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BibliFact Brief: Billy Graham and Marriage in the Biblical Sense

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"They welcomed the message very eagerly
and examined the scriptures every day
to see whether these things were so"

--Acts 17:11

As we make our way toward the 2012 elections, many feel tossed to and fro by often contradicting claims about what the Bible says on this or that political issue. Most people just don't know the Bible well enough to say whether these claims are right, wrong, correct, incorrect or a matter of interpretation. How can we keep political Biblespeak honest? Inspired by PolitiFact.com, BibliFact roundups aim to do just that.

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BILLY GRAHAM AND MARRIAGE IN THE BIBLICAL SENSE

"At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage," Billy Graham's statement said. "The Bible is clear -- God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment." -- Billy Graham, in support of North Carolina's Amendment 1, which would stipulate that marriage between one man and one woman is the only valid domestic legal union in the state

2012-05-03-04notreally50.jpg With all due respect to Reverend Graham, who has tended to avoid engaging in political debates about homosexuality and gay marriage, the Bible does not clearly define marriage. Nor is the Bible clear that God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. Nor is the Bible straightforwardly applicable to any of the current policy debates about gay marriage, civil unions, and homosexuality. For an excellent summary and assessment of biblical-political discourse around gay marriage, read biblical scholar Lee Jefferson's excellent article, "What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gay Marriage?," written last summer in the wake of its legalization in the state of New York. His conclusions: (1) although the institution of marriage has often been governed by ecclesiastical authorities, it is not a biblical institution but a civil one; (2) there is no biblical endorsement of one particular form of marriage (the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2, which is the primary text used to support the argument that it does, is about the creation of gender, and desire, not heterosexual marriage); (3) discussions of specific sexual behavior in Paul's letters are not about marriage; and (4) the modern concept of homosexuality or same-sex orientation is foreign to the ancient texts of the Bible. Professor Lee reasons out each of these points, drawing out all the potentially relevant biblical texts along the way. Long and short, "The Bible is not specific, literate, or even concerned with what we call same-sex orientation or gay marriage."

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