The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Looking back, moving forward

 Looking back, moving forward
Looking back, moving forward

Looking back, moving forward

Much has been written — and much is yet to come —about gay marriage.

The issue impacts many aspects of our society.

There are social, political, moral and even economicconsiderations, and it would be impossible to address each of thesein any detail with a single column.

The Daily Campus has published a variety of op-ed pieceson the topic, and I commend its editors for initiating andcontinuing the debate. Free and open discourse is one of thecornerstones of a university education.

Today I would like to add my voice to the dialogue.

In his editorial, “Going against gay marriage,”Swede Hanson states emphatically that marriage should not evolve orchange as a society changes.

Many opponents of same-sex marriage, not unlike Mr. Hanson, viewmarriage through a very narrow lens clouded by long-held biases andprejudices, not unlike those same biases that allowedanti-miscegenation laws (laws prohibiting interracial marriages) toexist until the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional in1967. These laws, which existed primarily in the South, were thepre-civil rights equivalent to the Defense of Marriage laws thatmany states are passing today in order to side-step the full faithand credit clause of the Constitution.

Many, Mr. Hanson included, talk about marriage as an ancientinstitution that serves as the bedrock of modern civilization, andwarn that gay marriage will ultimately lead — within a matterof months one would think given the degree of vitriol used in theirdiscourse — to the erosion of the “moral order ofsociety.”

Equating gay marriage and the erosion of moral order is aspecious argument.

The truth is there are no studies — only the gut feelingsof fundamentalists and conservatives — that support thatposition.

If Mr. Hanson were to spend just a few minutes researching thetopic, rather than basing his assumptions on purely visceralbiases, perhaps his opinion might change.

Granted, the concept of marriage as a religious institution hasbeen around for awhile, at least in the Judeo-Christian world.

In many ways, however, marriage as most Americans know it is arelatively modern phenomenon.

From polygamy, bride theft, arranged marriages, betrothal, brideprice and dowries to primetime reality shows like “Who Wantsto Marry a Millionaire?” marriage customs have changedradically over the last few hundred years.

The marriage paradigm has evolved throughout history more,perhaps, than any other social institution.

Like most things involving religion, most people accept asgospel what their religious leaders say on this topic.

For many, their worldview has been shaped by thefire-and-brimstone laced rhetoric of fundamentalist preachers andSunday-school teachers who, although adept at quoting scripture,understand little or nothing about the cultural origins of the lawsand customs intended as a model for a single ethno-religiouscivilization (Jews) who lived thousands of years ago.

Opponents of gay marriage use words like sanctity, holy andcovenant with the zeal and fervor of snake-oil salesman.

There is no doubt that Judeo-Christian culture has favoredopposite-sex marriage; but do not mistakenly assume that it is theonly traditional marriage.

On the contrary, there is unequivocal evidence showing thatthere was a history of same-sex unions celebrated among the ancientHebrews, and extensive evidence showing that the early Catholic andOrthodox churches celebrated them as well.

Consider the Old Testament story of Jonathan and David:

In 1 Samuel 18:1 we read, “the soul of Jonathan was knitwith the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his ownsoul.” First Samuel 18:3 continues, “then Jonathan madea covenant with David because he loved him as himself.”

Key here is the use of the Hebrew word used for covenant, thesame Hebrew word used elsewhere in the Old Testament for themarriage covenant between a man and a woman. Are we to believe thatthe author of this book erred in his choice of words?

Or should we believe that this passage, as the divinely inspiredword of God, is inerrant and therefore refers to same-sex marriage?Either you accept this passage at face value or you explain it awayusing your own personal bias.

Is the Bible infallible?

If you believe so, then you have to believe that the author(s)of the Book of Kings received the word from God, and He, in turn,blessed the marital covenant between Jonathan and David.

It has long been accepted that most cultures, from antiquity toearly modern times, held relatively benevolent views towardhomosexuality.

It is less known, but no less important, that thosecultures—including Judaism and early Christianity—alsoallowed same-sex marriage.

Homophobia, on the other hand, and how it relates to this issue,is a relatively modern phenomenon.

Sometimes, it is necessary to look back in order to moveforward.


George Henson is a professor of Spanish in the Department ofForeign Languages and Literatures. He may be reached [email protected].

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