Saturday, March 25, 2006

Anthropology project interview on gay marriage

With our proximity to UVa it is not uncommon for us to get contacts from students doing various research projects. Last week I got a call from a student, Meghan P., who wanted to do an interview with a pastor for an Anthropology class group-project on gay marriage. I reluctantly agreed (my reluctance coming from lack of time and fear of misrepresentation of my views) with the proviso that she send me a copy of her report.
After sharing some of my views I chatted with Meghan about her own personal views on the topic. She described herself as someone who grew up Catholic but who had not attended church while in college. It did not take long to discern that she was also sympathetic to uncritical acceptance of gay marriage. I ended our conversation by asking her to consider what it was that made a person a Christian, insisting that it was not a matter of what your parents believe or the way you were brought up. I suggested she get a Bible and read the gospel of John. I also encouraged her to think critically about how the culture (and even her UVA classes--particularly this one!) were trying to shape her attitudes toward homosexuality and life in general.
Meghan kept her word and sent me this copy of her report on our interview. There are a few place of misunderstanding (e.g., our "Confession of Faith" is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000) and lacunae, but it generally reflects our conversation with accuracy:

Meghan P.
Scott J.
Gay Marriage

For my section of the project I focused on the beliefs of the Jefferson Park Baptist Church here in Charlottesville. They are led by Pastor Jeff Riddle, and consider themselves a Conservative Evangelical Church. Their beliefs are outlined in a doctrine called The Confession of Faith, from which he read bits and pieces of to me throughout the interview. Jeff began by defining what he believes to be the definition of marriage, "Our church adheres to The Confession of Faith, which affirms the biblical understanding of marriage to be between one man and one woman, in a union of flesh". He went on to explain that God created Adam, and for Adam he created Eve, and that this was the founding for the "one man, one woman" marriage system. The Confession of Faith goes on to say that marriage is used for "the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race". This defines the family to be one father, one mother who form a covenant through God, to procreate through sexual relationships defined by the Bible. This excludes the types of non-blood related families made by lesbians and gays discussed in Weston’s "Exiles from Kinship".

He then went on to explain how homosexuality is viewed by his church. For this he used the Confession of Faith’s article on The Christian and Social Order. This states that, "In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography". He said that those who go outside the covenant of marriage and participate in sexual immorality experience great damage to their lives.

He said that there have been people within his church that have struggled with homosexuality. He explained that he has the same stance with homosexuals as he does with young men who deal with heterosexual lust (another sexual immorality). He said that if you’re not married, you should stay celibate.

When presented with the hypothetical situation of the US Government making gay marriage lawful, he said "We would absolutely not condone or conduct same gender marriages at our church- no matter what the civil government does". He then went on to say that he would hope the magistrate would stay out of their business for not complying with the law. He defended this stance by explaining that not just anyone is allowed to marry in the Jefferson Park Church, "It’s not just a wedding chapel". He said that if any proposing couple is "out of bounds of The Confession of Faith" then he would refuse to marry them, whether they were a gay or straight couple.

Pastor Jeff believes that if the US Government allows for same-sex marriages, that it will in turn "open Pandora’s box" and lead to possible allowance for incest, polygamy, bestiality, etc. This relates back to what this class has previously discussed with polygamy, and cousin marriage. People fear a "slippery slope" effect when it comes to these types of marriages. Jeff is also concerned with the media’s role in numbing people to the danger of homosexuality. He said that we have "been bombarded by media to accept homosexuality" and to scold those who are not accepting of the practice.

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