Southern Baptists resolve to oppose equality

Timothy Kincaid

June 18th, 2015

The Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting in Columbus, OH, earlier this week and the theme seemed to be gay marriage. As Jonathan Merritt noted,

SBC president Ronnie Floyd preached a fiery sermon declaring, “the Supreme Court of the United States is not the final authority, nor is the culture itself, but the Bible is God’s final authority about marriage and on this book we stand.” At a press conference on Wednesday, leaders released a letter signed by 16 past denominational presidents–including my father, James Merritt, who presided from 2000 to 2002–stating, “we will not accept, nor adhere to, any legal redefinition of marriage issued by any political or judicial body including the United States Supreme Court.” And the denomination’s political arm released a legal guide for churches, schools, and ministries to protect themselves as culture grows more comfortable with same-sex marriage.

But the most significant action was a resolution passed by the denomination declaring their ‘public witness’ opposing the rights of other citizens to marry. And, as far as resolutions go, it’s a mess.

It starts with a bunch of whereas statements, the first two of which show such astonishing ignorance of scripture that I marvel that they can be claimed with a straight face.

WHEREAS, God in His divine wisdom created marriage as the covenanted, conjugal union of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18–24; Matthew 19:4–6; Hebrews 13:4); and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith & Message (2000) recognizes the biblical definition of marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime,” stating further, “It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race”;

Yes, the carefully selected scriptures do discuss marriage between a man and a woman. The first is one of the variations of the Creation Myth presented in Genesis (it is paired with the more commonly recognized seven day timeline of creation/evolution).

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.”

So the Lord God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man no helper was found as his complement.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. And the man said:

This one, at last, is bone of my bone
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called “woman,”
for she was taken from man.

This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.

Which is a lovely parable, but it says nothing about marriage being “the covenanted, conjugal union of one man and one woman.” In fact, as far as this tale is presented, the man and the woman didn’t enter into any covenanted union at all.

The second scriptural passage is Jesus’ rejection of divorce, in which he quotes Genesis.

“Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,” and He also said:

“For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh?

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

And at that point the Baptists quickly slam their Bible shut, lest they accidentally read the 12th verse of Matthew 19, in which Jesus rejects binary gender definitions.

But irrespective of whether the discussion of eunuchs can be distanced from the Baptists’ selection, again this text is not definitional. Jesus is quoting Genesis to reject the cruel practice of dumping wives after the new wears off and leaving them (at that time) without any financial security. He wasn’t defining marriage.

The third biblical reference is even less supportive of the whereas assertion.

Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers.

I see no “biblical definition” there.

And the reason that Baptists can’t actually point to a passage in scripture in which it defines marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime” is because such passages don’t exist. A scholar of the sacred texts in ancient times would likely be highly amused at such a definition and find it to be a rare family structure, rather than indicative of God’s commands or expectations.

Let’s consider what most familiar marriages and family structures looked like in the Bible as shown in the Bible stories.

  • Adam joined with the only woman in existence, Eve, without assistance of any pastor or covenant.
  • Abel and Seth married their sisters.
  • Abraham married his half-sister Sarah. And when she didn’t conceive, she gave him her maid with which he had a child.
  • Jacob (Israel) married two sisters, the first through fraud and deception.
  • Moses likely had at least two wives, one of them Ethiopian
  • David had at least six wives, in addition to Jonathan, whose love was “more wonderful Than the love of women”.
  • Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.
  • Daniel was a eunuch with whom God brought the Chief of the eunuchs “into favour and tender love”.
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace story) were also eunuchs
  • There’s no mention whether Jonah married. Nor Elijah. Nor Elisha. Nor Joshua.
  • Lot (who escaped Sodom) slept with his daughters so they could have children
  • Rahab, one of Jesus’ ancestors, was a prostitute
  • Jesus didn’t marry, nor did most of his disciples
  • The first Christian convert was an Ethiopian eunuch
  • Other than Isaac and Noah, I can’t think offhand of any biblical marriages or biblical family structures that are of the sort that would be allowed in a Southern Baptist church today.

    But lest there be any lingering confusion about the definition of marriage as “one man and one woman”, the early Christian church did, indeed, lay out what the requirements were for marriage. But only for some. Titus 1:5-6

    For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

    The bishops (elders) of the church were to be the husband of one wife. By this reference we know that there were some in the church – not appointed bishops – that were not (nor expected to be) husbands of one wife.

    Irrespective of what one believes about the value of restricting marriage to heterosexual unions, claiming that one man / one woman marriages are in any way “biblical”, much less defined as such in the Bible, is self-delusion and absurdly so.

    But it isn’t just in the Whereas clauses that this declaration falls apart. The Resolved clauses are no better:

    1. RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 16–17, 2015, prayerfully call on the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold the right of the citizens to define marriage as exclusively the union of one man and one woman; and be it further

    2. RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists recognize that no governing institution has the authority to negate or usurp God’s definition of marriage; and be it further

    3. RESOLVED, No matter how the Supreme Court rules, the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirms its unwavering commitment to its doctrinal and public beliefs concerning marriage; and be it further

    4. RESOLVED, That the religious liberty of individual citizens or institutions should not be infringed as a result of believing or living according to the biblical definition of marriage; and be it further

    5. RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention calls on Southern Baptists and all Christians to stand firm on the Bible’s witness on the purposes of marriage, among which are to unite man and woman as one flesh and to secure the basis for the flourishing of human civilization; and be it finally

    6. RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists love our neighbors and extend respect in Christ’s name to all people, including those who may disagree with us about the definition of marriage and the public good.

    [numbering my own]

    Reading the second and first resolved paragraphs together leaves a very confused message. Basically the SBC is claiming that the Supreme Court has no authority over marriage and also begs them to let anti-gay states ban equality. They reject the court’s authority while requesting that the court rule as they wish.

    Similarly the fourth, fifth and sixth paragraphs are incompatible. In the sixth they declare their love and respect to all people, but in resolve number 4 and 5, they basically assert that Baptist clerks and cake bakers should refuse service to gay people.

    What these Baptists fail to realize is that their declaration is inherently lacking in “love and respect”. It is directed externally, declaring what courts should do, what gay people should not do, and defending their own rejection of their neighbors.

    The only way this can be seen as “love and respect” is through the notion that whatever Christians do, regardless of how cruel, is by definition “loving” and that the difficulties that they place on others is “for their own good”.

    Ultimately, this resolution has no weight. They can “not adhere to” any “legal redefinition of marriage” that they choose, be it marriages between gays, mixed-race couples, or those of different faith. They can “stand firm on the Bible’s witness” (as they see it) all they like. They can defend to the death their right to believe whatever they want to believe. They can reject the authority of courts to their heart’s content.

    But in practicality, marriage equality is coming. And they can do nothing to stop it.

    And this messy, contradictory, self-congratulatory statement of self-righteousness is not likely to serve them well as they go about the business of trying to evangelize to a nation that finds their rejection and exclusion to be morally reprehensible.

    Paul Douglas

    June 18th, 2015

    Southern Baptists really are quite despicable as a group. Their narcissism and arrogance are truly breathtaking.

    Priya Lynn

    June 18th, 2015

    Well done Timothy.

    Mark F.

    June 18th, 2015

    Very good piece. I guess they can hold their breath until they are blue or something.

    Timothy Kincaid

    June 18th, 2015

    Thanks guys

    Sir Andrew

    June 18th, 2015

    Each time I read another story about this group threatening to refuse to accept gay marriage as real and valid (??), the opinions of these Southern Baptists become less relevant.

    Perhaps this appearance of irrelevance is because I find myself remembering the mid-50s and their promises that they would never accept integration, that making Negroes (as they were called then) equal to so-called Whites (well, pinks, really) violated their religious rights under the Constitution.

    Then came the mid-60s and SCOTUS eliminated miscegenation laws, allowing marriages across the man-made boundaries of race, nationality and ethnicity. Again, these so-called “Christians” announced that they would never accept this ungodly ruling from the Supreme Court that infringed their religious rights.

    And now here we are in the teens of a new century, with the Supreme Court poised (hopefully) to grant us access to the rights that have been blocked from us for lo these last many centuries. And what are the bobble-heads of the Southern Baptist “church” opining? The usual. How lucky for them that everything is digital now, for all they had to do was pull out the recordings of their lunatic declarations from the earlier decades and play them again. The energy they’ve saved can now be put into ignoring everything their christ stood for and hating everyone who isn’t them.(or is it they?)

    So I say “Thank You” to these anti-Christ Christians—the Great Southern Baptists. Every time they try to scare us with their damning of social progress, that progress, um, progresses faster and is very soon a natural part of the human landscape.(Just look at how fast the value of my Disney stock rose, and GayDays became a well-attended annual event, after these self same Baptists announced a boycott of DisneyWorld.)

    Now if we could only get them to threaten to ignore global warming.

    Richard Rush

    June 18th, 2015

    As Priya Lynn said, “Well done Timothy.”


    June 18th, 2015

    Well there is no indication in the Bible that Abel married one of his sisters.


    June 18th, 2015

    The sound and fury before any decisive reform towards same sex marriage is necessary because, as has been seen anywhere the reforms occur, it will prove a non-event. We just go round and round with this rhetoric of doom and “Biblical Truth” until the first same sex nuptials are avowed.

    As with everywhere same sex marriage has come to pass, the controversy evaporates. The only impact such a change has is furthering the equality of LGBT people under the law. Once a reality, there’s no impetus to repeal the marriage reform. It has far less social impact that no fault divorce, and that seems to be here to stay.

    Opponents such as those at the Southern Baptist Convention must have a sense of this which forces them into theological extremity. All sturm und drang but then that lovely get out clause for anyone who’s not really into it:

    RESOLVED, That Southern Baptists love our neighbors and extend respect in Christ’s name to all people, including those who may disagree with us about the definition of marriage and the public good.


    June 18th, 2015

    Timothy, this is just great. I’ll keep this article in mind when raising my child, who will be raised Christian even and possibly hear anti-gay nonsense.

    I tend to avoid the “you’re interpreting your own religion incorrectly” arguments because a) I’ve never been Christian and don’t know much about the Bible outside the Torah (and even then, pretty little) and b) stupid religious beliefs are still religious beliefs, so legally (and in the spirit of true religious diversity) they’re all as valid as logical religious beliefs legally (and by my standards).

    That said, again, just excellent. Bravo.


    June 18th, 2015

    History repeats itself with Southern Baptists (prior it was race and women), as did the Mormons (again, race and women).

    Don’t leave it to religion to innovate. All religion is concerned with is looking at the past and making it the future as well.


    June 19th, 2015

    Sadly, my own uncle was at the meeting and gushed on Facebook about how wonderful and spiritual it was. This is the same uncle who was barred from being my father’s best man, because, as a Southern Baptist, he would pollute the Roman Catholic altar at which my parents were married. How quickly they forget that kind of rampant religious bigotry that once affected them (and was the impetus for Jefferson to coin the term “separation of church and state”). Now that the Southern Baptists and the Catholics and the Mormons are in a political alliance to limit the rights of their LGBT neighbors, they refuse to acknowledge the doctrinal differences that have traditionally created gulfs among those groups.

    Yet the doctrines haven’t changed, and for each of these religions it is just as sinful to be married in the other two as it is to be gay. I have yet to hear any rational explanation as to why it is fine to “force” a Catholic baker to provide a cake for a Mormon wedding (which are theologically invalid to the Roman church) but not for a same-sex wedding.

    Ben in oakland

    June 19th, 2015

    Believe me, CPT, I have tried to confront diehard BaptistS on this very issue. They are very good at compartmentalizing these kinds of issues, and as I put it then, drawing their lines very very carefully to include what they want to include on the side of good and excluding gay people to the side of evil.

    The example I gave was this: John and Mike are getting married at your wedding venue. You, as the owner, stand at the back of the hall and watch the minister of God Marry these two christians.

    The other scenario I gave was this: Indira and mehendra are a heterosexual, devout Hindu couple, Who are getting married at your wedding venue. You as the owner stand in the back of the hall and watch the Hindu priest invoke false gods and what many Baptist would call demons to bless their marriage. Idols of Vishnu and Ganesh Grace the altar, their names are invoked, and sacrifices are offered to them.

    My question was: why do you have the right and duty to refuse the gay, Christian marriage ceremony, but have no problem with the invocation of false gods and idols in the Hindu ceremony? The answer was revealing. The union of John and Mike was an essential sin, regardless of whether they were Christian or not. The marriage of the two Hindus was not a sin, even though the ceremony itself invoked idols and demons.

    In other words, you could reject the entirety of conservative Christian believe, and there is no problems for a certain class of so-called Christian. But rejecting theitty bitty little ditty they sing about gay people was just too much.

    Personally, I find it very telling that the only place these issues come up is when they are required to behave decently, consistently, and compassionately towards people they despise. To My mind, it all goes to show that not all bigotry is hate. So much of it is the always present, always assumed, never questioned but completely unwarranted belief in someone’s otherwise completely imaginary superiority as a heterosexual, a moral person, a Christian, and a human being.


    June 19th, 2015

    The only reason the SBC even exists is because of their opposition to abolition and later desegregation. They are also virulently misogynistic and have a sex-abuse epidemic that rivals the Catholic Church’s. They are pure scum.


    June 19th, 2015

    Great article.

    “Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man.”
    This passage makes me think of Bruce Jenner. I can’t help but think of god creating the world’s first trans.

    “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.”
    But Adam never had a father and mother to leave- did he?

    You are right Pacal – there is no indication of Cain nor Able marring their sisters or that there were sister or any other woman available to marry. You have to fill in the blanks and make it up as you go along.


    June 22nd, 2015

    Don’t forget that Jacob (aka Israel) also had his wives handmaidens as concubines.

    But, yes, this was an excellent piece, Timothy.

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