Recently, historically conservative Christian colleges started changing their policies regarding gay marriage and sexual orientation. This is in part a move to comply with the reality of the nationwide legal approval of gay marriage as decided by the SCOTUS in Obergefell v. Hodges issued in July of this year.
But there is quite another reason why Christians are rethinking their view of how they approach the subject – not liberalization of their views on sexual behavior, but on their view of God as judge. There is a growing shift away from viewing God as judge and enforcer, and towards God as a loving mentor, friend, and spiritual guide.
Moses and the Ten Aspirational Statements
One of the shifts in understanding God’s interaction with man has been put forth by Dr. Theodore S. Easy, Professor of Old Testament Studies at Our Lady of Perpetual Reflection College in Tepid, Arizona. In his recent essay “The Aspirations of Moses and the Feminine God,” Easy wrote
As a professor at a historically conservative, women’s-only Christian college, I have had years to consider the feminine face of God, and how a patriarchal view has colored not only our theology, but even our understanding of individual words.
For example, take the word “command” in Exodus 19, where God is about to give Moses the tablets of the law:
And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the tencommandments.(Exodus 34:28)
This word we translate “commandments,” dâbâr in the Hebrew, could easily be translated the “sayings” of Moses. Our masculinized, authoritarian take on this word has no sense of God’s understanding of God’s knowledge and mercy on our weak nature (“He remembers we are dust,” Psalm 103:14).
It is more likely that these 10 statements from God are aspirational, not enforcible contractual demands.
Christian Colleges and Codes of Conduct
Dr. Easy is not alone in his anti-patriarchal hermeneutic. Many Christian colleges are beginning to ease, or as some say, renege on their commitment to traditional marriage and gender identities by massaging their codes of conduct.
For example, Indiana’s Bethel College Covenant of Lifestyle, in addition to expecting employees to recognize that marriage is between a man and a woman, states that “Bethel desires an environment whose people demonstrate behaviors aligned with their birth gender” (emphasis mine).
Desires are nice, but are they demands? Can you be expelled for not recognizing traditional marriage (whatever that means – accepting? Approving of? Not openly disagreeing with?). Can you teach there?
Steve Sanders, assistant professor specializing in sexuality law at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, says that may up to courts to decide:
If someone would be fired from a religious college for homosexual behavior after signing such a statement, he said, it would likely be up to courts to decide whether the statement was an enforceable contract or “an aspirational document.” 1
In July of this year, the Mennonite Education Agency, which oversees the church’s institutions of higher learning, allowed it’s colleges to set their own hiring practices with regard to sexuality. And as a confessional, not creedal, denomination, the church does not demand complete agreement with every part of its Confession of Faith.
So we’ve got confessional, not creedal, aspirational, not contractual or covenental.
The Ten Aspirational Statements
All of this leads me to suggest that, in order to make Christianity less authoritarian, I suggest a translation of the Ten Commandments that are worded in a more caring way.
- Thou shalt have few other gods before me.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, unless you can justify it as jewelry, furniture, symbol, or tradition.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, but euphemisms like ‘gosh darn’ are encouraged.
- Remember the Sabbath day, at least in principle.
- Remember thy father and thy mother.
- Thou shalt not kill, unless it’s in your national interest to do so.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery, get an annulment instead. Of course, polygamy, serial marriage, homosexuality and bestiality are OK.
- Thou shalt not steal. Unless it’s from the government or the rich.
- Thou shalt not make up stories about your neighbor.
- Though shall not envy thy neighbor – see #8.