Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A New Vision for Marriage?

The February 2007 issue of The Journal of Lutheran Ethics focuses on human sexuality. Laurie A. Jungling joins other Lutheran theologians and ethicists who are finding resources in the Lutheran tradition (such as Jacqueline Bussie's "Scarred Epistemologies: What a Theology of the Cross has to Say About the Gay Marriage Ban") to support same-sex marriage. In her article, "A 'New' Vision for Marriage as Vocation in the Lutheran Tradition," Jungling argues:
During this time of discernment for the Lutheran church as it attempts to define and understand the various social and sexual relationships from which Christians follow their vocational call, Lutherans need to consider alternatives to form-based definitions of marriage and sexuality. Instead, a better criterion is the call itself – the call to serve life with and for the neighbor – as the fundamental criterion for defining marriage. Definitions and understandings of marriage that use "appropriate to form" as the primary criterion in defining marriage not only exclude certain relationships from being a legitimate support to society for little reason other than physical form and its humanly constructed meanings, but they also construct a social order that is often hierarchical, exclusionary, and oppressive to those who do not fit certain forms.
For awhile now, I have been convinced that the theological debate over same-sex marriage needs to engage more robustly questions of theological anthropology (in particular, what it means to be created imago dei). A couple of years ago, I came across this article in the Christian Century that is helpful in this regard: "An Argument for Gay Marriage" written by Eugene Rogers from an Orthodox perspective in which he takes on the "complementarity" argument against same-sex couples held by Karl Barth and others.


Kevan D Penvose said...

I think you know where I stand on the issue, and also I'm all for using the concept of vocation as the epistemological category for understanding humanity, Christology, God, church, etc. (as I've spent most of my graduate work developing it)...BUT...as I read the argument laid out here I couldn't help but think that when God calls us into being and issues our vocation as a community of stewards within creation, we are told to go forth and multiply. This doesn't mean we have to resort to Aristotelian categories of form, but one needs to account for this charge if one wishes to argue for same-sex marriage on the basis of a vocational anthropology.

C Peterson said...

Kevan, thanks for your comment. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that marriage has both unitive and procreative functions. A few years ago, I heard Gary Simpson propose that we speak instead of the vocation of marriage as unitive and generative, since that is inclusive not only same-sex couples but also those heterosexual couples who are unable to have children. A marriage can be generative (life-giving) without necessarily being procreative. Same-sex couples and heterosexual couples can participate in the raising and educating of children, either by adoption or by involvement in ecclesial and community programs for children.