Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jimmy Carter Says It’s “Fine For Gay People To Be Married”

From the New Civil Rights Movement, courtesy of a gay marriage advocacy group on facebook:

Former Democratic President Jimmy Carter says it’s “fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies,” and adds that Jesus never once said anything about homosexuality. The 39th president seems to have evolved, and talks about his new book, “NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter,” in an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post:

"Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things -– he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.

I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people. I’m a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn’t require them to."

More here.

Indeed, Jesus never said anything at all about homosexuality. And this is something of a key point conspicuously unaddressed by today's fundamentalist Christians: Jesus existed in the Hellenistic world, that is, the geographic region around the Eastern Mediterranean that was conquered by Alexander the Great, and, culturally speaking, this region was very Greek in its outlook. So it isn't simply that homosexuality was known to Jesus; rather, it's that homosexuality was practiced all around Jesus. It was culturally normal, and Jesus apparently had absolutely no problem with it, or he would have said something about it, like he did with the Pharisees or the Romans or the Samaritans or the poor or tax collectors and on and on.

Sure, you can quote Leviticus all day long, but if you're serious about the "New Covenant," you're going to be taking your cues from Jesus much more than from the Old Testament, which his ministry superseded.

And Carter's right about legally requiring churches to marry people, too. And he's not "arbitrarily" drawing this line, either: the first amendment clearly states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. You simply cannot compel a religious body to do anything in terms of how it worships. Churches don't have to marry gay people if they don't want to do so, and that is a protected and foundational civil right. On the other hand, and by the same token, churches that do want to solemnify gay matrimony have just as much of a right to do so as churches that don't.

I swear, Carter is far better in his role as elder statesman than he ever was as President of the USA. But then, I'm certainly not the first to have made such an observation.