Stephen Prothero on the intersection of religious literacy and gay marriage

When I haven’t been interning, working, relaxing, or otherwise neglecting the blog this week, I’ve been reading Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know–And Doesn’t by Stephen Prothero. Prothero, chair of the religion department at Boston University,  asserts that religious literacies–knowledge of world religions–are a civic duty for all American and world citizens. He includes a glossary of basics, from the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism to Zionism. It is an excellent primer, written with Prothero’s characteristic research, analysis, and wit. The end of the entry on Adam & Eve contains a trenchant observation not widely acknowledged by Christians who emphasize what one might call ‘bedroom morality’:

In the contemporary gay marriage debate, opponents have invoked the Garden of Eden story, arguing that in Genesis God ordains marriage as a contract between one man and one woman…There is no mention in Genesis, however, of Adam and Eve getting married



3 responses to “Stephen Prothero on the intersection of religious literacy and gay marriage

  1. Actually, it does. Read Genesis 1 & 2 particularly verses 1:27 and 2:18, 22-24. In Genesis 1:27 God made us male and female. In Hebrew this is Zakar and Neqevah, respectively. Zakar means ‘erect penis’ as in sharp point. Neqevah means ‘receiving hole’ as in receptical. Then in Genesis 2:18, God says that it is not good for man to be alone, “I will make a helper suitable for him (ezer).” Ezer means perfect in everyway to help and relieve. So, in Genesis 2:22, God creates the woman and presents her to the man (as is demonstrated in a Western marriage where the father presents his daughter to the groom). God did not create another man to be the man’s ‘ezer’, but a woman who is made to be his helper and his reliever as in receptacle which is obviously her vagina. In Genesis 2:23, Adam says, ‘This is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman (ishah) for she was taken out of man (ish).” The ‘ah’ suffix in ishah means to focus on that which preceded it . Thus, ishah means that a woman is to focus on the man. It is not a man focusing on another man. Then in Genesis 2:24, God says that “a man leaves his father and mother, is united to his wife, and they will be one flesh.” This is exactly what happens when a man marries a woman. Sexual intercourse is as God created it to be, Zakar’s erect penis thrust into Neqevah’s receiving hole. Marriage is consummated (recognized as the proof of marriage by most states) between the one who is made Zakar and the one who is made Neqevah. No one else is involved and the new unit is necessarily separate from all other authorities (i.e., the man leaves the authority of his parents). For example, in Genesis 24:67, Isaac married Rebekah by taking her into his tent and had intercourse with her. She then became his wife (ishah). So you see, God’s idea of marriage is not necessarily a large, elaborate marriage. If a man has sexual intercourse with a woman, he is suppose to have first decided that she is the one that he will care and provide for for the rest of his life. The man is to be satisfied sexually and in every way with the woman for his entire life. Whether gay people want to believe it or not, only a woman, Neqevah, can truly satisfy a man in every way that he is made as Zakar. That’s how God made marriage. And Adam and Eve, as a man and a woman, fitted together perfectly in the first marriage. For those who have homosexual attractions, it is better not to give up. For since God made them, He will help them whom He created to be fully satisfied with the opposite sex in marriage. I hope this helps.

  2. If I may correct an obvious language error (others I’m too ignorant to detect): “So you see, God’s idea of marriage is not necessarily a large, elaborate marriage” should read “So you see, God’s idea of the start of a marriage is not necessarily a large, elaborate wedding.”

  3. Thank you for the very detailed comment! I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts.

    I do take issue some of your assertions: “For those who have homosexual attractions, it is better not to give up. For since God made them, He will help them whom He created to be fully satisfied with the opposite sex in marriage.”

    This very condescending and dismissive attitude towards sexual orientation. As my grandmother recently told me, “sheep are gay, so the evidence is all over the natural world.” She’s awesome.

    Keep in mind, The American Psychological Association has rejected the idea of ‘reparative therapy'( i.e. a therapy in which psychologists try to change the sexual orientation of homosexual patients).

    This is an odious practice, insofar as it undermines a valid sexuality that should be celebrated rather than condemned or marginalized, but also because one would think that telling an individual that their sexuality can be changed would be more traumatic than living out a self-actualized sexuality.

    As you may know, scholars have long seen homosexual undertones in the friendship between David and Jonathan. Judeo-Christian society has long been hetero-normative, but is in many ways, opening itself to new, enlightened views of gender and sexuality.

    I subscribe to the view that the Bible, together with Christian practice, is an evolving comprehensive philosophy. Using Leviticus (and more!) as a benchmark, we’ve evolved as a society past certain worldviews and practices (e.g. slavery). Referring to the New Testament, Jesus is forgiving to a prostitute, so we could extrapolate that he would be even more accepting of a romantic relationship between 2 men. We could get into textual minutiae about temple prostitutes, but I’m less familiar with Hebrew and more with Latin.

    Literal interpretations exclude the historical, cultural contexts–which were changing even then as they are now. Given the principles of the Bible as I understand it and God’s tremendous love, homosexuality is included in God’s creation.

    I also object to the reductive characterization of a vagina as a receptacle for feminist reasons, via my objections to the gender complementarian view, and for the way it defines a vagina insofar as its relation to a penis. Using your framework, however, an anus could also be a receptacle.

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