Authorizing Marriage? Canon, Tradition, and Critique in the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

By Mark D. Jordan; Meghan T. Sweeney et al. | Go to book overview

TRINITY, MARRIAGE, AND HOMOSEXUALITY

Eugene F. Rogers Jr.

In this essay I argue that Christian theologians would best understand marriage, including both same- and cross-sex marriage, as a form of sanctification that takes time both to expose faults for healing and to develop virtues for incorporation into the Trinitarian life. I do that by addressing a pair of objections. First I take up an objection from the Left that the New Testament devalues marriage, and that alternative patterns of friendship best represent its intent. Then I take up an objection from the Right that same-sex couples are unfit for sanctification. Both sides deny that same-sex marriages can sanctify: the Left because marriage cannot do the job, the Right because the job cannot be done.

I have defended marriage for same-sex couples against objections on the Right before.1 To counter the claim that marriage would offer satisfaction of sexual urges to which a same-sex couple would not be morally entitled, I countered that Christian theologians understand marriage only shallowly as the making licit of sexual satisfaction. They would understand it better as a form of sanctification rather than satisfaction. Sanctification involves structure, specifically, a discipline or ascesis such as monks and committed couples undertake, in which God uses the perceptions of others one cannot easily escape to transform challenge into growth, into faith, hope, and charity.2 No conservative has yet seriously argued that gay and lesbian Christians need sanctification any less than heterosexual ones. I rehearse that argument later. But I begin with the objection on the Left.


I

Among authors in the present volume, I encounter a different concern. Marriage has itself undergone critique as an exclusive, sexist and heterosexist, bourgeois, capitalist institution. Hopelessly co-opted by the powers that be, marriage can no longer carry forward Jesus' identification of friendship as the greatest value (John 15:13, 21:15), if it ever could. New Testament scholars find Jesus notably antifamily—he refuses to see his mother (Mark 3:31–35 and parallels), regards the family as a source of unbelief (Matt. 13:53–58) and strife (Matt. 10:21, 35), prefers the company of prostitutes and adulterers, and commends not only love of enemies

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