What would Jesus do on same-sex marriage?

Baffled by harsh Christian opposition to ballot's Question 6

Nearly 40 minutes into a panel discussion about Question 6, the Maryland referendum on same-sex marriage, the Rev. Robert Anderson of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown is about to wrap up his contribution to our understanding of what the Bible says about homosexuality. Of course, he reaches for Leviticus, 18:22.

"You know what that says," Anderson tells the audience at Manna Bible Baptist Church in northwest Baltimore. "That a man is not to lay down with another man. If they do that, it's an abomination."

"Yes, sir," someone in the audience answers.

Then Anderson moves on to Romans, Chapter 1 because "there's one verse that I really want to drive home."

"And it's the very last verse," Anderson says, picking up his Bible. "As you know, Paul addresses this. Listen to the last verse. 'Knowing the righteous judgement of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death. . . .' But watch this: 'For those who also approve of those who practice these things. . . .'"

Anderson raises his voice now. "If we don't vote against it," he says, referring to Question 6, "then we are approving these things which are worthy of death."

The audience applauds. Another man on the panel says, "Preach." The moderator, the Rev. David E. Gaines of Manna Bible, says, "Wow, wow, awesome. Amen. Awesome, awesome. Excellent."

Excellent?

Homosexuality is "deserving of death"? If you vote for Question 6, you are somehow condoning an offense "worthy of death"? This is "awesome"?

This is Christian teaching?

Someone posted a video of this "town hall" at Manna Baptist on the church's Facebook page on Sunday. By Tuesday, supporters of Question 6 were holding up Anderson's "worthy of death" line as evidence of the bigotry behind the faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage.

Derek McCoy, a Baptist preacher from Prince George's County and leader of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, was seated next to Anderson when he made the remark Friday night.

On Tuesday, I moderated a radio debate on the merits of Question 6 between McCoy and Baltimore Del. Maggie McIntosh, who is gay and one of the legislative champions of same-sex marriage.

When McIntosh mentioned Anderson's "worthy of death" remark, McCoy claimed it had been "taken out of context." Wednesday, in a prepared statement, he said, "Any attempt to imply that Dr. Anderson's reading of scripture was a call to harm gays and lesbians is false and serves as a distraction from the real issues of this campaign {against Question 6]."

But any reasonable person who reviews the video will see and hear a Christian minister affirming — unchallenged by colleagues seated nearby — that homosexuality is a detestable offense deserving the most severe punishment.

It's scary-sad.

Even before this video popped up, I had been thinking about the arguments against Question 6 and the idea that Christians would line up against it.

By Christian, of course, I mean people whose religious beliefs are rooted in the teachings of the prophet Jesus of Nazareth and the New Testament, including the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Being Catholic, I was deprived of full schooling in the Old Testament — Leviticus, et al — but I never felt a need to reach much beyond the teachings of Christ to have a foundation in Christianity.

And as much as I enjoy readings from the Gospel, I'm no scholar of the New Testament nor, with so much great literature still to read, do I intend to spend a lot of time with Paul's epistles to the Romans. Frankly, I don't need to.

I know in my bones what Jesus was about.

I think most Christians can tell you that it's a pretty simple philosophy formed somewhere between the Golden Rule — "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" — and the Sermon on the Mount, with all its hopeful and humane teachings about the poor, the hungry, the meek, the merciful, the persecuted, and the peacemakers. Jesus was about loving thy neighbor, and no Christian should ever need much more than that.

I beg the pardon of anyone who has a more elaborate understanding of Jesus, the young Jewish progressive who was baptized and later crucified, leaving behind a legacy of spiritual lessons for mankind.

How a simple philosophy grew into such extravagant manifestations — a whole religious-industrial complex wrapped in regal vestments and tailored suits, dogma and doctrine, patriarchal edicts against all sorts of human behavior, bishops sipping wine from golden chalices and ministers driving Bentleys — baffles me endlessly.

And yet, I'm able to separate all the trappings of organized religion from what Jesus preached, in its simplest form.

In his brief time on Earth, Jesus reached out to the marginalized of society, those who were treated as second-class citizens. He told his students to "judge not, that ye be not judged." He preached unconditional love. He said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

So that's why I can't imagine Jesus condemning gays or lesbians, or anyone who believes that loving adults, homosexual or heterosexual, should be able to marry under the law.

drodricks@baltsun.com

 
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