Friday, May 11, 2012
Gay Marriage and The Flip Flopper In Chief
It's about God.
We Jesus folk know that God is unchanging and eternal, of course. God's Law...which can't be meaningfully parsed out from God's self...remains constant, sure, and absolute. God never, ever, ever changes God's mind.
So we say. It's true. Up to a point.
Because that's not quite what the Bible describes. God does change God's mind. When Israel was whining in the desert, and God had seriously had it up to here, and was so going to smite them, Moses persuaded God to change. If someone is wrong with God, showing injustice and predatory disdain for others and an unwillingness to show grace to the broken and the stranger, God is perfectly willing to change God's mind about that person, too. So long as they change, that is.
God's relationship to us is not fixed, and God's attitude towards us is not unwavering. To argue that it is would be fundamentally in opposition to the Biblical witness to the nature of our Creator. But what makes for or stirs that change? What causes the shifts we perceive in the relationship we have with God, and in God's attitude towards us?
The answer to that question, if we're being honest, is that God changes God's mind towards us based on how we live in covenant. The key to change in our relationship to God is covenant. If we're living in covenant relationship with God and one another, then God's attitude towards us is one of grace. If not, then all is not copacetic. But change in the character of that relationship is entirely possible. Mutual change in our relationship with God is, in fact, the entire point of Christian faith.
So what does this have to do with gay marriage? I mean, doesn't the Bible say that being gay is an abomination? Torah does say that, I'll admit. But given that the same term in Torah is applied to remarriage, popcorn shrimp, buying a dog, bacon double cheeseburgers, and jeans for women, I'm not sure that quite cuts it if we're trying to get to the heart of the matter.
If we're coming at this from a Jesus perspective, the heart of the matter is living into the Great Commandment, which is itself the highest principle of Torah. You know, loving God with heart and mind and soul, and neighbor as self. This is the highest order principle of our relationship with God, and it radically defines every other moral and ethical demand or expectation.
If this is the lens through which we understand God's covenantal attitude towards us...and it must be, if we are to follow Jesus...then what does this mean relative to God's relationship to same-sex marriage? From what we know about God from this covenantal foundation, why might this...um...cause an "evolution" in God's mind?
Well, it does represent a real and significant shift in that "homosexual lifestyle" that some folks are so eager to go on and on about. That lifestyle has been one forced deep into marginality and shadow by culture, and places of hiddenness and shadow can create some unpleasant psychological and spiritual dynamics.
Those dynamics are not manifest in the relationships gays and lesbians are now seeking in both church and culture. Those relationships are of a very different character. They are, in point of fact, covenant relationships. When gays and lesbians seek to live in open, respectful, loving, and mutually committed relationships with one another, this is a new thing culturally. When those open relationships are seen and understood as worthy of being blessed and guided by the love of God as expressed in a faith community, this is also a new thing culturally.
Covenant relationship is, in essence, the core of what gays and lesbians are seeking, both culturally and within the communities of faith that welcome them. So here we see a change of life, a movement towards embracing precisely the dynamics of existence that are at the foundation of right relationship with God.
Why, then, given that most fundamental understanding of how God changes in response to us, should we not expect that God would not joyously flop the doors of grace open to such a new thing?