A simplistic view of a complex institution

By Ken Midkiff

COLUMBIA, Mo 7/24/15 (Op Ed)
The Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges has upset many Christians, including several candidates for President.

These folks – no doubt well meaning – cite the Holy Bible as their source for the “one man, one woman” definition of marriage.

But the Justices held otherwise:   "The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State."

Based on my own recollections and some recent research, the Constitution and the Bible are on the same page.

I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household, but I don't remember any admonitions about same-sex marriage, marriage equality, or man-woman-only marriage.   Back then, it wasn't a topic of national or local interest.

Instead, we were hung up on inter-racial marriage.   Despite no Biblical prohibitions against it, Christians -- especially in the South -- claimed marriage between people of different ethnicities was against God's will, practiced only by heathens.

Inter-racial marriage isn't much discussed anymore, and seems to have survived and thrived without any Supreme Court rulings.  But gay marriage is causing an unholy uproar the likes of which we haven't seen in decades, prompting me to open the family Bible, which I have not done in a long time.

Was there any truth, I wondered, in the Huckabee-Cruz-Jindal exhortations against Obergefell?   Could Governors, county clerks and other highly-placed officials be right after all:  that the Good Book squarely positions marriage  between one man and one woman?

No.   God doesn't give a whit if gays and lesbians marry -- at least, not according to the Bible.   I found nothing to substantiate the belief that holy wedlock can only be between a man and a woman.

Rather, mixed-gender marriage is a tradition and traditions change.

I did find several chapters and verses in Genesis in concordance with bigamy and polygamy, forms of the sacred sacrament that remain illegal across our land despite their Old Testament imprimatur.

Biblical patriarchs such as Noah and Abraham had several wives.   Jacob not only had at least two wives, but he committed adultery with one of his maids (Genesis 30, 4) at least three times.

The Bible, therefore, can send mixed messages, and its adherents should be cautious about how they interpret what it says.

A favorite verse same-sex marriage opponents cite notes that God made Eve out of Adam's rib -- one man, one woman.

But it's not as simple as that.   

Though the usual interpretation is that Adam was Eve's husband, another interpretation is that Adam was Eve's father.   So was their relationship marital or incestuous -- or both?    The Bible doesn't refer to Adam and Eve as "married", but of course, as the only two people on the planet, there was no one to conduct a wedding ceremony.

But Adam didn't act as a father, either.   Interpretations fill in the gray areas.

To me, same-sex marriage remains a non-issue.   Married for nigh on 50 years to a (gasp) woman, I do not feel our marriage has -- or will -- suffer as persons of the same gender experience married life.

Which means joint tax returns; employment benefits; child-rearing; fighting, even divorce.   It also means anniversaries, growing old together, and looking back on a life well-lived in partnership with a dearly beloved.

In other words, just what God had in mind when Adam -- all alone in the world -- met Eve.