Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Marriage

If you had asked me four or five years ago, I would have been extremely uncomfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage or even against it. Many people still feel that way and I understand that because I was there once. Let me discuss how my opinions on this topic evolved over time.

Growing up in rural Georgia, I had basically no exposure to openly gay people, so as I graduated high school and attended Presbyterian College, multiple discussions gradually changed the way I began to think.

I think what truly changed my perspective was me writing a paper about homosexuality in the bible as extra credit for my freshman New Testament class. I thoroughly researched homosexuality in the Bible and read the opinions of scholars addressing the issue. I won't go into all of the details, but I'd like to bring up a few points.

Many people oppose same-sex marriage on the ground that it is a sin, or an abomination, as Leviticus would call it. What I've never understood is how we choose to ignore that eating pork, wearing clothing of multiple fabrics, or incorrectly using incense are also abominations. These sins do not disqualify heterosexuals to be members of a church, ordained as ministers and elders, or getting married. 

My grandfather is an ordained Presbyterian minister with a doctorate in divinity and historian. He has extensively studied this issue. He told me that when Paul argued against gay sex, it was very common in Rome for older men to take boys to their chambers and do what they wanted with them. 

Paul was very revolutionary for his time, but he also believed that Jesus was returning in his lifetime. Not to discount Paul, but I think we need to bear in mind a lot of what he wrote about was to instruct the early church to prepare for the second coming. 

Jesus never clearly states anything against homosexuality. What he does say again and again is to love one another, which is something we need to do as a church and denomination. So, most of all, I believe in love for all of our fellow human beings. The greatest commandment to us, found in both the Old and New Testament, is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself” found in Deuteronomy 6:5, Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37, and Mark 12:30. 

Based off of this commandment, the authoritative guide to scripture in the PC(USA) is the rule of love, which says "any interpretation of Scripture is wrong that separates or sets in opposition love for God and love for fellow human being, including both love expressed in individual relations and in human community." (Presbyterian Use and Understanding of Holy Scripture and Biblical Authority and Interpretation, p. 10)

If I'm not clear by now, I support same-sex marriage. I have too many dear friends that would be devastated if this motion did not come to pass before the General Assembly. However, if you disagree, I also can see where you come from.

My hope is that, either way, that marriage will not divide our church even farther. It may be overly optimistic, but I think that we have more that unites us than divides us. Everyone has a place at God's table and I hope that everyone remembers that. 

UPDATE: The overtures on authoritative interpretation have all been passed, meaning that the paster can use her or his discretion on whether to perform same-sex marriage. Furthermore, the overtures on changing the definition of marriage in the Book of Order from marriage between "a man and a woman" to between "two people." This change, however, must be ratified by 2/3 vote of all the presbyteries. Needless to say, I'm so excited that I have been here for this decision and I am so pleased with the General Assembly's decision! 


  1. It's amazing to watch you grow and mature, Rachel. I proud to call you my friend.

    1. Thank you so much! You're a pretty good friend yourself ;)

  2. Rachel - articulate, insightful and beautifully written. So very proud of you!

    1. Why, thank you! I wrote that original paper in your class, if you remember.