Newsweek Comes Out for Gay ‘Marriage’

I would be remiss not to comment on Lisa Miller’s cover story in this week’s Newsweek magazine, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage.” The title of the article says everything that you need to know about this piece. In essence, Miller argues that a right understanding of the Christian tradition would actually favor gay “marriage” rather than oppose it. She appeals to the Bible and to history to make her point.

This piece is disappointing on a number of levels, and the subsequent critiques have been sharp and justified (e.g., Albert Mohler, Christianity Today, Mollie Hemingway). For the most thorough response, see Robert Gagnon’s 23-page essay
(HT: Justin Taylor). I have little more to add to these, but a few remarks are in order.

Miller sets forth two lines of argument in this piece that are fundamentally at odds with one another. The first line is that the Bible (rightly understood) actually encourages gay “marriage.” The second line is that the Bible is not a reliable guide for ordering the family or society. These two themes are present throughout the essay, and Miller doesn’t seem to realize that they are self-defeating. It’s fallacious to appeal to the Bible for guidance while simultaneously arguing against the Bible’s relevance for modern culture.

Miller also profoundly misstates the New Testament teaching on marriage. She writes,

‘The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered’. . . while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman.’

Jesus’ teaching about marriage can hardly be characterized as one of indifference. Jesus taught that faithfulness in marriage is a matter of discipleship. He even defined marriage according to Genesis 2:24 as the union of one man and one woman—a union that should not be dissolved cavalierly by divorce (Matthew 19:5).

The apostle Paul also defined marriage according to Genesis 2:24 and argued that God intended the one flesh union of man and wife to symbolize the relationship that Christ has with his church (Ephesians 5:21-33). For Paul, the gospel itself is the innermost meaning of marriage. To distort the one is to distort the other.

Time and again, Jesus looked at the most learned people of his day and said, “Have you not read?” We might ask the same question of Ms. Miller.

27 Responses to Newsweek Comes Out for Gay ‘Marriage’

  1. Darius T December 11, 2008 at 10:47 am #

    I have to ask, as Dobson once did of Stephanopolous, who is she to tell Christians about our religion and our beliefs? This reminds me of that anti-Prop 8 video that a bunch of actors did recently where they completely skew Scripture for their own purposes.

  2. Don Johnson December 11, 2008 at 11:03 am #

    I saw that video, it starred Jack Black. Denny might want to start a thread on it.

    She does take some of what Jesus and Paul said wrong.

    My take is she is trying to “expand the envelope” of what people THINK the Bible teaches but she goes off in far too many directions at once, some contradicting each other, as Denny points out. It was written for someone who is not very Bible literate.

  3. Darius T December 11, 2008 at 11:24 am #

    Yeah, the one with Jack Black. Very disturbing, but not surprising.

  4. Chris Hemmelman December 11, 2008 at 12:09 pm #

    Perhaps the reason she feels she can get away with such an arrogant and ignorant argument is she recognizes the postmodern haze that hangs over much of the church.

  5. Don Johnson December 11, 2008 at 1:08 pm #

    I read Gagnon and agree with most of what he wrote.

    I think there are 2 typos, he omits a negation in a sentence and spells week as weak.

    He makes 2 mistakes in my opinion in his analysis.

    1. He says “The last time I checked, Romans 1:26 was part of the Bible.” The JEWISH Bible does not include Romans, which was obviously what was being discussed. When an ambiguous term like Bible is used, which has at least 4 different contents for Jews, Catholics, Orthodox and protestants, one should see which is meant.

    2. He misunderstands Jesus and Paul on marriage and divorce, altho this is easy to do. See David Instone-Brewer’s works.

  6. Paul December 11, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    Beliefnet’s Stephen Waldman takes a completely different look at the Newsweek thing that makes some really interesting points about the significance of this piece from a journalistic standpoint. And also, in the process, calls into question the integrity of the magazine.

    Insofar as the religious arguments go, everyone is making the same points, and they’re right: there is no religious justification for gay marriage.

  7. Don Johnson December 11, 2008 at 3:01 pm #

    is by a rabbi who says there both is and is not. But being beliefnet, I guess he believes it.

  8. Don Johnson December 11, 2008 at 3:03 pm #

    is Waldman’s post.

  9. Darius T December 11, 2008 at 4:59 pm #

    Don, Prager wrote an excellent piece on that video…

  10. Paul December 11, 2008 at 5:20 pm #

    well, he wrote a much more reasonable than I usually expect from Prager piece on a wonderful website where you can buy a T-Shirt that says “I’d rather be waterboarding” from one of it’s sponsors.

    That said, there’s only one thing I disagree with him about…he complains about the LGBT backlash against the LDS church and others who monetarily supported Prop 8.

    1) if it’s okay for the SBC to boycott Disney, McDonalds or Ford for their pro-gay policies, then by all means, the LGBT community has the right to boycott companies or the people that provide services who have anti-gay policies.

    2) if you work in L.A. or S.F. and a boycott of your work means you’re out of a job, you had it coming. You know who you work around, and your charitable donations are everybody’s business. Every action has an equal reaction, and this is no different.

    3) If the LDS church wants to try to pump money into an election to sway the vote, then it too is responsible for its actions.

  11. Darius T December 11, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    I don’t think a PERSONAL charitable contribution should be ANYONE’s business (except if that person is a public servant). And the kind of “boycotting” that the radical gays are doing is MUCH more vicious than anything the SBC ever did. And getting a guy fired is just disgusting…

  12. Darius T December 11, 2008 at 5:27 pm #

    The difference here, Paul, is huge. The Christian boycott of Target because they supported Planned Parenthood isn’t out to silence opinions or shut down the company, just to make a statement that if Target wanted their business, they would modify their donation list. The gay lobby in California isn’t just doing that, which would be fine. They are showing just how intolerant they are of other opinions and if you disagree with them, be prepared to be fired, harassed, and generally abused for your views. Big diff.

  13. Darius T December 11, 2008 at 5:29 pm #

    Prager made an excellent point that the majority of gays don’t act this way and are ashamed of such behavior. The gay lobby gives all gays a black eye, much like radical Islamists make all Muslims look suspect (especially when the majority stays silent).

  14. Paul December 11, 2008 at 6:01 pm #

    “I don’t think a PERSONAL charitable contribution should be ANYONE’s business (except if that person is a public servant).”

    You need to take that one up with the feds. And I don’t entirely agree. I should be able to know if someone gave money to CAIR, or pre-1997 Bob Jones University, or any other loony thing that just happens to have 501(c)3 status.

    Re: the stakes of the boycotts in California…I don’t think you get the entertainment industry, Darius. That’s not a shot. I have no idea what it’s like to be an engineer, either. There’s not a lot of “you’re hired, you have certain rights” and a lot of “enjoy this gig while you’ve got it.” Part of that is being smart enough to donate cash to a controversial cause.

    That’s why when news started coming out about LGBT backlashes in L.A., all of my buddies (even the conservative ones) all said, “what were they thinking?”

    And if people were really that stupid that they couldn’t have seen it coming, they deserved to lose their jobs anyway.

    As for SBC boycotts vs. LGBT boycotts, it’s the same deal. With the SBC, it was “don’t take care of your gay workers (who at Disney, made up some 60% of their workforce)” or “don’t advertise to this clearly defined marketing niche.” Both of which are JUST as ridiculous as “don’t use this musical director, or we won’t patronize your theater.”

    six of one, half dozen of the other, as far as I can tell.

    Rod Dreher (again at Beliefnet), I believe has it right when he says that allowing civil unions and telling the LGBT community to deal with it is the proper way to handle the situation. That would stop all of this in one fell swoop. I like fell swoops.

  15. Darius T December 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm #

    “I believe has it right when he says that allowing civil unions and telling the LGBT community to deal with it is the proper way to handle the situation. That would stop all of this in one fell swoop. I like fell swoops.”

    This is such a silly canard. When civil unions have been allowed, the gay lobby has spit in society’s face and not even paused for a second before pushing for special marital rights. If civil unions (or changes in contractural law) were really enough (as they should be, since they give the rights that are asked for), then this would be a whole lot easier. But what the gay lobby wants is for society to condone and agree with their deviant behavior and call it equal to morally upright sexuality. Just look at what has happened in Connecticut where parents are losing their rights in public schools to control what is taught to their kids. Or what happened with the Boston Catholic Adoption agency when they wouldn’t let gays adopt from them.

    I believe it speaks to their internal guilt before a righteous God, if they can get all people to agree with their behavior, then maybe it’s okay.

  16. Don Johnson December 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm #

    That was a good article by Prager, I agree.

    It is very ironic that the video does exactly what it purports to be opposing, namely, teach hate.

    P.S. Those that want a quick intro to Instone-Brewer on divorce can check out where short youtube videos explain his main insights.

  17. Paul December 11, 2008 at 6:33 pm #

    “This is such a silly canard.”

    no it’s not. You missed a key component of what I said. If the LGBT community would just shut up and take civil unions instead of pushing for marriage, I think a lot of the support for full on bans of legal recognition of LGBT relationships would fall by the wayside. Sure, the wingnuts would still whine, but it’s a lot easier to deal with 10 wingnuts than it is to deal with millions of people who like their power of privilege in society. (and don’t tell me this has nothing to do with it. The number of RIGHT WING evangelicals in CA might top out at what, 30%? Maybe? There’s a whole lot of people that voted for this based purely on unfounded dislike)

    “When civil unions have been allowed, the gay lobby has spit in society’s face and not even paused for a second before pushing for special marital rights.”

    Really? That’s yet to be the case in Vermont.

    And what marital rights ABOVE AND BEYOND those that you and I have (in other words, SPECIAL rights) has anyone asked for? Quit speaking in pundit-ese.

    “If civil unions (or changes in contractural law) were really enough (as they should be, since they give the rights that are asked for), then this would be a whole lot easier.”

    Really? Tell that to Tony Perkins and his crew that have fought even civil unions tooth and nail.

  18. Darius T December 11, 2008 at 7:27 pm #

    “There’s a whole lot of people that voted for this based purely on unfounded dislike”

    Look at every single state where marriage has been defined into law… Christians don’t make up a majority in any of them. Perhaps most people just realize that they don’t want their society to be the first in HISTORY to define marriage as anything but between a man and a woman. Secular people can still hold to some basic values, if not many.

  19. Ted December 11, 2008 at 8:56 pm #

    I knew there was a reason I let my Newsweek subscription lapse.

  20. Paul December 11, 2008 at 10:22 pm #


    errr, take a refresher social studies class, buddy.

    Canada and Portugal and a couple of others have beaten us to the punch.

  21. Ted December 11, 2008 at 11:41 pm #

    Two other thoughts:

    So is this Newsweek’s annual religious story at Christmas???

    What is Kenneth Woodward thinking right now???

  22. Brittany W. December 12, 2008 at 12:45 am #

    To be fair, Dr. Burk, Jesus saying that “the rules should be followed” when it comes to marriage is not quite an enthusiastic endorsement of the institution. I believe Miller was also referring to Jesus’ statements that he had come to divide family member against family member, rather than unite them (Luke 12:51-53), and the fact that he redefined his family to be those who would listen to him rather than those who shared his blood, while refusing to meet his own blood relatives, who were calling out to him (Mark 3:31-35).

    My understanding of Newsweek‘s new direction is that Jon Meacham wants the zine to be more opinion-oriented because zines that are transparent about their opinions (WSJ, The Atlantic, etc) are doing very well, while mainstream is falling by the wayside (the same is happening with news channels, by the way – MSNBC has been doing much better ever since they came out as openly leftist as well).

  23. Don Johnson December 12, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    Thanks for posting all 4 reviews. My respect for Newsweek has gone way done after this.

  24. JB December 12, 2008 at 8:15 pm #

    Go to to see an exciting post about professor Jim Hamilton of Southern Seminary

  25. Paul December 12, 2008 at 9:04 pm #

    what does this have to do with the cost of tea in China?

  26. Matt Svoboda December 13, 2008 at 10:20 pm #

    It has nothing to do with tea in china or the conversation going on here… It is merely a guy trying desperately to get people to read his blog…


  1. » ‘On Faith’ on Gay ‘Marriage’ | Denny Burk - December 16, 2008

    […] The topic is inspired by last week’s Newsweek cover story by Lisa Miller (which I wrote about here). Panelists include those from the religious left and right. Albert Mohler, Leith Anderson, and […]

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