On Wednesday (May 9), President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News. He noted that he and the first lady “are both practicing Christians,” and that his faith helped inform his shifting views on marriage equality. “When we think about our faith,” he said, “the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

In response, R&P interviewed Mark D. Jordan, a scholar whose interests range from the history of sex and gender to the rhetoric of Christian ethics. His books include The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology (1997); The Ethics of Sex (2002); Telling Truths in Church: Scandal, Flesh, and Christian Speech (2003); Rewritten Theology: Aquinas after His Readers (2006); and most recently Recruiting Young Love: How Christians Talk about Homosexuality (2011). He is the Richard Reinhold Niebuhr Professor at Harvard Divinity School. In the summer of 2012, he will join the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University as a Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities. –T.S.

What was your immediate reaction to Obama’s statements supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage?

MJ: I heard the news in two stages—like a classic double-take. First, I was surprised by the timing and wondered about the political effects. Why now rather than after the election? And if now, why not sooner? Did Biden really slip and force the issue? Then the double-take: No, wait, this is big. This is the President of the United States endorsing same-sex marriage only nine years after the Supreme Court struck down sodomy statutes. Nine years from criminal penalties to state-recognized marriage. Whatever happens next, that’s worth putting the tactical commentary on pause.

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