Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (Genesis 6:1-4) transports me to the well-traveled lands of inter-species romance, a favorite trope of television and film. Some of my favorite mis-matched love connections include Mork and Mindy, Roger and Jessica Rabbit, Kermit and Miss Piggy, Shrek and Fiona, Jake Scully and Neytiri (although Avatar was a stinker of a movie in my humble opinion). But the series that must be in the Guiness Book for most inter-species romance has to be Star Trek and all its spin-offs. Captain Kirk always had an eye for other-worldy women, no matter what shade of green their skin happened to be. While Gene Roddenberry originally envisioned the show as a space western, an intergalactic Bonanza, it turned out to be much more like a stellar soap opera, with relationship dramas heightened by the cross-cultural difficulties of inter-species conflict. How the biology would work was a question rarely addressed. It seems to have worked for Spock’s parents, and Spock himself had a fling of his own with Uhura. Warf never seemed satisfied with Klingon women. Deana Troi’s Betazoid gift of reading emotions made her a good ship’s counselor, but she never seemed to be able to put the gift to good use in her various affairs of the heart across the great divide. Perhaps the most far-fetched of all these bold journeys into lands of unlikely liaisons where no one had gone before was Tasha Yar’s one night stand with the android, Commander Data.
Gene Roddenberry was certainly not the first to dramatize the difficulties of other-worldly relationships. The pre-history narratives of the beginning of creation give us the first script for the soap opera of mixed marriages, between the sons of God and the daughters of men. Some commentators have tried to explain away this fantastic drama, arguing that the sons of God refer to Seth’s offspring and the daughters of men refer to Cain’s offspring. I don’t buy that, because the biblical writers are fairly consistent in describing offspring of particular people by their names, and the phrase sons of God is consistently used to describe angelic beings. That other biblical traditions argued that angels are sex-less beings does not seem to have bothered these early story-tellers. Perhaps they were answering the age-old question, how did the first family of humans answer the call to be fruitful and multiply? Their answer is fascinating. The first family multiplied by going outside the family, outside the human family, and as a result giants were found tromping through the land (the offspring of the other-worldly mating). Also as a result, a flood came to destroy the earth. God was not pleased that the humans looked for love outside their world, that they were fruitful and multiplied with non-humans. It brought wickedness to the community, and God lost patience trying to strive with these less-than-human creatures. Enter Noah and the ark. Maybe it was named Enterprise B.
I think there’s a lesson in this tried and true trope of a story for us today, as we argue and fight over who should be able to marry. We seem content to allow any man and any woman to marry, no matter what “worlds”, that is, what world systems, what core values, they adhere to. When a man and a woman meet in Vegas, get sloppy drunk and take a taxi over to the Chapel of Love to get hitched by an ordained Elvis impersonator, there are no questions asked about how much they share world views, core values, or beliefs. They are yoked together by the power vested by the State, no matter how unequal the yoking might prove, all because they have the “right” plumbing. But if two sober human beings of the same gender, who happen to share the same core values of love, mutuality, respect, dignity, fidelity, and monogamy, who are ready to make a life-long commitment to one another before God, approach the courthouse in our state to get their license, they are treated as aliens, as if they have no human rights. Church leaders are right in saying the institution of marriage is at risk, but I think they have identified the wrong risk, the wrong threat. It’s a threat of competing core values, not a biological threat. It is a harsh reality that the divorce rate and the rate of domestic violence is the same among Christian families as in non-Christian families. Regarding Christian marriage, we ought to be thinking a lot more about the threats occurring when we allow our culture’s values of violence and greed to be wed with Jesus’ values of radical love and contentment. In terms of civil marriage, our society would do well to put its stamp of approval on any and all who share core values of commitment, fidelity, love, compassion, mutuality, and respect. If we have hearts large enough to be able to sit back and laugh and say nanoo nanoo with Mork and Mindy, it seems the least we can do is stand up and say God bless you to Kathryn and Elizabeth.
How about you? Where does this Promise Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.