Innocently, or so I thought, when I blogged about one of my favorite hymns, “To God Be The Glory” and talked a little about Billy Graham for whom the hymn was a signature piece, and mentioned my disappointment that Graham in his later years, or maybe it was his son, supposedly used ministry money for an anti-gay marriage ad, I guess for some folks I opened a can of worms.
“Wonderful song and testimony. Not aware of any scripture that supports gay marriage, though.”
So Larry got my thinking and I responded . . .
I grew up in an Evangelical culture that said cards, dancing, movies (“What if Jesus came when you were in a movie theater?”), and God forbid anything to do with sex, even thinking about it, yada yada yada – were somehow un-Christitan and sinful without any Scriptural support. It was all cultural. Cultural doesn’t make it Biblical. I don’t know of any Scripture that forbids gay marriage? Jesus comment on marriage was made in the context of a man and woman being married. Wisely Jesus didn’t say much about marriage or sex or many other things. If Jesus was true God and at the same time true man, most men I know of our sexual beings and often in one kind of relationship or another. Bible doesn’t say anything about this in regard to Jesus and I think it is because it just wasn’t that important an issue. There were other issues. Jesus had a staff (disciples) who I believe went out of their way to protect him, control access, and, as the politicians say today, have everyone “stay on message.” The Evangelical church would be best to “stay on message” and avoid getting sidetracked. Regards, Richard
Chandra Pigatt commented further . . .
The Bible says homosexuality is an abomination. It does not ignore it. God’s word condemns homosexuality. It is sinful. We are admonished to be holy as God is holy. The Bible also defines marriage as a holy union between “one man and one woman”.
I appreciate Chandra’s viewpoint, which is shared by a lot of Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, although perhaps not the current Pope who, when asked about homosexual clergy responded, “Who am I to judge.” Anyhow Chandra got me thinking some more, and I found this really interesting piece on the Bible and marriage by Miguel De La Torre who is an ordained Baptist minister and also professor of social ethics and Latino/a studies at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.
Many Christians today speak about the traditional biblical marriage, but if truth be known, the traditional marriage is not a biblical concept. In fact, it would be hard to find a modern-day Christian who would actually abide by a truly biblical marriage in practice, as the biblical understanding of marriage meant male ownership of women who existed for sexual pleasure.
Upon marriage, a woman’s property and her body became the possession of her new husband. As the head of the household, men (usually between the ages of 18 and 24) had nearly unlimited rights over wives and children.
A woman became available for men’s possession soon after she reached puberty (usually 11 to 13 years old), that is, when she became physically able to produce children. Today we call such sexual arrangements statutory rape. The biblical model for sexual relationships includes adult males taking girls into their bedchambers, as King David did in 1 Kings 1:1-3.
Throughout the Hebrew text it is taken for granted that women (as well as children) are the possessions of men. The focus of the text does not seriously consider or concentrate upon the women’s status, but their identity is formed by their sexual relationship to the man: virgin daughter, betrothed bride, married woman, mother, barren wife or widow.
Her dignity and worth as one created in the image of God is subordinated to the needs and desires of men. As chattel, women are often equated with a house or livestock (Dt. 20:5-7), as demonstrated in the last commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, wife, slave, ox or donkey” (Ex. 20:17).
Because women are excluded from being the subject of this command, the woman — like a house, slave, ox or donkey — is reduced to an object: just another possession, another piece of property that belonged to the man, and thus should not be coveted by another man.
There are many ways in which the Bible cannot be a literal reference point or guidebook to modern-day marriages. Because the biblical understanding of the purpose for marriage has been reproduction, marriage could be dissolved by the man if his wife failed to bear his heirs.
Besides reproduction, marriage within a patriarchal order also served political and economic means. Marriages during antiquity mainly focused on codifying economic responsibilities and obligations.
Little attention was paid to how the couple felt about each other. Wives were chosen from good families not only to secure the legitimacy of a man’s children, but to strengthen political and economic alliances between families, clans, tribes and kingdoms. To ensure that any offspring were the legitimate heirs, the woman was restricted to just one sex partner, her husband.
Biblical marriages were endogamous — that is, they occurred within the same extended family or clan — unlike the modern Western concept of exogamous, where unions occur between outsiders.
Men could have as many sexual partners as they could afford. The great patriarchs of the faith, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah, had multiple wives and/or concubines, and delighted themselves with the occasional prostitute (Gen. 38:15). King Solomon alone was recorded to have had over 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).
The book of Leviticus, in giving instructions to men wishing to own a harem, provides only one prohibition, which is not to “own” sisters (Lev. 18:18). The Hebrew Bible is clear that men could have multiple sex partners. Wives ensured legitimate heirs; all other sex partners existed for the pleasures of the flesh.
A woman, on the other hand, was limited to just one sex partner who ruled over her — unless, of course, she was a prostitute.
Biblical marriage was considered valid only if the bride was a virgin. If she was not, then she needed to be executed (Dt. 22:13-21).
Marriages could only take place if the spouses were believers (Ezra 9:12). And if the husband were to die before having children, then his brother was required to marry the widow. If he refused, he had to forfeit one of his sandals, be spit on by the widow, and change his name to “House of the Unshoed” (Dt. 25:5-10).
As much as we do not want to admit it, marriage is an evolving institution; a social construct that has been changing for the better since biblical times. Those who claim that the biblical model for marriage is one husband and one wife apparently haven’t read the Bible or examined the well-documented sources describing life in antiquity.
The sooner we move away from the myth of the so-called traditional biblical marriage, the better prepared we will be to discuss what constitutes a family in the 21st century.