Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker


Number 367
May 1, 2000



Selective Proof-Texting


The Archbishop of Canterbury is reported to be sympathetic to the change; others are fiercely opposed. The issue is the remarriage of divorced
individuals within the church. A skyrocketing divorce rate in England (even two of the Archbishop's children are divorced) makes the issue more pressing as more couples seek remarriage. We only become aware of the issue when headlines detail heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles' inability to marry Camilla Parker-Bowes and his sister Anne skipping up to Scotland where the rules of the Church of Scotland permitted her remarriage. Ironically, much-wedded King Henry VIII - who declared himself Supreme Governor of the Church of England, a title Queen Elizabeth II retains - divorced two of his six wives.

For American Christians, other than Roman Catholics, this English struggle seems so strange. Yet, at one time that issue rocked American churches. The reason for the prohibition is clear: Jesus directly and unambiguously said that anyone who divorces and remarries commits adultery and any man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. In spite of Jesus' clear teaching, we have abandoned Jesus on this issue.

Strangely, as American Christians, conservative  and fundamentalist, have had no qualms about dismissing this direct teaching of Jesus, they have canonized the prohibition of something about which Jesus never spoke - homosexuality. (It could be said that they are rewriting the Ten Commandments, replacing the prohibition of adultery [as interpreted by Jesus] with a "Thou shall not commit a same-sex act.")

Yes, there are a few Bible passages which condemn homosexuality. But, there are also passages that direct us to stone disobedient children, call the minister to certify when a house is free from mildew, and preface every statement of future intent with the words, "If it be God's will." Such statements, along with others, are blissfully ignored by anti-gay Christians.

Not only that, but two politicians - each of whom has been divorced twice and is on a third marriage - have been enshrined as moral leaders. Their saving grace is that they are on the approved side of today's truly important conservative political issues - they are anti-gay and pro-life.

I have come to believe that the underlying motivation of this selective reading of the Bible and embrace of those who  once would have been shunned is the need of conservative and fundamentalist Christians to primarily define themselves by what they are against. Having lost past battles against divorce, alcohol, card playing, dancing, and playing games and shopping on Sunday, they have latched onto the trinity of homosexuality, abortion and evolution.

As in these past battles, the anti-gay crusade is engaged in a losing battle. Unfortunately, even more is lost by such selective Bible proof-texting: the credibility of the Bible itself.

--Robert H. Tucker
1 May 2000

© Robert H. Tucker, 2000.

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