The current issue of Newsweek is running an article by Lisa Miller that argues the Bible does not define marriage as being between one man and one woman. I think she makes a good case. Most of the Old Testament guys were polygamists, after all, and Jesus and Saint Paul didn’t explicitly say anything about one-man-one-woman marriage in the New Testament.
A Christian minister named R. Albert Mohler Jr. takes issue with Ms. Miller at the Washington Post‘s On Faith site. But Mohler’s arguments, IMO, don’t make sense. Basically his argument is, OK, so marriage as described in the Bible were not like marriages today, but they were still heterosexual and about procreation. So the Bible can’t be used to argue in favor of same-sex marriage.
But I don’t think Ms. Miller is using the Bible to argue in favor of same-sex marriage as much as she’s just saying that biblical marriage was not the one man-one woman thing current conservative Christianity wants written into law. Thus, there is no biblical authority supporting the way most conservative Christians define marriage. A number of other commenters at On Faith, including Christian clergy, admit this, and also argue that a Christian case could be made in favor of gay marriage.
And, of course, I don’t give a bleep what the Bible says about marriage or sex or procreation or asparagus. Writing something into law because it’s in the Bible is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Writing at NRO, Mark Hemingway sputters in outrage over the Newsweek piece.
The cover story in this weekâ€™s Newsweek, which makes â€œthe religious case for gay marriage,â€ has come under fire from a large swath of the religious community. Newsweekâ€™s own blog has been keeping track of the controversy, with religious heavyweights such as Albert Mohler, Ralph Reed, and Richard Land criticizing the article. The Politico devoted an entire article to cataloging the backlash, The Weekly Standard called it a â€œdire mess,â€ and countless blogs commented unfavorably. (Not to mention that the piece was not popular in the Hemingway household.)
I can’t believe these people are still citing Ralph Reed as some kind of spiritual authority.
While there is certainly a religious debate to be had over the validity of gay marriage, most of the criticism of the article sidestepped the main issue to comment on how the author, religion reporter Lisa Miller, wrote the article. Aside from making numerous basic factual errors,
I’ve yet to see any of these “factual errors” clearly pointed out. The couple of “errors” cited by Mohler were matters of interpretation, his inference of what some passages meant.
the author insisted â€” before the end of the first paragraph â€” that biblical views of marriage are dÃ©classÃ©: â€œWould any contemporary heterosexual married couple â€” who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love â€” turn to the Bible as a how-to script?â€
And, if you read Miller’s piece, she makes a good case that we would not, because marriage in biblical times was in no way about gender equality and romantic love. But Hemingway doesn’t even answer this. He quotes Miller as if no civilized person should ever be allowed to suggest that marriage today is different from what it was in Old Testament times, even though it plainly is.
What’s worse, for Hemingway, is that editor John Meacham does not explain Miller’s piece as “just her opinion,” but instead writes,
No matter what one thinks about gay rightsâ€”for, against or somewhere in between â€”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 bankruptâ€”it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition. …
… 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.
Good for Meacham! But the Right cannot stand the idea that a news magazine would publish anything other than (b) unfiltered right-wing propaganda, or (2) mush. Miller’s piece stands on its own. She makes a strong case that it’s nonsense to cite the Bible to “prove” what marriage “ought” to be. I haven’t seen anyone on the Right honestly answer Miller’s arguments. They just think it’s outrageous anyone would make those arguments.
Newsweek also is in the news itself this week because its circulation numbers dropped like a rock in the past year, and the magazine’s managers are considering slashing the number of copies printed by about 1.6 million. The editorial focus may move away from reporting news to becoming more of an opinion magazine, or a “thought leader.”
I’m of mixed views on this. What the weekly news magazines can sometimes do very well, when they try, is in-depth reporting like the recent “Secrets of the 2008 Campaign.” But I don’t subscribe to any of the weeklies any more. I don’t remember why I stopped getting Newsweek — probably because I never had time to read it — and I canceled Time because of the infamous Ann Coulter issue of April 25, 2005. Oh, and because I decided Joe Klein is a dork.
I think that at some time during the Bush years the weekly news magazines started to seem so damn insipid. They were too careful not to piss off the Right, and in doing so pulled their punches on the Bushies far too many times. Most of the time I could get better, and fresher, information from the web.
Maybe now Newsweek has decided that publishing applesauce to please the Right wasn’t getting it anywhere, and it’s going to publish some meat now and then.