Adam and Steve
I hate that “joke” that goes something like, “if God had wanted gay marriage, he would have made Adam and Steve instead of Adam and Eve.” There are, of course, more nuanced approaches to saying what it is getting at: God’s design is for heterosexual marriage. Even one of my favourite scholars, N.T. Wright, would support something like this. I used to think that this was an absolutely terrible argument, even when I did think that homosexual activity was outside the bounds of ethical living for a Christian, probably mainly because of the bad joke that oversimplified it. I find it slightly, but not much, more reasonable now since I’ve looked at more nuanced arguing for it. There’s two lines of argumentation I want to visit here in looking at how reasonable that conclusion is from what we see in the creation story’s text.
Not Ideal but Allowed?
I first want to entertain an idea many may not consider: even if I did accept that it isn’t the ideal, there is a big difference between that and what is allowed post-Fall. I personally don’t take this approach, but I think it is an important question.
For example, we also see in the Garden (Gen 1:29-31) – and up to Noah actually – that people were not to eat meat. Occasionally we hear Christians choose to become vegetarians out of a personal sense of calling to live out that ideal, largely encouraged by the poor animal treatment of factory farming. Sometimes we even hear Christians trying to encourage other Christians to do the same, although that is very rare and I’ve never encountered it being a rule for belonging within a fellowship. But it is definitely not just assumed by anybody I know that being a Christian means abstaining from meat in the same way that many assume that being a Christian means abstaining from gay sex.
Or how about another example I’ll probably be looking at more soon in this series: nudity. Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed, all the time. So why don’t Christians cite Adam and Eve to insist on nudity the way we do to insist that there is something wrong with same sex relationships? Probably mainly because we (straight Christians) usually don’t want to walk around naked but also don’t want take part in a same sex relationship. That lets us be selective about which parts of the Genesis story to see as prescriptive and which to see as descriptive.
Prescriptive or Descriptive?
So that gets us to the real question in my mind: why do we assume that the genders of the first couple were meant to be prescriptive of all couples for all times? As with last week’s gender discussion, there is no indication that the genders of these first two people were relevant within the point it was trying to make. We see that it is not good to be alone. We see that we are equals, mutually building each other up. Those seem to be clear in the text. But by assuming that since Adam and Eve were male/female means that all romantic involvement must be male/female just seems to me to be adding something that isn’t there. We don’t assume that we need to be naked or have a vegetarian diet. On perhaps taking it to the more ridiculous level of this logic, we don’t assume we need to move to a garden in the Middle East and name animals.
Similarly, some would cite Matthew 19 as evidence that Jesus also upheld only heterosexual marriage. As above, I think it is a stretch and putting something in the text that just isn’t there. The context is divorce and the gender inequality present in their current laws which allowed a man to divorce a woman on a whim. It is that whimsical approach to marriage that Jesus is critiquing. Nobody was asking anything about same-sex relationships. If anything, in our context same-sex marriages tend to last longer – less divorce, therefore less likely to exhibit the problem Jesus is criticizing – because they still realize what a gift it is while we take it for granted. If anybody is destroying the sanctity of marriage, according to what I think are the more fair readings of these texts, it is heterosexuals who are leading the charge. Before you worry too much about the supposed speck in your brother’s eye, try dislodging the plank from your own, especially when you’re reading your prejudices into a text that does not say that on its own.