ATLANTA, Ga. (Christian Examiner) -- Former President Jimmy Carter says he believes Jesus would approve of gay marriage but acknowledges he has no verse to support his claim.
It is not the first time Carter has said he supports gay marriage, although it is the first time he's gone so far as to say Christ would back it.
"I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage. That's just my own personal belief," Carter told The Huffington Post. "I think Jesus would encourage any love if it was honest and sincere, and was not damaging to anyone else. And I don't see that gay marriage damages anyone else."
Carter admitted it was intuition and that he didn't "have any verse in Scripture" showing where Jesus said as much.
In fact, as columnist Alex Griswold noted, Jesus said exactly the opposite.
"As for the notion that the Jesus of the Gospels — the Messiah and Son of God that Carter has worshiped for a lifetime — would support gay marriage ... well, Carter was right to admit he didn't have any scripture to quote," Griswold wrote at Mediaite.com before quoting Matthew 19:4-6:
"Have you not read that He Who made them in the first place made them man and woman? It says, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will live with his wife. The two will become one.' So they are no longer two but one. Let no man divide what God has put together."
Jesus, Griswold added, "was categorically opposed to relationships outside of marriage and divorce and remarriage" and "taught that even looking at someone lustfully was a sin."
"Even when Jesus saved the adulteress from execution and told her tormentors to judge not lest they be judged, He told her to 'sin no more.' He simply wasn't a proponent of America's post-Sexual Revolution anything-goes ethos," Griswold wrote.
Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, pastor and author Kevin DeYoung wrote a blog that went viral titled, "40 questions for Christians now waving rainbow flags." (It was shared more than 360,000 times on Facebook.) Among his questions: "Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship? If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman? When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?"
Watching Christians announce their support for gay marriage, DeYoung wrote, has been difficult.
"Of all the things that grieve us, perhaps what's been most difficult is seeing some of our friends, some of our family members, and some of the folks we've sat next to in church giving their hearty 'Amen' to a practice we still think is a sin and a decision we think is bad for our country," DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich., wrote. "It's one thing for the whole nation to throw a party we can't in good conscience attend. It's quite another to look around for friendly faces to remind us we're not alone and then find that they are out there jamming on the dance floor. We thought the rainbow was God's sign (Gen. 9:8-17)."
Following is the transcript of the exchange between Carter and The Huffington Post, which began with him saying he hadn't had a "serious conflict" between his political obligations and his faith.
Huffington Post: "How about gay marriage?"
Carter: "That's no problem with me. I think everybody should have the right to get married regardless of their sex. The only thing I would draw a line on, I wouldn't be in favor of the government being able to force a local church congregation to perform gay marriages if they didn't want to. But those two partners should be able to go to the local courthouse or to a different church and get married. ... I have had a problem with abortion, and this has been a long-time problem of mine. I have a hard time believing that Jesus, for instance, would approve abortions, unless it was because of rape or incest or the mother's life was in danger. So I've had that struggle. But my oath was to obey the Constitution and the laws of this country as interpreted by the Supreme Court. I went along with that, so that's been the only caveat.
Huffington Post: "Would Jesus approve gay marriage?"
Carter: "I believe He would. I believe Jesus would. I don't have any verse in Scripture."
Huffington Post: "But intuitively ..."
Carter: "I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage. That's just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love if it was honest and sincere, and was not damaging to anyone else. And I don't see that gay marriage damages anyone else."