I am officially done with the Right and Left on this issue. Neither seem to understand the issue all that well, especially when the Bible is shoehorned into the conversation. First, let's be clear about one thing; it simply doesn't matter what the Bible says about this issue. It's a Constitutional issue, not a theological one. Our legislators aren't paid to parse Scripture and debate hermeneutics. They suck at English and ethics; we don't want them tampering with sacred texts. (In Oklahoma that's already led to a "no fetus burgers" bill and Sally Kern's ongoing efforts to redefine science.)
Until someone can give me a compelling reason—without citing Leviticus or Romans—that a class of American citizens are denied the same rights and privileges I enjoy, please just admit that the only real arguments you have are theological (i.e., god doesn't like it) or aesthetic (i.e., it's gross). Take away the Bible references, you got no argument save the one about old school conservatism and the wisdom of slow change. Yeah, Edmund Burke has been dead for a little more than 200 years, and he's the last guy that qualified to be called a real conservative. (And if you're still arguing "natural law," please join Sally and the creationists at the back of the class.)
So, to the Bible, and for you non-Christians, this is important. There are a half dozen things you say that are just dumb and will not work with evangelicals (some of whom are opposed to same sex marriage) or fundamentalists (all of whom are opposed). Here they are in no particular order:
- The Bible says "Don't judge..." No, it doesn't. The entire context of the passage is that we are to judge righteously, which is to say, with a fair standard that we also apply to ourselves. Stop saying it.
- Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. No, he didn't. He didn't mention human trafficking or rape either. Arguing from silence is lame. Stop it.
- The greatest commandment is love. Yes, it is, but you'll never convince a Bible-believing fundangelical that love is synonymous with encouraging another to sin willfully. It's utterly counter-intuitive.
- We're all sinners, and no sin is greater in God's eyes. Um, there are actually at least three categories of sin, graded from menial to unforgivable. First is regular sin, which is like 99.4 percent of all sins. Paul designates another class called sexual sin, which is worse, because it involves another human and the "temple of the Spirit," which is my own body. The absolute worst is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus himself calls unforgivable. There are absolutely better and worse sins, and if fundangelicals are right about homosexuality (and I'm sure they are not), then gay marriage and its subsequent nuptial blisses would fall into the middle category, making it worse than punching a baby or stealing from a blind beggar.
- The Bible is just a book written by men. Yes, it is, but I suspect you don't know the difference between plenary verbal inspiration, dictation, and limited inspiration, so best not try to explain to a Christian who might believe the voice of God is in that text why he's an idiot for believing so. You're wasting your time on this one.
- When the Bible was written, the term homosexuality didn't exist. No, it didn't, but same sex acts between people did. This is one that liberal Christians like to use too, and it makes me a little crazy. Imagine that gay sex acts now equals punching babies. The Bible prohibits punching babies in Leviticus (it really doesn't, but we're pretending). 3000 years later, we learn there is a class of people who are born to punch babies, who actually enjoy punching babies. We call them pugilinfantos. They point out that when the Bible was written, the term didn't even exist; therefore, the Bible can't have their orientation in mind. You just want them to stop punching babies. I don't know what to say to this except that I agree that the Bible doesn't address an orientation, but that is a complete red herring here, as the Bible clearly addresses the acts. This one comes down to how much authority you grant the Bible. I give it zero. You won't get a fundangelical to agree to that percentage though.
- Most importantly is the gross misunderstanding non-Christians have about the Old Testament/New Testament relationship. I'm abandoning the bullet points to treat this one.
The non-Christian will typically say something about shellfish, haircuts, and crops in the same field being prohibited in Leviticus, so why don't Christians follow all those too? This is a prime example of an outsider failing to understand basic theological grammar, or what C.S. Lewis used to call "looking at instead of looking along." (Sidenote: what I'm about to say doesn't apply to the non-instrumental Churches of Christ. They typically treat the OT as having been completely superseded by the New.) Christians don't believe they are obligated to keep all the laws in the OT (Jewish Tanakh). There have been splinter groups like the Worldwide Church of God and Seventh Day Adventists that have emphasized certain OT observances and commands more than others, but the overwhelming majority of fundangelicals fall into the category I'm about to describe.
Christians believe that most of those laws you reference were temporary, and they divide the Mosaic laws into three categories: civil, ceremonial, and moral. Only the moral is permanent. I'll grant you right up front that they have no good rubric for choosing which go where, but that isn't the point. They were raised to believe that the laws they believe are part of the moral law are part of the moral law. That's why it's no good to talk about crops. They'll simply understand that was part of the civil law, just as the high priest waving a bloody haunch of ox around was part of the ceremonial law. They don't practice that one anymore either. The contested issue is what constitutes a moral law, and not surprisingly, you're going to agree on a bunch: stealing, lying, rape, incest, bestiality, murder, etc. There is wide agreement. It's clear, to me at least, that an honest read of the OT yields the idea that homosexual acts were considered part of the moral prohibitions, as were all the sex acts listed. The question is whether or not you want Bronze Age people defining allowable sexual ethics.
That isn't even the biggest problem, though. The biggest problem is that the other weighty issue here is the one Marcus Borg highlights. Moral laws are typically brought forward into the New Testament, and same sex acts made it. What they mean in context is a matter of debate, but their very presence seems to assure fundangelicals that prohibitions about homosexuality can't be happily ignored. There is enough ambiguity in the Pauline corpus about words like arsenokoites and sodomite that liberal and evangelical scholars will continue to argue for decades. Again, the problem is that same sex issues made it into the NT; whether they are specifically about homosexual sex or economic exploitation or pederasty is one for the scholars. They don't agree on it.
When non-Christians start arguing about the Bible, they've already lost, as it takes the argument to the believers home court, and let's be honest, when it comes to knowing the Bible, most non-believers are straight C-teamers, which won't help much against believers, including most pastors, who tend to be B-teamers. Bible scholars and atheists typically form the starters, by the way.
Cultural shifts in theology don't occur because important people are suddenly convinced of a new interpretation of Scripture. They come about when the majority of believers begin to ignore the Bible or read it differently for a variety of reasons. They began to ignore it about divorce because so many people were getting divorced. Those people then showed up at their churches. The question was, "What do we do with them?" Grace actually won in most churches. Slavery ended when abolitionists managed to bring the prophetic tradition to the pulpits of the U.S. It wasn't a new interpretation; it was the rediscovery of a tradition that had been lost with enculturation of Christian praxis along the economic, political, and cutlural preferences of the antebellum South.
Christians inside the movement must bring about the necessary changes, and they are winning. It's a war of attrition now, and the oldest generations are dying and taking homophobia with them. Those of us outside the church only need continue to ask hard questions and challenge the authority of a book that has brought as much harm as good, but gently, very gently. The most important task, though, is to move the discussion to the Constitution, not the Bible.