Culture,  Politics,  Theology/Bible

Obama: Sermon on the Mount supports gay civil unions

Yesterday, the Baptist Press ran a story on Barack Obama’s position on civil unions. In short, Obama says that his reading of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount leads him to support civil unions for homosexuals. Here he is in his own words:

“I believe in civil unions that allow a same-sex couple to visit each other in a hospital or transfer property to each other. I don’t think it should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state. If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans. That’s my view. But we can have a respectful disagreement on that.”

The reporter from the Baptist Press asked me for comment, and here’s what I wrote:

“Senator Obama has attempted to pit Jesus’ message against Paul’s, a conflict that neither Jesus nor Paul would accept. The fact is that Jesus appointed Paul to bear his name before the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), many of whom were living in homosexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The passage in Romans condemning homosexuality was not obscure to first century readers living in the Roman Empire. It’s only obscure to modern readers when they are looking for biblical grounds to justify that which God condemns. As a matter of public policy, the best way to honor God’s intention for marriage and human sexuality is to keep monogamous, heterosexual marriage privileged in law. Unfortunately, the policies of Senator Obama fall far short of the biblical ideal.”

Some people think that it is a more middle-of-the-road position to support civil unions for gays over and against “marriage” for gays. I think that view (which is represented by Senator Obama) misses the point. The point is that marriage between one man and one woman needs to be privileged in law. The civil union confers rights that only properly belong to married people, and that makes it virtually equal to it in law. Thus to elevate homosexual unions through civil unions undermines traditional marriage in the same way that homosexual “marriage” would.

For this reason, not only has Obama misconstrued the Bible, he also takes a position that undermines the sanctity of marriage.


  • jerem z

    “As a matter of public policy, the best way to honor God’s intention for marriage and human sexuality is to keep monogamous, heterosexual marriage privileged in law.”

    To honor God’s intention in law? Seemingly when either the Jewish law or the Roman law was presented to Jesus, Jesus dodged it.

    There cannot be a fusion of faith and politics.

    Also, I do not think it is a bad thing to evelate Jesus’ teachings over Paul. To be honest, Jesus is a little bit more specific than Paul.

  • Brett

    Give me a break, who cares? All you’re doing is making the homosexuals (the prostitutes and tax collectors of the 21st century) hate Christianity more and more when you say stuff like this. The very people 1st century Palestine shunned were the very people Jesus accepted and ate with. No different here Denny.

    I don’t see Jesus in any of this…I mean any.

  • celucien joseph

    I am not sure if I would come up with the same conclusion. Obama did not say explicitly that the Sermon on the Mount supports gay civil union. He made reference to the Sermon on the Mount contending that we should maintain and uphold the basic rights of every individual whether heterosexual or homosexual and should not discriminate against such people. The notion of human right is substantiated both by Scripture and the US Constitution. (Furthermore, many theologians in the past and the present have read the words of Christ in different social and political contexts, particularly the Sermon on the Mount).

    The United of America has been praised by many nations for its progressive and impressive advancement of human rights and dignity.

    Our own constitution celebrates the fundamental rights of every American citizen (see the first ten amendments). According to Amendment IV, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized,” likewise Amendment 14 states, ” All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    Don’t homosexual people deserve to be protected by the US Constitution as well? After all, they are human beings who are worthy of basic care, needs, freedom, liberty, and a right to live. We should not use our Christian freedom in the expense of denying others’ rights and freedom. Isn’t that a biblical mandate?

  • celucien joseph

    I meant to write ” We should not use our Christian liberty in the expense of denying others’ rights and freedom.”

    Moreover, I want to make an explicit declaration. I am not a supporter of gay marriage and abortion. I’m an evangelical Christian. I acknowledge and uphold the sanctity of (traditional)marriage and dignity of human life. Unlike Obama, I am not contending for gay civil unions.

  • Trent G.

    I’m not quite sure where you are going with those quotes from the constitution. Nobody is advocating locking up or killing homosexual people. I don’t think anybody suggests that we should take “basic care, needs, freedom, liberty, and a right to live” away from homosexuals. Are you suggesting that marriage is somehow included in that list? In my opinion, it’s a matter of definition. How will we as Americans define marriage? Should there be some sort of boundary (moral or otherwise) on what “marriage” is? I don’t think those questions necessarily have implications that will deprive people of their basic civil rights. Are you seeing something different?

  • Brett

    Obama’s right Brian, most people have know idea about the message of Romans, and it’s the only book they use to defend their theology. Truth is, it is very difficult to understand. Very rich and theological…yes, but very difficult to understand. I actually think Obama’s exactly right about this. McCain probably thinks Romans is the book about all that end times stuff….lol

  • Paul

    let’s see if Denny still has me completely blocked…

    Anyway, this is one point I need to cede to the right wingers. Obama’s off his rocker this time. While I believe that gays should have the right to marry, I believe that because this is first and foremost a secular state that has many Christians living in it, and it’s ruled by a system of laws, not a system of popular opinion. The Bible has nothing to do with it. And with Obama trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, it just makes everyone look bad.

  • scott

    All laws legislate morality to some degree, but mostly the purpose of our laws is to protect innocent parties from harm. (Laws against murder, rape, stealing, etc).

    I think the abortion laws should be changed, because we need to protect the innocent lives of the unborn.

    But gay marriage – there is no innocent party being hurt here. No unconsenting victims. Is it sin? Sure. Should our government have a law against it? I don’t think that is appropriate. It makes Christians look bad and marginalize our voice when we keep speaking against the rights of those we think of as “sinners”, when we live in a secular society after all!

  • jeff miller

    Rafe , U still have not seen an answer to your question barack if your out there please help us.
    Celucian, thank you for quoting from the authoritative document of United Atates governance.
    Jeremy, just for semantic adustment on “there can be no fusion between faith [Jesus] and politics,” Have youu read “The Politics of Jesus” by John Yoder? I think you might like it.
    Celucian, in a response /challenge to what you are saying about Human Rights I am reminded of my challenge/response to the so-called “christian” doctrine of “just war” in this way -what does the bible, either exodus, leviticus, deuteronomy, or the New Testament, have to do with the United States governmewnt’s favor upon homysectyoualls or their restriction and punishment of homysectyoualls? As a cultural observation I would think that explicitly non-christian governments as well as pseudo-christian governments can come to the practical realization that homosexuality weakens a culture.I think a real christian “kingdom of God” perspective may actually think that reaching out to both Barack and any homosexuals is of great importance while the public policy of the United States has been demonstrated to be worth less(this happened when both Jewish {church} and Roman [state} public policy, as good as they were, killed the Righteous one! just some thoughts.

  • Ben Stevenson

    Brett: “The very people 1st century Palestine shunned were the very people Jesus accepted and ate with. No different here Denny.”

    The Bible does not say that Jesus advocated laws that were more friendly to tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus showed love to these people. He told a woman caught in adultery to leave her life of sin (John 8:1-11). He helped tax collectors repent and change their behaviour (Luke 19:1-10).

    I don’t believe that advocating laws people do not like is the opposite of showing love.

    I think marriage being protecting in law is in the interests of society. I think Christians should show love to all people, including homosexuals, and those that advocate for the acceptance of gay marriage. I don’t see a conflict.

  • Trent G.

    The gay marriage issue is not nearly as big an issue for me as the abortion issue. The only reason I would support a ban on gay marriage is not to harm homosexual people pre say, but to protect the sanctity of marriage. Marriage is a beautiful thing that, when done right, is a picture to the world of Christian truth. An important element of this truth is that it is between a man and a woman. If we have the opportunity to protect that element, I am for it. However, I also realize that marriage in the USA, among seculars, as it stands is far from perfect and heterosexual marriage is almost a joke anymore and is more about insurance or tax breaks than anything else. Ultimately I understand that God’s people need to be the ones displaying how beautiful marriage is and can be. That is why a bill being passed that allowed gay marriage would only further erode the sanctity of what marriage is, but it wouldn’t be a make-or-break issue in my opinion.

    People love to argue that Jesus was never involved in politics so we shouldn’t be, but they ignore the fact that Jesus lived in a vastly different political atmosphere. We have the opportunity to vote and have our voice heard when we vote, and often times our values can be reflected in the way we vote (though not perfectly) If I, as a Christian, can cast a vote that says “I believe marriage is a beautiful thing and it is best viewed in this way.” I don’t see the harm in that. You seem to frame the issue as taking rights from “sinners”. I understand it more as protecting what marriage is. Do you see how this makes the issue different or am I being unclear (a more than distinct possibility)?

  • Paul


    a few things…

    1) “Marriage is a beautiful thing that, when done right, is a picture to the world of Christian truth.”

    A statement which forgets that we are (a) a secular nation and (b) a nation of many faiths. Are happy Hindi, Jewish, Buddhist or Muslim marriages any less beautiful? I would think not.

    2) “However, I also realize that marriage in the USA, among seculars, as it stands is far from perfect and heterosexual marriage is almost a joke anymore and is more about insurance or tax breaks than anything else.”

    Then why is the divorce rate higher in “red” states, where presumably more Christians live, and why is the divorce rate among evangelicals equal to the divorce rate amongst the secular/non-Christian population?

    The problem is that “marriage” as almost anyone understands it, is truly a religious idea. Personally, I think that ALL “marriages” should be civil unions, and then those that want to be married in the church can have the ceremony, the reception with the less than stellar food and the cake.

    And, let’s face it, until adultery is a punishable crime again, the whole canard about “protecting marriage” rings quite hollow.

  • scott

    Protecting the sanctity of marriage… I think it is time to recognize the difference between the marriage we are called to participate in as Christians, and the secular version of marriage that exists in our society today, based on economics and convenience. Apart from Christ, there is no true marriage… just a shadow of it.

    The true sanctity of marriage, as God intended, is already lost to most of our secular culture. Trying to keep homosexual couples from receiving tax breaks and health insurance does not promote the sanctity of marriage, it communicates intolerance, persecution and hatred.

    If you feel that tax benefits for gay couples threatens the foundation of marriage, I wonder, what is the foundation of your marriage? Is it Christ? Or favorable tax status?

  • Trent G.

    “And, let’s face it, until adultery is a punishable crime again, the whole canard about “protecting marriage” rings quite hollow.”

    I agree with this statement and that’s why I said ultimately a bill favoring gay marriages is not as big an issue to me. I’m just not quite sure it is an all-or-nothing thing. I wouldn’t say, “well since marriages in the USA are flawed anyway we may as well abandon any meaning in the word.” That is the only disagreement I really have, but it’s not that significant of one. The problem isn’t that homosexuals want to be married (so whether or not they pass a bill that allows them to doesn’t matter). The problem is we live in a culture that promotes and many times glorifies homosexuality as “acceptable”.

  • Richard

    I hear that we should accept everyone just as they are because they cannot change “the way that they are”. The bottom line here is that same-sex marriage is about sexual perversion. These folks want to feel justified in their sin. (Can government justify our sins?) Then the next argument is that same-sex marriage is not about sex, it is about being with the one you love. Maybe I am oversimplifying but, Isn’t that friendship? I have plenty of male friends that I have a loving and caring relationship with. But I have no desire to be married to them. I know that I am trying to be simple about this. Is that bad?

    We need to share the Gospel with these folks. We must love them as the the Lord loves us. We must show them their potential in Christ.

  • JNG

    Paul said: “A statement which forgets that we are (a) a secular nation”

    Thanks for making our founding fathers roll over in their graves once again. Have you read any of their thoughts on this topic? Do you realize that if you were in a room with them when they framed the laws of this nation that you would have been laughed out of the room or worse beaten out of it. This nation was not founded as a “secular” nation. It is only becoming a secular nation as more and more people pull us from our foundational principles. The founders never had any intention of this nation being a hindu, muslim or any other religious country. They had every intention of it being a religious country based on Biblical principles, and no matter how “free thinking” you left wingers want to be, you can not change that. I realize the electorate is changing it, but that does not change the original intentions of our founders.

    “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Cristians, not by religions, but by the gospel of Jesus Christ.”–Patrick Henry

    “Principally, and first of all, I resign my soul to the Almighty Being who gave it, and my body I commit to the dust relying on the merits of Jesus Christ for the pardon of my sins.”–Samuel Adams

    “The only foundation for a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”–Benjamin Rush

    “You do well to wish and learn our arts and our ways of life, and above all the religion of Jesus Christ…”–George Washington

    “And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in the exclusion of religious priciple.” –George Washington

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”–John Adams

    “Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the Foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of the human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?”–John Adams

  • Donald

    Since so many Americans seem to be confused about what God’s Word says and don’t know what it means to be a Christian, I’ve compiled a list of scriptures that clearly condemn homosexuality and those who persist in such a lifestyle.

    Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female;it is an abomination.

    The same verse is restated in Leviticus 20:13

    1 Cor 6:9 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators,nor idolaters,nor adulterers,nor effeminate,nor homosexuals…
    See the Bible condemns all forms of sexual perversion.

    1 Tim 1:10(The Law is made for)immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurer, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.

    Also read Gen 19:1-13;Jud 19:22-30;and Rom 1:18-32(the “obscure one”)

    I do not understand why Christians spend so much time throwing their weight behind politicians. We have not been called for that purpose. The Gospel is the power of God not political process.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.