Authorizing Marriage?

Authorizing Marriage?: Canon, Tradition, and Critique in the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

MARK D. JORDAN
MEGHAN T. SWEENEY
DAVID M. MELLOTT
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7sr6v
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  • Book Info
    Authorizing Marriage?
    Book Description:

    The opponents of legal recognition for same-sex marriage frequently appeal to a "Judeo-Christian" tradition. But does it make any sense to speak of that tradition as a single teaching on marriage? Are there elements in Jewish and Christian traditions that actually authorize religious and civil recognition of same-sex couples? And are contemporary heterosexual marriages well supported by those traditions?

    As evidenced by the ten provocative essays assembled and edited by Mark D. Jordan, the answers are not as simple as many would believe. The scholars of Judaism and Christianity gathered here explore the issue through a wide range of biblical, historical, liturgical, and theological evidence. From David's love for Jonathan through the singleness of Jesus and Paul to the all-male heaven of John's Apocalypse, the collection addresses pertinent passages in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament with scholarly precision. It reconsiders whether there are biblical precedents for blessing same-sex unions in Jewish and Christian liturgies.

    The book concludes by analyzing typical religious arguments against such unions and provides a comprehensive response to claims that the Judeo-Christian tradition prohibits same-sex unions from receiving religious recognition. The essays, most of which are in print here for the first time, are by Saul M. Olyan, Mary Ann Tolbert, Daniel Boyarin, Laurence Paul Hemming, Steven Greenberg, Kathryn Tanner, Susan Frank Parsons, Eugene F. Rogers, Jr., and Mark D. Jordan.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2713-8
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)
    Mark D. Jordan

    American Political debates over same-sex unions are punctuated by appeals to a “Judeo-Christian tradition of marriage.” When the appeals are rejected, it is often with an argument about the separation of church and state—as if the only error in them were the application of religious reasoning to the legislation of a pluralistic democracy. The appeals ought to be much more generally troubling, because they reduce complex Jewish and Christian traditions to mere slogans. The slogans presuppose any number of confusions and reductions. They conflate Jewish with Christian, of course, even though the two groups of religious teachings and practices,...

  5. “SURPASSING THE LOVE OF WOMEN”: ANOTHER LOOK AT 2 SAMUEL 1:26 AND THE RELATIONSHIP OF DAVID AND JONATHAN
    (pp. 7-16)
    Saul M. Olyan

    The love of Jonathan for David reported in the biblical text has been the focus of much attention from both nonspecialist commentators and professional biblical scholars. Many nonspecialists, and some biblical scholars, have claimed that texts such as 1 Sam. 18:1–3 and 2 Sam. 1:26 suggest that David and Jonathan shared a homoerotic love, with some arguing that this love was expressed sexually.¹ At the same time, most specialists addressing these texts have ignored or dismissed both sexual and nonsexual homoerotic interpretations. Instead, biblical scholars have often argued that the relationship of Jonathan and David is best understood as...

  6. FAMILIAR IDOLATRY AND THE CHRISTIAN CASE AGAINST MARRIAGE
    (pp. 17-40)
    Dale B. Martin

    Contemporary Christianity in the United States—whether Protestant or Catholic, liberal or conservative—has so closely aligned the basic message of Christianity with the family and “traditional family values” that it is currently in a state of idolatry.¹ Increasingly, whether they are religious or not, people in America tend to equate Christianity with the family and “family values.” It is not just that gay and lesbian people have largely left their churches; single people in general often feel out of place in churches. And other people in non-“traditional” family structures—whether divorced, cohabiting, or in partial nuclear families—tend to...

  7. MARRIAGE AND FRIENDSHIP IN THE CHRISTIAN NEW TESTAMENT: ANCIENT RESOURCES FOR CONTEMPORARY SAME-SEX UNIONS
    (pp. 41-51)
    Mary Ann Tolbert

    Contemporary marriage in the Western world of the twenty-first century is a different institution altogether from the practices and purposes of marriage in Greco-Roman antiquity.¹ Today, mutuality, intimacy, lifelong companionship, shared economics, and sexual pleasure are generally listed as central values for marital relationships. Over the past several centuries in the Western world, the need for families themselves to produce the material means for survival, such as food, shelter, and care in sickness and old age, has been drastically reduced, depriving marriage of many of the most important roles it fulfilled throughout most of human history. In the absence of...

  8. WHY IS RABBI YOHANAN A WOMAN? OR, A QUEER MARRIAGE GONE BAD: “PLATONIC LOVE” IN THE TALMUD
    (pp. 52-67)
    Daniel Boyarin

    I will begin by citing a startling, even shocking, text from the Babylonian Talmud:

    What is it that is written, “Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe etc.” Why have the words of Torah been compared here to a hind? To teach you: Just as the hind has a narrow vagina and is beloved by her lover at each and every time, just as at the first time, so the words of Torah are beloved by their learners at each and every time, just as at the first time. (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 54b)

    This sensational, even disturbing,...

  9. CAN I REALLY COUNT ON YOU?
    (pp. 68-80)
    Laurence Paul Hemming

    The purpose of this essay is very modest. Setting out from the way in which all contemporary accounts of sexed or gendered identity depend essentially on a twofold understanding of difference, a twofold understanding, moreover, that then structures the relationship between private sociality and public life or the polis as such, I ask, in accord with the spirit of this volume, whether in canon and tradition this twofold has always been present. Identifying one canonical text which has ordered sexual difference and gender identity quite differently (whilst at the same time taking into account and giving an explanation of the...

  10. CONTEMPLATING A JEWISH RITUAL OF SAME-SEX UNION: AN INQUIRY INTO THE MEANINGS OF MARRIAGE
    (pp. 81-101)
    Steven Greenberg

    The debate in the United States on same-sex marriage has become a keenly contended social and political battle. The intensity of the conflict may be a bit puzzling. Why should the freedom of a minority to marry threaten marriage for the majority or the idea of marriage itself? How is it that the passions around this issue so often seem to surpass the issue’s relative social importance? In part, the explanation lies in the significant transformations already under way in regard to both homosexuality and marriage. Until very recently, both marriage and homosexuality were governed by unquestioned cultural assumptions. Homosexuality...

  11. ARGUING LITURGICAL GENEALOGIES, OR, THE GHOSTS OF WEDDINGS PAST
    (pp. 102-120)
    Mark D. Jordan

    For Christian traditions, a wedding is always in part an acted prayer. The marriage that follows may be conceived as miraculous transformation or negotiated contract, as a concession to perishing flesh or a celebration of embodiment, as poison or libation for Eros. Indeed, the wedding itself may mark a dynastic alliance or regularize longstanding domestic arrangements. It may produce or repudiate civil effects, yield much or little to the expectations of nation, clan, or family. Still a wedding remains public prayer. However exactly it is conceived, the rite is an act on behalf of the church and before the church....

  12. HOOKER AND THE NEW PURITANS
    (pp. 121-138)
    Kathryn Tanner

    Because I believe that all the good theological and biblical arguments are on the progressive side, I admit to some discouragement at the seemingly intractable character of the debate over the morality or immorality of gay sex in the Christian churches, particularly in the Episcopal Church USA, of which I am a member. When it comes to gay sex, rational argument and the tools of persuasion have in my experience made little headway against ingrained commonplaces and what onemight call the simple “ugh” factors of fear and disgust. I am increasingly convinced, however, that the issue of same-sex unions for...

  13. AD IMAGINEM DEI: IS THERE A MORAL HERE?
    (pp. 139-150)
    Susan Frank Parsons

    A persistent assumption in the Western tradition of thought is that human being is unique amongst beings, having a special capacity to relate to that which is beyond itself, a capacity that does not belong to other beings and that thereby sets human being apart as distinctive. From this assumption there has followed something further. That is, that in the course of any particular human life, this special nature of human being is to be both realized and protected, both made actual in the life of that individual and also guarded from any harm, from anything that would threaten the...

  14. TRINITY, MARRIAGE, AND HOMOSEXUALITY
    (pp. 151-164)
    Eugene F. Rogers Jr.

    In this essay I argue that Christian theologians would best understand marriage, including both same- and cross-sex marriage, as a form of sanctification that takes time both to expose faults for healing and to develop virtues for incorporation into the Trinitarian life. I do that by addressing a pair of objections. First I take up an objection from the Left that the New Testament devalues marriage, and that alternative patterns of friendship best represent its intent. Then I take up an objection from the Right that same-sex couples are unfit for sanctification. Both sides deny that same-sex marriages can sanctify:...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 165-196)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 197-199)