September 30, 2012

Double Jesuses and Play-Doh

It must be difficult those pastors who want to support same-sex marriage and still use the Bible. This summer as I was preparing to perform a wedding it struck me how difficult it would be to explain a particular passage if I were an advocate of same-sex marriage. So for those who are pushing for the transformation of marriage and are at a loss to explain this passage in a modern and progressively acceptable way, I have some ideas to help. But first I need to describe the problem.

The couple I was going to marry (a guy and a girl) specifically asked me to preach on Ephesians 5:22-33 as the text for their wedding message. Read this passage and think of the conundrum this would be for a supporter of gay marriage. The Apostle Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (vs. 25). Wives are to submit to their husbands and “as the church submits to Christ” (vs. 24). Now, even if we leave aside the sticky issue of submission it still leaves a big problem. 'Husbands' and 'wives' are viewed as two distinct things that are not interchangeable. It describes marriage as corresponding to the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church. And since there is only one Christ, and only one church—and since Christ and the church are not the same—this passage presents us with a very narrow-minded interpretation of what a marriage is supposed to be.

The problem gets worse as we read on. Paul explains:
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
To start with, Paul quotes from Genesis 2:24—also quoted by Jesus (Mt. 19:5)—which describes marriage as being created by God, from the beginning, as the union of one man and one woman. Further, when Paul talks about this being a 'mystery' he is using a technical term meaning a ‘previously unrevealed truth.’ This means that God, from the beginning, created marriage to illustrate the relationship between Jesus Christ and something else. Thus, for many of today's politically correct pastors this passage would be considered hopelessly heterocentric. It would be hard for them to preach this passage to a progressive audience without giving the impression that Paul, Moses, and Jesus were all "on the wrong side of history."

If I were a pastor who wanted to promote same-sex marriage I would avoid passages like Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, and Ephesians 5:22-33 like the plague. But if you support same-sex marriage and you are pressed into a situation where you have to deal with Ephesians 5, here is my (less than serious) suggestion of what to do: Since there is no politically correct way to explain Ephesians 5:22-33 in a way that the authors of the Bible would have agreed with, you might as well rewrite the whole thing in a way that is much more same-sex friendly. Since Christ and the church are not the same thing, one of them has to be swapped out. So, to make a nice matching pair, just replace the church with another Jesus. After all, two are better than one. Now, you can explain that marriage is like the union of one Jesus with another matching Jesus. This is the perfect analogy for a same-sex marriage.

I also have a second great suggestion for today’s progressive wedding ceremony. In an old-style wedding, when the couple exchanges rings, the pastor will often make some comments about what the rings symbolize—being a circle symbolizes that marriage is unending, and being made of gold symbolizes that it is precious. Instead, have the wedding rings made out of Play-Doh. That way the pastor can talk about how the rings symbolize that we can twist and shape marriage into anything we want.

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