President Obama said Wednesday that he now “personally supports” same-sex marriage after years of “evolution” on the issue. In an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, the president painted his endorsement of same-sex marriage as an outgrowth of his Christian beliefs. Read more here.
Here are responses from members of the Faith in Memphis panel:
Chris Altrock/Highland Church of Christ
Many discussions about same-sex marriage in the United States are driven by issues of pleasure or profit; status or stability.
Some conversations state that gays should be permitted to marry so they may enjoy the pleasure of having the same status as heterosexual couples in our culture. They should be allowed to experience the joy of credibility and respectability in the community.
Other discussions stipulate that gays should be permitted to marry so they may be granted the legal profits afforded heterosexual couples. The federal government provides about 1,000 legal benefits and privileges to married couples. Gays should be allowed to have the same stability which comes with these privileges.
This, however, misses the Christian point of marriage. In the Christian faith, marriage is not primarily about pleasure or profit; status or stability. Marriage functions primarily as a powerful visual proclamation of the Gospel. For example, Paul urges the Ephesian husbands and wives to work sacrificially at their marriages because through such costly love the world sees a glimpse of the costly and sacrificial love demonstrated by Jesus for his bride the church. The steadfast and self-surrendering love between a husband and a wife becomes a mini-production of the original story of love between Jesus and his bride.
If we want to have a civil discussion about the status of homosexuals in our culture or about the legal privileges afforded to homosexuals, let’s do so by all means. Jesus would urge us to love our neighbor, heterosexual or homosexual, and to create a cultural climate in which all neighbors are treated with justice and mercy. But let’s leave marriage out of this discussion. From a Christian perspective, marriage has nothing to do status or stability. Marriage between a man and a woman exists to reflect the world-changing love between Jesus and his bride.
Burton Carley/First Unitarian Church of the River
I applaud President Obama for the evolution of his spirit concerning same-sex marriage. It is in the interest of society to support monogamous committed marriage and to recognize the diverse ways families are actually formed. God stands on the side of love and so should our city, state and nation.
Earle J. Fisher/Abyssinian Baptist Church
The news surrounding our Presidents “endorsement” of same-sex marriage has, in a matter of minutes, gone viral. Twitter feeds, Facebook posts and numerous newspaper and magazine articles are already seizing the moment attempting to express views of support and backlash on behalf of countless communities all around the country. I’ve already read and seen responses that range from people being totally elated, to Meghan McCain’s tweet “…Even though he did it a little late under political pressure – very happy to hear the President come out in support of gay marriage…” to one of my colleagues Facebook status reflecting someone from his timeline who wrote, “…Obama is my dude, but I can’t support him on this…”
For the most part, I consider the dialogue a good thing. Yet, I know that many of the commentators will have their commentary centered in fear, hate, exclusion and blind privilege. And yet, of all of the commentary that will be provided (and I’m sure the amount will be incalculable) what I am most concerned with is what will most likely come from the black (read African-American) religious-right. One would think that the Black Church’s stance for equality would be unequivocal. Sadly, this has not been the case historically. Precedent suggests that some preachers, politicians, pundits and media manipulators have often subverted the prophetic voice of the Church. These personalities use “such a time as this” as a means to reinforce oppressive ideals. All this seems to be antithetical to a liberating gospel of spiritual message of hope. When this is blind sheepism and insensitive inspirational leadership is supported by policy and legislation it is thereby impossible for our country to be a place of “liberty and justice for ALL.”
In this pretentious political climate every issue becomes politicized. When people see the opportunity to “prey” on a particular public figure, like the POTUS (President of the United States) people will forfeit the moral and ethical elements of our religious and spiritual associations for the sake of political points.
The fundamental irony for me here is that the religious and spiritual institutions all self-proclaim to be entities that endorse and promote liberation of the oppressed. How then can the Presidents endorsement of a group that has been publically and consistently discriminated against be a bad thing? Possibly because it doesn’t fit the prescribed theological agenda of those who are too out of touch with human suffering to properly proclaim a relevant religion or substantive spirituality. What we too often are prescribed in today’s culture and climate is an emerging Darwinism veiled in the mask of righteousness and piety.
I applaud the President for effectively articulating his own “evolution.” I encourage my brothers and sisters in the faith that are going to look to this progressive moment in our history as a time to “play political football” and attempt to score points at the behest of other people’s humanity to seek revelation regarding the necessity of their own theological evolution. This petition is especially directed towards those people of faith that are also people of color who stand in a legacy and tradition of people who have been treated as “other”. Clearly some people have a god that is a little too exclusive, insensitive, bigoted and opportunistic for Jesus’ taste buds.
Rich Floyd/Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, North Stake
I believe that all people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . . Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I support “The Family , A Proclamation to the World,” which in part states: The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”
Bob McBride/Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Memphis
Regardless of political opinion, it is vitally important to understand that the Family is constantly under attack and will continue to be for years to come, President Obama’s support of gay marriage is just one more example of this. The Bible teaches that even before Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden that they were united as one in marriage and commanded to multiply and replenish the earth; neither of these commandments have been revoked by our Creator, nor can two individuals of the same sex fulfill the Second Commandment. The family unit, with a mother and father, is the best place for children to grow and learn and to develop faith and love for God and our fellowman. Marriage between a man and woman, is ordained of God and the family unit must be strengthen and protected.
Cole Huffman/First Evangelical Church
Gay marriage is not a rose by another name but a pseudonym for another thorn in the nation’s ring finger already infected by easy divorce and the aversion of marriage via cohabitation. Some things, like marriage, come from above us—above presidents and courts—and are not ours to see or do with as we wish.
Steve Montgomery/Idlewild Presbyterian Church
Marriage is a means of grace. I do not see how my 35 year marriage, which is built upon a covenantal commitment, nor my faith, which is built upon a scriptural foundation, is threatened by a same-sex couple I know that has been together for nearly 50 years. Christians have always had to re-think the Gospel and its implications, and I have on this. It is always a good thing to change your mind if it is guided by the love of Christ and enlarges your heart.
Maxie Dunnam/Christ United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church just finished its General Conference, the only body that can speak for the church. The issue of the practice of homosexuality was prominent in matters under discussion. The Conference reaffirmed the position of the church which is we affirm that all people are of sacred worth, and that the church is to be in ministry with all people. We believe that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, thus our church does not ordain self-avowed practicing homosexual persons nor do we support same-sex marriage. I believe, with our church and the vast majority of Christians around the world that our position is in keeping with Christian teaching and with the teaching of the church for 2000 years.
Dave Phillips/Germantown Church of Christ
The President’s revelation to promote same-sex marriage is deeply troubling to followers of the Bible. Compassion for others notwithstanding, his view is contrary to the teachings of Christ, morally reckless and biblically indefensible. I continue to pray for our nation to honor God and his will.
Richard Rieves/Downtown Presbyterian Church
As an evangelical minister I can officiate the wedding of two Christians, or two non-Christians, but I cannot officiate the wedding of a Christian and a non-Christian. Some might disagree and say that I shouldn’t officiate the wedding of two non-Christians, only two Christians. Whichever side one would stand, we both would be seeking to interpret and submit to the teaching of the bible which we both hold as infallible and inherent. We would both agree that marriage is ordained by God, and, as such, worthy of our submission.
We should also submit to the bible’s teaching on the separation between God’s church and government. Whereas the church has spiritual authority over her members, the government has authority to enforce and uphold our local and national laws. The two are separate in power, and thus should not over step their authority in either direction. For instance, the government should not mandate that I officiate the wedding of a person professing to be Christian to a person professing to be non-Christian. However, the church should not seek to mandate that the government not provide health care to mixed faith couples.
God has authority over marriage in the church, but the government has authority over legislating who should and should not be married legal.
Charles Fowler/Germantown Baptist Church
A biblical response to President Obama’s heartbreaking decision to endorse same-sex marriage is to pray. Those who follow Christ cannot force moral choices on others. We can, however, pray that God would us as loving instruments of His grace to live and share the Gospel that hearts might change.
When hearts change – priorities change. I Corinthians 2:5 reads, “My faith rests not on the wisdom of man but the power of God.” Therein lies our hope!
Val Handwerker/Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
Five years ago I received a call to visit someone gravely ill in the hospital, someone whom I know well. She was a member of another parish, but her priest was out of town. I got to the hospital about 9:45 p.m. I went to her ICU room and, when I arrived, could see into her room through the glass doors. There, she was lying in bed in a coma. Sitting next to her bed was her same-sex partner of 25 years, holding her hand and keeping vigil into the night. It touched me deeply, and the experience has prompted me to think further of what makes a marriage. I am well aware of the reasons why the Catholic Church opposes gay marriage. These times, many people of faith are having experiences like I did that evening at the hospital, and they are thinking anew of what makes a marriage.
Elaine Sanford/Her Faith Ministries
Unfortunately, President O’bama has had to make a very difficult political decision based on what he perceives to be the majority will of the people. The fact that he has wrestled with this decision implies that he has struggled with his own personal faith juxtaposed against the prevailing sentiment of the people. Before we begin to pass judgment on the President’s decision, we should first consider the role that he plays and the promise that he made to represent “all” of the people. His oath was never to uphold the will of God or the Church though we might hope that he could do both. As Christians, our duty is to pray that our President will continue to make honest and fair decisions whether or not we agree with him.
Warner Davis/Collierville Presbyterian Church
It’s what President Obama says is at the root of his endorsement of same-sex marriage that I call into question. It’s his invoking the Golden Rule. For important a value as treating others the way you would want to be treated is, it’s not really at the root of a scriptural perspective on marriage. What’s at the root is:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” … So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Gen.2:18, 21-24)
Aaron Rubinstein/Beth Sholom Synagogue
I believe our president spoke from his heart in a way that embraced so many people in our society who have tasted the lash and have been marginalized for so long. I feel joy for friends and neighbors who have awaited justice. There journey ahead is long. Our president took a long-awaited important step in helping us mend our brokenness.
LaSimba Gray/New Sardis Missionary Baptist Church
I wrote the President and I expressed my utter disgust with three words: Shame, shame,shame. Marriage is a divinely ordained institution between a woman and a man and marriage is not to be civilly tampered with, SHAME, SHAME, SHAME.
I further said to our President that this decision may well cost you re-election.
David Mason/Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, North Stake
I voted against Tennessee’s “Marriage Protection Amendment” in 2006. I’m glad to see President Obama say something in support of same-sex marriage. But while the first news stories reporting Obama’s newly-voiced public position characterize the President’s move as “definitive” and “momentous”, you’d never know that his move was definitive or momentous from what he said. I shouldn’t complain. I’m glad to see the President turn this direction. But a definitive, momentous event is not made up of “ABC News, for me personally it’s important to affirm that I think…” Here’s what would be definitive and momentous: “My Fellow Americans, same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
Alex Wellford/Third Church of Christ, Scientist
Our church has no doctrine or official stance on same-sex marriage. There is a helpful chapter on “Marriage” in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by church founder, Mary Baker Eddy. She remarks about the obligations of matrimony, “There should be the most tender solicitude for each other’s happiness, and mutual attention and approbation should wait on all the years of married life.”