, then still being edited by the self-advertised “moderate” liberal Jonathan Meacham, had a
on the controversy. In looking up material in my computer on the Defense of Marriage Act, I came upon Meacham’s piece with my partly written interspersed comments, which I have now completed and posted below.
The Editor’s Desk
By Jon Meacham | NEWSWEEK
Published Dec 6, 2008
From the magazine issue dated Dec 15, 2008
On the campus of Wheaton College in Illinois last Wednesday, in another of the seemingly endless announcements of splintering and schism in the Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan and other leaders of the conservative forces of reaction to the ecclesiastical and cultural acceptance of homosexuality declared that their opposition to the ordination and the marriage of gays was irrevocably rooted in the Bible—which they regard as the “final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.”
No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between—this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism. Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt—it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition. [LA replies: So the Bible is not true at all, is not a source for any authoritative truth. But of course the Episcopal Church, of which Meacham is a member (he is a parishioner at St. Thomas Episcopal Church oon Fifth Avenue, the traditional Anglo-Catholic parish where I was baptized in 1998) is (or is supposed to be, but since the ordination of an openly practicing homosexual bishop in New Hampshire in 2003 no longer is) founded on the Bible. According to the ruling document of the Episcopal Church, the Thirty-Nine Articles, everything that the Church holds as doctrine is based the authority of that doctrine on the Bible. So apart from the monstrosity of denying any truth in the Bible (it’s not true that “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”? it’s not true that “in the image and likeness of God he created them”? it’s not true that “I am the resurrection and the life”?), Meacham is denying the very basis of organized or any Christianity.
[We also need to understand that once a Christian denomination recognizes homosexual marriage, and thus breaks so decisively with doctrinal and historical Christianity, it ceases to be a Christian body in any recognizable sense. It has become a liberal institution, not a Christian institution. Note below how all Meacham’s arguments (though he calls them “Judeo-Christian,” are liberal arguments, not Christian arguments.]
As Lisa Miller points out in her cover essay this week, the debate and its implications spread far beyond intramural Anglican conflicts. The impetus for the project came not from Wheaton but from California and the successful passage of Proposition 8, which seeks to ban gay marriage. The issue of marriage (as opposed to civil unions and other middle courses) is not going away: California was a battle in a larger, ongoing war, both in America and in Europe. (For the record, the Lisa Miller who is our religion editor and the author of the cover story is not the Lisa Miller who is featured in Lorraine Ali’s companion piece about a gay couple’s custody fight.)
Briefly put, the Judeo-Christian religious case for supporting gay marriage begins with the recognition that sexual orientation is not a choice—a matter of behavior—but is as intrinsic to a person’s makeup as skin color. [Italics added.] [LA replies: The statement is of course the standard liberal argument on the issue, though Meacham dishonestly calls it a Judeo-Christian argument. Liberals as a general matter make individual choice and preference the highest authority in all social and moral issues—except in one area, homosexuality. There, they turn around and piously declare that homosexual conduct is not an individual choice, but a completely determined aspect of a person’s individuality, as unchangeable as his sex or race. They engage in this total reversal of the usual liberal argument for a purely opportunistic reason: they know that if homosexual conduct is treated as a choice, as all other liberal values are treated as a choice, then homosexuality will not be given the respect that it must have in order for homosexual marriage to receive recognition.] The analogy with race is apt, for Christians in particular long cited scriptural authority to justify and perpetuate slavery with the same certitude that some now use to point to certain passages in the Bible to condemn homosexuality and to deny the sacrament of marriage to homosexuals. This argument from Scripture is difficult to take seriously—though many, many people do—since the passages in question are part and parcel of texts that, with equal ferocity, forbid particular haircuts. The Devil, as Shakespeare once noted, can cite Scripture for his purpose, and the texts have been ready sources for those seeking to promote anti-Semitism and limit the human rights of women, among other things that few people in the first decade of the 21st century would think reasonable.
Beyond the Bible, some argue that marriage is between a man and woman by custom and tradition—which is true, but only to a point. As recently as the 1960s men and women of different races could not legally marry in certain states. In civil and religious terms we have redefined marriage before in order to reflect evolving understandings of justice and right; to act as though marriage has been one thing since Eden (and look how well that turned out) is ahistorical. [LA replies: he’s saying that to allow interracial marriage is to redefine marriage, therefore marriage has no unchangeable essence and we can do with it what we want. But of course interracial marriage does not change the nature of marriage, and no one ever argued that it did. The reason for prohibiting interracial marriage had to do with interracial relations, particularly with the desire of racial conservatives to keep the races distinct; it had nothing to do with the nature of marriage itself. By the same token, the recognition of interracial marriage altered racial relations, but it did not change by an iota the nature of marriage itself. By contrast, the recognition of homosexual marriage fundamentally alters the nature of marriage.]
In this light it would seem to make sense for Americans to look anew at the underlying issues on the question of gay marriage. One can decide to oppose it in good faith, but such opposition should at least be forged by those in full possession of the relevant cultural and religious history and context. The reaction to this cover is not difficult to predict. Religious conservatives will say that the liberal media are once again seeking to impose their values (or their “agenda,” a favorite term to describe the views of those who disagree with you) on a God-fearing nation. Let the letters and e-mails come. History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion. (As it has been with reform in America from the Founding forward.) [Italics added.] The NEWSWEEK Poll confirms what other surveys have also found: that there is a decided generational difference on the issue, with younger people supporting gay marriage at a higher rate than older Americans. One era’s accepted reality often becomes the next era’s clear wrong. So it was with segregation, and so it will be, I suspect, with the sacrament of marriage.
[LA replies: As I said above, every one of Meacham’s arguments is not a Christian argument, but a liberal argument: that homosexuality is as determined as race; that preventing two persons of the same sex from “marrying” each other is the moral equivalent of preventing a man and a woman of different races from marrying each other; and, finally, the liberal “killer” argument: that progressive opinion and “generational change” make homosexual marriage historically inevitable, therefore resistance is futile. Let’s not bother cataloging the monstrous crimes and errors that leftists have pushed during the last two centuries in the name of “historical inevitability.” Let’s just point to the inconvenient fact that in every state where the issue has been put to a popular vote, traditional marriage has been upheld by solid majorities, showing that Meacham’s generational change and historical inevitability argument does not apply, at least as of yet, to contemporary America.]
Sophia A. writes: