According to Christian theology, everyone is a sinner. So why, in so many conservative churches, are homosexuals treated as especially unworthy of things like communion or open leadership participation in church activities? The answer, and not a theologically irrational one, is that gay people are unrepentant of their alleged sin: they won’t admit that homosexual sex and relationships are wrong, and so cannot be taken seriously as congregants, at least to a church for whom the sinfulness of homosexuality is doctrine. Homosexuals can’t stop being sinful because, supposedly, no one can: but they can at least try to repent by taking actions to avoid “sin” and not trying to justify it. Fair enough.
What’s unfair is that conservative churches are packed with divorcées, many of them remarried. And at this very moment, the Republican party is preparing to try and elect John McCain, who divorced his first wife and mother of his children to re-marry a 25 year-old heiress. Though it may be hard to believe, I’m really not trying to cast a veil of illegitimacy over McCain for that: he and his wife may well have fallen out of love, may have had sexual incompatibilities, and/or may even have ultimately saved their friendship by divorce (his ex-wife and children all seem well adjusted, speak well of him, and remain close). Sometimes ending a failing marriage (no matter who the failure is) and falling in love with someone young, invigorating, and new is the right choice for everyone involved. I’m just using McCain as an example of something that many people seem perfectly willing to tolerate in their party, in their churches: places where the same group of people would not tolerate open, practicing homosexuals.
It’s just that if we apply the same logic to divorce we applied to homosexuality, then the logical conclusion is that most divorcées are unrepentant sinners. And if they really wanted to repent, then the conclusion is obvious: they should cease their ongoing adultery and remarry, including attending to the usual marital duties.
There isn’t a lot of theological room for wiggling here. Jesus, for instance, pretty clearly identifies divorce as an Israelite perversion based on the “hard hearts” of Jews, who were traditionally much more de facto tolerant of divorce. He says, flat out, that what God makes one flesh, let no man separate (though in one of the Gospels he is then said to cripple/contradict this grand, seemingly absolute principle of god-joined flesh by adding the weaselly caveat that a man can divorce his wife over unfaithfulness.). He unflinchingly calls divorce a form of adultery, a sin so serious that it, unlike homosexuality, made one of God’s Top Ten lists of things that he really really hates.
So, at least for those that claim to draw their objection to homosexual acts from the Bible, I’m not seeing a way around this, even with the “unfaithful wife” escape hatch added. I breathlessly await James Dobson to call upon John McCain to repent of his divorce, leave his current wife Cindy, with whom he shares only an adultery, and return to his original god-glued partner, Carol.
P.S. Make no mistake: I think divorce is almost always traumatic and bad, and there are many reasons to try to avoid casual marriage and rushing into divorce. But it is a bad thing that exists to prevent worse things: ongoing abuse, marriages based on long-lasting resentment and frustration, and so on.