No presidential election in history has been so polarized by issues that directly affect the rights of gay and lesbian individuals as this one. We have two distinct camps: One that believes that marriage is "traditionally" between a man and a woman and one that believes that marriage is between two people who love one another and want to create a future together.
The Christian faith often forms the basis of the traditional argument. Remarkably, Brian McLaren, a college English professor-turned-theologian, argued more than two years agousing Christianity as his foundationthat marriage equality was not just a civic right but was also one of faith.
In McLaren's book, A New Kind of Christianity, he asks 10 questions regarding the direction of the faith. He made the biggest waves in the popular press, including the New York Times and The Huffington Post, with the suggestions on the importance of marriage equality, specifically regarding inclusion of the LGBT community within any faith that is truly Christian.
"If the Christian faith were meant to be more shrink-wrapped, Jesus would not have taught in parables or spoken in generalities, " said McLaren. He begins his chapter with these words: "I don't want to be closed-minded or judgmental, but in good conscience I simply can't approve of the lifestyle." He goes on with rhetoric that the LGBT community has often heard about "lifestyle" choices and aberrations but ends his diatribe thusly: "The lifestyle I'm speaking of is fundasexuality. A neologism that describes the reactive, combative brand of religious fundamentalism that preoccupies itself with sexuality."
"The Bible is a record of humanity's growing and evolving moral consciousness. It is not static," said McLaren. Leviticusas some LGBT individuals are awareis often quoted to denounce homosexuality. "Some Christians claim that this verse must be applied literally. If that were so, then there should be a death penalty for gays and lesbians because it's pretty explicit. But some fundamentalists ignore an awful lot of what Leviticus has to say. They soon forget that this book has been used as a defense of slavery and segregation," said McLaren.
He is quick to point out that the LGBT population is now and probably has always been a minority population, particularly at the time the Bible was written: "A 6-to-10-percent minority can be intimidated into silence for a very long time. Any contrary evidence regarding homosexuality would have been suppressed and very come out. When you're reading Leviticus you're reading the words of a primitive society where procreation is goal number one."
McLaren also points out that Leviticus is silent as to what to do with people who are schizophrenic or have diabetes. "Those were concepts that were just unknown to the authors of that book. How does a fundamentalist deal with that?" Ultimately, McLaren argues that "the moral movement should be one that moves from the law to love. Love and loving the other as we love ourselves. Take that love and that "law" and apply to everything."
McLaren uses two devices to argue that Christians, as technically more evolved on humanity's moral spectrum, should include the LGBT community as equals, no questions asked. First McLaren quotes a story that most Christians would not even notice or ever mention. In Acts of the Apostles 8:37, Philip, one of the disciples of Jesus comes across an Ethiopian eunuch on his way from the Temple in Jerusalem where he has been denied access to worship because he is both black and sexually deviant according to traditional Jewish law. Philip acts fast and immediately tells this man about Jesus and is ordered, by God, to baptize this sexual outcast into the faith, just as he is.
Second, McClaren takes aim at Paul's Letter to the Romans. The letter begins with what initially appears to be admonishment against gay people. But McLaren points out that Paul is not writing a constitution but is in effect, trying to get his point across. In other words, the admonishment is St. Paul's reverse psychology. He's saying, "Yes, look at these gays and the idolotars and the other freak show going on here. It's so good of you to point this out. Oh wait. You mean, you're all doing it to? Interesting." St. Paul is basically chastising the Romans for being too judgey. Rather than admonishing their use of statutes or gay sex, he's more concerned with the early Christians becoming too judgmental and less inclusive. "We should be reading the text in its entirety," said McLaren.
McLaren also points out that due to the changing landscape of modern living, the way that even heterosexuals express their sexuality is radically different from two or three thousand years ago. "By coming out of the closet regarding their homosexuality, gay folks may help the rest of us come out of the closet regarding our sexuality. And that is important, because the no longer we hide from the truth of our sexuality —in all its beauty and agony, in all of its passion and pain- the sicker we will be as religious communities, as cultures and as a global society."
For more information on A New Kind of Christianity or on Brian McLaren, visit www.brianmclaren.net for a full sampling of his theology as well as links to his other works on faith and spirituality.