A recent colloquium brought together a stunning array of religious leaders. The Pope himself, along with evangelical heavyweight Rick Warren and Southern Baptist Russell Moore joined with leaders from Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, and even Jainist sects. What pressing issue could bring such a diversity of opinions together? Apparently, the answer is a fervent and shared contempt for gay people.
“The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium is a gathering of leaders and scholars from many religions across the globe, to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.”
Awww, doesn’t that sound nice? They’re joining together to “…propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman.” Perhaps they could join together to celebrate the “natural strength of white people” or the “moral superiority of the rich.” I first learned about the colloquium through Jay Michaelson of the Daily Beast, who writes:
“Complementarity as conservative Catholics use the term, however, is more than biology. It stands for the proposition that the biological basis of procreation should also be the sole organizing principle of society. Only mating pairs constitute a family, and any configuration that is not a mating pair—divorced people, gay people, single people—are not to be legitimized. Otherwise, society will collapse.
“I am not exaggerating this position.”
Inflammatory? Sure. But the question is how much truth there is in it. Time magazine gives a more positive spin:
“The colloquium rallied around the theological concept of complementarianism, the belief that men and women have different roles in a marriage and religious leadership—husbands are spiritual leaders, and wives submit to them in love. To be “complementary” is to complete or fill the lack in the other thing. It opposes egalitarianism, the theological belief that men and women are equal in all respects in marriage and in religious leadership positions. Traditional Catholic, evangelical, and LDS belief interprets the Bible to support a complementarian relational structure. That may explain why mainline Protestant traditions that interpret the Bible to an egalitarian end—Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Church of Christ—were not featured at the event.”
Who could object, right? It’s all about relationships and roles. But the Time article ends with a telling quote from Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council:
“The courts may declare otherwise, and Hollywood may depict its demise, but the union of a man and a woman as the natural and enduring definition of marriage will endure until the end.”
Note that the emphasis isn’t on enforcing traditional male and female roles within a marriage, but rather on defending and privileging heterosexual marriage. Of course Perkins would be happy about this. Family Research Council, a right-wing group founded by James Dobson as a division of his Focus on the Family organization, actively opposes and lobbies against LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage and LGBT adoption. Seriously – go read 10 Things You Might Not Have Known About the Anti-LGBT Family Research Council. OK so perhaps that’s just one participant’s view. But take a look at the Pope’s address to the colloquium, and you’ll see that he too is not advocating for complementary ROLES for men and women in a marriage:
“When we speak of complementarity between man and woman in this context, let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern. Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children — his or her personal richness, personal charisma.”
So where is the complementarity, if not in the natural roles assigned to men and women? Apparently it rests solely in the fact that one partner should have a penis and the other a vagina. The Holy Father affirms that “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.” Not a family with a diversity of gifts; not a family where the parents contribute their unique strengths and play different roles. Just a family with a male parent and a female parent. He issues ominous warnings against “political notions,” urging us instead to embrace the “anthropological fact” that proper unions must be between a man and a woman.
“Just look at the list of speakers, a who’s who of theological conservatives from a breadth of Western religious traditions. There’s Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, which recently decided that transgender people don’t exist, and which expelled a church whose minister said he no longer believes homosexuality to be a sin—after his own son came out as gay. There’s Nigerian Anglican Primate Nicholas Okoh, who called the ‘homosexual agenda’ an “evil wind blowing across the Western world,” and who supports Nigeria’s vicious new anti-gay laws. And of course there’s megachurch pastor Rick Warren, who has strenuously denied helping to bring about Uganda’s anti-gay law, but whose fingerprints are all over it.” (the Daily Beast)
Sad that the only unity they can find is in their opposition to an already battered and beleaguered group.