"A Web of Relationship"
- At the Desert Retreat House -
After yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling made same-sex marriage the law of the land, many conservative religious people condemned the new legislation as being anti-biblical, contrary to the biblical teaching that marriage is solely reserved for one man and one woman in a committed, life-long relationship.
As I see it, there is very little in the Bible that says much at all about marriage as it is understood today, and as for yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, it is a stunningly clear example of a law of this land that is solidly based upon core biblical principles.
While many religious pundits like to spout off about what the Bible says about marriage, the fact is that back in biblical times marriage was viewed very differently than it is today. For one thing, many of the key biblical figures had more than one wife- some had many. In fact, right up until the middle ages, “marriage” was more of a property and inheritance transaction than a commitment of lasting love between two people. In a highly patriarchal society, wives were often seen as property to be owned - sometimes just above the status of slaves.
On the other hand, the Bible (especially the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels) has a great deal to say about love, relationships and human dignity; and when I read yesterday’s eloquently-crafted opinion regarding the petition for the recognition of same sex marriage (written by Justice Kennedy) it looked to me like it could have been spoken by Jesus himself:
In forming a marital union,
two people become something greater than they once were….
marriage embodies a love that may endure after death.
It would misunderstand these men and these women (the petitioners)
to say they disrespect the idea of marriage.
Their plea is that they do respect it,
respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment in themselves.
Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness.
They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.
Jesus came as a champion for human dignity. He came among us to free people from the “condemnation of loneliness.”
Jesus talked about dying to the ego, breaking out of the walls that keep us isolated from others, walls that condemn us to live in loneliness. Jesus pronounced that human beings are most fully and most abundantly alive when they are in deep and committed relationships with others. In lasting, loving, committed relationships we become more than we once were-we become fully human.
Jesus’ whole life was devoted to tearing down the barriers that kept people apart.
This is, of course, not only the teaching of Jesus – it is also the core wisdom of the Buddha who taught that it is a delusion to think we are isolated from others, everyone and everything “is” a web of dynamic relationship, and so when we are isolated, we experience our deepest suffering. The Buddha also devoted himself to free people from the condemnation of loneliness.
So yes, I do indeed believe that what happened in the Supreme Court yesterday was biblically-based, firmly grounded in core biblical teaching. In fact it was consistent with the essential wisdom teaching of many, if not most major religious traditions.
While marriage isn’t the only way to enter into those kinds of relationships that make us fully human, it is certainly one of the ways that people in this culture have established as a way to be freed from the “condemnation of loneliness,” and as of yesterday everyone in this country now has access to it.
Today these United States are a “Land of the Free” more than ever before.
Yesterday was a holy day!