Egalitarian Marriage: Contribution from Christian Theology

Editorial Introduction The debate for egalitarian marriage in Argentina (2010) evidenced the pluralism and heterogeneity of the religious field as leaders and representatives of different religious traditions mobilized themselves in favor of the bill allowing marriage to same-sex couples. Among them, two groups of Catholic priests located in different provinces made public their support to the movement for sexual diversity, criticizing the position of the Church hierarchy. What follows is the letter written by the priest Nicolás Alessio in favor of egalitarian marriage as part of the position of the Grupo de Sacerdotes Enrique Angelelli (Enrique Angelelli Group of Priests) of the Province of Córdoba.

Some Christians and Jews claim that they base their condemnation of homosexuality on the Bible. When the last book of the Bible was written, a word for ‘homosexual’ did not even exist. –Andrés Rivera[1]
God is love. Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. –Saint John
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. –Saint Paul to the Corinthians
There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. –Saint Paul to the Galatians

Introduction

Faced with the enactment of Law 26.618 and Decree 1054/10 (Law of Egalitarian Marriage), which permits persons of the same sex to be “married” and fully live their love and sexuality, granting them that inalienable right, we understand that passing the law, supporting it, and deepening it places us on the road of the Gospel of Jesus and makes us a better society—much better. A Jesus who has revealed to us the loving face of his God and who is radically opposed to all legalism, all the more so when it deals with religio-ritualistic legalism. In the words of church authorities and the positions they take, churches have neither necessarily nor always coincided with the Gospel, at least in many cases. This issue is one of those cases.

Let Us See

• Jesus never articulated a strict doctrine of marriage. He simply followed the customs of his age and, in a chauvinist, patriarchal context, he advanced the recognition and defense of women in a special way…

• Jesus never mentioned, much less condemned, homosexuality. In fact, he confronted the arrogant, those who believed themselves to be pure, those who wielded oppressive power, those who enslaved, those who shamed others…

• Jesus always put the Law in service of the greater good, and at its center were, above all, the outcasts, the forgotten, the last…

• The term “homosexual” did not appear in literature until the end of the 19th century. (It was employed for the first time in 1869 by Karl-Maria Kertben, and Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing popularized the concept in 1886 in the book Psychopathia Sexualis.) In Biblical times no elaborate understanding of what we today understand as “sexual orientation” existed… (This point is important for correctly examining the text of Paul to the Romans.)

• All of Biblical revelation aims to focus us on love, without exclusions of any kind, and with preference for the marginalized, the outcasts, the nobodies, the passed over, the accused…

• If some texts of the Old Testament appear to condemn homosexuality, in reality what they are rejecting is either the idolatry that such practices revealed, addressing offenses against ritual purity, or, in some cases, as in the case of Sodom, the lack of hospitality.[2] In Ezequiel 16:49-50, for example, “Sodom” is proud, gluttonous, and failing to aid the poor and indigent. That is to say, it has nothing to do with “sexual” sin. Moreover, those Old Testament texts never refer to lesbians, speaking only of males.

•If some of the apostolic letters include homosexuality in their lists of “sin,” it is only to conform themselves to the codes of Greco-Roman morality and, in this sense, to recall the sin of idolatry that such customs signified or to condemn the practices of abuse, bullying, and sexual exploitation, whether these be hetero- or homosexual. They in no way express a condemnation of homosexuality as such, given that there was no conception of the reality of “homosexual orientation”…

•All of Biblical revelation and especially the New Testament is not a code of moral laws. Citing isolated texts to condemn homosexuality represents an anachronistic fundamentalism that is unable to understand the texts and their historically specific place. It is using the texts to justify one’s own prejudices. To make the Bible a manual of sexual morality would be to fall into the Jewish legal fundamentalism criticized so harshly by Jesus. The Bible is the revelation of a God who wants to see us free, joyful, and happy. For this reason, He invites us to confront all that oppresses, discriminates, rejects, expels, hates, segregates, separates. Our ethical judgments absolutely supersede legalism.

Therefore

We understand homosexuality as a distinct, different, diverse way of living sexuality and love, not as an “error,” a “deviation,” a “disorder,” and even less as a sickness, a sin, or a crime. Homosexuality has not been considered a psychiatric disorder for 37 years, and the United Nations (UN), through the World Health Organization (WHO), eliminated it as a mental disorder on 17 May 1990, judging that, based on scientific criteria, it did not correspond with a pathology. Rather, it is a part of human diversity.

Persons of the same sex can live homosexual relationships in a mature, free, and responsible way, with the same possibilities and limitations that heterosexuals also have. No one, least of all in the name of God, can maintain that there is only one correct, legitimate way to live sexuality and love. Nature, rich in variety, also teaches us not to undermine diversity, but to celebrate it. Citing “natural law” to oppose this legislation is only to take a fixed, harsh, stubborn position of a reality claiming to be “natural,” without understanding complex cultural processes.

In Conclusion

For all of these reasons, we understand that a legislator can profess profoundly his or her Christian faith, Catholic or Evangelical, and, at the same time, with total freedom of conscience, think, define, and act differently than what his or her church hierarchies propose.

In the Catholic Church—as well as, we understand, in the others—one can hold a “single thought.” There should be a special place for diversity and plurality. On the other hand, a legislator does not legislate for a religious community; he legislates for every citizen.

It should not offend or upset anyone. On the contrary, it should be a source of happiness that persons of the same sex, who have traditionally been objects of mockery, discrimination, condemnation, stigma, excommunication, prejudices, and the obligation to live in secrecy or to hide their deepest feelings, today can feel free and protected by a law of the Nation that grants them the right to love and to a family, not as a reluctant concession, but as an inalienable right.


Notes

[1] Rafael S. V. Rivera, Esq. in Filología Bíblica por la Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca “¿Que dice la Biblia sobre la homosexualidad?”

[2] “Jesus considered the sin of Sodom to be an attack against hospitality: this is demonstrated in the words of Jesus in Luke 10:8-12 or in Matthew 10:5-15.” Rivera Rafael, O.cit.

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