In a speech to America's largest pro-gay lobbying group, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said the Bible buttresses his support of same-sex marriage. And he predicted the Roman Catholic Church eventually will change its mind on the issue, like he has.
Evangelical theologians, however, said Kaine appeared to distort biblical teaching and Catholic doctrine in service of a political agenda.
Speaking Sept. 10 at the annual Human Rights Campaign (HRC) dinner in Washington, Kaine called himself a "devout Catholic" and acknowledged the Catholic Church is opposed to same-sex marriage, according to a video of the speech posted online.
Virginia's junior senator said he formerly opposed legalizing same-sex marriage but recounted a personal conversion on the issue.
As a candidate for Virginia lieutenant governor in 2001, Kaine told The Associated Press he opposed same-sex marriage. Four years later, he opposed granting adoption rights to same-sex couples while running for governor, according to The Washington Post.
However, in 2006 he campaigned against Virginia's state constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. Then during his Senate campaign six years later, he supported same-sex adoption when declared by a judge to be in a child's best interest, The Post reported. Kaine's Senate votes have garnered a 90 percent approval rating from the HRC.
On Saturday, Kaine told the HRC his change of mind on same-sex marriage stemmed in part from recognizing the dishonorable motives of some Virginia legislators who favored the commonwealth's marriage amendment. Behind the scenes, some lawmakers admitted that amending the state constitution to protect marriage was "a really bad idea" advanced to score political points with conservative voters, Kaine alleged.
Moments later, Kaine discussed the relationship between his Catholic faith and his views on marriage.
"My full, complete, unconditional support for marriage equality is at odds with the current doctrine of the church I still attend," Kaine said. "But I think that's going to change, too."
Such change may occur "because my church also teaches me about a creator in the first chapter of Genesis, who surveys the entire world including mankind and [says], 'It is very good,'" Kaine said, referencing Genesis 1:31. "Pope Francis famously said, 'Who am I to judge?' And to that I want to add: Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family? I think we're supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it."
Stephen Andrews, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press Kaine's use of Genesis 1 in support of same-sex marriage is "inaccurate, misleading and inconsistent with the clear teaching of the rest of the Bible."
While God's statement that creation was "very good" included human sexuality, it was not focused on sexuality and certainly did not endorse same-sex sexual activity, Andrews said in written comments.
Genesis 1-2 states that "God's plan for blessing is through the marriage of a man and a woman," Andrews said. "God created humankind as male and female (Genesis 1:27), not as male and male or female and female. This is significant because humanity is to be 'fruitful and multiply and fill the earth' (Genesis 1:28). This creation mandate could not be accomplished through same-sex marriage."
In addition, God's affirmation of creation as "very good" occurred before the fall of humankind into sin and did not endorse any state of affairs that "came about because of man's sinful rebellion."
"The idea that Genesis 1:31 covers same-sex marriage or any other form of [sinful] sexual expression," Andrews said, "assumes that God is responsible for whatever humanity has done in the past, present or future." By this same logic, "rape, pedophilia, bestiality and other sexual behavior is 'good.' ... Following this logic, it would also be possible to call the murderous actions of a Hitler or Khmer Rouge 'good.'"
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. made a similar point Sept. 14 in his podcast "The Briefing," noting that from the fall forward, "we do see the glory of God revealed, but we also see, as the Scripture makes equally clear, the reality of human sinfulness and its consequences made clear in the creation."
"Kaine's argument leaves him absolutely intellectually and morally—not to say biblically—defenseless against making any argument against polygamy or, for that matter, virtually anything else," Mohler said. "It is absolute nonsense to look at the world as we see it and say that's exactly what God intended and thus we must bless everything.
"Of course, Sen. Kaine won't do that. He just has been selective when speaking to the Human Rights Campaign, selectively citing Genesis 1 where it is convenient for him," Mohler said.
'Far afield' of Catholicism
Rex Butler, professor of church history and patristics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP that Kaine appeared to misrepresent the trajectory of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.
Kaine and certain other Catholic politicians appear to claim "the Catholic label when it suits them politically but [subvert] Catholic teachings when they contradict the politicians' support for same-sex marriage and abortion."
Pope Francis has explained, Butler said, that his 2013 comment quoted by Kaine was not intended to condone same-sex sexual activity.
"When questioned about his comment, 'Who am I to judge?', Pope Francis affirmed that he supports the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches that homosexual acts are 'intrinsically disordered' and contrary to natural law. Accordingly, homosexual acts cannot be approved," Butler said in written comments.
"At the same time, the Catholic Church acknowledges that a number of men and women have 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies,' but the Church denies that such tendencies are inborn," Butler said. "The Catechism goes on to instruct the Church to accept such men and women with 'respect, compassion and sensitivity' and to avoid 'unjust discrimination.' Finally, 'homosexual persons are called to chastity,' with God's support against temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13)."
The pope's comment "fits well within the Catholic doctrine on homosexuality," Butler said. "Tim Kaine's support of the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community and its agenda falls far afield of the Catholic Church to which he claims allegiance."
A full video of Kaine's speech is available at hillaryspeeches.com.
David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP (bpnews.net) reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.