Christian evolutionists and gay marriage
What’s the relationship between acceptance of a non-literal understanding of Genesis, that is evolution, and the support for gay marriage?
I speak, of course, without any statistical knowledge, but my hunch is that there is relatively greater support for gay marriage1 among Christian evolutionists than among creationists.
I suspect that Christian evolutionists are generally both more open to new ideas and insights in general, and scientific ones in particular than creationists. Being a creationist requires a concerted effort to ignore, at best, and demonise, at worst, data that conflicts with one’s own position. More importantly, I think, evolutionists, especially them that have grown up creationist and later changed their minds, are more open to theological change than creationists. A creationist becoming an evolutionist does not only change his mind on scientific matters, but has to re-negotiate theological positions, often foundational ones. Not that homosexuality is foundational. It’s important, yes. Very much so. But in the grand theological scheme of things, it’s not. What is foundational is how one approaches the Bible.
Christian evolutionists appreciate how the Bible was written by and to people in specific historical contexts and in order to discern the Spirit’s voice in the text, one must be aware of how the text is shaped by its original context. Genesis is properly understood in light of ancient near Eastern creation myths, especially those of Babylon. It’s a polemical, though quietly so, subversion of the polytheistic idolatry surrounding the Jewish people at the time. It’s a theological text, dealing with God and his relation to creation. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but I will: It’s a pre-scientific text. To the creationist, though, Genesis and the entire Bible are God’s timeless word and the believer’s task is to follow and apply it to the letter. Reality is of course more nuanced, but I sometimes I suspect that it’s only because creationists (fundamentalists, actually) aren’t thoughtful enough to be consistent.
So the evolutionist doesn’t view Genesis 2 as an eternal commandment regarding marriage, but one rooted in its particular historical context, though he will take away important lessons from it. The door has been opened, to a certain degree at least, for the acceptance of gay marriage.
There’s an important, fundamental world hermeneutic at play here. The creationist’s resistance to science is often part of a larger way of seeing the world, in which “the world” is evil, godless and opposed to God. There are human ideas, man’s own attempt to make sense of the world, without reliance on God. This basically includes all ideas - morals, science, philosophy and theology – that don’t conform to creationism, in particular, and fundamentalist dogma, in general. Over and against this stands God’s revelation – perfect, uncontaminated eternal truths, revealed in the Bible.
This means that the creationist is inclined to see acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate, God-blessed expression of love, as part of “the world” and its proud rebellion against God. A bit like evolution itself. This is a sort of built in defence mechanism which makes it extremely difficult to get the creationist even to consider accepting homosexuality.
The evolutionist, on the other hand, doesn’t essentialize “the world” as evil, godless and opposed to God. He sees it as a potential source of truth, along side of God’s revelation. Fittingly, it is partly because of Genesis’ teaching that humans are created in the image of God that the evolutionist doesn’t reject the world as a legitimate source of knowledge. The evolutionist rejects the stark opposition the creationist puts between God and man, and comes to the world with an open mind.
This means that the evolutionist is likely to factor in various scientific, philosophical and ethical insights about homosexuality, in addition to (and I think this might be the most important factor) the experience of the gay person, in his reasoning regarding whether or not to accept homosexuality.
In summary, a Christian evolutionist is probably more likely to accept gay marriage than a creationist is. While I’m not suggesting a direct causal link – we all come to our conclusions in our own unique ways – I do think there is a sort of correlate. The underlying presuppositions regarding how both religion and the world work, about which Christian evolutionists and creationists disagree, predispose them respectively to either accept evolution and gay marriage, or reject both.
- I single out gay marriage, because the video does so and since this discussion revolves around Genesis, which mentions marriage. But it would of course be just as appropriate to speak of gay rights more generally. ↩