America Has Always Gone Against Global and Historical Definitions of Marriage

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see people distorting reality to support their narrative. You are free to believe what you want when it comes to any issue, regardless of what the rest of the world or history says about an issue. That is the beauty of living in a metamodernist age: you can believe something even if it is counter-intuitive to the dominant cultural narrative.

But at the same time, if you change the narrative of others to make your narrative seem like it is the one, correct, true narrative, you are doing more harm to your cause than good. With the recent Supreme Court marriage equality decisions, one area that concerns me is how conservative Christians are claiming that SCOTUS is trying to change the historical, global, and religious definitions of marriage. The reality is that the historical, global, and religious definitions of marriage are much more diverse than the revisionist idea of a global historical “one man, one woman” idea.

Global and historical definitions of marriage contain a major element of legal polygamy – especially when you want to bring Biblical definitions of marriage into the mix. Additionally, global and historical religious definitions of marriage typically contain a major stream of banning interracial and/or intercultural marriages. The United States redefined global and historical definitions of marriage when we made polygamy illegal in 1862. We also did so multiple points when we made woman equal to men in various marriage issues. And yet again in 1967 when we made interracial marriage legal across the nation.

What is even more ironic is that many conservative political leaders such as Greg Abbot and Ted Cruz are remaining silent about the 1967 Supreme Court decision that made their interracial marriages legal in their home state of Texas, while decrying the 2015 SCOTUS decision that is basically the same kind of decision.

metamodern-faith-avatarThe historical, global, and religious definition of marriage is a complex, often contradictory and paradoxical ideal. The United States has a long history of creating its own definition of marriage (along with many other concepts) based on the underlying ideal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Additionally, the Evangelical church owes the existence of their entire movement to their leaders disagreeing with the historical and global Protestant interpretations of scriptures (and the Protestant church is based on their leaders disagreeing with the historical and global Catholic interpretations of scriptures, and so on back in time).  The idea that there has been a consistent global, historical, or religious way of doing anything is revisionist at best, and dangerous to the true goal of the Church and the United States at its worst.

A Tale of Two Supreme Court Decisions

I try not to make current issues about myself, because they rarely are. As a heterosexual white male, I recognize my privilege and how making issues that touch on race, gender, or sexuality about me is just an extension of my privilege. However, the reaction to the recent supreme court decision legalizing same sex marriages in a way does touch on something that is close to me: my own marriage.

I am not gay or bisexual. However, my former wife was half Asian Indian and half white. To most people today, we were not really that much of an “interracial” marriage, and I would tend to agree. But go back in time to 1965, and that would be a different story in our home state of Texas. My former wife’s maiden name is very Indian, and mine is very white. Had we tried to get married in 1965, we would have been denied a license based on our last names alone.

That all changed in 1967 when the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. Texas was one of several states forced to follow these laws after the decision. Opposition to this reaction were often based on religious beliefs. For example, Judge Leon M. Bazile wrote about his decision to send a couple that sought interracial marriage to jail by saying:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races show that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Bazile’s ruling was fought all the way to the Supreme Court in 1967. Equality won, and interracial marriage was formally legal in all 50 states (although some states ignored this until 2000). Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote about the court’s unanimous decision:

“Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Fifty years later, several conservative politicians are now trying to say that these kinds of individual decisions can be infringed upon by the State; that State rights out weighs individual rights in cases of individual conscious.

Even more ironically, Texas political leaders like Ted Cruz and Greg Abbot are protesting yesterday’s supreme court decision, despite being in interracial marriages themselves that would have been illegal in their home state of Texas without Supreme Court intervention. And they aren’t only disagreeing with the decision itself, but going so far as to say that the the the Supreme Court is “lawless” and “playing God” in how they made that decision.

Add that to the chorus of disagreement from evangelical Christians, such as John Piper who Tweeted that the U.S. is “institutionalizing suicidal commitments.” In light of the shockingly high suicide rates of those that are LGBTQ when compared to heterosexuals, this statement is without class and completely inappropriate. Can one claim to love God when they are also mocking “the least of these”?

I could go on and on quoting hateful and inappropriate responses from across the Conservative and Evangelical spectrum. Add to that those that refer to Christians such as myself that support marriage equality as “deceived” or flat out “evil.” It doesn’t matter that we came to this conclusion because we love God, respect His Word, and fear misrepresenting Both so much that we spent decades in Bible study, praying, and following the conviction of the Holy Spirit to come to these conclusions. We know the Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew underlying the pertinent scriptures backwards and forwards, as well as being well versed in ancient Jewish, Greek, and Roman cultural attitudes towards sexual issues. But all of that is not enough. We have a different opinion, so we are heretics (or worse).

metamodern-faith-avatarI realize that all of this is really nothing in comparison to the bullying, discrimination, and life-threatening situations that people with real problems face everyday. I’m not complaining about anything, just bringing to light a different facet of the conversation. Those that need to hear it most won’t listen, but “for those with an ear to hear….”

So How Exactly Does Transgenderism Fit in With the Bible?

With the recent events surrounding Bruce Jenner’s transition into Caitlyn Jenner, the Christian blogsphere has gone into over drive responding to these events. Not that Caitlyn asked anyone in the Church, or even made any remarks about the Church. Jenner has been referred to as a hero, and she is not a shining example of evangelicalism, so that is obviously another attack in the culture war.

Do I really need to point out the sarcasm in that last statement?

Much of the response to Jenner is along the line of “God doesn’t create mistakes” and “God created people male and female and not its not your choice to change that.” All of this, of course is a absolutist take on issue, creating false either/or standards that are not there in the original scriptures.

Take this scripture for instance:

For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.

Now a eunuch, of course, is not a person that is trans-gendered, but eunuchs were not seen as male or female in Biblical times, often being made that way by choice or by others. The important thing to notice is that there is no commentary from Jesus here on them being mistakes or being ungodly for making these changes.

Additionally, when you look at the creation scriptures, you find another interesting bit:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God created us as male and female, but he did not command us to be male and female, or to stay that way through our lives. Interesting.

(Now coming along later to say that a man dressing as a woman is wrong is not the same as transgenderism. But if you do want to lean on that scripture, we can also talk about how men and women both wear jeans and t-shirts and all kinds of clothes and how those scriptures would also apply there. Whoops.)

The question to ask is, how does a Being that is both male and female look at a gender transformation? If you know anything about the Science of gender identities, you know that the terms “male” and “female” are not black and white constructs. People exist all across that spectrum. Are they all mistakes? Many people are considered to be 60% female and 40% male – and they have the genetics to prove it. Is that a 40% mistake by God? Where is the line drawn at between “mistake” and “perfect”?

Oh wait – did you know there are no 100% males or 100% females? So if a transgendered individual is a “mistake”, then you have to give a number where the mistake ends and the acceptable range begins. And sorry if you fall under that number but didn’t know it.

Is the problem with what God created, or with what society did to that creation?

One of the issues that I want to explore in this blog is the effect that decades of modernist construction followed by decades of postmodern deconstruction have had on our understanding of ideas. We had the ideas of black and white right and wrongs entrenched in society for decades under modernism, and then all possible sides of those ideas were deconstructed into all kinds of classifications for decades under postmodernism. Neither idea really left society, so we have residuals of both. The residue of modernist thought that most of Western society has had for decades now is forcing all of these deconstructed ideas into right and wrong boxes.

The result is we are losing the ability to embrace paradox. We try to figure out maps and scientific explanations on how Jesus was fully God and man – where one begins and the other ends.

But sometimes there isn’t a map. Its both at the same time with no way to really logically explain how.

So when God created humans as male and female, there is nothing to say that it has to stay that way. We are male and female, but also not exactly 100% of either one at the same time.

Throw into this mix the whole “hard to figure out” realm of human feelings and emotions. You might say “well, Jenner was obviously mostly male, so how can you say trangenderism is normal?” Maybe physically he was mostly male, but what about his emotions, feelings, personality? You know those Facebook tests that tell you what percentage of male and female you are? That’s just based on the fact that none of us are 100% male or female on the inside either. If someone is 80% male physically but only 10% male emotionally (as many actually are) – what does that make them? A mistake? Or just a human being trying to figure out their place in the world?

metamodern-faith-avatarWhat if people like Jenner are not telling us that God made a mistake, but that we made a mistake as society in how we view gender, sexuality, power, etc? What if they are right? What if God didn’t create absolutist either/ors, but fluid concepts that require us to get out of our comfort zones to interact with? What if life wasn’t so simple, but designed to make us look past absolutism to embrace paradox and things that are different than us? What if a God that is male and female has no problem with his creation changing between the two any more than when we change hair color, waist size, eye color, skin decoration, breast size, muscular strength, or any of a dozen or so other physical characteristics we were born with that we use Science to change, fix, heal, change, etc.?