Jewish Journal

Newsweek’s gay marriage cover story

by Brad A. Greenberg

December 9, 2008 | 9:36 pm

Newsweek had to have known the firestorm it was going to set off when it budgeted this week’s cover story. On the heals of California’s passage of Proposition 8, and amid the ongoing protests and legal challenges of the gay-marriage ban, Newsweek’s cover story by religion reporter Lisa Miller ran under the headline “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.” Inside, the subhead stated: “Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side.”

Miller writes:

“while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else’s —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. “Marriage” in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God’s will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.”

Yeah, I’m surprised too. I agree that the Bible says little about homosexuality and that Jesus was not preoccupied with whether loving, monogamous relationships between two men or two women should be permitted. But to say the Bible doesn’t explicitly define marriage as between a man and a woman—I remember some story about Adam and Eve—gives “a number of excellent reasons why” gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry—that is a stretch. And remember, I voted no on Prop. 8.

On his blog, the Rev. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminar, said Newsweek is “turning the Bible on it’s head.” I just got an email from an evangelical group named TheCall that urges Christians to cancel their subscriptions to the magazine. And, yesterday, Politico did a round-up of what conservative Christians leaders thought of coverage:

“It doesn’t surprise me. Newsweek has been so far in the tank on the homosexual issue, for so long, they need scuba gear and breathing apparatus,” said Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “I don’t think it’s going to change the minds of anyone who takes biblical teachings seriously.”

Tony Perkins, president of the socially conservative Family Research Council, agreed, calling Newsweek’s cover story “yet another attack on orthodox Christianity.”

“I hardly think that Newsweek is a credible venue for theological discussion,” said Perkins. “I mean, I thought it was just full of holes.”

In a note at the front of the magazine this week, editor Jon Meacham predicted a backlash and struck a preemptively defiant note.

“Religious conservatives will say that the liberal media are once again seeking to impose their values (or their ‘agenda,’ a favorite term to describe the views of those who disagree with you) on a God-fearing nation,” he wrote. “Let the letters and emails come. History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion.”

And in an email to Politico, Newsweek managing editor Dan Klaidman invited further responses, writing: “The piece speaks for itself and we welcome the debate.”

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