Newsweek on Homosexuality and the Bible: A Response

According to Newsweek‘s senior editor and religion commentator Lisa Miller:

More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good–and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God’s knowledge of our most secret selves: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for “Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad.” Let the priest’s prayer be our own.

And her boss, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham:

No matter what one thinks about gay rights–for, against or somewhere in between –this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism. Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt–it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.

I know that this is an issue sensitive to many readers of this blog, myself included. I am writing this post because I believe that Newsweek’s editors capture what I perceive to be the mainstream left’s response to conservatives on this issue. Several writers for Newsweek‘s blog “On Faith” wrote an ecumenical response to the articles. They are worth reading because they are illustrative of the sloppy nature by which Newsweek, and others who make similar claims engage this issue.
Here’s a portion of the ecumenical response (penned in part by EO’s own John Mark Reynolds):

In the latest issue of Newsweek, editor Jon Meacham explains: “To argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt–it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.” Indeed, he continues, “this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism.” Curiously, he intends this as a defense of Lisa Miller’s cover story, which announces that we should approve homosexual marriage because the Bible tells that Jesus would want us to.
On any plane of argument, the contradiction would appear stunning, but, then, neither Jon Meacham nor Lisa Miller are engaged in argument. They’re speaking, instead, in familiar tropes and fused-phrases and easy clich├ęs. They’re trying to convey a feeling, really, rather than an argument: Jesus loves us, love is good, homosexuals love one another, marriage is love, love is loving–a sort of warm bath of words, their meanings dissolved into a gentle goo. In their eyes, all nice things must be nice together, and Jesus comes to seem (as J.D. Salinger once mocked) something like St. Francis of Assisi and “Heidi’s grandfather” all in one.

The Bible has been one of the most influential texts in all of human history. Yet two of the top editors of one of America’s most recognized news magazines cannot even demonstrate basic competence of the text nor demonstrate an appreciation for the complexity of that great and Holy work. Even if one were to bracket the question of homosexuality, the lack of carefulness that these editors demonstrate is shameful.

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