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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Bible tells me so


Well, I'm coming down the home stretch on this *^%$#* project. I am pretty certain it will be done tomorrow.

The drop dead deadline was not the 15th but the 25th. Doesn't change the stress level one tiny bit; rather, it just prolongs the agony.

Writing like this, in the style of the Academy, has been like being tied in a straight jacket and asked to dance the ballet .

So, you'll forgive me if my humor and my mood - not to mention my powers of concentration - have been just a wee bit off. Just don't talk to my beloved. She can tell you stories that will make your ears burn!

Just keep me in ice cream and bourbon and no one gets hurt.

Every now and again, as I'm elbow deep in explaining my analysis of something or another, I've had this thought, this question. It comes to me like a fat fly in August while I'm on the beach reading a book. You know the kind. I appears out of no where, buzzing noisily around your ears and being really, really annoying in a place where it's not supposed to be.

I'm sure this has already been discussed somewhere. I'm certain it's not an original thought. But, I'm here with online access to all of the best theological libraries and I don't see this discussed in the literature any where.

So, while I'm finishing this *^%$#@* project, here's your assignment kids.

I've been thinking about one of the 'gotcha's of the theological position against LGBT people. These generally come from those folk who are just beginning to move from the position of "Hate the Sin / Love the Sinner" to one of a little more acceptance.

In their anxiety about leaving a place that has been comfortable in a righteous sort of way, they begin to dig in their heels around "Well, the Christian standard is 'no sex outside of marriage.' I love you and I can accept your sexual orientation, but you can't be sexually active because you're not married. And THAT," they usually say with an unmistakably triumphant tone, "is clearly a sin. It's in the Bible."

Stop me if you've been part of this kind of discussion before.

So, you look at your sister or brother in Christ and you say, "But, how can you hold me to that standard when you know that marriage is not yet possible for all LGBT people? You are putting me in a no-win situation."

And, your Christ sibling says, with a genuine sadness, "Well, maybe there's a message in that."

The next sound you hear is the theological train reversing its tracks and heading right back to that heinous place known as "HateTheSinLoveTheSinnerville" - except your friend doesn't recognize it because s/he's wearing rose colored glasses.

So, here's what I've been wondering. I will agree that, depending on your translation, you can find biblical support for a position of 'the sinful state' of LGBT people (you can do that, as well, for the 'sin' of being woman, a person of color, a left-handed person, a person with seizure disorder, someone who is divorced - I'll stop now, you get the point). .

I will agree that there is a long tradition in the church of 'celibacy outside of marriage.'

But, where is THIS written in scripture? Where is the scriptural warrant for 'celibacy outside of marriage' - except, perhaps, in some obscure Levitical code which also says you can't touch the skin of a pig or eat lobster?

Have either of the two great prophets of the church had anything to say about 'celibacy outside of marriage'? Was anything said to Moses about this?

Seems to me, the 10 Commandments are pretty clear about the status of covenant and what happens when you break your covenant with your spouse or that of your neighbor.

And, one might infer from some of the scriptural stories that, as soon as two single people do have sex, they get married right quick - except for the men who have more than one wife anyway, who would, in any other circumstance, be committing adultery, but since polygamy was de riguer at the time, it's not really adultery unless the female person who is married has sex with another man other than her husband.

Then, he goes free and she gets stoned.

Never mind. Where does it say anything - pro or con, for that matter - about homosexuality or sex outside of marriage in the 10 Commandments?

Where does Jesus say anything about either homosexuality or sex (any kind of sex) outside of marriage?

While he is both compassionate (he saves the woman from being stoned) and very, very clear about his feelings on the subject of adultery and divorce (not gonna happen on his watch), I don't see him addressing the issue of 'celibacy outside of marriage'.

Do you?

So, if both Moses and Jesus have nothing to say about it, why do we get our ethical, moral and marital bonds all in a knot about it? I do believe one can 'live in sin' - but I'm less and less certain that it has anything to do with sexual activity outside of marriage.

Let me be clear: I'm not arguing for 'free sex' here. I think moral standards are necessary for a culture to sustain itself and a people to have any sense of well being. I am absolutely not in support of polygamy, polyandry, promiscuity, serial monogamy, or divorce.

Having said that, can someone point me to information that will help me understand how we went from a system that was designed more for 'product purity' (assuring the father of the 'virgin', whose property she was, that when 'taken' by another man she would not only be 'undamaged goods', she'd also be taken care of by another man), than moral code?

And, how / when did that get the scriptural stamp of approval?

Okay, I'm off to my wee little writing space for the rest of the day. Talk amongst yourselves. Remember, don't feed the Trolls.

Twenty years off your time in purgatory for the one who gives the best answer.

34 comments:

marnanel said...

Because some of the people who go around claiming that the Bible is their only authority for morality are deceiving themselves about the matter, since they are actually reading the Bible through the lens of late-Victorian middle-class ideas of morality. For many years I attended a busy and large city-centre church which was proudly evangelical. Everything had to be proved from the Bible, and lengthy expository preaching (most of it fairly good) was to be heard twice every Sunday. But the message on chastity was hammered home (it was a church with a large proportion of twenty-something singles, so it came up in the preaching several times a year and informally every few weeks): marriage was with exactly one person of the opposite sex, and outside marriage there was to be no sex, even masturbation (it was mentioned in sermons explicitly).

One day I realised that almost none of this was being, or indeed could be, justified from scripture. Instead a few texts were thrown around (specifically 1 Corinthians 7, and the creation stories in Genesis) which no reasonable person could sit down with and derive all the rules and regulations of that church. The realisation didn't mean I went out and started sleeping around. It did mean I lost a lot of respect for evangelicalism.

Firinel said...

I think moral standards are necessary for a culture to sustain itself and a people to have any sense of well being. I am absolutely not in support of polygamy, polyandry, promiscuity, serial monogamy, or divorce.

I was right there with you through out your post up until this point. As a queer polyamorous Christian, I've had people who see me as an ally in discussions regarding LGB Christianity, with points such as your own, and then go "not that I'm supporting polygamy, polyandry, or 'stuff like that', no, that stuff is wrong (unlike being queer! that's okay!)" without seeming to actually realise that this standpoint is just as guilty of the flaws that you point out in your post.

So, if you could please, explain to me why having a committed romantic and sexual relationship with more than one person IS somehow deserves to be set aside in such a way as morally reprehensible to Christians, but the sexual orientation sort of queerness is just all right with God.

Allen said...

I'm convinced that no biblical texts in fact support a general condemnation of sex outside of marriage, although there is a lot of eisegesis (or fancy footwork) used to support the claim.

Marie said...

Hear, hear! It's too damn bad that we as a church are not willing to take on discussion of this outdated and nonscriptural moral code. It would be a great help to our young people to talk about the ethics of sexual relationships outside marriage rather than pretending that they don't happen. Hmmm... methinks no one is going to hire me as a youth minister.

(the Rev'd) Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Firinel - Fair enough, but since I'm working on my paper, why don't you tell me why you think Jesus would condone polyamory - queer or not? What does he teach, what values does he hold as central to the enterprise of being human, that would lead to a Christian ethic broad enough to embrace polyamory.

Oh, and BTW, if anyone wants to respond, pro or con, to Firinel, please do be my guest. (Note to the orthodox, evangelical Trolls who lurk here: yeah, yeah, yeah. We already know what you have to say. Blah, blah, blah. Save it for your own blogs, okay?)


I promise to write about this again and answer you sometime early next week - If there is a 'me' at the end of next week. GRRRRRR . . .

Back to the coal mines.

just another piskie said...

Well, doesn't Paul hold forth against fornication? I've always assumed that was about sex outside of marriage. Or is this a translation issue (Greek word doesn't mean fornication) or definition issue (fornication doesn't mean what I think it does)?

Just to be clear, I'm not advocating against any specific context for responsible consensual sex. I'm just geeking the question.

just another piskie said...

You said, "Firinel - Fair enough, but since I'm working on my paper, why don't you tell me why you think Jesus would condone polyamory - queer or not? What does he teach, what values does he hold as central to the enterprise of being human, that would lead to a Christian ethic broad enough to embrace polyamory."

I would ask in reply why you think Jesus wouldn't condone (or even support) polyamory? What values does he hold central that would rule out embracing polyamory? Why does a committed relationship have to be limited to two people?

And, come to think of it, what do you have against serial monogamy? If, God forbid, your partner or your relationship with her had died some years ago, would you feel that you should never enter into another committed sexual relationship ever again? Really?

Allen said...

piskie,
As I understand it, the word (porneia) usually translated as fornication actually means something more like "sexual immorality." The problem I see is that the word is too vague and there is no verifiable way to determine exactly what is condemned and what is not.

The traditional interpretation of the Pauline texts presume an understanding of what is immoral that is not found in the texts themselves.

On the polyamory question, I'm with piskie -- the burden should not be on someone who thinks it's ok but rather on someone who thonks it is not ok.

As for serial monogamy, I assumed Elizabeth was talking about marriages that end by divorce and not about the remarriage of widowed persons, and even then about "casual" divorce, which is all too common.

Rowan The Dog said...

Very interesting, as usual.

I'm actually with firinel. I do, however, recognize that it is de rigueur to say that you are not for anything beyond what the fundys are willing to entertain.

And, I'm also with Allen who I think got it exactly right in saying that the onus is on those who think certain things are NOT OK. All things are legal, remember. I leave it to your own discernment as to what is profitable. In that way I have to trust in the Holy Spirit to speak to you, and I have to trust you to listen to Her. I think a community of mutual trust is a lot more appealing than a community of enforced norms... even liberal norms,and even when we are led to differing conclusions.

I would add to this discussion by saying that the church also has quite a strong tradition of celibacy IN marriage. Never hear much about that, do we?

For something that doesn't even exist in the world to come we sure spend a lot of time on those who need a clerical hoop-de-doo to legitimize what they do with their down theres. To me, God gave you those tingly parts to use in whatever good way you can think of. For some of us, that is not to use them at all. For others, it's something else. Who am I to say.

I trust you, firinel. I trust God to speak to you about how to use your sexuality and I trust you to listen and obey. No need to report in to me on how that goes.

Lindy

PS - Good luck on your project Elizabeth. You know we all think you're brilliant.

(the Rev'd) Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Okay, I'm sneaking over here when I should be at my writing, but this discussion is more than I could have ever asked for or imagined.

I really, really want to be here with y'all rather than working on Table of Contents, Appendix and Bibliography - but, OBTW, those landmarks mean that there's light at the end of this godforsaken academic tunnel. I'm going to post my dedication tomorrow, so you'll get a flavor for what I'm doing.

So - I just want to say this. I'm talking STANDARDS not RULES. Big difference, my lovelies.

I think the Jesus standard is life long, faithful monogamy. Rules? Well, they're a horse of an entirely different color.

I'm also a priest. Cut me some slack. My job is to hold up standards for community behavior - not to be a 'bedroom robocop.'

More later, my darlings.

This succka is almost mine. I'm about to wrestle it to the ground and make it cry, "Uncle."

Cyclical Cynic said...

I will agree that, depending on your translation, you can find biblical support for a position of 'the sinful state' of LGBT people...

Really? Where? In find no evidence in scripture about a 'sinful state', regarding sexual orientation. I think you're putting words in orthodox mouths.

Where does Jesus say anything about either homosexuality or sex (any kind of sex) outside of marriage?

Jesus didn't say a lot of things. You can't come to an understanding of Christian morality based on what Jesus didn't say. Would you have us make a list of things he did say, then suggest that everything not listed is okay?

I am absolutely not in support of polygamy, polyandry, promiscuity, serial monogamy...

Why not? What's wrong with polyandry between consenting adults? There's nothing against it in scripture, is there? Polygamy certainly enjoys tacit support in scripture, so who are we to prevent three people who love each other from marrying?

If you're against polygamy, how do you propose the church should respond to polygamists? The only possible answer would be that Christian churches should be welcoming, loving, supportive, but disapproving of the act of polygamy -- but, wouldn't that be "HateTheSinLoveTheSinnerville"?

What's wrong with "hate the sin but love the sinner", anyway? It's come in pretty handy for me over the years when I've sinned. My church loved me to bits and embraced me unequivocally, but nonetheless urged me to put an end to my wrong behavior. Which is exactly what I needed.

The Pilgrim said...

So why do lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people get to reap the benefits of "inclusiveness" while firinel
and his friends and lovers are left out in the cold?

It's no better in TEC than anywhere else in the US: one group breaks open the door to acceptance, only to turn around
and slam it shut before the next group in line can get through: "We're Irish Americans and we've earned acceptance,
and this will be a great country as long as those Poles stay out." "We Afro-Americans fought long and hard for our civil
rights, so keep those wetbacks south of the border." "We are the Episcopalians and we welcome you, as long as
you are not orthodox or polyamorous."

You cannot point to any passages in the Bible that condemn group sex, except you point to the ones right next
to them that condemn same sex relationships.

And if you are going to uphold community standards, I should not have to remind you that "community standards"
once kept women disenfranchised, out of taverns and out of the priesthood, and "community standards" still do,
in many places, keep lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered persons on the margins of life in these United States.

I was going to bring along a petard for you to hoist yourself on, but it looks as if your own is going to work just fine.

And BTW, I am one of those orthodox evangelicals, so perhaps you didn't know what I was going to say after all.

(the Rev'd) Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, I'm on break again and I shouldn't have come over here. It's was only a matter of time before Pilgrim and Cynic wandered over for some of what the orthodox call 'fresh hell.' It's the stuff they love to hate.

I don't have time to address this completely, but I said STANDARDS, not COMMUNITY standards. Very, very different, Pilgrim.

You two are obviously having a great time parsing out my words the way you do scripture. I don't buy it when you do it to sacred texts and I'm sure not buying it when you do it to mine.

OKAY - here's the deal. Orthodox, conservatives and evangelicals, you can read but you may not post. You can try, but I'm going to hit 'reject' every time. This is your only warning.

This is not a conversation I want to have with you. Go back to your own places of enjoyment and have whatever fun you like to have. You'll not be having it here.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Inclusiveness, blah, blah, blah.

I'm not saying I don't want you in the church. I'm not saying I don't want you on my blog. I'm saying this is not a conversation I want to have with you. This conversation. This one right here. Right now.

I already know what you're going to say - as you both have so amply proven.

There's no point in it, so run along. Nothing here for you to see - or say. If you want, you can listen to what the Queers have to say about Jesus, but I'll not be giving you any voice or vote.

And to the rest of you: I have asked that you not feed the trolls. Here's a second request: PLEASE DO NOT TEASE THE TROLLS.

Do not engage them in this particular discussion because they can not answer you. I'll just get their junk mail, and you know how annoyed I get when I'm busy and have to do more things than I want to. Thanks, lovelies.

If this begins to sink any lower, I'll just remove the posts from Cynic and Pilgrim and anything you respond to them.

That's what the Elves do over at T19. I've even seen Ms. Highdeheyhighdeho do it when the discussion is not going the way she wants it. "Off Topic" she declares as she hits delete.

If she can do it, so can I. Sauce for the gander and all that.

Okay, everybody clear?

Okay, back to work for me.

just another piskie said...

Thanks, Allen, for the clarification on fornication. Excellent point to learn and try to remember to use in RL conversations on this topic.

To Ms. Kaeton -- Wow. I guess I may end up being banned by you because I think there's a lot in what just about everyone here has said that's worth reading -- and that's coming from someone who suspects she's fairly far to the left of you. Are you just looking for "yes posters" or for your particular flavor of the ideologically pure? You're quite right, it is your blog, you hold the deed to the land and legally you can throw off anyone who isn't like you, but what does that say about you?

I agree with Cynic about "Hate the sin, love the sinner." It is indeed what Jesus modeled for us. The incorrectness comes in its application -- when someone else thinks they have the right to identify for me what my sin is. And I'm afraid Pilgrim has a point. Why should your relationship and my possible future relationship be viewed as acceptable, but the loving committed consensual relationships of a friend of mine be considered beyond the pale? I think you may have come to a bend in the path and think you've reached the end. Well, no, there's more road to travel.

(the Rev'd) Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Piski - First, if you want to address me formally, it's "REV" Kaeton. When I know you better, it could be REV ELIZABETH. When you are my friend, you can call me ELIZABETH. If you're going to post here, you must be respectful. I see your posts on SFiF. I know you're not.

Second, read a bit more carefully before you post. This essay clearly begins by referencing a previous post on HTS/LTS. Go read it.

You don't have to agree with it. I said there that that is a hurtful phrase. If you know that something is hurtful to someone and you insist on using it, saying, "Well, it works for me," I think you have just permanently soiled your baptismal certificate with your own fecal matter..

Third, I will post people who have something to say - something contrary to the opinion of the author - as long as it's intelligent and new.

I don't agree with firnel, for example, but I find his/her position challenging enough to respond with another essay for clarification. Thanks again, Firinel. (I think ;~)

Here's the thing that is most annoying about you neo-Puritan trolls: you have nothing original to say. You either quote scripture, or pat each other on the back, saying, "Yeah, what he said."

When you do try and get a wee bit creative all you can think to do is to turn words upside down and stand them on their head and then poke fun at them. That's not creative. That's not even clever. That's what boys do in the sixth grade and bullies on the elementary school playground.

So, you have been warned, Piskie. You boys can certainly come over here and lurk. You can even venture a post with an opinion. But, you can not be hurtful or hateful or - even worse - dull.

Try to post something intelligent. Something creative - a new way to look at an old discussion.

That may be a stretch for you, Piskie, but I'm willing to be surprised.

Last day of my work, kiddo's. Just 5 more pages to write and bibliography and an appendix to construct.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not another train coming the other way.

Woo hoo!

Firinel said...

Firinel - Fair enough, but since I'm working on my paper, why don't you tell me why you think Jesus would condone polyamory - queer or not? What does he teach, what values does he hold as central to the enterprise of being human, that would lead to a Christian ethic broad enough to embrace polyamory.

I've been thinking about this for awhile, as I was caught off guard by your question. I honestly think the onus is on you for explaining to me why Jesus would condemn it. I've agreed with your points that there are no scriptural basis for 'no sex outside of marriage'.

I don't even necessarily feels this applies to me, since I very much feel that in a very real way I am married to both of my partners. I may not have a state-sanctioned marriage with both of them, but as you point out, a state sanctioned marriage is not equally available to everyone. And I think we're all clear that a piece of paper from the government doesn't magically make a union a 'marriage', there's much more to it than that.

But, even following that line of thinking, you've already said that scripturally, not such a great basis for no sex outside of marriage.

So, perhaps people who make the argument that homosexuality (and bisexuality, amongst other orientations which don't require a binary thinking of gender) is all right, but all *gestures* that other stuff, oh no certainly don't mean that too, don't have an understanding of what polyamoury is? Or they come to try to understand it with such a strong bias that it makes seeing it difficult.

I think a lot of people have a difficult time understanding that everything they feel about their "one and only", I'm capable of feeling for more than one. It's like life-long faithful monogamy, only I've two beloveds (this is how poly works for me, ymmv).

I don't judge people who aren't wired like this - I think diversity is a pretty nifty thing - but I do feel like my capacity to deeply love more than one person is a God-given gift. It doesn't feel unnatural to me, it's not something I had to learn to deal with or overcome. It's the way I work, and I've never found scriptural evidence that this was bad.

I'm not sure that the Jesus model is one of life-long faithful monogamy anyway. I mean if we think about it, a marriage is more than sex. Where is evidence of that?

Jesus loved more than one person. We assume he didn't have sex with them, but well 1) we can't assume because he didn't that means doing so would be bad, and 2) marriages/committed relationships don't require sex to be valid. Traditional heterosexual relationships frequently, for a variety of reasons, go through periods of celibacy, and rarely do people call the validity of that union into question because of that.

I hope that I've not upset you/crossed your boundaries for this blog, since I'm new and aren't familiar with the people who you're calling trolls.

(the Rev'd) Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Firinel - thanks for your thoughtful post. (Note to neo-Puritan Trolls - See? This is what I mean. Think creatively and ask imaginative questions that don't judge.)

I, too, have been thinking a great deal about your questions and I think I have an answer. It has to do with my understanding of the nature of church and the nature of Jesus and my role as priest.

More later. For now, thank you. I need to hear your voice and I suspect you need to hear mine. Let's keep at this. My hope is that your truth and mine will lead us to 'the truth."

Meanwhile, I am holding this conversation. I will not allow anyone to come into my cyberspace living room and dump their crap anonymously.

And, no body gets kicked out of the church because they don't have 'the truth'. Nobody. Even Trolls and Bigots and other scoundrels and sinners like me.

Bill said...

There is something in Leviticus about if the women has intercourse and isn't married you gotta take her out to the gates and stone here. On the other hand, if you talk back to your father or mother you also get stoned and if you wear clothing made from two different materials, ditto. Having said that you can take all of Leviticus and toss it into the dung heap.

Grace said...

Well, I must add my two cents. I definitely feel that Jesus affirmed monogamy.

And, realistically speaking, I can't imagine dealing long-term with committment issues, conflicts around respective children, etc. relating to two or three partners. I think it's hard enough working out matters with one.

Personally, I think we need to take direction relating to marriage, and chastity issues not just from Scripture, but also from tradition, and experience.(reason) It's important to see the larger picture.

I've counseled my young sons that I think it's a good guideline to consider their physical intimacy with a young woman to match their real level of caring, committment, and accountability in the relationship.

As a Christian, I think sexual intimacy goes far beyond the physical, and has also spiritual depth, a way to show love, committment, bonding. In marriage, the two literally become one flesh. The physical mirrors intimacy and connection on other deep levels. (Is it really possible to equally sustain all this over a lifetime with multiple partners at the sametime.)

If Scripture teaches us to flee sexual immorality, I think there's a good reason for it, both physically and spiritually.

But, I see no reason why gay and lesbian people should not experience this same intimacy and connectedness in committed, monogamous relationships. How are they any different?

There is this relatively new website which looks awesome to me, and addresses some of these issues, and deals with the "clobber verses" in Scripture with detail from an orthodox,evangelical perspective.

Check it out!! Just google "Inclusive Orthodoxy."

Hey, I could go on, but don't want to get "preachy." :)

Firinel said...

Grace,

It would be great if you could tell me HOW Jesus affirmed monogamy.

And, realistically speaking, I can't imagine dealing long-term with committment issues, conflicts around respective children, etc. relating to two or three partners. I think it's hard enough working out matters with one.

I don't see how I ought to be limited by your imagination. Realistically, I've had no extra issues dealing with commitment, conflict around children or any other matter with two partners than I did with one, and I don't really understand this line of thinking.

1) It's a straw man argument. Your raising a problem that wasn't originally an issue. The issue is if it is scripturally condemned.

2) Your coming at it thinking like someone who is monogamous.

Look at it this way: Someone who is accustomed to living on their own may experience some need to adjust when they move into the city and take on a housemate. Or when they move into a house shared by multiple college students they will need to adjust to living with three other people. You can say "but living with three other people is difficult! you have to figure out things like who's responsible for sweeping the floor, or doing the dishes, or who buys the grocceries, what if someone eats someone else's tortillas?"

And there may be some people for whom that sort of communal living is a poor fit for. There may be others for whom that really works, and they're much happier with the fuller household, and all of those "realities" that can be sited really aren't issues to them, the positives far out weight the negatives.

So, no one's saying having housemates is inherently better, or worse, than living on your own. It's just different. I mean, one way or the other may be better, or worse, for an individual, but that's really not a valid judgement value in the general sense.

3) As a Christian, I think sexual intimacy goes far beyond the physical, and has also spiritual depth, a way to show love, committment, bonding. In marriage, the two literally become one flesh. The physical mirrors intimacy and connection on other deep levels. (Is it really possible to equally sustain all this over a lifetime with multiple partners at the sametime.)

I absolutely agree with you, Grace, as I've pointed out before, that there is more to a marriage than physical intimacy. I believe I'm capable of sustaining that sort of connection with multiple partners at the same time, for a lifetime. Now, I don't know for sure, since I only have one lifetime, and I'm currently in the middle of it (if all things go to plan, and Lord, what with modern life-expectancies) but I can say that I have that connection to more than one now, and have done for *cough* more than a few years.


Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, I thank you for your replies so far, and I'm looking forward to hearing what more you've to say about it when you get a break from your paper. Hopefully it doesn't require too much bourbon and ice cream. ;)

Allen said...

Bill, do you have a citation for the passage in Leviticus about stoning an unmarried woman who has intercourse? I'm not convinced it's there.

While I understand Elizabeth's point about standards, I think the standard of lifelong marriage of a man and a woman as stated especially in the words of Jesus and in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 is specifically about marriage and says nothing about instances where there is no marriage.

Allen said...

Grace,

Elizabeth's original question was not about what our standards should be but rather whether the prohibition of sex outside of marriage is rooted in scripture. My point is that it is presupposed in scripture, not rooted in scripture. Your appeal to tradition and reason only tend to support my point. One other word -- when one speaks of sexual immorality, one is assuming that the term is understood by the hearers (or readers.) That is, the concept already exists in the culture.

I'm not prepared to rule out any form of sexual expression on a priori grounds. I think the standard should be mutuality -- to rule out exploitative and abusive situations. (Even the solitary "vice" can be exploitative.) But then, I'm a radical.

Jim said...

Rev. Elizabeth,

{Shall we be saying "Rev Dr." soon?
}

This has been interesting reading. I am not sold on the ideal nature of monogamy. For me, yup, I am a one woman guy married to a one guy woman. But, I think we need to learn as we change, and we have changed.

In a world where women were married at 14 and dead by childbirth fever at 17 (if they were lucky) and men lived at best to about 40, maybe a single set of standards could apply, I don't know. I do know that we live, and love, into our late 80's, many of us. And that matters.

I think God's standards, throughout the Bible are honesty, equity, justice and love. I am not convinced that monogamy is necessary to meet them. Jesus did not to my knowledge explicitly specify one and only one spouse at a time. His condemnation of divorce did not imply that there was one and only one wife. We have no idea who or how the wedding in Cana involved.

So, I am at least open to the idea of multiple person families IF the conventions, laws and such can assure equitable treatment, be based on love and affirm each member. I don't see that much, certainly plural Islamic marriages are not a good model and LDS fundamentalists in S. Utah are less good. But I at least can conceive that there may be something out there we need to learn.

FWIW
jimB

Firinel said...

I know that when people think of multiple partners, the idea they often conjure up is not a feminist friendly one, usually involving one male and multiple wives.

Obviously I can't speak for other polyamorous people, but our particular triad is M-F-M, and we're all very egalitarian. Others' groupings will clearly differ, and they may not inherently be so balanced. Pretty much like not all monogamous partners have equal footing in a relationship, either, even if there are those of us who find that preferable/ideal.

Grace said...

Firnel and Allen,

I posted this long response, and I don't think it went through. Ughh!! I hate when this happens. But, just on the off chance it may have, I'll wait and see if my comment shows up after moderation.

If not, I'll still be back to talk if you are still around tommorrow, or late tonight.

Grace said...

Hi, Firinel,

Here's the Scripture from Jesus that I had in mind. Jesus shares as recorded in Mk.

"But at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one seperate. Mk. 10:6-9.

Allen, I really think that by looking at the overall witness of Scripture, just looking at the Scripture in context, sexual immorality does also refer to sex outside of marriage. (life-long committment)

In 1Cor., Paul talks about fleeing sexual immorality. He goes on to counsel folks that if they are not able to be chaste in singleness, then they should certainly marry rather than to burn with passion.

Personally, I feel pretty strongly about the whole issue. I've seen so many, particularly young people, really harmed by casual, uncommitted sexual relationships.

Ditto, for the practice of just living together, to see how things might work out, kind of like a "test run," minus the real accountability and life committment.

I have to be honest,and say that it would be over my dead body that I would have had my kids, gay or straight, in a youth group, or church situation where the youth pastor is not able to encourage the young people, or to affirm the practice of chastity before marriage.

They would be out of that situation yesterday. I realize this might offend some folks here, but, hey, I"m being honest.

Firinel said...

Here's the Scripture from Jesus that I had in mind. Jesus shares as recorded in Mk.

"But at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one seperate. Mk. 10:6-9.


I don't see how this supports monogamy only. It doesn't say that a third person should not ever also join, or cannot, join that union. It says a third person should not separate it. No one is doing that.

Grace said...

Well, Firanel,

As far as I can tell, Jesus is speaking of two people committing to each other, becoming one flesh. It doesn't seem to me that his is affirming polyamory.

I don't know if you are a Christian believer, but if you are, maybe this is something that you need to continue to walk out, and to seek for God's will.

Do you feel that having two husbands is enhancing your witness for the Lord.

I know that you are more than welcome to hang out with folks in the church, and talk, and share more about this together.

God bless!

Firinel said...

I don't know if you are a Christian believer, but if you are, maybe this is something that you need to continue to walk out, and to seek for God's will.

I am (a believer), and no, it's really very much not something I need to give any more examination to. I'm precisely not the sort of person who lives an unexamined life, I've known I wasn't monogamous about as long as I knew I wasn't straight, and it's something which I am in absolute peace with. I think saying that is about as insulting as if you'd asked Red Elizabeth Kaeton to continueously re-examine her choice in partners.

Do you feel that having two husbands is enhancing your witness for the Lord.

Absolutely. Emphatically.

I know that you are more than welcome to hang out with folks in the church, and talk, and share more about this together.

The reason I posed my question to Rev Elizabeth Kaeton wasn't because I'm not at peace with how it affects my relationship with the Lord, but how it affects my relationship with the church as a whole, and with other Christians. Quite honestly, I've not felt very welcome at churches for things far 'less' than my orientation or relationship style - in fact, I was asked to leave a church when I was 14 as I was "clearly damned to hell, and I might have enough decency not to bring my peers with me". So it's very much not true that I'm welcome at church.

And I think that Rev Elizabeth Kaeton has already explained how "Love the sinner, Hate the sin" makes queer people feel a little less-than-entirely-welcome, too. So even where churches aren't directly asking me to leave, it's certainly not a warm welcome I'm feeling.

Somehow I feel called to Christ despite all of my negative experiences with his followers, though. :)

toujoursdan said...

Two thoughts:

1) Actually you'll find that the word translated as "fornication" is most often used in Scripture in a spiritual context rather than a physical context. It was used to condemn the Israelites when they started to worship other gods or incorporate pagan practises in their worship of YHWH.

I agree that it is a vague word but seemed to mean a form of infidelity - having an intimate relationship with someone you won't make a unique commitment with.

2) It was accepted ancient Jewish practise that betrothal was gained through sexual intercourse. (Mishnah, tractate Kiddushim 1:1)
So sexual intercourse outside of marriage isn't condemned if the intent was to get married. This halacha was in place in Christ's time and has to be taken into account when evaluating Christ's statements.

I think you can build a strong case that sex without commitment is condemned in scripture, but it seems to be stretch to say that sex outside of the sacrament of marriage necessarily is.

Tobias Haller said...

Fascinating discussion. I'm dealing with some of the same issues in my series on sexuality. Just a few quick comments:

Polygamy is not explicitly ruled out by the Jewish Law. It was licit until the 10th Century AD, and only disallowed then because of pressure from the Gentile circumstances in which most Jews had to live. The Torah regulates it, but it is not forbidden.

Did Jesus forbid it? No. Did Paul? Only, apparently, for clergy (if that's what "one woman's man" means in the Pastorals; and if Paul wrote the Pastorals -- another question entirely.

But Roman law did forbid polygamy, so even by that time it was becoming a tension point in societies operating under Roman rule.

Porneia is a very interesting word. The best evidence is that it means "harlotry" not some general "sexual immorality" -- which means it could mean whatever you think it means! Most of the biblical uses are figurative and refer to idolatry. In all other uses it is most simply read as "prostitution" -- and that reading will cover all of the other uses of the word. It also was not strictly against the Law, except in certain circumstances and for certain people.

It's really important to keep two things in mind: the Law was asymmetrical regarding the sexual liberties of men and women -- a man could have sex outside of marriage as long as the additional partner was not a man or a married woman; a woman could have sex if she wasn't married and was eligible to be a prostitute. She could also be a wife or an additional wife. She could, if unmarried, have a lesbian relationship without fear of punishment.

Jesus does address the imbalance on the adultery law and holds men can be guilty if they have an affair outside of their marriage. This is a change from the Law. (This reading involves the reading "wife" for "woman" -- there is only one word in the Greek, which makes it problematical. If he meant, "If a man looks at a _wife_ with lust he has committed adultery with her in his heart..." Then this would not be an advance; the teaching on divorce, however, does seem to suggest that a man who divorces and remarries has committed adultery -- so that's where the teaching comes in.

Interesting stuff, and thanks Elizabeth, for starting off an interesting conversation! All the best on the finishing up of the Work.

Grace said...

Hi, Dan,

I would consider a life-long committment to be synonomous with marriage. But, if the committment is just for today, or until our feelings happen to change, or as long as things seem to be working out, then is seems to me that the relationship is just conditional, not a real committment in the sense of marriage.

Firinel, I don't want to just cause offense here. I'm struggling with whether I should keep pushing on with this. But, here goes...If you feel my question is offensive or over the top, please don't answer it. I'll understand.

You mentioned that you are gay. I'm assuming that you are a man, and yet one of the members of your triad is a woman. I don't understand. How can this be fair and egalitarian to this woman?

Maybe I'll let this alone now.

God's peace to you, Firinel.

Grace.

Firinel said...

You mentioned that you are gay. I'm assuming that you are a man, and yet one of the members of your triad is a woman. I don't understand. How can this be fair and egalitarian to this woman?

I've not said I'm gay, I'm queer - the two are not analogous. I've also not disclosed my sex, so it wouldn't be fair to make an assumption about that.

Grace said...

I'm not able to understand, Firinel.

But, I don't feel comfortable pushing you to explain this to me.

It must be something very personal, and I'm a stranger to you.

God bless!