In this issue Gerald Schlabach makes an important contribution to the discussion of same-sex marriage (see "What is marriage now?"), one of the most amazing developments of our time. The expanding acceptance of same-sex marriage was confirmed by the Supreme Court’s October 6 decision to let stand lower court rulings that overturned bans on gay marriage.
Schlabach teaches at a Roman Catholic university, where official Catholic teaching is not exactly friendly to same-sex relationships, let alone same-sex marriage. He examines St. Paul’s famous dictum that it’s better to marry than to burn and comes to a surprising conclusion. “‘To burn,’” he suggests, “may stand for all the ways that we human beings, left to ourselves, live only for ourselves, our own pleasures, and our own survival.” Schlabach urges all of us, both advocates and opponents of marriage equality, to rethink the purpose of marriage itself.
Two books were instrumental in shaping the thinking in my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), on this issue. Both were written by conservative evangelical scholars, and both describe the process by which the authors changed their minds. Jack Rogers begins Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality by discussing personal encounters and friendships with Christians who are gay. He points out the anomaly of accusing gay people of a promiscuous lifestyle while setting up legal and religious barriers against their permanent and faithful relationships. He also reminds us that the definition and purpose of marriage has evolved. I did not know, for instance, that the Westminster confession of faith originally declared marriage to be valid only between Protestants.