Jun 24, 2011

Was Jesus Anti-Eunuch?

Circumcision, Marriage and a God-Ordered Universe: Why the Right Should Never, EVER, Align With the Left on Social Issues


What I'm about to express may seem like a theological argument. It is really the background for the political positions I hold, which I believe are well-aligned with the live-and-let-live conservatives and libertarians on the right, even though we may not share anything in common theologically. I'm going to give an orthodox religious view, in my case Roman Catholic, on the timely and controversial issues of circumcision, which the Left in San Francisco is working to prohibit, and marriage, which the Left nationally would like to redefine to include same-sex partners.

These issues are two of the battlefronts of the cultural war the Left is waging on the orthodox religious, with only the life issues drawing more blood – literally. I contend that in a highly advanced Western society based upon Judeo-Christian values and exceedingly tolerant of homosexuals, the attempts by the Left to order the universe according to its image of perfection is not about tolerance and social equity. It's about coercion and thought control, which are the hallmarks of the totalitarian temptation to which the Left routinely succumbs.

Before I give the orthodox explanations for the practices of circumcision and opposite-sex marriage, let me say I'm very understanding of people's view, on the left and the right, that these traditions are antiquated, if not barbaric, given I spent the first two-thirds of my adult life as an atheist liberal. I only ask that we remember the cultures which formed these ideas are the progenitors of the society in which we are very fortunate to live. And I ask, if we think of ourselves as being on the right, to please remember our commitment to defend the right of orthodox believers to hold these beliefs, whether we ourselves share them or not.

Orthodox Jews and Christians believe the Torah and the Bible, respectively, are the authoritative word of God. They believe God made a covenant, an unbreakable promise, with His people. The Abrahamic Covenant is in three parts: The Land Promise (Mosaic Covenant); the Kingdom Promise (Davidic Covenant); the Promise of a Worldwide Blessing (Christians believe this was fulfilled in Jesus Christ).

These covenants are manifested in multiple signs:
  • The Sabbath observance commanded to the first holy couple, Adam and Eve (Gen. 1-3);
  • The rainbow as a sign to the first holy family, Noah's, of God's promise not to flood the Earth again (Gen. 9);
  • Circumcision as a sign of God's covenant with Abraham at the establishment of the one holy tribe of Israel (Gen. 15, 17, 22);
  • The Ten Commandments given as The Law to Moses at the establishment of the one holy nation of Israel (Ex. 24, Deut. 29);
  • The Temple at the establishment of the one holy kingdom at the time of David (2 Sam. 7);
  • Finally, for Christians, the one holy catholic and apostolic church established by Jesus (Mk. 14).
Without putting you through a nine month Bible study, I hope it is apparent how essential, foundational really, are the signs of God's promises. Marriage is the first relationship established by God. Circumcision is the price of entrance into God's family. Orthodox religious believe God ordered the universe in this way for His purposes.

You may be wondering, why circumcision? It was the practice of the Hebrews at the time of Abraham to seal an important contract, a marriage covenant, for example, with a blood sacrifice. The families joining in the covenant would split sacrificial animals from nose to tail and lay the pieces on either side of a pathway, which was then traversed by the patriarchs of each family to signify the seriousness of the promise being made. If either party broke the covenant, it would be as the sacrificial animals – bloody and dead.

Circumcision is a splitting of the flesh. God made a three-part covenant with Abraham and commanded that the sign of that covenant be forever carried by the men of Israel. To not circumcise one's son would be to break the covenant with God, or to not have the child enter the holy contract at all. It's asking too much of an orthodox Jew to forgo the practice. Prohibiting circumcision is a direct assault on religious freedom.

On the other hand, same sex marriage is an indirect assault on religious freedom, but an assault nevertheless, because rather than a prohibition of religious practice, it is an attempt to co-opt an institution the orthodox religious view as instituted by God. For this argument, I refer you to Matthew Chapter 19, which is Jesus' teaching on marriage.

By this point in the narrative, the Pharisees want Jesus dead. They set a trap by asking him if a man may divorce his wife for any cause whatever. Jesus responds,
“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mt 19:4-6)
There are several layers of importance in these verses. First, Jesus is quoting from Genesis at the establishment of the institution of marriage by God. Second, he is referring to the natural order and procreative nature established by God. And third, he is affirming the covenant nature of marriage and how divorce was not part of God's original intent.

The Pharisees then ask why Moses gave a command allowing for divorce. Jesus refers again to God's intent at the original establishment of the institution of marriage, he explains that the Hebrews were excepted because of the hardness of their hearts, and he presses the point home by saying anyone who divorces and remarries is guilty of adultery, a violation of one of the Ten Commandments. At this point, his own disciples are concerned about the seriousness of the covenant and suggest it is better not to marry at all. And this is where Jesus' teaching gets really interesting for our purposes. He says,
“Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” (Mt 19:12)
The notes of my study-Bible say that Jesus is talking about eunuchs in this verse, but he was speaking before the idea that homosexuals might want to marry was even conceivable. His teaching could easily be universally applied to anyone who is incapable of entering a procreative sacramental marriage. But, what about infertile couples, you ask? I think intent counts in this case. Very few infertile couples enter marriage knowing they're infertile, and certainly none did during Jesus' time. The vast majority enter marriage having accepted “this word”.

Same-sex marriage is a social innovation promoted by the Left. This, alone, should make anyone on the right wary. In a Judeo-Christian society where homosexuals are not only not ostracized or abused, tortured and murdered like, say, in Arab Muslim societies, but are our neighbors, friends and family and have access to most of the same legal protections as heterosexuals, if pursued through powers of attorney and such, tolerance is not the issue. What gays want through same-sex marriage is approval. Tolerance is a behavior, but approval is a belief. Advocates of same-sex marriage don't want us to change our society's behavior toward gays. They want us to change our thinking. If you understand the orthodox explanations I gave above, you'll understand why orthodox religious people consider same-sex marriage coercive. Freedom of conscience is at stake.

I predict there will be dire consequences to tampering with the foundational cultural institutions of our society, even if these innovations “don't affect my marriage” – a specious and narcissistic argument, at best. Already Catholic adoption agencies are being driven out of business because they refuse to adopt to gay couples. Here's a question for the social equity crowd. If an adoption agency has two couples contending for the same child and, all else being equal, one couple is gay and the other is straight, should the agency be allowed to discriminate on the part of the mixed gender couple? Why or why not?

When same sex marriage is considered as equal in every way to male/female marriages, what happens in state-run education? Do the teachers read Johnny Has Two Daddies or One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads to the class as an exercise in “tolerance”? I'll take my children out of public school on that day, because this is a perversion of my religion. If, that is, the Left hasn't already outlawed home-schooling.

When same sex marriage is established on the well-intentioned vision of a universe ordered by man, will priests and ministers be free to teach from Matthew 19? Will they be allowed to teach a God-ordered universe? Don't scoff. Ministers in western European countries are facing prosecution for such things. Hate speech, as Mark Steyn well knows.

If conservatives agree that life is a series of trade-offs, what will we be trading for blowing apart the standards for marriage which Jesus taught? Do homosexual couples teach a standard to their children? Do they want their children to have heterosexual relationships or are all relationships equal? If even we on the right can't agree to fight to preserve the ideal of covenant marriage, I'm pretty sure we'll find out.

9 comments:

Mysterious Man from the shadows said...

I'm afraid I don't quite understand your argument that same-sex marriage inherently entails "approval" by the people. There are many heterosexuals who I personally do not think ought to be married, but nevertheless there is no legal grounds on which I can prevent it--and perhaps there shouldn't be, since my opinion may be irrational.

I bet you can think of a couple whom you think unfit for being married, due to character flaws or some such. But society is probably already demanding you "approve" of--that is, do not disallow--some of these marriages, and this is exactly the same extent it will ask you to approve of same-sex marriage.

Now, I don't deny for an instant that people on the "Left" behave idiotically with regard to propagandizing for this goal. But that doesn't mean the goal is wrong, necessarily.

Marriage used to be a much more serious matter, and there may even be some arguments for going back to stricter rules regulating it. ("Jane Eyre", anyone?) However, I don't see how, at present, gay marriage can be viewed differently than any other marriage of which one disapproves.

Finally, given what you have said in this post, I must ask: why is it that Conservatives seem to devote a great deal more energy to combating same-sex marriage than to arguing for tougher divorce laws?

The Western Chauvinist said...

Well, Hello Mysterious! Glad you're back. I'll take the last part of your comment first.

This post was inspired by a heated discussion at a conservative website between people on the right who disagree about same-sex marriage. Surprised?

Anyway - on that site I have argued for abolishing no-fault divorce in exchange for full "civil rights" (state recognition) of same-sex couples under civil unions.

I agree that you didn't understand my post. I was trying to explain what marriage *is*, as established by God, and as recognized in Judeo-Christian cultures for thousands of years. Actually, it has been a heterosexual institution in all cultures - only the numbers of people involved have varied.

I'm not saying gays are seeking approval of their individual relationships through same-sex marriage. The advocates of same-sex marriage are demanding the societal normalization of homosexuality. We're to believe that homosexual relationships are in every way equivalent to heterosexual ones, including marriage and child-rearing. Is that what you believe?

Finally, I'm just curious and I don't mean to be cute, but am I the only orthodox religious person you've met?

Mysterious Man from the shadows said...

Thank you for responding. Let me address your questions:

No, I'm not surprised at the disagreement on the Right; indeed, there is much more disagreement on the Right than there is on the Left on this issue--Libertarians favor same-sex marriage, and Social Conservatives oppose it.

Do I believe "homosexual relationships are in every way equivalent to heterosexual ones?" Well, no. That I am not prepared to believe. But nor are all heterosexual relationships equivalent to one another. The real question is "are homosexual relationships generally inferior to heterosexual ones?" And it has not been proven to me that they are.

As to your last question: No, you are not the only one I have met, but you are one of the best at debating and discussing the issues that I've encountered.

The Western Chauvinist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Western Chauvinist said...

My kingdom for an "comment edit" function!!

Thanks for the compliment, Mysterious. I was just curious as to whether you knew any of the theological ideas I presented and how exposed you are to others who might know them.

You said: 'The real question is "are homosexual relationships generally inferior to heterosexual ones?"'

Ahh - now, I think we'll find clarity, if not agreement.

In the context of Judeo-Christian marriage, if the couple is incapable of marriage because the participants were "born so" or were "made so by others" or have chosen to renounce it -- "it" being, definitionally, procreative sacramental marriage, that could be considered a type of inferiority (although I don't think that was Jesus' point). However, I'm not making a value judgment about the quality of either heterosexual or homosexual relationships. Marriage isn't so much about how much two people love one another. It's about being able meet the qualifications.

Interestingly, when viewed this way, gays have been marrying for as long as people have married. They've just always been limited to the opposite sex. I believe it is to society's benefit to maintain that standard, although I'm willing to mitigate against the unfairness of life by offering equal consideration to homosexual relationships under civil unions.

I really am just trying to hold onto the Judeo-Christian concept of "marriage." Is that so unreasonable?

Mysterious Man from the shadows said...

Unreasonable? Well, since it all seems to boil down to whether or not one believes in God--or at least that the Bible is the word of God--I suppose I have to say it's "beyond reason". It's ultimately a question of Faith, if I understand right. (And please correct me if I don't--as you guess, I'm quite unskilled in the realm of the theological.)

So, that clears pretty much everything up, except for this: is there a reason why an atheist should oppose same-sex marriage, or is one's position on the issue determined wholly by religious belief or lack thereof?

And thank you, by the way, for tolerating my quizzing and disagreeing.

The Western Chauvinist said...

You ask, "is there a reason why an atheist should oppose same-sex marriage?"

It depends.

If you're a libertarian atheist, you would argue the state has no business "sanctifying" relationships at all. All authority to define one's relationships comes from the individual.

If you're a leftist atheist, you would argue that the people should submit to whatever legitimizing authority the state decides (which, not coincidentally, happens to agree with leftists world-view at each moment). Therefore, it doesn't matter what most people believe. The moral authority resides with the state. This is why leftists are comfortable with a few judges or state legislators deciding the issue.

If you're a conservative atheist (a rare breed, but some in my family qualify), you would argue that the people (you know, government of, for and by "the people"), society, should decide what the definition of marriage is, and have decided over many millennia that marriage is male/female. The state has no authority to innovate on such matters.

Your statement about my offer of civil unions as a compromise as "beyond reason" is a leftist conceit. And further proof that same-sex marriage is not about social equity, but rather about state enforcement of proper (leftist) thinking about homosexuality.

There are aspects of my faith which are "beyond reason", but the fact of my faith does not, ipso facto, make all of my arguments unreasonable. ;-)

Mysterious Man from the shadows said...

My apologies. When I said "beyond reason", I was referring specifically to your "trying to hold onto the Judeo-Christian concept of 'marriage.'" I hold that that goal is not a matter of pure reason, but also necessarily involves a spiritual element which is hard to quantify or understand...for some, anyway.

Your proposed compromise to work towards that goal, on the other hand, IS reasonable in my opinion, although I assume a gay Christian would object strongly to it. But it as satisfactory as any compromise can be, I think. (Which is to say, not very, but that's politics for you.)

And thank you for answering my question.

The Western Chauvinist said...

"I assume a gay Christian would object strongly to it."

You're wrong about that. I'll answer the question posed by the title of my post now. Jesus was NOT anti-eunuch, nor is he anti-gay. He gives the Judeo-Christian definition of marriage as being a covenant (unbreakable promise) between a man and a woman who are likely to produce children. That's it. He doesn't even say they have to love each other. It is no dark mark against the eunuch (or the gay) that he is incapable of meeting the requirements for marriage. Jesus's only judgment is against those who divorce and remarry, because they have committed adultery.

I hope that helps enrich your theological understanding a little. Thanks for the civil exchange.