By Trevin Wax | September 19, 2016
U.S. Democratic vice presidential candidate and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine greets well-wishers at the airport in Cleveland on Sept. 5, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Brian Snyder
(RNS) Vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine has figured out a way to reconcile his “devout” Catholic faith with his support for same-sex marriage: a new reading of Genesis 1.
Speaking to the Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT organization, Kaine said he believes the Catholic Church will change its view of marriage.
“My church also teaches me about a Creator in the first chapter of Genesis,” he said, “who surveys the entire world including mankind and said, ‘It is very good.’”
Then, he added: “Who am I to challenge the beautiful diversity of the human family? I think we’re supposed to celebrate, not challenge it.”
Part of me wants to point Kaine toward a theology class. But then again, a basic literature course might suffice, followed by an ethics class, since Kaine’s all-encompassing “celebration” of the diversity of the human family leaves him without any principle by which he can criticize any kind of family arrangement at all.
Let’s start with Kaine’s reading of the Bible.
Genesis 1 does indeed show God declaring everything he has created to be good. But this comes right after he created a male and a female and tasked them with filling the earth with more humans who bear the image of God.
There is only one family structure declared to be good in this chapter, and it’s the one that celebrates the true gender diversity of male and female and their union that leads to new life.
In other words, God’s original design is a man, a woman, and their children.
What happens two chapters later is that the first humans rebel against God, unleashing sin into the world. Everything is affected, including the family. Here is where “family diversity” shows up, and the rest of Genesis reveals not the beauty but the sordid details of family life after humanity’s fall into sin.
In the Bible, polygamy is the first indication that things have gone awry with the family structure, and the descriptions there — of favoring of wives, conning a father, sleeping with a slave girl — are tragic, not celebrated. The Bible gives us these details, not because it’s celebrating polygamous practices, but in order to demonstrate how far they fall from God’s original intent.
I realize there are many Americans who may read the Bible with interest but don’t believe it to have any authority in these debates. So let’s turn to Kaine’s principle of celebrating family diversity and see what that looks like from a sociological perspective.
What do we do with the overwhelming statistics that show how much family structure really does matter?
If gender doesn’t matter to marriage, why should number? If number doesn’t matter to marriage, why should permanence?
According to Kaine’s foundational principle of “diversity” as a trump card in the case of gay marriage, why should we expect him to oppose a court case asking the government to legally recognize a well-known polygamous family?
Furthermore, does Kaine disagree with President Obama’s lament for the fatherlessness of so many in our country? “I know the toll it took on me, not having a father in the house,” Obama said in 2008. “The hole in your heart when you don’t have a male figure in the home who can guide you and lead you.”
If the diversity of the family should be celebrated, not condemned, then we shouldn’t judge any family as being more ideal than another, right? Shouldn’t Obama buck up, stop talking about the hole in his heart from missing his dad, and realize that any gender or number of parents should have sufficed?
Is J.D. Vance’s best-seller, “Hillbilly Elegy,” in which he painfully describes a revolving door of boyfriends for his mother, a never-ending mirage of father figures, misguided? Shouldn’t Vance instead celebrate the family structure he grew up in?
Jesus knew a thing or two about reading the Bible. When he was asked about marriage, he did what Kaine did — went back to the first chapters of Genesis.
But Jesus’ takeaway was different. He stressed the true diversity of the human family — the two sides of humanity, male and female coming together in unity, not the flattened-out gender-neutral ideology that says that “two dads” or “two moms” are equivalent to a mother and father. And Jesus stressed God’s original design for the permanence of the marriage relationship.
In this, Jesus takes his stand with God’s design in Genesis 1, a design that says one man, one woman, for life is ideal. This sets Jesus over against the ancient patriarchs who opted for polygamy, over against the religious leaders of his day who wanted easy divorce, and over against the revisionist, schismatic interpretations of the Bible that come from people like Kaine, who mangle the storyline of Scripture to suit political ends.
(Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project and author of multiple books, including “Clear Winter Nights: A Journey Into Truth, Doubt and What Comes After”)