It was about year 30 or so when a man started what was going to be a huge craze in the 1990s. He was the ancestor of the TV talk show host; he gathered large crowds, walked around giving advice to people who didn’t really want to hear it, and reinterpreted old guidelines he thought were out of date. Since then, we’ve been told to imitate this guy in order to enter heaven. Oprah was very successful in following his lead; she made about a zillion dollars out of the format and got a key off St. Peter.
I doubt I’m the first to tell you about him. He’s known as the late J.C., and he’s been quite popular with his groupies. You’ve probably read one his biographies (4 of them have been the world’s bestsellers list for like… ever), and you’ve probably seen the posters they did of the guy (which now sell for millions of dollars). You still hear of the rallies his followers do every time something happens about anything. To leave such a legacy, he must have had the world’s best public relation person… well, maybe second, after his Dad.
In two of his biographies (Mark 10:1-10, Matthew 19:1-12), the authors recount an episode when Jesus was walking around and the paparazzi surrounded him. They asked him all kinds of questions and unlike his usual problematic “paraboling,” he started giving out clear answers. They asked J.C. about marriage and the current government laws. Then J.C. reinterpreted an old law and changed it drastically. He said that when the law was first told, it was because the public’s heart was hard and could not accept the law as it was in its purest form. He finished off by saying, “what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Well, you will rarely hear me quote J.C. but he really nailed that one. For those who are Christians or who want to follow the example of J.C., he made it clear right there and then (and also in his sermon on the Mount) that laws must sometimes be reinterpreted. This was done in the summer of 2003 when all North American gays and lesbians finally got the legal rights to “do their conjugal duties” with their partners in the privacy of their own homes. The U.S. Supreme Court reinterpreted old laws and saw that equality was necessary if true freedom was to prevail.
Since then, talk of gay marriage has been loud. When the Canadian courts reexamined their constitution and saw that it was everybody’s right to marry, the same people who said they followed Jesus’ example started a campaign to block what had been joined together. More recently, many more of J.C.’s followers have taken it upon themselves to separate what has also been brought together in the U.S. After the Supreme Court of Massachusetts voted to legalize gay marriages, the president (who talks of God and freedom in almost all his speeches) said he would support a constitutional amendment to block gay marriages. His decision was endorsed by his vice president whose own daughter is gay. He had previously said that such matters should be regulated by individual states but he’s now changed his mind because his boss said otherwise.
Now don’t misunderstand me on this point. I certainly don’t think that God has anything to do with uniting people through of a piece of paper. However, I do believe that God (or Higher Power, or whatever you call Her/It/Him) has brought many into relationships that, although not viewed by some as the “Christian ideal,” truly do not hurt the participants involved except by how society judges them. Although some will jump at the chance to tell me the evils of homosexuality and how it has destroyed our society, I will simply tell you to watch “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and see what fabulous things gays have done for our society.
Of course, there is no perfect gay person just as there is no perfect hetero either. Gay relationships have the same problems as heterosexual ones except that gays have to deal with the homophobia that is being projected on them everyday. It is still a crime to be in a gay relationship in most parts of the world. And to those who say that God sent AIDS to stop gay men from having sex, let me remind you that any study will prove that lesbian sex is much safer than heterosexual sex. I don’t think that this statistic is a sign from God to incite straight women to have lesbian sex.
We have always reinterpreted biblical laws. After all, Leviticus 22:28-29 states, “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” To be blunt about it, that is pretty sick shit! We’ve obviously looked beyond this command and interpreted the spirit of punishment on which we have based our own laws for sexual attacks in North America. Christians have also looked beyond the command in 1 Peter 2:18 to “teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them” and made slavery illegal. This was done because it was felt that these practices were not in accord with the spirit of love and equality. Why can’t this spirit be extended to gay and lesbian couples?
The bottom line is that what has been joined together in love should not be forced apart by hate. Some will hold their bibles high and say that gay marriages are against biblical law. I say that just as Christians defied the law when they gathered together in the catacombs of Rome and in the rest of the Greco-Roman empire, it is time today to step out of the hatred towards gays and lesbians and take any means possible to reinterpret the spirit of love and equality that J.C. fought so hard to make a reality.
Nick Emond is a biblical studies major at McGill University in Montreal.