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Who is on God's side of the marriage debate?
March 25th, 2013
11:00 PM ET

Who is on God's side of the marriage debate?

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – As the Supreme Court considers two major same-sex marriage cases that could change marriage in the United States, religious leaders on both sides of the debate believe they are on God's side of the contentious issue.

In the months leading up to this week's Supreme Court hearings, religious leaders from across the country have held prayer vigils and rallies for their respective causes.

At each event, even those with diametrically opposed views, leaders cite biblical principles as the foundation for their beliefs.

"I believe I am on God's side," Dr. Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and and opponent of same-sex marriage, told CNN. "I have no question in what God says marriage is."

"I do think we are on God's side because my idea of God is someone that is loving," said the Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Washington National Cathedral and a proponent of same-sex marriage. "My understanding is that kind of God that loves everyone and wants everyone to live a joyful life."

This week, the Supreme Court will hear two cases. One will examine the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a law that prohibited same-sex marriage in California, and the other will test the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 legislation that forbids the recognition of same-sex marriages nationwide and bars married gay and lesbian couples from receiving federal benefits.

Marriage and the Supreme Court: Five things to watch

Land and Hall each have actively worked on his side of this debate.

Hall, after taking the reins at the National Cathedral in 2012, decided to marry same-sex couples in the historic church. Land, who has counseled Republican presidents and members of Congress, has written and spoken at length about why same-sex marriage goes against biblical principles.

And although they both believe in the Bible, their opinions on how the text views same-sex marriage are shaped by their views on how literally to read the holy book.

"I come from a tradition that looks at the big story," said Hall, an Episcopalian. "The image of Jesus in the Bible is of someone who really makes everyone welcome, and it is from that perspective that I operate."

Hall acknowledges, however, that the Bible isn't the only guide for this belief.

"Our argument is not entirely scriptural-based," Hall said, after acknowledging passages of the holy book that define marriage as being between a man and a woman. "There is no place in the Bible that I can point to that says Jesus performed a same-sex marriage or anything like that."

In addition to scripture, Hall said, "tradition and reason" anchor his belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to wed. There are about 2 million Episcopalians in the United States.

CNN Belief: My Take: Will gay rights infringe on religious liberty?

Land, on the other hand, cites the chapters and verses that guide his views on same-sex marriage.

"The people who take a more conservative view of the Bible and believe that they are under the authority of scripture almost universally oppose same-sex marriage," Land said about people who agree with him.

For Land, this view is not only consistent but  also roots his belief in "traditional values" and his disgust with "moral relativism."

Land, a Southern Baptist, continued: "The people who are religious and support same-sex marriage tend to take a Dalmatian view of scripture. They believe the Bible is divine in spots, and they think they can spot the spots."

If the Supreme Court decides in favor of same-sex marriage, Land said, the decision would be on par with the court's 1973 decision on Roe v. Wade, which affirmed a woman's right to an abortion.

"I think it will evoke a similar reaction," Land said.

Southern Baptists count 16 million members in the United States.

CNN Poll: 'Rob Portman effect' fuels support for same-sex marriage

This split over the biblical reasoning behind each side of the marriage debate extends beyond just Land and Hall, however. Churches around the country have been divided on the issue, with some choosing to allow same-sex marriage and others to forbid it.

The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, the senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York who has worked with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation on same-sex marriage, comes down in favor of same-sex marriage.

She uses the Bible - and civil rights - in her reasoning.

"I don't think that people who are supporting gay marriage need to distance themselves from the Bible in needing to find support," Lewis said. When asked about how the Bible anchors her beliefs, she cited Mark 12:31: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

On the other side of the argument is Robert Gagnon, a biblical scholar at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary who has worked with the Family Research Council on the issue.

"Only a woman is a true sexual compliment to a man and vice versa," said Gagnon, citing Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24, along with the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, as the reasoning behind his view on same-sex marriage.

"That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh," reads Genesis 2:24.

As for how he feels about people such as Hall who use the Bible to defend their position in support of same-sex marriage: "You are rejecting Jesus himself. ... Just go ahead and make up your own religion."

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Gay marriage • Politics

soundoff (2,640 Responses)
  1. mklsgl

    This is one of the most absurd articles ever published.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  2. KCArrowhead

    Here is one of the problems in this debate. Pro gay rights advocates always try to frame it as a love vs hate issue. They say if you believe that homôsèxuality is a sin (as defined in Christianity) then you must hate gay people. This is fallacious. If homôsèxual behavior is a sin, and repudiating the sin equals hate, then Christians by definition must hate everyone. The Bible does state "all have sinned." Yet Christians do not hate everyone (although extremists try to paint that picture.)

    March 26, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Saraswati

      No, the point is that there are many things disapproved of in the bible (such as divorce) that people don't get so up in arms about or try to ban. Trying to ban gay marriage while ignoring divorce means something else is going on. When you study people's emotional reactions you find it's generally hate and bigotry.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • KCArrowhead

      I think you have it backwards. Gay marriage is not some long-standing "right" that someone is suddenly trying to take away. Gay marriage is something new that is being foisted upon us. Show me the history of gay marriage. You can't. I does not exist historically.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Paul

      I'm with Saraswati, when Christians try to outlaw everything the bible says is a sin I will at least be able to take them seriously. As it stands now it just seems like they have a problem with gay people.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • KCArrowhead

      I am not trying to outlaw anything. Our society is not a theocracy (thank God.) I am not opposed to gay marriage per se, although I would prefer them to be called civil unions – my own personal bias.

      However, this is an article in the BELIEF blog. I have posted what I belive should be taught and upheld in-the-church. That is a totally different thing entirely.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  3. Ann

    By the way, if the bible were the ultimate rulebook on marriage, we'd all be polygamists and have concubines on the side (the guys, anyway).

    March 26, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • The Non Believer

      Don't forget incest!

      March 26, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • KCArrowhead

      By the way, if you understood anything about Christianity, you would know we are bound to the New Testament, not the old. There is nothing in the New Testament which endorses polygamy.

      March 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  4. Big Man

    God's side of the debate?
    Such a silly question. Surely there is deeper thinking than this.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • blaqb0x

      Deep Thinking? During a religious debate? LOL.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • The Non Believer

      42

      March 26, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  5. Ann

    Marriage has nothing to do with religion, so any supposed preference of some god is irrelevant.

    What do I mean? Well, If you want to get married, just go to your house of worship and have the clergyman/woman marry you. Do the whole religious ceremony. Guess what? You're NOT MARRIED.

    Or, do what I did. No clergy involved, but we got a marriage license and were married by a justice of the peace. That's a legally binding marriage.

    Your religious group can set its own rules for who will be allowed to be married, and the ceremony involved, but unless you get that marriage license, they can't say the all-important line at the end: "by the power vested in me by the state of ..."

    Similarly, try getting a divorce just by going to your house of worship. NOT. It's a legal contract.

    So, for all of you who want to include the cultural aspect of your religion into your wedding ceremony, congratulations, mazel tov and best wishes – but don't try to use it to influence the law.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Divdar

      If the government dissolved today, I'd still be married. I don't need the state for recognition for marriage, just for whatever benefits.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Chris

      That is very plainly said Ann. It is not difficult to figure out. What I do not understand is the need to oppress or impose ones religous believe on others.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Ann

      Thanks, Chris. By the way, we were also too old to have children when we got married. If anyone – ANYONE – had tried to deny us our marriage based on the fact that we couldn't naturally produce children - we would have fought tooth and nail for our rights. So let's leave out any ridiculousness about marriage being only about procreation, too.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Ann, Live4Him would do so based on the logic presented on page two of this story.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  6. benji

    He who is without sin, cast the first stone.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Since sin is a slight against gods laws, and god and sin were created by men, and god does not as far as anyone can show exist, I am without sin.
      But I'm also a pacifist so I won't be throwing stones at anyone.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  7. 431 Ministers Proclamation

    As Christian clergy we proclaim: the Good News concerning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons and publicly apologize where we have been silent. As disciples of Jesus, who assures us that the truth sets us free, we recognize that the debate is over. The verdict is in. Homosexuality is not a sickness, not a choice, and not a sin. We find no rational biblical or theological basis to condemn or deny the rights of any person based on sexual orientation. Silence by many has allowed political and religious rhetoric to monopolize public perception, creating the impression that there is only one Christian perspective on this issue. Yet we recognize and celebrate that we are far from alone, as Christians, in affirming that LGBT persons are distinctive, holy, and precious gifts to all who struggle to become the family of God.

    In repentance and obedience to the Holy Spirit, we stand in solidarity as those who are committed to work and pray for full acceptance and inclusion of LGBT persons in our churches and in our world. We lament that LGBT persons are condemned and excluded by individuals and institutions, political and religious, who claim to be speaking the truth of Christian teaching. This leads directly and indirectly to intolerance, discrimination, suffering, and even death. The Holy Spirit compels us:

    -to affirm that the essence of Christian life is not focused on sexual orientation, but how one lives by grace in relationship with God, with compassion toward humanity;

    –to embrace the full inclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters in all areas of church life, including leadership;

    –to declare that the violence must stop. Christ’s love moves us to work for the healing of wounded souls who are victims of abuse often propagated in the name of Christ;

    –to celebrate the prophetic witness of all people who have refused to let the voice of intolerance and violence speak for Christianity, especially LGBT persons, who have met hatred with love;

    Therefore we call for an end to all religious and civil discrimination against any person based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. All laws must include and protect the freedoms, rights, and equal legal standing of all persons, in and outside the church.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • GEM

      You can have 1 billion ministers proclaiming it's OK and it's still not. Why? Because GOD says it's not OK. This is when Christians have to be very careful about being lead astray by Satan, and so many have already chosen that path. It's not OK.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • clarity

      "Because GOD says it's not OK"

      You know the thoughts of your GOD?

      Based on the conflicted nature of the Abrahamic religions – you don't know the first thing about any such GOD, nor can you prove it.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Saraswati

      You can have 1 billion ministers proclaiming it's OK and it still is. Why? Because those ministers are living a life of ignorance and old fashioned bigotry. That and 1 billion ministers would be way to many ministers per capita.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • KCArrowhead

      One Christian's Proclamation

      As a Christian I proclaim: the bad news concerning clergy supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisëxual and Transgender (LGBT) persons and publicly condemn them as they are leading their flocks astray. As a disciple of Jesus, who assures us that the truth sets us free, I recognize that the debate is over. The verdict is in. homôsëxual behavior is a sickness, and a choice, and defined as a sin. I find plenty of rational biblical and theological basis to condemn and deny the behavior of any person based on sëxual orientation. Acceptance by many has allowed political and religious rhetoric to monopolize public perception, creating the impression that there are many Christian perspectives on this issue. Yet I recognize and celebrate that I am far from alone, as a Christian, in affirming that while LGBT persons are human and children of God, their practices are unholy, and a stumblingblock to all who struggle to become the family of God.

      In repentance and obedience to the Holy Spirit, I stand as one who is committed to work and pray for full acceptance and inclusion of God's true teaching in our churches and in our world. I lament that the behavior of LGBT persons is celebrated and lauded by certain ministers, who claim to be speaking the truth of Christian teaching. This leads directly and indirectly to acceptance of sin, ungodliness, strife, and watering down of the faith. The Holy Spirit compels me:

      -to affirm that, yes, the essence of Christian life is not focused on sëxual orientation, but how one lives by grace in relationship with God, with compassion toward humanity;

      –to remind our leaders that brothers and sisters struggling with LGBT issues need our prayers, not our approval;

      –to declare that the denial of Christ must stop. Christ’s love certainly moves us to work for the healing of wounded souls who are victims of abuse especially that which is propagated in the name of Christ – however we cannot decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. That is God's perogative;

      –to celebrate those Christians who have refused to let the tolerance of sin and celebration of ungodly behavior speak for Christianity, especially since our savior said "Not my will, but Yours be done;

      Therefore I call for an end to the disregard for clear scriptural teaching. While laws must include and protect the freedoms, rights, and equal legal standing of all persons, inside the church we are to do as our Lord commands, not what we decide. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
  8. Correctlycenter

    H o m o s e x u a l i t y is wrong, perverted and not natural. Adam and Eve and God united in marriage! Not Adam, Steve and Kenny. Nor Eve and Alicia. Sorry...

    March 26, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry "Correctlycenter", but "Adam" and "Eve" are elements of mythology, therefore your assertions are unfounded.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • sam

      Sad troll is boring.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • ME II

      "Adam and Eve and God united in marriage!"

      Polygamy!

      March 26, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • CraigRB

      God is on everyone's side. Unlike you, God doesn't discriminate.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Doobs

      So it was Adam and Eve, who had male children. Who did the sons marry and have children with?

      March 26, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Chris

      Wow Hal – "Adan & Eve are mythology" That is a hard truth to deal with.

      As one who was raised on the teaching of Jesus as the source of my spiritual lessons, intellect force me to distinguish between the elements of mythology, history, and spiritual revelation in the Bible. It is a painful introspective process. Many choose not to question for fear of it taking them away from God. I found it to be a path to recognizing the multi-faceted manifestation of the Divine. It makes it harder for me to judge and be unforgiving.

      March 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  9. Thinking Christian

    This is what happens when you mix Church and State. If all levels of government had stayed out of describing and licensing and preferring marriage and left it to the churches to describe marriage, none of this would be happening. But if any government gets involved in an issue, it has to treat all citizens the same. PERIOD.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • sam

      Thank goodness we don't let churches define anything exclusively in our society. What a mess that would be.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • jon

      Right. Leave God and the bible out of it. Only those people who believe in the bible seem to have some say in this thing.
      There are way too many people on Earth who don't either believe in the bible or don't follow it. It should have no part of this discussion. Equality for all should be the only answer.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  10. The Non Believer

    How can something that probably does not exist have anything to say about the convention of marriage? You might as well ask who is on Russell's teapot's side.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  11. adnan

    This nation is totally screwed up. I am sure you can't go lower this level. You want to live gay life go live but please don't put your words in God mouth.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • sam

      An imaginary being doesn't really need anyone speaking on its behalf. If god has a problem with anything, I guess he can speak up, though.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Danno

      According to the bible, the punishment for rapists shall be marrying their victims. Therefore, what "god" says shouldn't matter one iota in reality.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Saraswati

      If Spinoza was right millions of little parts of god are having gay se.x right now...and liking it.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  12. Robyn

    So, is God on the side of Love,
    or, is God on the side of Hate?

    March 26, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • adnan

      God is on nature side and right side.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • sam

      adnan means 'i.e. whatever I've been told to think'.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Mike

      The opposite of love is not hate but fear.

      Two men or two women can not surely become one flesh.

      Marriage is intend to be between one male and one female.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • Saraswati

      @mike, the only time two people can become one flesh is chimerism. It can be different or the same se.x, but the offspring is more likely to survive if they are the same.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  13. Dionysus

    If all you Christian types actually knew what jesus gets up too.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  14. Lindsey Brutus

    Man + woman= marriage. There is no other way.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Robyn

      I suppose it is easier to just let someone else
      give you slogans and believe them.
      But wouldn't it be more fun to think for yourself?

      March 26, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • sam

      Thank goodness it's not up to you who gets their civil rights, then, I guess.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  15. Wrong again

    Sorry, guys. The Bible is filled with nice little stories. That's all. Not to say God doesn't exist. I think God does exist. But, organized religion is wrong every time.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Jay

      Well I am glad you are here to inform us of this. Clearly you have reached Nirvana and have an absolute understanding of the world and universe around you. Thanks so much for your insight.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  16. Chuck Anziulewicz

    I just wish that GOD, in His wisdom and omnipotence, would be just a bit more media-savvy in this day and age. I mean, we’re talking about the same God that allegedly created the Universe (just 6,000 years ago, according to some people), flooded the entire Earth, parted the Red Sea, and whose Earthbound avatar came back to life after having assumed room temperature for three days. Why does He insist on taking such a hands-off approach? We have one Book which has been translated and re-translated, interpreted and re-interpreted, until hardly anyone can agree on what it means. We have dozens of Christian denominations, each with its own unique take on what God expects of us. Wouldn’t God be a little more effective in getting us to behave decently toward one another if He would just put together a website or a television channel or at the very least a 1-800 number? There is a wide variety of contemporary social and economic issues I sure would like to get His opinion on.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • GEM

      Well, why don't you just talk some sense into God, won't you? I mean, clearly, you can enlighten Him about the ways of the modern world. He's just so far out of touch.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Robyn

      God just has sucky representation.
      He really ought to think about going with William Morris.
      If they can get press for Tim Tebow and Taylor Swift,
      think about what they could accomplish with God.

      I'm thinking a very American Idol, America's Top Model type of campaign.
      God works his way up the ladder and eventually lands the whole enchilada.
      Contract, grand prize, the works. Then next year, time for God II, the Afterwrath.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • clarity

      What is the proof for the existence of your God, GEM?

      March 26, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • The Non Believer

      I'd like to see an interview on CNN. What an exclusive!

      March 26, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  17. Mark

    I'm concerned about which side the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy are on. It's about the same thing. These mythological creatures aren't on anyone's side... because they don't exist. Same with your god or any god.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  18. Dave

    Lets be clear here marriage is and has always been a MAN and a WOMEN.........

    March 26, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Angry Hillbilly

      Let's be clear here, marriage is and has always been between SAME RACES.........

      March 26, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • Saraswati

      Read the bible? Studied history? Taken an anthro class? Hmmm...didn't think so.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • the AnViL™

      let's be clear here.. there is NO good secular reason to deny the constitutionlly guaranteed equality every american is entitled to.

      as for ignorant, bigoted religious zealots...

      those of you who profess any belief in gods should be prohibited from voting, serving on a jury, running for or holding any public office, purchasing or owning fireararms, teaching public school or being allowed to have any contact with children under the age of 18.

      tolerance of religious idiocy is coming to an end... and there's nothing you can do about it.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • sam

      I see the right wing peanut gallery is in full swing today...

      March 26, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  19. ellid

    That professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary clearly isn't aware of the inclusive, non-judgmental, and *loving* ministry of his school's most distinguished graduate, Fred McFeely Rogers, who never in his life used the Bible as a club to beat the disadvantaged or the different.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  20. god

    nobody, because god doesn't exist.

    March 26, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Correctlycenter

      That is like saying YOU do not exist. I am positive no man (including an atheist) created the heavens and the earth and all living things on the earth, but GOD...

      March 26, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • sam

      @correctly – you don't exist.

      March 26, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • god

      @correctly- prove that I do exist. for that matter, prove that YOU exist. prove that any of this is oh no I'm becoming a solipsist

      March 26, 2013 at 11:48 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.