If Divorced People Can Remarry, Why Can’t Gays Marry?

Jason Micheli —  January 23, 2014 — 10 Comments

lightstock_78926_xsmall_user_2741517Since we’re in the midst of a sermon series on marriage , it would seem odd evasive to acknowledge not at all how the Church presently struggles with the issue institution of marriage.

‘I’m a pacifist. I believe that is the clear teaching of the New Testament, but I would never presume to impose my beliefs upon those who do not share my beliefs.’

055709_wells_sam059That’s how Samuel Wells, an Anglican priest and theologian as well as the former dean of Duke Chapel, frames his opposition to last year’s marriage amendment in North Carolina.

I think it’s a good analogy over which Christians should reflect.

Wells goes on with this very good observation/question:

There is virtually no justification in the New Testament for remarriage after divorce (Mark 10.11-12, 1 Corinthians 7.10-11)- in fact the New Testament has quite a lot more to say about divorce- and yet most Christian traditions have come to believe that remarriage is acceptable for many people.

It seems questionable then why we’re unwilling to adapt our understanding of scripture when it comes to homosexual persons when we’ve shown we’re willing to do so for divorced persons.

The interview is long (nearly 30 minutes) but it’s good, measured and thoughtful- something sorely missing from this debate in and out of the Church.

Since it’s a snow day on the East Coast, I’ll presume you actually have the time this interview deserves.

Here’s the link for the interview.

Jason Micheli


10 responses to If Divorced People Can Remarry, Why Can’t Gays Marry?

  1. I’ve never understood this argument about divorce. The divorce rate among Christians is scandalous. By all means, the Church is being unfaithful to God’s Word. (Although there is biblically warranted divorce for Christians in some cases. You need to carry your 1 Corinthians 7 proof-text to verse 15 and add Matthew 5:32 to your Mark 10:11-12.)

    But what does our failure regarding marriage and divorce prove about homosexual marriage? Logically, nothing at all. You seem to be arguing that if we’re unfaithful to God when it comes to marriage, it’s therefore O.K. to be unfaithful to God when it comes to gay marriage.

    If homosexual behavior per se is sinful, this cannot be true. (Not to mention that there’s no such thing as gay marriage. Marriage, by definition, is between a man and a woman.)

    If you don’t think homosexual behavior is sinful, then say so. Explain why. Put forward that argument. Because this particular argument sucks.

  2. Historically, the definition of marriage has changed. During the time of both the Old and New Testaments, marriage involved one man and any number of women. During the time of the early church this changed, especially when the church decreed that a bishop should be the husband of one wife. We now know that homosexuality is a given for 10% of the population. This is an established scientific fact. Why should they be denied the right to marry? The condition of their birth is no more a “fault” than it would be for heterosexuals. Writers of the Christian scriptures were people of their times. The prevailing culture permitted slavery and the subjugation of women. After the resurrection, Jesus instructed us that the Holy Spirit would guide and direct us. As Christians, we pray for that guidance. We believe that that guidance elucidates and enlightens us with respect to issues that confront us. Most of us believe that was the case when slavery was finally abolished and when discrimination against women (still an issue) was recognized as illegal – and sinful, as well, at least in this country. Lastly, most of us who believe in the Holy Spirit’s action in these two cases also believe the Holy Spirit is calling on us to abolish the discrimination that exists against homosexuals. Jesus had little to say about sexual sins and reserved his harshest criticism for those who failed to care for the poor and oppressed. Even if you believe homosexuality is a sin, why would you be so upset over another couple’s private actions when you should be much more concerned about the poor and oppressed and the big money corporate executives who command exorbitant and obscene salaries at the expense of their workers and the great disparity between rich and poor? Moreover, when it comes to homosexuals joining a church and refusing to be celibate, why should the church refuse membership when sins abound among all us? Should those of us who are intolerant or uncaring or unloving be ejected as unworthy? Members are asked to uphold the church with their prayers, their presence, their gifts, and their service. We are all children of God and homosexuals fit that category as much as heterosexuals. We should take seriously the biblical admonition not to judge others lest we be judged, and I do not speak of acts that are clearly illegal and harm others. Homosexuality is an issue fast moving into the legal category and it certainly causes no harm to marriage as an institution.

    • Juanita, I disagree with nearly everything you say here. I can’t begin to respond. I would enjoy reading Jason’s response, however, because I assume that even someone who rejects the United Methodist Church’s traditional understanding of marriage and homosexuality does so for far different (and better) reasons than the ones you cite above. Or maybe the enemy of my enemy is my friend? Who knows? I’ve read UMC clergy who cite Dan Savage as an ally in the fight. Blows my mind.

      • Brent, I recommend Jason’s latest blog, “Hearing the Word of God.” It is most informative. Moreover, since you say you would enjoy reading Jason’s response to the above issue, I suggest that you will find that response in “Hearing the Word of God.”

        • Juanita, if Jason is saying (and I don’t think he is) that scripture will offer us some new revelation from God which contradicts the plain meaning of the words themselves, I couldn’t disagree more. I believe the Holy Spirit speaks God’s Word into our hearts through scripture—and that is mysterious. But it ain’t that mysterious!

          • Brent,
            What are the guidelines one follows when trying to resolve an issue? In my own mind, there is scripture and there is the life and teachings of Jesus. When discernment is involved I’m going to opt – every time – for that which I believe more nearly reflects the mind of Christ. This means that I’m going for the more compassionate approach. With respect to the issue of homosexuality: Homosexuals desire marriage because they have a loving commitment to one person and have been denied the economic and legal benefits that married heterosexuals have. We all know what those hardships are. We all know what those benefits are. We know what obstacles discrimination places in the path of those individuals through no fault of their own. Clearly, we do not choose whether we will be homosexual or heterosexual. Ergo, I believe allowing same sex marriage is the right thing to do.

            I sense from your position that the Holy Spirit has virtually no latitude in changing the world by focusing our minds and our hearts on what is the loving, and compassionate, and fair thing to do. Instead, the Holy Spirit is present only to bolster the interpretation of scripture according to the culture of testament times – thus, you would have us all remain stuck in that culture. How long did it take you to accept women as pastors? The Roman Catholic Church still does not, but you cite it as an example of why the UMC should retain its position on homosexuality. Can it be that you are much more of a literalist than you would admit? I love scripture and took every Old and New Testament course I could. But I do not accept that the writers of the scriptures were infallible.

            Let me pose another question. If the Holy Spirit was not involved in enlightening our minds with respect to human rights issues, pray tell, who was? I love my church, but the church as an institution has not usually been on the front lines fighting for the rights of the oppressed (e.g., the two biggies – slaves and women); that role was more commonly played by individual Christians with a more sensitive conscience, or even secular folks. Institutions are very slow to change. That’s what makes me wonder about your insistence that pastors who have changed their minds about same sex marriage and disagree with the UMC’s current position are either heretical or hypocritical, or both. In short, your position with regard to homosexuals seems rigid and legalistic, and (dare I say it) Pharisaic – the same as mine not so many years ago.

  3. P.S. I misquoted the title of the blog; it is
    §16.1: How Can We Hear God Speak?

  4. It seems that our scripture has become merely a “story book” history of some “old white folks”, or just some friendly suggestions on how to live a”good” life.

  5. The sticky part of remarriage, gay marriage and marriage at all is the legalities when people split up. All morals aside, it can wreck a person’s finances and leave them personally devastated, no matter what their sexual preference is. We need to learn how to be fair and good to everyone – especially when a couple splits – which is even harder when they have kids.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Another bad argument for gay marriage | Rev. Brent L. White - January 23, 2014

    […] side, too. If so, I would love to hear something more persuasive than this argument, reflected in this blog post from fellow UMC clergy Jason […]

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