Today on National Public Radio the dean of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. was interviewed. The first ‘same-sex marriage’ was or was about to be performed at that cathedral. Asked to share his thoughts about the significance of this event, the dean explained that in his 30 some years as an Episcopal priest he had come to the conclusion that same sex marriages are blessed with the same sacramental grace as heterosexual unions and that they show us how committed intimate unions can be free of patriarchal bias.
The dean went on to say that in his experience working with ‘gays and lesbians’ he has come to realize that in our encounter with God all of us will recognize the ‘radical equality’ we share before our Creator, and that his ministry to the gay and lesbian community over the years has sensitized him to this fact.
How will this development affect the advance of the Kingdom? As ecumenism brings Christian denominations closer together in the face of secularism, indeed as Christians and other non-Christian monotheists such as Jews and Moslems come to discover that in the face of this secularism they have more that unites them that separates them – how can such profoundly contradictory definitions of marriage by Anglican Catholics and Roman Catholics be reconciled?
To employ a response popularized in an earlier presidential election this question is ‘above my pay grade.’ One, of course, hopes the Holy Spirit will show us the way. But, I would like to respond to this concept of ‘radical equality,’ being as I am a husband unaware in his marriage of any diminished feminine power.
‘Radical equality’ among God’s creatures is, I contend, a blasphemy. Indisputably all human beings are created in the image of God and are, therefore, each one, possessed of infinite value – so much so that none can be considered of superior worth to another. But, this is not to say that all of us are the same and that the gifts that distinguish us are to be ignored. This is the danger of this well intentioned but inadequately considered notion of radical equality. By its ultimate logical extension, everyone one must be the same, a conclusion that flies in the face of the infinite creativity of God.
Radical equality is a human concept, not a divine one. Here is a tantalizing question. God selected as his Chosen People the Jews. How does this square with the other races that were around at the time, like the ancient Egyptians or the Babylonians? In the Christian tradition this preference evidenced by God is known as ‘the scandal of particularity’. Even God respects distinction. The point here is that we humans must not judge God on our terms.
One fundamental characteristic that distinguishes us is sex. To be female is no less honorable than to be male and vice versa. We should remember the Book of Genesis where it is written that God created us ‘male and female.’ To suggest that the distinction of one’s sex (I purposely avoid the use of the word ‘gender’ when not referring to grammatical construction) somehow limits one’s full dignity as a human being not only implies a lack of healthy zest for life but also, surely, offends our Creator.
No polemics here, only honest questions: how will this contradictory understanding of marriage affect the advance of the Kingdom?
Is it merely a harmless matter of opinion? Could it be regarded as dissension? Or, will it in fact amount to heresy? More forebodingly: is the faith under siege and will our Lord’s flock, diminished by wolves in sheep’s clothing, be seeking pasture in catacombs?