws are based on some of the “Ten Words” of the Hebrew Bible – but they are also laws which order society in such a way as to protect and sustain human community and are not bound by a particular religious perspective.  Allowing two people who choose to be committed to each other share property legally, provide for the transfer of that property as inheritance at the time of death, enjoy a tax deduction, and have a right to visit and care for their partner as any married couple would; strengthens, rather than diminishes our social fabric.  Such commitment between individuals provides for stabilization, not chaos, in our communities.

6. Making something legal does not mean I condone it, it simply provides the protection of the civil rights of those who choose to do so.  There are plenty of laws on the books that allow me to do things I personally find objectionable. I simply do not engage in some behaviors that I am afforded the right to under the law, should I choose to exact that privilege.  For example, just because it is legal and constitutionally guaranteed that I may own a gun, does not mean I have to purchase one.

7. Should Indiana both resist the temptation to crystalize this aging and passing cultural norm of the opposition to same gender unions and eventually come to (however hesitatingly) embrace or accept these unions, it would strengthen the state. By affirming the value of the diversity of her citizens, it would be a recognition that all who reside within its boundaries have gifts to share that benefit us all.  Such a position would be more true to the framers of our original governing documents who were never foolish enough to believe that “Out of Many, One” meant homogeneity of thought, but rather unity of purpose.  That purpose, at its best, was meant to be the freedom to pursue one’s happiness and to contribute to the prospect of liberty and justice for each and every individual. 

8. Bad laws can be undone, but it is messy, expensive, time consuming, and wastes energy that could otherwise be used to craft legislation that is badly needed to protect the poor, secure the legacy of our natural resources, and provide for the education and nurturing of our children.  The Eighteenth Amendment was eventually struck down by the Twenty-first, and this too, if ultimately enacted could be (and likely in less than a generation will be) undone – but at what cost.  Let us focus instead on some of the things that really will make the Hoosier State a better place to live.