- (Photo: AP Images / FunnyOrDie.com)
In the aftermath of the passage of California's Proposition 8, Newsweek and Hollywood are the latest players to launch their attacks on traditional marriage supporters and the biblical case against homosexuality.
And Christians are taking issue with the misconceptions, factual errors and holes in the arguments being presented in popular public spheres.
"It doesn’t surprise me. Newsweek has been so far in the tank on the homosexual issue, for so long, they need scuba gear and breathing apparatus," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, according to Politico. "I don’t think it’s going to change the minds of anyone who takes biblical teachings seriously."
Land's comments were directed at Newsweek's current cover story, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage," written by religion editor Lisa Miller. In the story, Miller says "examples of 'the traditional family' are scarcely to be found" in the Old Testament and that the Bible does not explicitly define marriage as between one man and one woman. She further argues that the modern married couple would not look to the Bible as a guide while citing polygamy in the Old Testament.
"Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition," Miller writes. "The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it’s impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours."
Rejecting Miller's arguments, Land said the Bible clearly prescribes marriage as heterosexual, citing passages in Genesis, where God pairs Adam and Eve, and Ephesians (in the New Testament) when the apostle Paul compares the relationship between husband and wife to the relationship between Jesus and the Church, according to Politico.
Newsweek's story reflects the confusion that many people have regarding Scripture and homosexuality.
And the media isn't the only one to blame for it.
"Part of that [confusion] is skillful misrepresentation, and part of it is the failure of the church to faithfully and diligently promote biblical apologetics and exegesis," according to Bob Stith, who heads the Ministry to Homosexuals Task Force in the Southern Baptist Convention.
The confusion is also played out in the Funny Or Die video, "Prop 8 – The Musical," which was posted last week. In it, popular celebrities, including Neil Patrick Harris and Jack Black, weigh in on the amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The musical accuses Christians of picking and choosing Bible verses to make their case against gay marriage and mocks them as hatemongers.
"Leviticus says shellfish is an abomination," Black, who portrays Jesus in the musical, states in the musical as he responds to the Christians' argument that the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination. "The Bible says a lot of interesting things like you can stone your wife or sell your daughter into slavery."
"Well we ignore those verses," says John C. Reilly, who plays a Christian.
"It seems to me you pick and choose. Well please choose love instead of hate," Black sings.
Randy Thomas, vice president of Exodus International, responded saying the musical showed a "sincere misunderstanding of Scripture."
Tim Wilkins, a former homosexual who heads Cross Ministry, argued that gay marriage supporters "are doing the very thing they accuse Christians of."
"They focus on Leviticus and ignore New Testament passages that forbid homosexuality. WHY? Because Leviticus provides easier arguments with its prohibitions against certain foods."
SBC's Stith also denounced Hollywood's attempt to make biblical arguments. "Anyone who cares to spend thirty minutes of serious study would see the many flaws in Black’s argument," he said.
Clearing up some of the confusion, Stith called it a "factual error" to claim that Scripture says homosexuals are an abomination. "It is an error to say the Bible says that. It doesn't. It calls homosexual acts an abomination, not homosexuals," he commented.
"In the same passage in Leviticus that speaks about homosexuality the Bible also warns against incest, bestiality, and adultery," he said. Also, "while the New Testament doesn’t mention shellfish (and some would argue that Acts 10 clears that argument up) it clearly continues the biblical prohibition on homosexual acts."
Additionally, "Nowhere in the entire canon of Scripture are homosexual relationships ever spoken of approvingly," Stith continued. "The Bible is clear that God created us as sexual beings. But it is also clear that He provided us boundaries and guidelines for the use of that wonderful gift."
Addressing a more sensitive topic, Stith sees the label "hate" being used in ignorance or willful malice against those who simply disagree.
"On several occasions, sometimes with tears in my own eyes, I’ve said to people about actions in which they were involved, 'You know, this isn’t God’s best for you. He has something better if you’re willing to walk in obedience.' Does this make me a 'hater' or does it mean that I care about that person and genuinely believe that God knows what He’s talking about?" Stith posed.
But again, Christians aren't entirely blame-free in this gay marriage debate – which Newsweek's Miller believes is a full-scale war now.
"Unfortunately, we live in an age of sound bites and slogans. It should challenge us as Christians to be much more diligent not to settle for the same thing," Stith said. "We do that when we trot out the same tired arguments against homosexuality without acknowledging that we unnecessarily wound people by the way we use those arguments. We don’t acknowledge the real pain felt by many in the homosexual community. And honestly, we often slip into a trap of 'us vs. them.'"
"We must evaluate whether our arguments are based in our love for God as well as for all people. Do we speak against homosexual acts because we genuinely care; because we genuinely believe that sin – any sin – brings pleasure for a season but ultimately hinders the fullness that God wants all of us to enjoy?"