March 26th and 27th will be pretty monumental for the country, regardless of your orientation. SCOTUS will hear two cases this week, on these dates:
On Tuesday the 26th, the court will hear Hollingsworth v. Perry -- "Issue: (1) Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman; and (2) whether petitioners have standing under Article III, § 2 of the Constitution in this case."
On Wednesday the 27th, the court will hear United States v. Windsor -- "Issue: (1) Whether Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws as applied to persons of the same sex who are legally married under the laws of their State; (2) whether the Executive Branch’s agreement with the court below that DOMA is unconstitutional deprives this Court of jurisdiction to decide this case; and (3) whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives has Article III standing in this case."
In case you did not already know, dear reader, I am both a Gay Man as well as very Religious. I am a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church which does not recognize a marriage between two members of the same sex. But that, in this particular argument, is completely beside the point. Why? Because...
THIS IS A CIVICS ISSUE, NOT A RELIGIOUS ONE
Civics, as (please God) you should know, is all about your rights and duties as a citizen of the State (as in, the general civil government of a country, not as in The State of Wyoming). In the United States, there is no State Religion; our laws and ordinances may be guided by our personal, individual faiths (don't steal, don't kill, don't lie under oath, honor your contracts), but they don't take the tenets of a single faith and impose them on all citizens.
Marriage is a contract between two consenting adults and the State, signifying a domestic and economic interdependence, which help to give stability and foundation to the State. This contract establishes rights granted to the new Unit by the State as an incentive, and responsibilities as a bond of trust between the Unit and the State for the formation of that stability and foundation.
There are no religious overtones in this contractual obligation between the Unit and the State. The Religious ceremony, while often performed at the same time, is separate from the Civil act of formalizing the contract. The lines blur in the United States because Officiants are most often also Priests/Pastors/Rabbis/Ministers, but they aren't required to be.
Yes, it does bother me that my Church maintains a hold on on these archaic, chauvinistic, interpretations of (very proof-texted) scripture, which can be shown to be completely inaccurate through an objective and holistic reading of scripture, but as I said earlier, that's not the point. My church is allowed to disagree with same-sex marriage; that's their right, and I would never advocate forcing all Religious to perform or acknowledge marriages of those they didn't want to.
But it's not the marriage within a Church at stake here: it's the Marriage contract with the State. And in the United States of America, we have Equal Protection Under the Law, and SCOTUS has already declared, in Loving v. Virginia, that "classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law."
I offer this with a sincere heart, and in the hopes that even just one person's mind can be opened to the possibility that personal and cultural biases have clouded biblical teachings on the matter.
This was written by the Reverend Justin R. Cannon, and it is my honest prayer that you take the time to read it and allow the Spirit to move on your heart.
The full text of the 50 page PDF has been embedded for ease of reading. There is a download link below it, but you may also download the file directly from Inclusive Orthodoxy, and clicking on the "Homosexuality" option in the nav bar.
I love the Adventist church. I honestly feel the Adventist church holds the most Truth at this moment in our history. One of the things that has helped us get to this point has been the way we intelligently analyze scripture, guided by the Holy Spirit, through the lens of history and culture. Understanding that God’s instruction, and Christ’s interactions, don’t live in a vacuum, we attempt to understand the message as it was being given, extract the spiritual message, and apply it to our daily lives. Thus, things like the prohibition against unclean foods lose its law-based ritualistic imperative, and gain a tradition-based application symbolic of our bodies being a temple for the Spirit.
There are two cases, however, where the Adventist church completely, and arrogantly, drops the ball with this historical-cultural method of interpreting scripture: Homosexuality, and the role of Women.
I knew very early that I was gay. This did not fill me with dread or self-loathing, however, because my family was rather gay-friendly; my Uncle was gay, and I credit him for “breaking in” my family, making it much easier for me to feel okay with myself. I have always been deeply religious, in general, and strongly Adventist, specifically. As I grew older and began to understand the oil-and-water relationship between Religion and Homosexuality, I came to a conclusion which has become quite popular with more mainstream churches wanting to put on a gay-sympathetic façade: I had no control over how I was born, but I could control how I acted – The sin isn’t in being homosexual, but in the homosexual acts themselves. Sound familiar? I was perfectly okay with this arrangement growing up. All through High School, I was just fine – when questioned by my religious friends, my stock example was, “It’s not my fault if I’m born to a coven of witches, but that doesn’t mean I have to practice witchcraft.” This always brought smiles, nods, and enthusiastic pats on the back.
Things changed once I entered college, and people started seriously challenging my position on the matter. I was painfully aware I didn’t have the scriptural knowledge to back me up, so I decided to take some time, one summer, to dive into the issue and get some biblical support under my belt. This is a key point: I went into this with the notion I was correct, and was simply finding the support I knew was already there.
As I have always done before doing any kind of bible study, I prayed for guidance and support, and for the Spirit to guide me to truth. By the end of my research and study, I was a changed person. This is when I began to understand the errors of the Adventist church on this topic; that they willfully detour from their traditional methods of biblical study when talking on this subject, and choose, instead, the evangelical mainstream God-spoke-in-King-James-English method of direct application.
There is, of course, a lot of religious anti-gay literature that uses lots and lots of biblical quotes to support their position. There are, also, a lot of pro-gay literature that debunks all of those biblical quotes, and attempts to make it seem like there’s never been anything wrong with it. What moved me the most, however, was an article written by one Walter Wink. His “Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality” and “Homosexuality and the Bible” do point out errors in the anti-gay rhetoric, but it also admits that yes, in fact, there is clear language, no matter the translation, condemning male-on-male sexual encounters. “But so what,” I paraphrase, “there are plenty of sex-things the bible wags its finger at which we allow today; and, conversely, that the bible allows, but we wag our finger at today.”
For example, virtually all modern readers would agree with the Bible in rejecting: incest, rape, adultery, and intercourse with animals.
But we disagree with the Bible on most other sexual mores. The Bible condemned the following behaviors which we generally allow: intercourse during menstruation, celibacy, exogamy (marriage with non-Jews), naming sexual organs, nudity (under certain conditions), masturbation (some Christians still condemn this), birth control (some Christians still forbid this). And the Bible regarded semen and menstrual blood as unclean, which most of us do not.
Likewise, the Bible permitted behaviors that we today condemn: prostitution, polygamy, levirate marriage, sex with slaves, concubinage, treatment of women as property, and very early marriage (for the girl, age 11-13). And while the Old Testament accepted divorce, Jesus forbade it.
In short, of the sexual mores mentioned here, we only agree with the Bible on four of them, and disagree with it on sixteen!
This is when I began to see the error of the traditional Adventist stance – they were ignoring, for this particular issue, the spirit of what was being taught, and focused instead on the words. I attribute this to the very subconscious fear of emasculation that most men feel; and since they’re the ones with the power, they have controlled the dominant cultural stigma against homosexuals: “you make me feel uncomfortable, therefore you must be evil.”
Growing up in the Adventist church, I have seen everything from extreme bigots attempting to quite literally evict me out of town (while I attended SVA), to companionate and unconditional acceptance (granted, it was the Music Department at CUC, so I guess that’s kind of falling into the stereotype… hahahaha). The most heartbreaking experience for me (other than New Market waving pitchforks and torches at my door) was when I found a very small Adventist congregation in Waldorf, MD. They were super friendly, and welcomed me with open arms. I’ve never been one to deny or actively hide my sexuality, but I also don’t go around actively trying to make people feel uncomfortable either; I try to be sensitive to my surroundings, and act accordingly, so I’m not sure exactly how they ended up finding out I was gay. They had, however, and one Sabbath the tone and feel of the church was the polar opposite of how it had been the week before: no one talked to me, no one sat in the same pew as me, and the sermon was old-school fire and brimstone gays are going to hell. The subtlety was not lost on me. Nor was mine on them. I slammed my bible shut, the thud echoing in the small stone sanctuary, and I stood up and walked out. I never went back, and they never inquired after me (a stark reversal from when I was sick one week and got no fewer than a dozen members and even the head pastor checking in on me to make sure I was okay). They made it clear I was not welcome, and that my very nature was an affront to their sensibilities as Adventists.
This whole thing is so perplexing to me. How can we, as a church who prides themselves on our ability to hold the Truth, so willfully turn a blind eye to an issue that is so clearly a cultural misunderstanding? I am neither a temple prostitute, nor heterosexual acting against my nature. So… why are you harassing me?
It gets better though. Seriously... it really does:
Some sites for consideration:
The Bible and Homosexual Behavior, SDA Kinship International
As a Seventh-Day Adventist, I do not participate in the celebrations of Ash Wednesday, nor do I observe Lent. The Adventist Church, in general, does not observe Lent, though I have not been able to find any official statement addressing the question.
What I have always been told, however, is Lent falls into the category of Liturgical Rituals, outside of any scriptural definition or directive to observe. Other festivals/celebrations in this category would be Christmas, and Easter.
One particular blog post I read earlier stated the Adventist Church was somewhat hypocritical, since it recognizes Christmas and Easter, but refuses Lent. Well... here's the thing. First of all, the Adventist Church doesn't have a liturgical calendar in the traditional sense of the idea. We don't officially call out Christmas as the time of Christ's birth, or Easter as the time of Christ's death. Why not? Two reasons: one, we have no idea what on what days those two events actually occurred; two, there is no scriptural mandate to observe these days as religious holidays (if there were, we would know the dates to use). That being said, nearly all Adventist do celebrate those holidays in recognition of what they stand for spiritually.
Lent, however, is a little different. While there is no scriptural mandate for its observance, it differs from Christmas and Easter in that there are some Old Testament parallels. "What?" I hear you exclaim, "Then Adventist should be all over that, right? I mean, they totally love Old Testament stuff!" You are correct, insightful reader, the Adventist Church does in fact hold the Old Testament near and dear to its heart. Which, ultimately, is Lent's own downfall.
The sacrificial ceremonies and festivals of the Old Testament were to remind God's people of the coming savior. They typified Christ's work of Salvation here on earth, and symbolized His sacrifice on our behalf. As such, these sacrifices were no longer needed once Christ fulfilled them -which is why the veil in the temple ripped in two at the moment of His death. Today, there is no need to take on ritualistic personal sacrifice, because that was done by Christ already. In doing it ourselves, we mock the work He did on the cross.
This is not to say there is no place for fasting; indeed, there are biblical instructions to do so when supplicating oneself before God. What I'm talking about here with Lent, is the notion of taking the mantle of sacrifice upon your own shoulders in a ritualistic fashion. This is very different from biblical instructions on fasting and prayer as ways to reach spiritual harmony. The latter is self imposed out of a desire to bring oneself closer to God, using instructions He left for us to follow; the former is imposed by the church in an attempt to force some kind of empathy with Christ's work of Salvation, outside of any scriptural instruction to do so.
"Hold on," I hear you say, "But the Adventist Church is all about ritualized self sacrifice! You don't drink, you don't smoke, you have all kinds of dietary restrictions... come on, aren't you being a little hypocritical yourself here?"
A valid question. I would argue, however, that these all fall under a general umbrella of Life Style Choices, where we, as a denomination, view the human body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are not our own, but a vessel of the Spirit, and as such, we have a responsibility to keep it as healthy as possible. These being Life Style Choices, I do not see them being the same as ritualistic fasting and sacrifice designed to emphasize a single point within a microcosm of the liturgical calendar.
But then... that's just me. Since, as I stated before, the Adventist Church has no liturgical calendar, there is only the absence of any formal observance; There is no official condemnation of Lent, merely the oral tradition of why we don't observe it. As such, there have been some Adventist Churches who have started holding Ash Wednesday services, and instructing their congregations to observe the Lent season.
I, however, continue to agree with the more traditional Adventist view that Lent is unnecessary as it puts undue emphasis on ritualized personal sacrifice, which devalues the sacrificial work of Christ.