Editorial: The SCOTUS Decision

Various writers have rightly noted that the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage is an interpretation of the Constitution and its advocacy of equal treatment under the law.  They have rightly pointed out that the decision is not directly based on any religion’s sacred text, but is rather a reflection of a national ethos rooted in our nation’s historic commitment that all persons are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights.

A reading of the confirming opinion, however, does reveal a keen insight captured in the decision–an insight revealed in the Bible–namely, that marriage is defined in terms of covenant.  And as such it combines privilege and responsibility.

Those who oppose the SCOTUS decision are doing so largely and most-often using a definition of marriage that arises from creation.  When this is so, biology and anatomy become the interpretive portals. And from those doorways, opposite-sex marriage is quickly believed to be the defining element of the concept.

But when covenant is viewed as the norm (not only for marriage alone, but for all aspects of the God-human, human-human relationship), the portal becomes holiness, expressed in marriage through vows that commit those married to sacredness, monogamy, fidelity, and permanency.  Holy sexuality is rooted in and defined by covenant, not creation.  And when it is so viewed, it can be the privilege and responsibility of any two people who are willing to make the commitments that any marriage expects and enforces.

The SCOTUS decision is an interpretation of the Constitution, not an interpretation of the Bible.  In that respect it is trans-religious and non-sectarian.  But in defining marriage in a covenental context, the Court keeps marriage in the same high place where Scripture has placed it from the beginning until now.  Far from diminishing marriage, it has kept its covenant core intact, offering the blessings and benefits of it to anyone willing to make marriage holy matrimony–what a government can only describe to is citizenry as “liberty and justice for all.”

I will continue these thoughts in a second post next week.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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6 Responses to Editorial: The SCOTUS Decision

  1. Jim Bradshaw says:

    I am not as concerned with the SCOTUS decision as I am with the thought that the scriptures suggest that a homosexual union covenant is holy. The debate then for me would be more about a “proper” hermeneutic. I can’t see how anyone within the bounds of an objective hermeneutical approach can determine that the scriptures could ever suggest that a homosexual covenantal union is holy. If I am blind concerning this, then Lord help me to see. In any case, let all of us who have received such a responsibility from God take care in how we approach and interpret the scriptures for the sake of our influential conclusions. “Not many of us should presume to be teachers…” in James 3:1 comes to mind to keep us in a healthy “fear and trembling” attitude when it comes to “rightly dividing the word of truth.”

  2. Mike says:

    The same God who Created is the same God who established Covenant. I think there is a false dichotomy here. I agree the SCOTUS decision is about equal rights as it should be. The real issue here is the reinterpretation of God’s Holy Word.

  3. ann hooker says:

    Lots of technical language about the mechanics of the decision abound about same sex marriage. Where is the talk about the sin that is involved here? The Bible has several passages indicating to the reader that homosexual behavior is a sin against the body and is displeasing to a right relationship with God. Seems to me that we should be cautioning our friends and family who are caught up in this sin against the flesh, that in order to be pleasing to the eyes of God, we must all actively, and daily, work to eliminate sin from our lives. The government tells us that this particular sin is legal and we Christians are all supposed to embrace it and act like nothing profound just happened to our ‘national ethos’? I never thought I’d see this day coming in the United States.

  4. Jody Wallin says:

    I highly respect you and have read your teachings for years. While your comments may explain the SCOTUS ruling, I cannot believe that it makes a gay life style and gay marriage acceptable in God’s eyes. The bible is so clear about this in both the Old and New Testaments. Lev. 18:22, and 20:13; Romans 1:24-27; Timothy 1:9-10; and 1 Cor. 6:9-17 to name several. The ultimate redemption for all of this is of course 1 Cor. 6:11, the Grace of God as it is for my sins as well.
    Paul made it very clear that we should not sin more so that God can forgive more. We are to live as citizens of heaven as much as is humanly possible. While I know we are so very far from being perfect, I do believe we should be going on to perfection. I believe this ruling could have far reaching consequences and set precedences for future rulings and laws all of which will take us further and further away from striving to be God’s people.
    I resect your right to have your opinions, but where do the ancient teachings of the above holy scriptures fit into what God desires for our lives today, fit in?
    Thanks and God bless you.

  5. Carl says:

    People think about sex, when they should think about relationships.

  6. Jeff Blake says:

    Such a helpful understanding of the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. Thank you for bringing clarity and insight into the sacred covenant of marriage.

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