Bill Armistead, the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, is worried. He returned from a week in the Holy Land only to find same-sex couples getting married in and around Montgomery, Birmingham, and Huntsville.
So he took to the party’s website to declaim, “The State of Alabama and the United States of America will reap God’s wrath if we embrace and condone things that are abhorrent to God, such as redefining marriage as anything other than a union between one man and one woman.”
Truth to tell, the best Armistead could come up with regarding divine abhorrence of non-one-man-one-woman marriage is Genesis’ account of God creating man and woman, whereupon “Scripture then teaches that ‘a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24).” Saith Armistead,”God’s word never changes” and “This is God’s word.”
That put me in mind of this week’s Torah reading, Mishpatim, which includes among the laws given by God to Moses: “If he marries another, he must not withhold from this one her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights (Exodus 21:10)” — about as clear a divine definition of something other than a union between one man and one woman as the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party could ask for.
As for divorce, Deuteronomy allows it, Matthew forbids it, and Paul offers some concessions — such that no less an authority than the Christian Broadcasting Network teaches that it is only permitted in cases of adultery, or if one spouse becomes an unbeliever, or possibly in cases of domestic abuse. Now it turns out that the states with the highest divorce rates are the ones with the most evangelicals, and as a native wag once told me, “Here in Alabama there are more Baptists than people.”
So I’m thinking that if I were the God worshipped by most Alabamians, I’d be more wroth with them regarding their second-highest-in-the-nation divorce rate than because a federal judge opened the doors to same-sex marriage. Which suggests that if Armistead were really serious about having his state in line with God’s marital word, he’d be leading a campaign against Alabama’s no-fault divorce law. Which so far as I know he’s not.
Perhaps the best way to understand this anomalous situation is that while God’s word may or may not change, the culture war is always moving on. Over time, evangelical religion has taken stands against dancing, and violating the Sabbath, and drinking, and gambling, and miscegenation, and of course divorce, and probably some other things I don’t know about but which could be proof-texted by any self-respecting Baptist preacher, bless his heart.
Yesterday, Federal District Judge Callie Granade blew up Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and ordered a Mobile probate judge to distribute marriage licenses to same-sex couples forthwith. And in due course the U.S. Supreme Court will probably declare that marriage is a constitutional right that extends to same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples.
And verily, the Alabama Republican Party will learn to live with it. And will find something else that’s abhorrent to God to declare war upon.