There’s always something kind of weird about Unitarians talking about Jesus, sort of like when vegetarians talk about how to prepare steak or football players talk about baseball. As Fats Waller once said about jazz, if you don’t know what it is, don’t mess with it.
But that doesn’t stop Unitarian minister Erik Wikstrom from taking to the pages of the Washington Post to tell us what Jesus would have thought about California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage:
It’s official – for now. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has issued his ruling that California’s controversial Proposition 8, which defined marriage in California as being only between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional. Proponents of the Proposition are already appealing the judge’s ruling. Coming largely from the ranks of the Christian right, they see their crusade as a moral responsibility.
I’m sure it would come as a surprise to the millions of African-Americans and Hispanics who voted for Prop 8 that they are now members of the “Christian right.” But I guess they have to be labeled somehow, right?
I can understand why. According to the Gospels the site of Jesus’ first miracle was a wedding, so it makes sense to think that he has a horse in this race. And yet the Gospels also record Jesus taking a stand against looking only at the surface of things – at their outer forms – teaching us to look instead at their inner content.
In one rather graphic passage (Matthew 23:27) he chastises the “teachers of the law” – and here he’s really referring to those who prefer a legalistic adherence to the letter of the law rather than a more fluid understanding of its spirit. He calls them “whitewashed sepulchers,” tombs, and says that they look beautiful and clean on the outside but on the inside they’re full of rotting corpses. As I said, a graphic metaphor.
“A more fluid understanding of its spirit”–that’s Unitarianese for “words mean exactly what I say they do, nothing more or less.” Yes, Jesus condemned His opponents for their legalism, but not so that the moral law could mean anything we want, but to direct them back to the intention of God.
It’s so much easier to pay attention to the forms of things. You can see forms. You can legislate forms. Marriage should be between a man and a woman, for example. That’s clear. That’s simple. That’s legal. But I don’t think that would cut it as a definition for Jesus.
At which point Wikstrom heads off to a fairy land of his own creation, and leaves Jesus far behind. Jesus, of course, never says anything that would remotely suggest that He thought marriage was anything other than between a man and a woman, and at no point suggests that the sexual morality embodied in the Old Testament law was anything other than God’s design for sexuality. To the extent that He criticizes His opponents on the subject, it is to make clear that they had become too lax in their view of marriage and divorce (Matthew 19:1-12).
Perhaps a more spiritual definition of marriage is the union of two people [why just two?–seems awfully narrow and legalistic to me–DF] who love one another, are committed to one another, and whose love is dedicated not just to the growth of each individual but to both as a couple and, then, sharing that love in the wider world?
“A more spiritual definition,” which is to say Wikstrom’s, not Jesus’. Our Lord recognized that there is more to marriage that just love and commitment, as important as those are. Most especially, His concern was for the original intention of God for marriage to be honored and upheld. Views such as Wikstrom’s are not those of God, but of a culture that thinks it knows better than He.