Sunday, October 31, 2004
Voters turn to Bible for ballot guidance
Groups differ on spiritual side of same-sex marriage debate
The Associated Press
LEXINGTON - Religious groups are wrestling with the spiritual side of the upcoming vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
On Election Day, voters will be asked if they favor amending the Kentucky Constitution to provide that "only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be a marriage in Kentucky." The amendment also would ban civil unions.
Kentucky is one of 11 states that will vote Tuesday on ballot initiatives banning gay marriage.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, cites the biblical passage Leviticus 18:22 and says the Bible offers a clear indictment of homosexuality.
"Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable," the passage reads in the New International Version of the Bible.
"The act itself, regardless of circumstances is identified as being an abomination in God's eyes," Mohler said.
The Rev. Cynthia Cain, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Lexington, counters that the text refers only to sexual activity and says nothing about loving, committed relationships.
"Were they considered abominations because they were idolatrous practices or because they were homosexual?" she asked.
Religious leaders agree that passages discussing homosexuality are open to debate.
"The issue really is one of interpretation," said Rabbi Marc Kline of Lexington's Temple Adath Israel. "You're either going to take it literally or allegorically."
David Thompson, a professor of biblical studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, said he tries to read verses in the literary context in which they appear.
"I want to read the text and let it say what it said, whether I agree with it or not," he said.
He noted that often, biblical writers expressed divergent views, a written conversation that is useful. But, he said, where homosexuality is concerned, Scripture consists of a monologue.
"In the end, they all reject both female and male homosexual behavior," he said.
Some churches, such as Midwest Church of Christ in Louisville, have been holding Bible studies on marriage and family as the same-sex marriage amendment vote nears.
"We've been very proactive in getting our community abreast of what the Scripture does teach," said the church's minister, Jerry Stephenson.
For months, groups at Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church in Lexington have been holding regular meetings to discuss homosexuality.
Two years from now, when the Presbyterian Church (USA.) votes on whether it will permit gays and lesbians to be ordained as ministers and church officers, the Lexington church will be prepared.
But when it came to talking about the proposed state constitutional amendment, the members of the groups overwhelmingly agreed on one thing - that "in the civil and cultural scene, it was wrong to discriminate," said Marilyn Daniel, a church elder.
Mohler said the Bible is clear enough to answer any questions.
"Up until recent years, no one reading this text had any doubt what it was talking about," he said.
Cain said that even if passages refer to homosexuality, they are a result of the writer's "time and his culture."
Her beliefs instead emphasize following the example of Jesus.
"Jesus loved all people," she said, noting that in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus urged his followers to "judge not that you be not judged." She also said the religious texts are a separate issue from the marriage amendment.
"I don't know what the best public policy is," he said.
Although he cannot condone homosexuality, Thompson said love is key to his understanding of the Bible, too.
"The gospel is pretty clear about being compassionate," he said. "It is the believer's job to love and care for all persons in and out of the church."
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