Obama and gay marriage: In U.S. religion, the Golden Rule rules

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(RNS) As pundits and politicians gauge the political fallout from President Obama’s sudden endorsement of gay marriage, one thing has become clear: the Golden Rule invoked by Obama to support his change of heart is the closest thing Americans have to a common religious law, and that has implications beyond the battle for gay rights. By David Gibson.

  • Anselm

    The observations that you make on the Golden Rule in American culture are interesting. What seems to quickly drop from view though is the ‘first and greatest commandment’ in Jesus’ accounting; Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. The first commandment is necessary to lend guidance to the second. The heart, soul, and mind have to first be properly oriented so that we can properly understand HOW to love our neighbor. If our hearts, souls, or minds are misoriented, our ‘love’ will likely not lead to true good of our neighbor. If they are oriented properly (by being in alignment with the will of God), our loving actions will tend toward the good of our neighbor. As an extreme example, a masochist applying only the second commandment would be a sadist. The whole person has to first be ordered properly so that their conception of what they would like to be done to them is good, then it can be expected that their application of the rule will be good.

  • fathercarldiederichs@gmail.com

    What is the point, Anselm? Loving your neighbor as you love yourself, within the context of the Gospel, can hardly be a sadistic activity. And loving our gay brothers and sisters so much that we would want the same for them as for a heterosexual couple is the point, I think.

  • David Gibson

    I think Anselm does raise a valid point, in that an underlying element of the Golden Rule ethos — which I didn’t have space to get into — is that the people or behaviors being tolerated must generally be seen to be ethical or virtuous or not harmful to others. That is the corollary of the Golden Rule, that others are not hurting you, either. So part of this shift on gay rights, for example, is the growing view that gay people and married gay couples in particular are not hurting anyone and indeed that they are providing stable loving family units to society. Obviously many will disagree with that view, but that positive view undergirds the invocation of the Golden Rule. We are less willing to use the Golden Rule for the KKK, e.g.

  • kayf

    I disagree with your last point David. You say that the people or behaviors being tolerated (how I hate that word) must generally be seen as ethical….This statement flies directly in the face of, perhaps, Christ’s most powerful parable related to loving our neighbor…the story of the good Samaritan.

  • kayf

    And no, we should not *tolerate* those who are different. We must accept them. Big difference.

  • David Gibson

    Kay, I’m not necessarily saying that we have to tolerate (yes, a problematic but useful term — see Gus Niebuhr’s work) only those we see as ethical, but simply that this is the way most people function. So the growing support for gay rights and gay marriage is not simply a case of Americans growing more loving toward their neighbors or enemies, but also a case of Americans seeing gays and “Will & Grace” characters (not necessarily the most fortunate example — loved the show, but not all gay folks are that “safe”).

    The point is that the Golden Rule is easily applied to those we approve of, or don’t find objectionable. So it’s “virtue” is conditional, and we shoudn’t pat ourselves on the back too strongly.

    Moreover, loving our enemies is fine — but do we apply the Golden Rule of live and let live to the KKK or others? Westboro Baptist?

  • fathercarldiederichs@gmail.com

    I think we do love even the KKK and Westboro Baptist. I would hope and pray that our love for them would be a point of conversion, if we truly follow through on our commitment to “Love Supreme.” It is not live and let live, it is a matter of the will to proactively love them.

  • kayf

    If we only show tolerance/acceptance of those with whom we agree, we have done nothing.

  • Michael Snow

    In this analysis, we see how even ‘love’ and the “Golden Rule” can become true heresies when naively divorced from the context of Scripture


  • Paulus26

    Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    That was God plan and purspose from the beginning. Now if the state wants to rebel against God’s plan they legally can do that, but the Christian Church cannot, according to Jesus ie. And that is His Golden Rule!

  • gilhow

    Nice thought. Wishful thinking. If the “Golden Rule” rules, or has any influence, in this country, then will someone please explain to me why there is so much ugliness, so much contradiction of “the true, the good, and the beautiful” by so-called religious people. And it’s very easy to see that it comes from the right. The further right one searches, the uglier those so-called religious expressions are. Have you watched any of those mad rantings of ignorant and ugly ministers at some southern churches on YouTube or TV? All in the name of Jesus, of course!

  • Ramdas

    Aug23 (forgive me for taking a saowehmt professional interest in your art) What type of watercolor do you use and what brand? I might have to put up some of my own stuff, although it’s architecture, not saints. A little friendly competition, yes?