Penny Starr | Senior Staff Writer | Wednesday, March 5, 2008
But theologians and other experts don't agree on what Obama's biblical reference meant.
"If he's finding support for same-sex marriage from the Sermon on the Mount, he's reading a different Bible than I've ever read," Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy with the Christian Focus on the Family, told Cybercast News Service.
"I think Obama needs to grapple with the words of Jesus on the meaning of marriage," Minnery said.
"Hasn't he ever read Matthew 19:4 that the creator made the male and female? In other words, you cannot believe what Jesus said in Matthew and that Jesus endorsed same-sex marriage. It's inconsistent," Minnery said.
Rev. Jesse Peterson, founder and president of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), told Cybercast News Service that it may be more a case of politics than theology that inspired Obama's comments.
"When I first heard Obama comment on the Sermon on the Mount and homosexuality I couldn't grasp any relationship between the two," Peterson said.
"There is no correlation at all. The Sermon on the Mount is for the saints, and it explains their suffering and their reward as a result of suffering for what is right for Christ's sake. It doesn't give blessings or approval to homosexual unions," he said.
"I think maybe Senator Obama came up with the wrong passage," Peterson said. "Unless he is just trying to deceive the people. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he could be so desperate to win he'll just say anything."
But Tony Campolo - professor emeritus at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, ordained minister, spiritual adviser to Bill Clinton, and founder of the liberal Christian group, Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education - told Cybercast News Service that he thinks Obama's reference to the Sermon on the Mount was meant to highlight the core message of the Christian faith.
"He's saying, very carefully, that I personally believe that gay marriage is contrary to the teaching of Scripture," said Campolo. "He's very clear about that.
"He takes Paul (Romans 1:27) seriously, but he is saying 'in my own ideology,' Jesus is speaking to the needs of the poor, standing up against violence, opposing war, standing up against capital punishment. These are values that are pervasive in the Sermon on the Mount and in my politics, this is what I want to emphasize," he said.
Minnery said he is familiar with Campolo and his Red Letter Christians, who put more stock in Christ's teaching than the other teachings in the Bible, but biblical interpretation can only go so far, he said.
"I think (Obama) is taking one aspect of the Christian faith and going to ridiculous ends with it," Minnery said. "Plainly, Jesus evoked one man and one woman as the meaning of marriage, and Tony Campolo and Barack Obama are trying to have it both ways.
"For example, Barack Obama says he's for traditional marriage and yet he stands against the very thing that will preserve it, which is the Defense of Marriage Act," said Minnery.
Kiera McCaffrey, director of communications for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said it is a mistake for Obama to look to the Bible as a playbook for his political aspirations.
"It seems pretty bogus using (the Bible) to justify civil unions," McCaffrey told Cybercast News Service. "He should be using secular reasons to back it up.
"He can search the whole Bible and not find anything that justifies gay marriage or same-sex unions," she said.
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