By Wesley Hill
[In early May] Sarah Pulliam Bailey posted an interview with Marilynne Robinson. Here’s an excerpt:
Q: For Christians who hold the view that marriage is between a man and a woman, do you think they’ll become a smaller group over time?
A: It’s hard to know. There has never been a period in world history where same-sex relationships were more routine and normal than in Hellenistic culture at the time of Christ. Does Jesus ever mention the issue? I bet it must have been all around him. You can get in a lot of trouble eating oysters if you are a literalist about Leviticus. I’m a great admirer of the Old Testament. It’s an absolute trove of goodness and richness. But I don’t think we should stone witches. And if you choose to value one or two verses in Leviticus over the enormous, passionate calls for social justice that you find right through the Old Testament, that’s primitive. There are a thousand ways that we would all be doomed for violating the Sabbath and all kinds of other things, if we were literalists.
I revere Marilynne Robinson—if there’s a midnight release party at my local bookstore for her novel Lila
this fall, I’ll be there—but her answer here represents so much of what I find distressing about the quality of our debates over these matters at present.
In the first place, if there is a thoughtful “traditionalist” who bases her views of the morality of same-sex sexual partnerships on Leviticus, I’m not aware of such a person. That’s just not how Christians read the Bible, and even the most rigorous social conservatives wouldn’t say that an Old Testament text, taken literally and by itself, can serve as the immediate basis for a contemporary Christian ethic. Rather, the reason Leviticus remains a part of the ongoing Christian conversation on these matters is that the New Testament exhibits a certain continuity with the Old Testament’s prohibition of same-sex sexual behavior. Read the rest at First Things.