Reading Isaiah as Christian Scripture

Hauerwas on marriage, sex, and homosexuality.

Posted in Stanley Hauerwas by Bacho on September 11, 2010

Another repost from my old blog…

I just came across these thoughts by Stanley Hauerwas,

“The problem with debates about homosexuality is they have been devoid of any linguistic discipline that might give you some indication what is at stake. Methodism, for example, is more concerned with being inclusive than being the church. We do not have the slightest idea what we mean by being inclusive other than some vague idea that inclusivity has something to do with being accepting and loving. Inclusivity is, of course, a necessary strategy for survival in what is religiously a buyers’ market. Even worse, the inclusive church is captured by romantic notions of marriage. Combine inclusivity and romanticism and you have no reason to deny marriage between gay people.

When couples come to ministers to talk about their marriage ceremonies, ministers think it’s interesting to ask if they love one another. What a stupid question! How would they know? A Christian marriage isn’t about whether you’re in love. Christian marriage is giving you the practice of fidelity over a lifetime in which you can look back upon the marriage and call it love. It is a hard discipline over many years.

The difficulty, therefore, is that Christians, when they approach this issue, no longer know what marriage is. For centuries, Christians married people who didn’t know one another until the marriage ceremony, and we knew they were going to have sex that night. They didn’t know one another. Where does all this love stuff come from? They could have sex because they were married.

Now, when marriage becomes a mutually enhancing arrangement until something goes wrong, then it makes no sense at all to oppose homosexual marriages. If marriage is a calling that makes promises of lifelong monogamous fidelity in which children are welcomed, then we’ve got a problem. But we can’t even get to a discussion there, because Christians no longer practice Christian marriage.

What has made it particularly hard is that the divorce culture has made it impossible for us to talk about these matters–and many of you know, I’m divorced and remarried. It has made it impossible for us to talk about these matters with an honesty and candor that is required if you are not to indulge in self-deceptive, sentimental lies.

For gay Christians who I know and love, I wish we as Christians could come up with some way to help them, like we need to help one another, to avoid the sexual wilderness in which we live. That’s a worthy task. I probably sound like a conservative on these matters, not because I’ve got some deep animosity toward gay people, but because I don’t know how to go forward given the current marriage practices of our culture.”

Things that strike me the most:

1.His criticism of his own faith tradition that gives me freedom to think about my own community. Are we more concerned about being relevant/in-with-the-lost/deep/etc than we are about being a Colony of Heaven?

2.The concept of “Marriage as a practice of fidelity over lifetime” seems so retro and bland in the circles that we move. My wife has been severely criticized for speaking along the similar lines as encouraging women to “settle for less”. I wonder if overly romanticized and sexually charged notions of what we should be “feeling” towards our prospective spouse is the source of much loneliness today and the cause of such high rate of divorce among the Christians.

3.I am curious as to why does his position on homosexuality among Christian takes as primary a desire to help them avoid the sexual wilderness. Why does he not start with an affirmation that this is not a Biblically viable option [which seem to be buried underneath his words here and in other interviews] live out and then move to thinking about the issues of solution?

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2 Responses

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  1. Sean said, on April 29, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    I don’t think Hauerwas (in my readings and extremely limited personal interactions) seems to see queer marriages as necessarily “not Biblically viable” in the way that you seem to mean here. Hauerwas is not being coy—he is silent precisely because he does not feel that he has anything that he can say.

  2. Bacho said, on May 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Sean,

    thanks for stopping by. Two questions:
    First, I do wonder what you think Hauerwas’ take is on this issue. I am going on what I have read from him. From my reading he seems to wrestle with a solution rather than outlining his position on the topic in principled way, which is partly due to his approach to theology. So if you had, albeit limited, interaction with him, I would be curious to hear what you think.

    Second, what do you mean by “he is silent precisely because he does not feel that he has anything that he can say.”


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