Since 1998, 32 states have held votes on genderless marriage, and all 32 states voted it down. Four states have Nov. 6 referendums on the issue. Maryland, Maine and Washington will have an up-or-down vote on legalizing genderless marriage. Here in Minnesota, there’s a measure to amend the state constitution to protect the current definition of marriage. Will the 0-32 losing streak end for marriage redesigners on Election Day 2012? If so, it will be in large part due to a clever strategy, a strategy not in play in previous referendums, a strategy to capture the votes of “people of faith.”
While referendum opposition groups in other states in other years have left people of faith on the sidelines or on the other side of the line, there has been a concerted effort in Minnesota to organize people of faith and secure their votes against the marriage amendment.
Several churches, and at least one synagogue, in South Minneapolis currently display large orange banners and marquee messages on busy streets declaring, “People of Faith VOTE NO Don’t Limit the Freedom to Marry.” A passer-by might ponder the suggestion, if the person considers him- or herself a person of faith. For people of faith, faith provides a common ground for discussion of this issue.
In the Bible, Jesus lays out a clear vision of marriage
What in my faith would encourage me to vote in favor of genderless marriage? I will comment as a Christian, but the same question should be considered by Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths. What is written in the holy books of your faith regarding marriage? While there is abundant scripture regarding marriage, no scripture teaching directly supports genderless marriage. In the book of my faith, the Bible, Jesus lays out a clear vision of marriage in Mark Chapter 10, as he answers an inquiry from Pharisees regarding divorce: “But from the beginning of the creation, male and female made he them. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh: so that they are no more two, but one flesh.” While the Bible contains hundreds of passages regarding marriage, it does not attempt a comprehensive list of all the things that a marriage is not.
Many biblical arguments in favor of genderless marriage focus on the ministry of Jesus, and with good cause; what better source for wisdom? References often are made to Jesus hanging out with sinners and tax collectors. Other than Jesus, all men and women who have ever walked the Earth are a member of one or both groups. A notable encounter and a favorite one of mine is Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, as told in the book of John (Chapter 4). During their brief encounter, Jesus confronts her with her sins, shows her immeasurable mercy and grace, and gives her the free gift of salvation. The woman’s life was transformed; her sins forgiven, and her life was on a new course. The women left her water jar, and went to town to tell others.
Faith seeks a higher power
Frequent MinnPost commenter Greg Kapphahn offered us these words in a marriage-amendment Comments discussion on Aug. 31, “For Those of Us Who Believe that the Holy Spirit is the vehicle through which God is immediately and constantly present and active in human society, … gently, and in easily-ignored ways, whispering into our thoughts, shaping our internal visual images, nudging our hearts, bubbling new awareness up from deep within us, … and who believe that what most people describe as “conscience” is a product of that interaction between the Holy Spirit and our own spirits, …”
I find Greg’s words to be truth eloquently stated, but would add the caution that what we believe to be the leading of the Holy Spirit must be judged against a moral reference. Questions must be asked; is this this aligned with God’s will, is this congruent with God’s nature, is there scriptural basis for what I believe to be the leading of the Holy Spirit? Without these tests, we may be doing no more than listening to the voices in our heads. We should not be looking primarily within ourselves for the truth; faith seeks a higher power. As people of faith, our personal sense of fairness is not the best Litmus test.
What some faith leaders have to say
DES MOINES — A prominent leader in the Iowa/Nebraska branch of the NAACP — the country’s oldest civil rights group — announced today that he is resigning as branch president and a national board member in the wake of the national organization’s decision to endorse marriage between people of the same gender.
The Rev. Keith Ratliff Sr. of the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines issued a statement saying he was stepping down from the NAACP national board and as Iowa/Nebraska state conference president “due to the NAACP’s position and support of same-sex marriage.
During a Statehouse rally in March 2011, Ratliff said his support for traditional marriage was biblically based, adding, “This isn’t a private interpretation, a Burger King religion, and by that I mean a ‘have it your way’ religion.”
Rick Warren, Saddleback Church Pastor and best-selling author, who delivered an invocation at President Obama’s inauguration, had the following to say earlier this year in an interview regarding Christian-Muslim relations:
Our culture has accepted 2 huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.
‘Another Catholic Voting No’
LOOK, there is another one and yet another! While feigning ubiquity isn’t a new tactic, it may prove effective for gathering No votes in the Catholic community. What changed for Catholics voting No? Was it God, was it the Roman Catholic faith, or was it them? In politics, the positive spin for change is “evolve”; the negative spin is “flip-flop.” To them I ask: Is faith leaving you, or are you leaving your faith?
On page 1 of the Bible (Genesis 1), we learn, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Though we are told plainly and early that we are created in God’s image, many believers have created a God in the image of man. The creation of marriage is recorded shortly thereafter in Genesis Chapter 2, and today it is undergoing man’s attempt at redesign. Unavoidably, once marriage is redesigned to mean everything, it will mean nothing.
Consult your God
People of faith, does marriage belong to God, or is it ours to redesign? I invite all people of faith to examine their faith, not in a knee-jerk fashion, but in a truly careful and honest examination, with an open and willing heart.
After a floating address to a big crowd gathered on the shore (Matthew Chapter 13), Jesus is asked by his disciples, “What is it with you and all these parables?” Jesus replied, “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Christ’s teachings are for those with a willing heart.
Study your scripture, and seek God’s leading as you cast your vote.
Steve Rose lives in Minneapolis.