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UTAH: Bishop Rejects Heterosexual Marriage, Eulogizes Gay 'Marriage'


News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

The Bishop of Utah, Carolyn Tanner Irish, recovering alcoholic and an ex-Mormon who never got baptized as a Christian, says that from a biblical perspective there is very little to support current views of marriage and family.

"Many Christians speak of marriage as a 6,000-year-old tradition. But historical and cultural evolution challenges that view and the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) tradition is a prime example of that." The "sacramentality" that religious faiths now claim for marriage has also evolved. It is doubtful that Jesus would even recognize our institution of marriage as it is, she writes in an Op-Ed article for the Salt Lake Tribune.

"Further, one must look elsewhere than the Bible to support the vague category called "family values." I know of no consistently good "family values" stories in the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures. Support for marriage as we define it hard to find in Scripture, she says.

The way we view marriage and family itself has evolved over centuries, says the bishop. "Propagation of the species was, of course, its biological foundation, but culturally it was property arrangements among tribes or clans that followed, and persist in many cultures to this day."

Tanner said that some people believe that homosexuality is a moral issue, not a given orientation. "This implies that these citizens are, in some situations, "undeserving" of certain political recognition and protection. To others such a view smacks of ignorance or intolerance, sustaining the idea that "these people would be better if they were more like me [us]. Similarly, some married heterosexuals believe they and their families would be threatened by legal partnerships for same-sex couples and their families. Why? How? Is there any factual basis to support such fear?"

Morality doesn't "belong" to any group on the basis of their sex, their religion or political alliances, said the bishop. Infidelity, exploitation, abuse, oppression and harm - or their opposites - can be found among people of either sexual orientation. Morality consists principally of values, which may be shared, upheld and lived by a broad range of people and institutions. The civic ordering of a democratic society should seek support for such common values as widely as possible, she said.

Ms. Tanner is clearly not familiar with the theology of marriage as it is given to us in Holy Scripture.

The vision of marriage found in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures is one of reuniting male and female into an integrated sexual whole. Marriage is not just about more intimacy and sharing one’s life with another in a lifelong partnership. It is about sexual merger—or, in Scripture’s understanding, re-merger—of essential maleness and femaleness, says Dr. Robert Gagnon, a prominent Presbyterian theologian.

"The creation story in Genesis 2:18-24 illustrates this point beautifully. An originally binary, or sexually undifferentiated, adam (“earthling”) is split down the “side” (a better translation of Hebrew tsela than “rib”) to form two sexually differentiated persons. Marriage is pictured as the reunion of the two constituent parts or “other halves,” man and woman."

"This is not an optional or minor feature of the story. Since the only difference created by the splitting is a differentiation into two distinct sexes, the0ÿnly way°to reconstitute the sexual whole, on the level of erotic intimacy, is to bring together the split parts. A same-sex erotic relationship can never constitute a marriage because it will always lack the requisite sexual counterparts or complements."

“Gay marriage” is a contradiction in terms, says the orthodox theologian.

"First, legal and ecclesiastical embrace of homosexual unions is more likely to undermine the institution of marriage and produce other negative effects than it is to make fidelity and longevity the norm for homosexual unions.

"Second, and even more importantly, homosexual unions are not wrong primarily because of their disproportionately high incidence of promiscuity (especially among males) and breakups (especially among females). They are wrong because “gay marriage” is a contradiction in terms. As with consensual adult incest and polyamory, considerations of commitment and fidelity factor only after certain structural prerequisites are met."

"By definition homosexual desire is sexual narcissism or sexual self-deception. There is either (1) a conscious recognition that one desires in another what one already is and has as a sexual being (anatomy, physiology, sex-based traits) or (2) a self-delusion of sorts in which the sexual same is perceived as some kind of sexual other. As one ancient text puts it, “seeing themselves in one another they were ashamed neither of what they were doing nor of what they were having done to them” (Pseudo-Lucian, Affairs of the Heart 20). The modern word “homosexual”—from the Greek homoios, “like” or “same”—underscores this self-evident desire for the essential sexual self shared in common with one’s partner."

Gagnon says that the New Testament recognizes the importance of the Genesis creation stories for establishing a “two-sexes” or “other-sex” prerequisite for marriage.

"St. Paul clearly understood same-sex intercourse as an affront to the Creator’s stamp on gender in Genesis 1-2. In his letter to the Romans, Paul cites two prime examples of humans suppressing the truth about God evident in creation/nature: idolatry and same-sex intercourse (1:18-27). Paul talks first about humans exchanging the Creator for worship of idols made “in the likeness of the image of a perishable human and of birds and animals and reptiles” (1:23); then about “females [who] exchanged the natural use” and “males leaving behind the natural use of the female” to have intercourse with other “males” (1:26-27). This obviously echoes Genesis 1:26-27: “Let us make a human according to our image and . . . likeness; and let them rule over the . . . birds . . . cattle . . . and . . . reptiles. And God created the human in his image . . . male and female he created them.” Taken together, we have not only eight points of correspondence between Gen. 1:26-27 and Rom 1:23, 26-27 but also a threefold sequential agreement: God’s likeness and image in humans; Dominion over the animal kingdom and Male-female differentiation."

Gagnon says that idolatry and same-sex intercourse constitute a frontal assault on the work of the Creator in nature. Those who suppressed the truth about God transparent in creation were more likely to suppress the truth about the complementarity of the sexes transparent in nature, choosing instead to gratify contrary innate impulses.

"There is good evidence that societal approval of homosexual practice may increase the incidence of homosexuality and bisexuality, not just homosexual practice. We know that: (1) Adolescents experience a much higher rate of sexual orientation uncertainty than adults. (2) Most self-professed gays and lesbians and some heterosexuals experience one or more shifts on the 0-6 Kinsey spectrum in the course of life. (3) Geographical (rural vs. urban) and educational variables have a profound effect on the incidence of homosexual self-identification. (4) Those who self-identify as gay or lesbian are several times more likely to have experienced sex at an early age than those who self-identify as heterosexual. (5) A 2001 study by University of California professors Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz reported that children of homosexual couples were “more likely to be open to homoerotic relationships.” (6) There are instances of significant cross-cultural differences, ancient and modern, regarding the incidence and shape of homosexual practice. (7) The best identical twin studies indicate that the large majority of identical twin pairs where at least one twin identifies as non-heterosexual do not show a concordance match in the co-twin (i.e., the co-twin identifies as heterosexual).

Gagnon says that since the homosexual life is characterized by a comparatively high rate of problems in terms of sexually transmitted disease, mental health issues, nonmonogamous behavior, and short-term unions—even in homosex-affirming areas of the world—an increase in homosexuality and bisexuality will mean more persons affected by such problems.

“Gay marriage,” as the ultimate legal sanctioning of homosexual behavior, will bring with it a wave of intolerance toward, and attack on the civil liberties of, those who publicly express disapproval of homosexual practice," says Gagnon.

"Gay marriage” is wrong because the idea of “gay marriage” is an oxymoron and a rejection of a core value in Judeo-Christian sexual ethics.

"Marriage requires the two sexes to reconstitute a sexual whole. By definition same-sex erotic attraction is predicated either on the narcissism of being attracted to what one is as a sexual being or on the delusion that one needs to merge with another of the same sex to complete one’s own sexual deficiencies. Arguing that we should grant marriage status to homosexually inclined persons to avert promiscuity is like insisting that we grant marriage status to adult incestuous or polygamous unions to promote relational longevity."

Gagnon says that “gay marriage” is also wrong because, rather than moderating the excesses of homosexual behavior, it will weaken the institution of marriage. “Gay marriage” will have a greater effect on diluting the importance of monogamy and permanence for marital unions than on strengthening these values in homosexual relationships. It will bring about the ultimate demise of structural prerequisites for licit sexual behavior that transcend claims to commitment (including number of sex partners and degree of blood relatedness), increase the incidence of bisexuality and homosexuality in the population with its attendant negative side-effects for health, and lead to the radical abridgement of the civil and religious liberties of our children."

If Ms. Tanner still believes that any alternative to heterosexual marriage is biblically permissible then she ought to resign her office. To go against 2,000 years of historical biblical and theological teaching is to violate her teaching and pastoral office.


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