There was something brilliant about President-elect Barack Obama's choice of evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his presidential inauguration next month. The preacher and best-selling author is pro-life and anti-gay marriage, making Obama, who leans considerably to the left on these issues, look like a uniter, not a divider. He must have a keen enough radar to know that religious folks have been feeling marginalized from politics of late; Obama's choice caps off an election season that hit churchgoers hard.
Proposition 8, the successful initiative in California that limits the legal definition of marriage to a rite occurring between a man and a woman, has been the most obvious example. Churches have been threatened. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a prominent supporter of that controversial initiative, has been made a scapegoat by 8's angry and vociferous opponents. And the media, having sided with the proposition's detractors, is leading the intolerance campaign.
Yes, I know: The conventional wisdom has it that the opponent of gay marriage is the intolerant one. But can "tolerant" really be the right word to describe this excerpt from a recent Newsweek cover story on religious conservatives and the gay-marriage debate?
"Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife, Sarah, was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women...? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel -- all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better... The apostle Paul... regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple...turn to the Bible as a how-to script?"
Is such an insultingly simplistic view actually worthy of a national magazine's cover story? Does anyone read the Bible and not understand that Abraham was doing wrong? Rattling off Old Testament sins does not a coherent argument make. Catholics are currently celebrating a Pauline year; I hope most could come to that great saint's defense. St. Paul also happens to have written: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." And, yes, for the record, couples do turn to faith ... even in the bedroom. Religious folks want faith to inform their entire lives.