Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nothing New Under The Sun: Miscegenation And Gay Marriage

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 Lately, thanks in part to a conversation with my friend Bethany G. (who really should blog), I have been thinking about interracial marriage. Specifically, the sordid history of anti-miscegenation laws in this country. If you are young like me, but still too far out from high school history, then you may not know that anti-miscegenation was the legal and societal battle against interracial marriage.

In the USA, this term was coined in the 1860's and continued to be used for at least 100 years. It is not often used now, and is considered offensive. However, there is value in this term: it reminds us of what our nation once was, and how we can do better by our brothers and sisters in Christ in the future.

There really is nothing new under the sun. History repeats itself, but we have a very, very short collective memory. We need our elders to tell us stories, to nourish us with the much needed perspective of generations. Our history informs our present.

So, how does the antiquated (but not really by much) memory of anti-miscegenation serve us to today? In many diverse, solemn ways. But I want to examine its parallels to gay marriage

- By 1948, 30 out of 48 states had laws banning interracial marriage.

-  By 2012, 31 out of 50 states have laws (mostly state constitutional amendments) banning gay marriage

- In 1871, 1912, and 1928 Constitutional amendments designed to keep interracial marriage forever illegal were proposed.

- In 2012, presidential candidate Mitt Romney promises to "propose and promote" a Constitutional amendment designed to keep gay marriage forever illegal.   

- In the middle of the 20th century, many societal and church leaders rallied against interracial marriage because of their religious beliefs. It was considered to be immoral and unnatural by many, as this excerpt from a Virginia Supreme Court ruling shows:
The purity of public morals," the court declared, "the moral and physical development of both races….require that they should be kept distinct and separate… that connections and alliances so unnatural that God and nature seem to forbid them, should be prohibited by positive law, and be subject to no evasion.
There were many reasons why miscegenation was considered a moral issue: the story of Phineas in Numbers 25, Paul's wish that Christians not be unequally yoked in 2 Corinthians 6, and many other Old Testament passages, as cited here and here (be warned: these articles, though written recently, are disturbing in their desire to find biblical support for anti-miscegenation).  

- In the beginning of the 21st century, many societal and church leaders are rallying against homosexual marriage. It is considered immoral and unnatural by many, including James Dobson, John Piper, the Pope, and until recently, President Barack Obama.  There are many reasons why homosexual marriage is considered a moral issue: numerous Old Testament laws forbid homosexual sex, and Romans 1 along with other Pauline statements are interpreted as being against it.

So, what does this mean? Should we completely ignore Scripture just because it has been abused in the past? Not at all. But we should
recognize the historical familiarities in this discussion
exercise caution in using the Bible to form civil laws
and take the time to reexamine our interpretation of God's Word in the light of vast cultural differences over a 2000 year period.

We should especially question the interpretation of doctrine that is little touched upon in the Bible, or seems unclear.  And most importantly, we should ask if our practice is informed by Christ's clearest commandments: Love God, and love your neighbor. 

If we do these things, we will not be perfect. But maybe we will be able to tell our children and our grandchildren that we were thinking people. We pondered and discussed and tried imperfectly to love all of those around us. We recognized our many errors, and decided that when we know better, we do better. By the grace of God, we try. 




2 comments:

  1. "So, what does this mean? Should we completely ignore Scripture just because it has been abused in the past? Not at all. But we should
    recognize the historical familiarities in this discussion
    exercise caution in using the Bible to form civil laws
    and take the time to reexamine our interpretation of God's Word in the light of vast cultural differences over a 2000 year period."

    Really appreciated this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Bethany. Start that blog of yours! ;)

      Delete

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