About those Gay Marriage Flow Charts…

A lot of people online are sharing flow charts that are supposed to show the ridiculousness of opposition to gay marriage. For example:

typical same-sex marriage flowchart

There are several variations of this theme, almost all of which say the same three things: (1) Leviticus forbids homosexuality, but it also bans a bunch of other stuff, and nobody [a.k.a., no Gentile] actually lives by all those rules; (2) Paul seems to forbid homosexuality, but actually means something like temple prostitution; and (3) Jesus doesn’t mention homosexuality. Let’s look at each in turn:

Leviticus

Like every other flowchart I’ve seen on this question, it conflates three things found in the Book of Leviticus: (1) expressions of the moral law (like the Ten Commandments, or the prohibition against homosexuality and other forms of sexual immorality); (2) temporal punishments; and (3) the so-called ceremonial law (like the laws on keeping kosher).

The moral law, as an expression of what is good and evil, is timeless. Good doesn’t suddenly become evil, or vice versa, because it’s Tuesday, instead of Monday, or because it’s 2015 A.D. and not 2015 B.C.

But the particular statutory punishments *weren’t* timeless: they were quite explicitly the law books of the nation of Israel. These laws can be illuminating, in that they show the severity of certain sins, but the Church never considered Israel’s statutory punishments to be binding on Christians. 
And the ceremonial laws were a way of setting apart the Jewish people to signal them as chosen and to prepare them for Christ.

Look, this is literally the first major dispute within the Church: the so-called Judaizers tried to enforce the ceremonial provisions of the Law on new converts, and the Church corrected them. Acts 10 is clear that the food laws aren’t still binding on Christians, and Acts 15 distinguishes between which of the Levitical precepts in ch. 17-18 are still binding on the Christians of the first century (and even these restrictions were later loosened).

So the early Christians clearly grasped that adultery was wrong but eating shellfish wasn’t. It’s remarkable that Christianity’s critics don’t realize this. I suspect that this is because the critics of traditional Christianity assume that we’re (a) all believers in sola Scriptura, and (b) stupid, so they seem to be genuinely ignorant that we might actually have an intelligent interpretive hermeneutic for knowing which parts of the Old Covenant are still applicable to the New Covenant.

St. Paul

The idea that Paul doesn’t really condemn homosexual behavior is based on a selective interpretative of two Greek words that he uses in 1 Corinthians 6:9: pornos (πόρνος) and malakos (μαλακός). Pornos means:

  1. a man who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire

  2. a male prostitute

  3. a man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator

And malakos:

  1. soft, soft to the touch

  2. metaph. in a bad sense
    1. effeminate

      1. of a catamite

      2. of a boy kept for homosexual relations with a man

      3. of a male who submits his body to unnatural lewdness

      4. of a male prostitute

So the Greek terms used in Paul’s day weren’t specific to only adult male-male sexual behavior (since a great deal of it was man-boy), but they certainly included those behaviors. But besides this, Paul and several other parts of the New (and Old) Testament condemn fornication. That’s broader still, but it shows that non-marital sex is sinful… regardless of who the parties are. (This raises the question: what sort of sexual unions are marriage-material? And we’ll get to that shortly).

Because he rejects homosexual sex, the chart up top angrily writes St. Paul off as a judgmental xenophobe and chauvinist. This is baseless name-calling. Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, and he brought people from all sorts of nationalities and religious backgrounds into the Church, and fought hard to prevent them from being discriminated against or treated as second-class Christians.  Xenophobe? This is the game who wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

But at least the chart is honest enough to admit that if you actually believe Leviticus and/or the writings of St. Paul, you’re not going to end up favoring same-sex marriage. So instead, they’re just going to mock faithful Jews and Christians as xenophobes and sexists… and then call us judgmental.

Jesus

There are two things to say here. First, trying to pit Jesus against the Bible is a losing game. Since the people who make this argument like flow charts, I’ll lead with one from Adam4d:

2015-04-10-said1

2015-04-10-said2

But there’s a second problem with this claim. It assumes that the Bible is essentially a rule book full of Thou Shalt Not’s. But it’s missing that both Jesus and St. Paul present a positive view of marriage. That is, Scripture shows us what marriage is, which is why we can also say what it isn’t.

This is important, because as we saw from the attempts to work around St. Paul’s prohibitions, the same-sex marriage side is essentially arguing: “but here’s an arrangement nobody had thought of back then!” With a positive view of what marriage is, we can easily establish whether some new sexual variation is compatible with marriage or not.

As part of a good Facebook thread on this topic, my friend Peter Ascik (a seminarian for the Diocese of Charlotte) explains:

Jesus does indeed comment directly on the nature of marriage in Matthew 19, and he reaffirms that marriage is founded on the sexual difference of man and woman (Matt 19:4-5), which is itself grounded in God’s creation of humanity in his image (Gen 1:27; Gen 2:24). St. Paul reaffirms the foundation of marriage in the doctrine of creation, again grounding it in the sexual difference of man and woman, (Ephesians 5:31-32), and teaches that it is a symbol of Christ’s union with the Church.

Jesus and St. Paul explicitly teach a doctrine of marriage that is incompatible with gay marriage. Even if Leviticus and Romans were silent on the subject of homosexual acts, the New Testament teaching that marriage is founded in the creation of male and female would be enough to reject same-sex marriage.

And Princeton’s Prof. Robert George chimed in to point out that this witness to marriage doesn’t start in the New Testament, and isn’t confined to Christianity:

The Biblical witness to marriage as a conjugal relationship first appears in Genesis 2. It is restated in various places, including in the teaching of Jesus. The same basic idea appears in the thought of Greek and Roman thinkers and even some teachers from the Eastern traditions. What, in fact, makes no sense is the idea of non-conjugal marriage–marriage as mere sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership. That explains why it has no patronage in the great faiths or traditions of philosophy.

George’s contribution is also important because it’s a reminder that even though you can’t be an orthodox Christian or Jew and accept gay marriage, you can reject gay marriage for entirely non-religious reasons. All you have to do is understand what marriage is, or understand that men and women are different, and that children deserve a mother and a father. Believing in Scripture will get you to that point, but you can get there apart from Scripture (or faith) as well.

So the gay marriage view that’s supposed to show that we’re a bunch of Biblical hypocrites more accurately shows that the best argument against Jews, Christians, and anyone holding to any of the great philosophical traditions, is just to shout us down and call us nasty names.

 

22 Comments

  1. Paul actually used three terms in 1 Cor. 6:9 that are relevant to the discussion. The third is especially interesting considering the claim that because there is no single word in the original Greek for “homosexual,” we cannot conclude anything about homosexuality from the New Testament (which was written in Greek). Besides being linguistically absurd (there is no single word in English that means “blue snow globe” either, but that does not mean we cannot talk about one), in 1 Corinthians 6:9 (and 1 Timothy 1:10) Paul seems to have coined a new term: arsenokoites. This term is a combinaiton of two Greek words (arsenos – “male,” and koiten – “sexual relations”) that, together, literally mean “sexual relations between men.” So even when there was not a single word in Greek equivalent to the modern English term “homosexual,” it seems that Paul invented one. (Interestingly, arsenokoites is made up of the words used in the Greek version of the Leviticus in the passages against homosexuality.)

    1. DB, since arsenokoites is used in the canons of the Church of both male on male and male on female intercourse, the term more likely refers to anal intercourse which is unnatural regardless of the particular sex of the participants.

  2. Don’t forget Matthew 19:12. Basically Jesus is saying that some people are born incapable of marriage, others are made incapable, and lastly some choose not to for the sake of the Kingdom. That to me is the most telling words of Jesus. You can argue that He knew some people would not fit the criteria especially when he has already spoken about one flesh and man/woman.

  3. Hi Joe — Awesome post, as usual! Just wanted to note, the Facebook link goes to a page for Edison, New Jersey…about 99% sure that’s not where you wanted it to go, so I wanted to give a heads up 🙂

  4. Joe, great post. Let me add to your Biblical case, where Jesus does implicitly condemn gay “marriage”.

    Christ also tells us the nature of marriage in Luke 20, where Christ says there will be no marriage in heaven. The Sadducees present a case where a woman marries a man, who gives her no children; then his six brothers marry her, according to Jewish law, to bring up descendants, but they fail, too. So whose wife will she be in heaven? The idea is that it is absurd to have multiple husbands, which simply shows one absurdity of claiming there is a resurrection.

    Christ’s answer is that there will be no marriage among those who rise from the dead, because they will be immortal, “Like the angels in heaven.” What is the connection between marriage and mortality, then, that makes marriage necessary on earth? It is because marriage is ordered to the continuation of the human race. We have children because we die, and we need to replenish the species. So if we are immortal in heaven, there will be no need for marriage.

    Thus, if we are not mortal, then we will have no need of begetting children. If we have no need for begetting children, then we will have no need of marriage. Taking the contrapositive, if there is marriage, then there is a need for begetting children. And if there is a need for begetting children, then we are mortal.

    Thus, Christ tells us that the begetting (and raising) of children is essential to marriage. All we need to do after this is to establish that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and then we have shown that gay “marriage” is impossible for a disciple of Christ.

    1. Please re-read your own last paragraph. According to your claims, any couple regardless of sexuality or gender (including straight people), who cannot have children or are infertile, are not disciples of Christ. I guess you should their “marriage” in quotation marks as well. Lol. Fun fact too, couples in lgbtq+ community CAN have children and/or raise adopted children. The New Testament is also misogynist in many aspects as women are only in the roles of mothers or symbols of fertility/modesty.

      1. Kelly says:
        July 3, 2015 at 7:46 am
        Please re-read your own last paragraph. According to your claims, any couple regardless of sexuality or gender (including straight people), who cannot have children or are infertile, are not disciples of Christ.

        No. That’s just you interpreting his words as a “straw man”. Everyone here knows that Fr.Paul is representing Catholic Teaching. And Catholic Teaching says that a couple must be “open to life”. That’s what Fr. Paul means when he says “Christ tells us that the begetting (and raising) of children is essential to marriage”.

        I guess you should their “marriage” in quotation marks as well. Lol. Fun fact too, couples in lgbtq+ community CAN have children and/or raise adopted children.

        That’s a twisted fact. Lgbtq’s can’t conceive children in their sexual relations. And the children that they adopt, they psychologically scar.

        The New Testament is also misogynist in many aspects as women are only in the roles of mothers or symbols of fertility/modesty.

        That is because you’ve bought into the “woman as man’s sexual plaything” culture. The Catholic Church puts women on a pedestal, giving them the honor they deserve for raising children as on to God.

        It is non-Christians who are misogynistic

      2. Dear lady, thanks for your effort, but you have come to a place where educated Catholics have a tendency to hang out and are trying to best us on our own territory. You have the disadvantage.

        Bearing in mind that it would be a very unusual woman who was naturally fertile all the time, persistent infertility in heterosexual couples is an “accident of nature,” if you will; it is not by design; it can sometimes be corrected medically, or by the intervention of God Himself. There are, in fact, examples in the Bible of women conceiving who were thought to be too old or infertile (Sarah, Elizabeth). Your instincts are partly right, though, because someone who is totally impotent — who cannot even complete the marital act that would theoretically lead to conception — cannot marry in the Catholic Church. It’s not about singling them out for misery. It’s that they just plain are unable to fulfill necessary conditions.

        I don’t think any of us are living under such a rock that we are not aware people can pay money to a lab and have some technician manufacture a human being to order, or rent a woman’s uterus for nine months (talk about misogyny!). It is one of the uglier facets of capitalism. Resorting to methods that — good intentions notwithstanding — treat children like a product we order from a catalog instead of a gift of God, separate the spouses and put a third interloper in an intimate aspect of their marriage (if married), and make mortal men incorrectly appear to be arbiters of life and death, these things are themselves immoral. This is true regardless of whether the child-seekers are homosexual or heterosexual. However, it should be a big clue if the only option available to a couple for conceiving at least part-biological children is an inherently immoral one.

        Finally, I suggest that if the New Testament really were misogynist you would find no women in it at all. There would be no need to account for anything they said or did…they certainly wouldn’t be the first people to receive news of the resurrection, or anything major like that.

        Good day!

  5. The one time Jesus addressed the issue of marriage He said: “And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE'” (Matt 19:4).

    Hence, the only evidence we have of Jesus’s view of marriage is that it is between one man and one woman. Of course, the pro-gay marriage types never read the Bible and piece together their view of Jesus from the back of cereal boxes and discovery channel documentaries. So, they are probably surprised to find out that Jesus specifically endorsed the traditional view of marriage.

  6. One could agree that Jesus does say marriage is between a man and a women, but that he is silent as to whether other arrangements can also be marriage. Does Jesus put a boundary on the definition or does he leave open other possibilities? It doesn’t make sense to expect Jesus to enumerate all possible arrangements and exclude or affirm them one by one, especially when that wasn’t directly related to the question under discussion, i.e. divorce. His follow-up equating divorce to adultery clearly indicates that his definition of marriage was setting a boundary.

    1. Really?

      Matthew 19:4-6New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

      4 He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 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’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

      That sounds pretty specific. Man and wife means man and woman. A man can’t be a wife.

      1. I couldn’t agree more. It’s a really twisted rationalization being sold, i.e. that a man can be mentally female and can be a wife?? My point was that Jesus was providing a tight and exclusive definition of marriage, not a broad and inclusive one.

  7. Great article. One criticism though.

    You have implicitly accepted and re-used the flow-chart promoter’s false claim that “homosexuality” equals “sodomy”. No Christian or Jew that I have ever met thinks that simply being a homosexual (i.e. being someone who is more or less regularly tempted to commit sexual activities with otehrs of his own sex) is sinful. The Old Testament, Jesus and St Paul condemn sodomy, not “homosexuality”.

    The pro-sodomy, anti-marriage forces are constantly trying to force onto everyone the false assumption that “homosexuality” equals sodomy (and that sodomy equals “love”) in order to sow confusion, which is the only way that they can make their obvious lies gain acceptance. Don’t fall for this old con trick.

    1. Ronk, I don’t think it’s wise for you to even accept the premise that there’s such a thing as “a” homosexual. Homosexual is an adjective that can be applied to behavior: Sodomy is homosexual behavior. It is a false premise advanced by the modernist political movement to claim that “homosexuality” is a race or class of humanity. Joe’s altered flowchart says that “homosexuality is sinful” because he understands the correct definition of that term (from CCCC 2357): Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.

      What you are talking about when you refer to “a” homosexual is same-sex attraction or SSA. A person with SSA isn’t “a” homosexual or “a” gay or “a” lesbian, but *a* human being. You are correct to point out that suffering from such a temptation is not itself a sin, but I’m sure Joe would agree with that. I think you’re making a mistake, though, to accept implicitly the premise that “homosexuals” are a race or class apart from the rest of us. All of the “gay agenda” follows logically from that premise.

  8. Nature abhors a vacuum.

    These silly flow charts are getting a lot of looks because the bishops don’t even try to explain the Church’s robust and authentic teaching on marriage in all its fullness.

  9. Apart from the obvious condemnation of any type of impurity in the bible, one can glean from nature the obvious fact that it is against natural law to soil a condom with another man’s fecal matter.

  10. I would like to ask a question… I am thinking about converting to Catholicism from Baptist. I was married and have two grown children from that marriage. The childrens’ father was emotionally abusive, etc. and we divorced. I had to have a hysterectomy for medical reasons and can no longer bear children. Am I to understand that if my Catholic boyfriend and I marry someday (when I convert) that it wouldn’t be a “real” marriage because it would be physically impossible for me to bear children, even though I would love to have more? That seems a little harsh. 🙁

    1. Hi Kat, I’m glad to offer a clarification, if it will help. The ability to consummate the marriage is what’s required for a valid – or “real” – marriage to take place, not necessarily the ability of one to bear children. This logic is the same for elderly folks who are clearly past childbearing years. So you’re definitely still able to have a valid marriage, should your relationship get to that point 🙂

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