God(s), Same-Sex Marriage, and the Colossal Joke

Wedding bands on top of a rainbow.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Robert Couse-Baker.

God/Gods’s Mixed Messages?

Since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled marriage for same-sex couples constitutional in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, most of the major religious denominations throughout the country have since issued statements in response to this historic and wide-ranging decision. As there are numerous religions and denominations within each, we find also numerous and very disparate responses along a continuum: from very progressive and supportive to extremely conservative and oppositional.
Anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of world history recognizes that many if not most conflicts between peoples and nations have centered on different (though not necessarily opposing) religious perspectives and viewpoints.
So I find the enormously contrasting responses to the Supreme Court not particularly surprising. But my primary question centers on this: “If all religious denominations truly believe they have been touched by, are privy to, and are following the will and word of the True (with a capital “T”) God(s), how can they come away with such varied and often contradictory perspectives?
Possibly God(s) give mixed messages. Let’s look at a few examples of religious statements on the Supreme Court ruling regarding marriage for same-sex couples, presented in part:
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America:

“In response to the decisions announced today [June 26, 2015] by the United States Supreme Court with reference to the issue of legal recognition of same sex marriage, we reiterate the historical position of the Jewish faith, enunciated unequivocally in our Bible, Talmud and Codes, which forbids homosexual relationships and condemns the institutionalization of such relationships as marriages. Our religion is emphatic in defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Our beliefs in this regard are unalterable. At the same time, we note that Judaism teaches respect for others and we condemn discrimination against individuals…”

Catholic Conference of Bishops

“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable…. The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the ‘integral ecology’ that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children….”

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“The Court’s decision does not alter the Lord’s doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God. While showing respect for those who think differently, the Church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice.”

Southern Baptist Convention, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (President Russell Moore).

“I am a conscientious dissenter from this ruling handed down by the Court today, believing, along with millions of others, that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman and that it is improper for the Court to redefine an institution it did not invent in the first place. I believe this action of finding some illusory Fourteenth Amendment right to same-sex marriage will have wide-ranging and perilous consequences for the stability of families and for freedom of religion.”

Islamic View (Muhammad Muhammad Abu Laylah)

“Gay marriage is totally prohibited in Islam as well as in all the divine religions. Gay marriage is an atrocious and obscene act which belongs to unsound nature. Islam teaches that believers should neither do the obscene acts nor in any way indulge in their propagation.”

In fact, all predominately Muslim countries except Turkey criminalize same-sex sexuality.

* * * * *

At this point, I would like to mention that Catholics, Southern Baptists, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and Orthodox Muslims have clashed and engaged in warfare, some for millennia. However, by these conservative denominations of the three major Abrahamic religions joining in unity on the issue of same-sex sexuality and marriage, this indicates that agreement is possible.
In bringing these former and continuing battlefield enemies together, I therefore nominate the U.S. LGBT community for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, an award well deserved for converting competing and conflicting parties into allies and for reducing tensions that have traditionally separated them.
Evangelicals for Marriage Equality

“Though the Supreme Court ruling this morning changed the law of the land, there is still progress to be made in changing the hearts and minds of evangelicals who disagree with civil marriage equality. This progress can only be made when compassionate, respectful dialogue is encouraged within communities of faith.”

Central Conference of American Rabbis (Steve Fox, chief executive).

“As Jews, we believe we are all formed in God’s image. This compels us to extend and recognize the same rights to everyone in our community, including individuals who identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or transgender. For many years, Reform Judaism rabbis have called for equal rights for all members of our communities, and we see today’s Supreme Court decision on marriage equality as a huge moral victory for the United States.”

New Ways Ministries (Catholic Organization)

“New Ways Ministry rejoices with millions of U.S. Catholics that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples! On this historic day, we pray in thanksgiving that justice and mercy have prevailed and that the prayers and efforts of so many have combined to move our nation one step closer to fairness and equality for all.”

Muslims for Progressive Values

“We endorse the human and civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, andintersex(LGBTQI) individuals. We affirm our commitment to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and we support full equality and inclusion of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, in society and in the Muslim community.”

Does God/Do the Gods Change His/Her/Their Mind(s)

Not only have we witnessed the mixed messages, but in addition, we have seen how God(s) change his/her/their mind(s). Let’s take two specific examples looking specifically at two Christian denominations:
The Southern Baptist Convention:
The issue of slavery became a lightning rod in the1840s among members of the Baptist General Convention, and in May 1845, 310 delegates from the Southern states convened in Augusta, Georgia to organize a separate Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on a pro-slavery plank. They asserted that to be a “good Christian,” one had to support the institution of slavery, and could not join the ranks of the abolitionists.
Well, either by divine intervention or due to political pressure, 150 years later in June 1995, the SBC reversed its position and officially apologized to African Americans for its support and collusion with the institution of slavery (regarding it now as an “original sin”), and also apologizing for its support of “Jim Crow” laws and its rejection of civil rights initiatives of the1950s and 1960s.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints:
Then LDS president, Brigham Young, instituted a policy on February 13, 1849, emanating from “divine revelation” and continuing until as recently as 1978 forbidding ordination of black men of African descent from the ranks of LDS priesthood. In addition, this policy prohibited black men and women of African descent from participating in the temple Endowment and Sealings, which the Church demands as essential for the highest degree of salvation. The policy likewise restricted black people from attending or participating in temple marriages.
Young attributed this restriction to the sin of Cain, Adam and Eve’s eldest son, who killed his brother Abel: “What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro?” stated Young in 1849 following declaration of his restrictive policy. “The Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood.”
While making a speech to the Utah Territorial Legislature in 1852, Young further asserted: “Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain]…in him cannot hold the Priesthood, and if no other Prophet ever spoke it before, I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it.”
Joseph Fielding Smith, Tenth Prophet and President of the LDS Church wrote in 1935 that, “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness, he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures….” And in 1963 he asserted: “Such a change [in our policy] can come about only through divine revelation, and no one can predict when a divine revelation will occur.”
It seems that the Twelfth LDS Church president, Spencer W. Kimball, who served from 1973 to his death in 1985, was touched with such a “divine revelation” and, therefore, reversed the ban, referring to it as “the long-promised day” by allowing people of African descent full membership rights in the denomination.
What Are We To Conclude?
So, to reiterate, I ask: How can individuals and denominations who all claim to know the True God/Gods while apparently praying to the same God(s) be touched in such different ways and have such differing visions of divine will? Does God/Do the Gods send us mixed and often contradictory messages? Does God/Do the Gods change his/her/their mind(s) from time to time?
By even asking these questions, I’m most likely making a primal mistake by using reason and logic in religious matters, which by its very nature can never be proven. “Faith” is by definition believing in deities and precepts that can never be empirically validated. On the other hand, possibly our divine creations have played a colossal joke on humanity laughing at us all the while.
Happy Pride!

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

4 thoughts on “God(s), Same-Sex Marriage, and the Colossal Joke

  1. Warren Blumenfeld says “Anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of world history recognizes that many if not most conflicts between peoples and nations have centered on different (though not necessarily opposing) religious perspectives and viewpoints.”
    People with “more” than a “rudimentary understanding of world history” will disagree. We have societies where all Religions under the su are practiced, where many political parties coexist and they produce no war. Yet, we can have citizens fighting a civil war, all practicing the same Religion.
    This is because war is not caused by differing opinions; war is a fight between just a few ambitious individuals competing among themselves for power, dominance, wealth, fame, etc.
    Generally speaking, this domineering, controlling elite does not fight, so they use Armed Forces, slaves ready to kill and to die for their Masters.
    The only beneficiaries of this human ignorance and stupidity are negotiating politicians and diplomats, Armed Forces personnel with military purchasing power, military manufacturers and traders, Banks, etc, etc.

  2. I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church,or Church of England which ever you prefer. At the time of that confirmation none of this same sex marriage was and issue. Episcopalian priests were allowed to get married at that time.Catholic priests were not.Since then there has been a problem within the Catholic Church dealing with sexual abuse among the priesthood,mostly dealing with young men and a few young women.I always thought this was a problem because Catholic priests were not allowed to get married. So here are two Christian Faiths with different interpretations of the Bible on the marriage covenant itself. The Church of England was formed as a result of the English king of that time wanting a divorce and remarrying.However the Pope said no and the King said that he didn’t accept the Pope’s saying no and the King started his own church and remarried.As far as homosexual marriage goes,the Bible says no in the old testament.So is the Bible the true word of God? Or is it open to interpretation to suit each different faith as to what is accepted and what is not? The book “THE KINGDOM OF THE CULTS” written by Walter Martin, M.A., Ph.D. Director,The Christian Research Institute,San Juan Capistrano,California the author lists 12 different “cults” some of which are different “faiths” which he considers to be “cults”. Chapter 3 is entitled “The Psychological Structure of Cultism”. Chapter 17 is entitled “The Jesus of the Cults” I know of some “Christians” who do not accept Psychology as being an accepted science or any part of psychology as being valid in any way shape or form,but accept this book as a valid definition of certain belief systems as not being Christian at all!!! So what is one to believe in the 21st century? I personally am a Christian,currently I do not attend any “church”…why? I have been so mistreated by people calling themselves Christians who in my experience do not have the love of Christ in their hearts as I was taught and read in my New King James Nelson Study Bible which i might add was given to me while I was in jail!!! And the love I speak of is spelled out very clearly in First Corinthians chapter 13 verses one through thirteen.As one person said to me the Bible is a love letter from God to man.Easy to say not so easy to put into practice without God’s help in the form of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is given when a person accepts being a sinner (not being perfect in God’s eye) and accepting Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died on a cross(by cross I mean as defined in the Bible) and not necessarily the one we see on a chain around the neck of almost anyone Christian or not. In the old testament the cross is defined as a tree of sorts and a horrific way the Romans thought of to execute anyone they wanted to. The wearing of a cross as one person said is like wearing an electric chair on a chain. Early Christians used the symbol of a fish to signify being a Christian.So for me the whole thing of Christianity comes to love your enemies as yourself and to worship God with all your heart and soul and to love one another…and for me it’s just that simple,easy to say,hard to do. Love the sinner and not the sin.And to end I just want to say that it’s so easy to find fault with others than oneself. As Jesus said why do you see the splinter in another’s eye and not the big two by four in your own?

  3. Belief in and faith commitment to a God or Gods who is/are capricious and trickster(s) is a retreat from reasonable hope for humanity. What Dr. Blumenfeld’s observations seem to lead to is a rejection of belief in those supernatural “divine creations” as well as the so-called revelations that keep creating the “divine truths”. We are in search of absolute truths which will always elude us. So why not recognize the futility of that search and the beliefs which result and affirm reasonable, though not “absolute” truths which will at least preserve humanity and creation? Perhaps we could all agree that such a project would be worthy of our commitment/faith? I see the only alternative to the chaos Dr. Blumenfeld reports to be a commitment to loving tolerance, loving creativity and even loving resistance to the chaos, distrust and hate which fuel our beliefs and actions. The term God may be a way of symbolizing the ultimate (not absolute) character of such affirmations for me (and by persuasion) you. But to give human beliefs absoluteness by giving them divine/supernatural/beyond reason revelatory status will just take us in to the chaos Blumenfeld describes. So if we just ask what human beliefs and actions will preserve humanity and the creation we might just come to some agreement, in the midst of the religious and moral chaos, as to what will save us from the trickster God/gods.

  4. Hi Dr. Blumenfeld,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this historic decision and reactions from various religions/denominations. Having stood by my Presbyterian partner’s (husband’s) side through 25 years of struggle within the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) I can personally share that throughout those years there were always people within the denomination who believed GLBTQ people should be treated equally, and others who thought they should not be ordained. As I wrote in an op-ed in the San Mateo Daily Journal, the biggest thing GLBTQ folks and allies did to swing that pendulum was come out and tell their stories.
    I LOVED seeing an official statement from the PCUSA on the court ruling in favor of marriage equality.
    Today, the PCUSA no longer has prohibitions against ordaining GLBTQ people or pastors performing same-gender marriages. Many congregations across the country have separated themselves from the PCUSA in the last year because they disagree with the rest of the denomination’s position on GLBTQ rights. Sad. Those who wanted equality for GLBTQ people stayed at the table, year after year after year and vote after vote after vote, even though they kept losing those votes. I’m personally grateful that they stayed because without them the cause would probably have been lost.
    So, to answer your question about whether religious beliefs firmly held at one point in history can change, I’d say yes. For many there is always “more light yet to be shed” on scriptures and beliefs and they are the early-adopters of new thought, especially when they see that new thought as liberating those who appear oppressed. There are others who have to be brought on board, again, through the stories of real people, putting faces and real lives against myths and lies. And there are some who have to be dragged kicking and screaming, but once the tipping point is reached they too come along. Finally, there are some who will never be moved.
    I never imagined that an official statement from the PCUSA would come out in support of marriage equality, but I’m sure glad I’m here to see it now.

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