Claiming the Moral High Ground

Sorry, I just don’t get it! I simply don’t understand. People I love, people I respect, family members, friends, neighbors, fellow church members say things that surprise me. It’s not only that I disagree, I don’t understand how they believe what they say.

This post really is more about questions than answers. If anyone has comments, observations or explanations, please share them. My hunch is there are a lot of us who want to understand better — not just understand ideas or issues, but one another.

Here’s a question I’ve always wanted answered but seems too simplistic to ask: What did Christians do before the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg around the year 1440? Of course vast majorities of people were illiterate — there was precious little to read!

I respectfully ask anyone who grounds authority in sola scriptura — Scripture alone — to explain how the average individual or church community learned, expressed or evaluated the authenticity of their faith. My guess it that most pastors were pretty ignorant even if they had a rudimentary reading ability. Again, Bibles and other resources simply weren’t available.  How did they do it?

Okay, that was a gentle wind-up! I’ve generally kept silent about my second question. I’ve been afraid of and reluctant to implicate family, friends, neighbors, people I love. This one hits home because some Christians judge me — and that’s a generous verb — for being gay.

What I want to know is how those who so easily ground their moral assessment of me as a gay man intending to marry can so blithely overlook Jesus’ explicit condemnation of divorce.  Many consider the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of marriage equality as an assault on the sanctity of marriage.  I don’t get it.

Jesus’ one specific reference to marriage is a quote of Genesis 2:24, not for the purpose of affirming some clear, incontrovertible, traditional law of marriage, but for the purpose of prohibiting divorce (Mark 10:2-9)! Truly, I do not want to pick a fight or alienate friends. My intention really is to open discussion and better understand people I care about.

Just given sheer numbers, wouldn’t the defenders of “traditional marriage” found in Scripture better expend their energies attacking divorce than moral outrage at gay people who desire the blessing and commitment of marriage? I’m not here to pick a fight. I really wonder about such questions.

Believe me, I am quite comfortable with a very forgiving application of Jesus’ prohibition of divorce and appreciate that the literal meaning of his teaching is not meant to be interpreted literally. My question is more about how we use the authority of Scripture to live our lives.  Why do we contextualize and moderate the literal meaning of some texts but tenaciously cling to others to justify our firm moral convictions?

Admittedly, my faith tradition affirms the ongoing inspiration of the Spirit over time expressed through the teaching authority of the church. Scripture is absolutely normative, but not exclusive. The Bible arises, through divine inspiration, from within the life of the church. Others Christians seem to believe it works the other way around — the church is formed by and springs from the Bible.

This seems to lead good people to come at things from different if not opposite directions. I’m not trying to argue which is right or wrong. However, I will admit I don’t understand how some people think, especially when their conclusions — if not their behaviors — carry an implicit moral judgment.

I truly want to understand better.  Maybe you do too.

2 thoughts on “Claiming the Moral High Ground

  1. Re: Divorce question – I know my divorce was a sinful act. I was not walking with the Lord in faith at that time. I don’t ask nor expect anyone to accept what I did as okay. I asked the Lord for forgiveness and repented and am now honoring my vows before God as decreed by Scripture. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness. Repentance (turning from the sin) is the outward display of the desire for forgiveness.

  2. Richard, many if not most of the Catholics I know who advocate against same-sex marriage (who tend to be more traditional Catholics) also embrace Jesus’ condemnation of divorce. Doubtless there are others who do overlook it (although that is not true of any of those I know who publicly talk and write about the issue), but I think you are painting with too broad a brush here.

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