Traditional Ignorance

Traditional Ignorance
Ignorance may not always be bliss, but it can certainly get comfortable.

Simplistic assumptions and familiar slogans become so comfortable and comforting that we just cannot let them go.

Each one of us as individuals grows up believing that everyone acts and believes as we do. Or that they should.

And we assume that what we believe has always been true; which, of course, has NEVER been true – for anyone, of any time.

We cherish our familiar truths – and tend to strike out in a visceral way to anyone who might reject, diminish or threaten our favorite beliefs.

One of humanity’s greatest mistakes is confusing ignorance for wisdom, or even worse, for ‘faith’.

“The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” is one of those astoundingly Zen-like proclamations (unique to modern Christianity, I am sure) that convinces unbelievers of two things immediately; first, that evolution must be true and, second, that there appear to be among us a few who have been developmentally by-passed for a millennia or two.

I value and respect the Bible, but to expect clear-cut analysis relevant to contemporary public policy just seems ludicrous.

For example, what does the Bible tell us of urban design? The role of technology in our daily lives? Mass transit? Public education? Immigration? Corporate law and ethics? Definitions of citizenship? Consumer product safety?

The Bible does have much to say about appropriate punishment for crimes (primarily restitution), humane treatment of animals (Proverbs 12:10, Deuteronomy 22:10; 25:4), forgiveness of debt (Deuteronomy 15:1) and fair business dealings (James 5:4, Jeremiah 22:13, Leviticus 19.35.36, Proverbs 20:10).

Any family, business or nation who wishes to call itself ‘Christian’ or ‘Biblical’ should take these simple and direct guidelines as, at the very least, minimum policy reference points.

But one of the areas where Biblical ignorance (as opposed to wisdom or insight) tends to prevail is in the discussion of the Biblical ‘definition’ of marriage.

You would think that such a foundational building block of virtually every culture around the world and across history would be clearly defined – or at least manifested in the lives of the Bible’s central characters.

If there is anything that has been standard knowledge across the millennia, it is that stable domestic relationships are the core of any stable society.

If we are to take the New Testament as a model for the modern family, it is an odd reference point indeed; Jesus never married, nor did Paul.

Peter had a wife (or at least a mother-in-law, Matthew 8:14). No children of disciples are mentioned or even referred to. No New Testament disciple’s wives are named.

Besides never marrying (in a strongly family centered culture) Jesus was rejected and essentially ostracized by both his family and hometown (Matthew 13:57, Luke 4:24).

Paul even tells his followers that it is best NOT to marry (1 Corinthians 7:1).

The Old Testament is essentially an extended testimonial to the privilege, if not right, of polygamy; most men had many children – most women only had a few.

The maternal death rate was extremely high, and what we now call ‘blended families’ were common.

Jesus’ family was almost certainly one of these ‘blended families’ – his father, Joseph, according to most scholars, was far older than the (early) teen-age Mary, and, like most husbands far older than their wives, had children from a previous marriage. (One piece of evidence for this traditional belief is the prevalence of a heavily bearded Joseph featured in Nativity sets. Joseph is clearly NOT a teenager).

In fact Mary and Joseph almost certainly had what virtually every one in that culture had; an arranged marriage – yet another aspect of ‘traditional marriage’ few among us would yearn for.

Abraham (and Moses, and David and many others), like most Patriarchs in, and outside of, the Bible had multiple wives (Abraham had at least two; Sarah and Keturah, see Genesis 25:1, besides Hagar) and ‘many children’ (see Genesis 25:6) (can you imagine having so many children, you don’t even bother to count them?).

And ‘wives’ taken (or given) in battle, conquest or tribute is so common in the Bible that it is barely noticeable (Deuteronomy 21:10-13, Judges 21:10-12, Isaiah 13:16).

Even the Ten Commandments treat women as property on a par with donkeys and furniture (Exodus 20:17, Deuteronomy 5:21).

It’s difficult to see even Adam and Eve as having anything other than an ‘arranged marriage’ – we read virtually nothing of their attraction to each other.

In fact they are so far from the prototypical couple that Jewish tradition holds that Adam had a first ‘wife’, Lilith, who did not work out.

‘Traditional marriage’ in the Bible is virtually always of convenience or expediency, with the wife treated as interchangeable property.

Jesus is generally commended for the inclusion of women in his ministry – and his respect for women in general – but that was not necessarily true of his followers.

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The Jews of that era were often unfairly criticized for their attitudes toward women, but look at some of these ‘Christian’ statements:

Woman is a temple built over a sewer. Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

 

…to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good. –Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

 

The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes. – Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

 

Do not any longer contend for mastery, for power, money, or praise. Be content to be a private, insignificant person, known and loved by God and me. . . . Of what importance is your character to mankind, if you was buried just now Or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God.  –John Wesley, founder of Methodist movement (1703-1791), letter to his wife, July 15, 1774

In spite of this, the first church in Europe (Philippi) was founded by a financially independent (and apparently single) woman (Acts 16:14).

Of the extremely few couples named in the New Testament, Ananias and Saphira, did not end well (Acts 5:1-10). And Paul’s friends, Priscilla and Aquila were Greeks and led one of Christianity’s first churches, and, it is implied, it was Priscilla who did most of the leading (Timothy 4:19).

The most common term in the Bible for a man getting married is that he does (or should) ‘take’ a wife with all the force and obvious lack of female choice or assent inherent in such a term.

Even one of the greatest love stories of the Bible, Jacob and Rachel, also involves her sister, Leah, and two female servants who also bear him children (Genesis 30:5-9).

Jacob working for 14 years for his love of Rachel is usually portrayed as one of the ultimate ‘romantic’ stories – but would any of us actually like the institution of ‘working for a wife’?

I hate to ruin a good story, but would any woman really consider it ‘romantic’ to share her husband with three other women?

Laban’s ‘deception’ we tend to forget, was based on his determination to uphold ‘traditional marriage’ (that the elder sister should marry first) (Genesis 29:26).

Genesis 29:9-12 also tells us that Jacob and Rachael were cousins. But marrying close family members was also ‘traditional’ – Abraham, after all, in the custom of his day, married his own sister (Genesis 20:12).

Matthew 22:25 tells us a story, apparently common, of seven brothers all married to the same woman. The underlying question, of course, was how to uphold ‘traditional marriage’.

Monogamous marriage has never been easy (see Matthew 19:4-5) in fact the disciples said that if divorce were not easy, it would be better not to marry (Matthew 19:10).

What we might call ‘shared mothering’ or even ‘group marriage’ were extremely common in Biblical times; a high maternal death rate made it acceptable if not essential.

With bride-prices, child-brides, arranged marriages, polygamy, marriage to close relatives, kidnapping, rape and women being bartered, sold or sacrificed in the Bible, (Judges 19:22-29 don’t even begin to claim monogamy as anything like traditional.

It would be easy to make the case that ‘traditional marriage’ is an extremely modern development. In fact it is modernity (especially health care, but also educational and career opportunities for women) that has made monogamy practical – or even possible.

The call for a man to leave his parents and cleave to his wife (Genesis 2:24) has been held up as a difficult to uphold ideal, perhaps not possible, or even practical until now.

I support monogamy; just don’t call it ‘traditional’ or ‘Biblical’.


Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective. As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.

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About the Author

Morf Morford

Morf MorfordMorf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective. As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.View all posts by Morf Morford →

  • Frank

    God created them male an dreamless, be fruitful and multiply.

    Only the willful ignorant would deny this. Funny how many hoops people try to jump through to confuse this simple eternal truth.

    • Frank

      A spellcheck fail obviously.

      God created them male and female, be fruitful and multiply. I am ok with abandoning te term biblical marriage. We can more correctly call it Godly marriage,

      • 22044

        Godly marriage would work for me.
        It’s not really about marriage or singleness – it’s about our new identity in Christ.
        A few days ago there was some posts about not putting your flag or your nation where Christ should be.
        I offer a similar proposal about marriage or singleness.

        • Frank

          Its a much more accurate term.

          I accept your proposal. If only those who have put their sexuality or their romance above Christ would accept this.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Your spellcheck fail is very interesting indeed. I think it describes gay marriage quite adequately: Male an Dreamless!

  • jonathan starkey

    One of humanity’s greatest mistakes is confusing “philosophy” for wisdom.

    Paul may have been married.

    When I read Matthew 19. I don’t see Jesus having a low opinion of marriage. That’s what I get out of this article.

    A man was to leave his father and mother was so that he would pay great attention to his wife. Valuing the woman. You guys need to start finding Biblical scholars who think God is good.

    Is this all defense to crack at marriage in support of Gay marriage.

    My goodness.

    • jonathan starkey

      Melancholy Morf

  • Zach R

    Another post that claims to exhaustively examine the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and marriage while brashly ignoring most of the New Testament teaching regarding sexuality and marriage. Cherry-picking random verses out of Acts and some of Paul’s epistles does not count as substantive biblical analysis.

    • Frank

      Do you really expect more from RLC these days? That seems to be the M.O..

    • Drew

      It has never been more clear than it is today that the entire Red Letter Christian movement is a complete hoax. While Tony may have originally meant for it to be an Evangelical reform movement, it has been hijacked and transformed into an ecumenical liberal christian movement. The only desire is to evangelize the Democratic Party’s Platform. I’ve seen several articles over the past few months, including this one, that actually argues the same point of view that atheists have. Why would a Christian write an article from an atheist point of view and with an atheist understanding of the Bible against other Christians? Answer: Having more in common with the atheist than with the Christian.

      • Frank

        We might as well just all read Huffington Post and ironically there might be more of Jesus there.

        • Drew

          It should be no surprise that as the quality of authorship decreases that the quality of comments are decreasing as well. The vast majority of the influx of folks commenting absolutely abhor the Bible and have little to no understanding of anything in the Bible. I have no problem with coming alongside an atheist and walking them through the Bible from the ground-up. It is difficult, though, to communicate with folks that pretend they are Christian but are actually deceived and try to walk them through the Bible from the ground-up when they are convinced that their deception is the truth. Romans 1 times we live in for sure.

      • 22044

        Too bad.
        Because I came to Christ during college, I often heard about Tony Campolo as an academic who put Christ first – usually good reviews about him. Sad that he’s now associating with “progressives” who preach a message that lead many people away from Christ.

        • Drew

          Being ecumenical is great as long as essential doctrines are agreed on and the unessential doctrines are being disputed. However, this movement has gone far beyond that. The only criteria that I can tell that is being used is the liberalism of the article. Unfortunately many are being led astray slowly but surely in the name of being ecumenical and “coming together.”

        • jonathan starkey

          I read Tony Compolo’s “Connecting Like Jesus” often. I go back to it frequently. I was just reading it again yesterday.

          • Drew

            I own Red Letter Christian myself which is the reason I started visiting the website. I thought it had some good points.

          • 22044

            It sounds like he still has good things to say – when he speaks or writes for himself.

        • John (not McCain)

          The only people who led me away from Christ were ignorant bigot goons like you.

          • Frank

            No you walked away all on your own..

          • 22044

            The adults are having a discussion. Feel free to join us if you have helpful ideas instead of empty ad hominem attacks.

  • Anti-Fundamentalist Dave

    Congratulations Mr. Morford, You’ve succeeded at confusing a lot of Christians and unnecessarily unsettling correct biblical convictions. Excellent, pick-and-choose-evidenced, relevant, and relativistic. This is great, modern theological work.

  • Dusty Cooper

    Didn’t see much about Ephesians 5 in this article…how convenient.

    • Drew

      If the author’s point is to say that the Bible is silent on the standard of marriage, then yes, you have to ignore Matthew 19 and Ephesians 5.

      • jonathan starkey

        What the Bible doesn’t say about marriage is as important as what it does say. Why does it need to go into great detail when the God through whom creation was created. Gives such a clear and distinct statement about what marriage “is.” You don’t have to go into all that it isn’t from this point.

        It reminds me of the love your neighbor thing. Jesus said, love your neighbor… “Tell me who is my neighbor?”

        Jesus said, male and female, and not to tear apart what God has put together… “Tell me what does male and female mean?, and what does it mean, what God has put together?”

        This is not Paul, or John, or Tertullian… it is Jesus the “I AM” speaking.

        • jonathan starkey

          When you read the Red Letters… you have to remember this is God speaking.

          • SamHamilton

            Apparently some people don’t like this reminder… Lame people.

          • John

            Is it worrying that a comment which refers to “lame people” gets 3 thumbs up?

          • Frank

            Not if its a true statement.

          • John

            Is it in any way Christian, Frank? Really? Do we need to argue about name calling? This forum has had some very good discussions (you and I have participated in some of them together), and this is not the path to that sort of dialogue.

            We’re all better than this. We all deserve better than this.

          • Frank

            I guess I don’t see the descriptor “lame” as an attack. Positions can be lame.

            Yes Sam used “lame people” but I read it as “lame position.”

            Was Jesus wrong in calling people vipers?

          • John

            Frank, I’m not being flippant in what I’m about to say. Take a minute. Think, pray on it:

            Does Jesus want you to call people lame?

            You are an intelligent person. If you disagree, disagree. You are more than capable of doing that without resorting to name calling.

          • Frank

            I was not name calling although I see how it might be interpreted as such. Are you talking about the viper comment? That was an honest question that I was hoping would start discussion.

          • John

            I suppose my response is that Jesus got to do it that time. It’s hardly typical of his behaviour, and I think we can be quick to think we are bringing our righteous anger to bear, when we’re just responding in the anger or frustration of the Flesh, which let’s not forget, Jesus tells us in rabbinical hyperbole, is as bad as killing the person.

          • Frank

            I agree. But if someone is called something because its accurate and its not used as an attack but as a descriptor, is it wrong?

            If someone is being foolish it it ok to call them foolish? (I would say it’s not ok to call them a fool however although there might be a circumstance when that’s appropriate.)

            If someone is speaking in ignorance is it ok to call there words ignorant?

            I am not defending anyone however this is something I have done and have been thinking about.

          • John

            At the end of the day, I’m left with this: Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Arminius. Even Peter and Paul. Get them all in a room, Ask them about the Bible. They will all disagree with each other about some things. If I’m going to call someone a fool abut theology, I try to keep humbly in mind that the greatest Christian minds of all times didn’t agree. Are they all fools? Is one wise, and are the rest fools? Which one? How do we decide? Or do we need to accept that interpretation is part of the equation, however much we might want it to be otherwise?

          • Frank

            As far as fools go the bible lays out what a fool is so there is no confusion.

            And yes people disagree about things. It doesn’t change the truth of things.

          • SamHamilton

            You tell me…

          • John

            I assume you mean “you” in the collective sense, cos I don’t think I did that.

  • emmam34

    Wow, the comments are amazing. So many “Christians” are so afraid of facts and truth, it overwhelms me. As a result they push away those who really need to hear the Word of God, and crave to hear it – but they run in the other direction out of fear of being associated with this angry, judgmental and astoundingly ignorant bunch. Marriage is what it is, societies evolve, whether some people like it or not. What is destroying the makeup of our society is promiscuity, divorce and adultery, pretense of faith and Godliness, not same-sex marriage.

    • 22044

      I agree with your last sentence. However…
      If societies “evolve”, no one should be pleased with its “evolution” leading to…more promiscuity, divorce, & adultery.
      No one making a sensible claim says that you improve a society by adding another error on top of what’s already destructive.
      The Bible has answers on how to build, maintain, and grow a Godly marriage. Maybe folks should check it out.

    • jonathan starkey

      Facts or confirmation bias.

    • jonathan starkey

      Same sex marriage should be in your list just like Paul had it.

      1 Cor 6:9 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,

      • Valarie

        The word homosexual”, wasn’t coined until the 1800′s. It wasn’t in the original scriptures.I am a lesbian. I know I am saved, and nothing you, or anyone else here says can change that. No one is righteous.” As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;” Romans 3:10

        Our unrighteousness proves our need for a Savior.

        • Frank

          It’s not a matter of salvation bu obedience and loving God back. The way to love God back is to obey says Jesus.

          Independently of what word is used, homosexual behavior was understood at that time and prohibited.

          • Valarie

            What behavior are you referring to? Some call it “lifestyle”. So I’ll go with that, since they seem to be interchangeable. I’ll talk beriefly about my behavior and lifestyle, and you can tell me what is so offensive about it. I get up in the morning, and shower, afterwards I usually catch up on the news online. Like Aerosmith, I don’t wanna miss a thing. I then hang out with my roommates, one of them works very late, and I’m typically in bed when she gets home. I also hang out with their boys, because they are fun to hang out with. I watch them sometimes when their Mom and Dad need a break. They can be a handful at times. I also play video games. Nothing violent though. I do like Final Fantasy and Halo, and I suppose those can be seen as violent. Those two would be the exception. I also like watching You Tube videos, and Netflix. I also pray and study my Bible. I’m an avid computer geek and like playing with operating systems. I also like to code. I guess that’s pretty much everything. I don’t have a girlfriend, so I don’t go out really. So what exactly is offensive about my lifestyle? I ask this often on different sites. No one answers though. Maybe you can tell me?

          • Frank

            I didn’t use the word lifestyle but your life sounds like a normal life.

            You don’t have to answer my questions as its none of my business but i will pose them anyway in hopes of answering your question adequately.

            Are you celebrate?
            Do you identify yourself as gay or do you simply have SSA?
            Are you pursuing a SS relationship?

          • Valarie

            Of course I’ll answer, it’s only fair because you answered mine.

            I’m pretty boring actually, not sure how normal that is, but thanks! lol

            I’m a lesbian. I’ve always been solely attracted to other women. I love men, especially my roomie Daniel. He’s all kinds of awesome. Just not attracted to them.

            I’m celibate, mosty because I don’t want a relationship. I have had a girlfriend, but I’m having too much fun being single, and I’m really too busy to cultivate a relationship. Also, dating can be a drag. I’m happy right now just spending time with the roomies and their kids.

            I’m not dating, as I said. If someone came into my life who is also a Christian and committed to Christ I might date, but right now I’m happily single.

          • Frank

            Thank you! I really appreciate your openness and I am glad at the moment you are happily single. I would encourage you to commit to that.

            Scripture when referring to homosexual behavior is not talking about loving another person dearly, sharing your life with another person or even being attracted to another person. It refers to sexual acts outside of the marriage bed. It refers to a rejection of someone’s created gender. It refers to a rejection of Gods created order. What’s most egregious is when someone chooses to identify themselves against these things. Struggling with SSA is one thing, making it your identity is quite another.

          • Valarie

            You’re very welcome. I really like being single, so I’m probably going to stay that way. I have a lot of time to devote to my hobbies and what not, and to my Bible studies and spending time with friends and my family, that I might not have if I were with someone and had to give her attention too. I hope that doesn’t come off as me being selfish, I’m really not lol. I just really like my “me” time, and don’t really want to give that up. Thank you for replying to me!

          • Frank

            Valerie you have given me much hope that it is indeed possible to speak about this issue without it degrading to “you’re going to hell” or”homophobe, bigot, hater.” You have shown us and I hope those in control of RLC that we do not have to shy away from having the full conversation about this issue with balance and grace.

            I pray that your life will be full of the love of Christ!

          • Valarie

            Wow, that made my eyes leak. Thank you. This is a conversation we all should have, and without name calling that just seeks to divide us, and keeps us from comon ground and the love we should be showing for one another. I’m rea;;y thankful for the opportunity to share with you, and I’m grateful that we were able to keep the conversation not only civil, but loving. That gives me a lot of hope too.

            I’ll pray the very same for you, and more.

            <3

          • Frank

            Thank you Valerie!

          • Valarie

            Thank you too Frank

          • Frank

            I apologize for spelling your name wrong Valarie!

    • Drew

      In Matthew 19, Jesus talks about marriage evolving, but explains the original intent and design of marriage. All we are advocating – the angry, ignorant, judgmental bunch – is that the Bible be taken seriously, especially the Red Letters of Jesus Christ. That in an article about marriage, on a site called Red Letter Christianity, that the Red Letters of Jesus in regards to marriage are actually mentioned and discussed.

    • Skegeeaces

      “Fact and truth”…mmm I’m having trouble agreeing with that one. It is a fact that Abraham, Jacob, and Lot screwed up royally in the marriage/relationship arena, but saying that God approved of their parings is not the “truth”. While some parts of CULTURE evolves, that doesn’t mean God’s standards evolve with it.

    • Frank

      Why do you fear the truth that marriage and sexuality is designed by God to be between a man and a woman?

    • Frank

      To be in support of Same Sex Marriage for a Christian is a pretense of faith and Godliness. A complete rejection of Gods created order affirmed by Jesus.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I agree with your last sentence up to the comma. I see no difference between promiscuity, divorce, adultery and same sex marriage. Pretense of faith and Godliness is what has caused this, biochemically birth control has been shown experimentally to cause homosexuality in apes.

  • Skegeeaces

    Sigh. There’s so much wrong with this article’s reasoning, it’s hard to know where to start.

    First off, when most people say “traditional marriage”, they’re usually just referring to God’s *intended* plan for marriage at it’s core: one man, one woman creating a home/life together before God. It includes NOTHING but that meaning- it doesn’t mean under what circumstances/by what means/according to so-and-so’s specific culture, etc., so bringing up the “other” or “non-traditional” versions of “marriage” (i.e. polygamy, incest, arranged marriages, etc.) displayed in the Bible doesn’t change the fact that “traditional” just means God’s basic standard male/female union. There’s also more to the meaning of “traditional” than just “monogamy”- it’s “monogamy *between a man and a woman* AND *recognized as a holy state of being before God*. So saying, “I believe in monogamy, just don’t call it “traditional marriage”!” is a useless mincing of words; a deliberate misunderstanding of the phrase.

    Secondly, since when is quoting people outside of scripture a valid argument when talking about how the BIBLE defines marriage or how women *should* be viewed as wives? John Wesley was NOT divinely inspired as Paul was when he wrote that (unfortunate) letter to his wife, nor was Tortullian when he classified women in such undesirable terms.

    Thirdly, just because the Bible DESCRIBES an event, that does NOT mean God endorsed or approved of it! A large part of the Old Testament was just a recorded history lesson; an un-biased recounting of events with no right/wrong, just the facts. For instance, when it was written that Lot had sex with his daughters, the Bible never said “What Lot did was wrong.” it just recorded the event. Thefore, saying, “Well, in the Bible Abraham did this…and Lot did that…and Rachel/Jacob/Leah did this…” is NOT evidence that God was *endorsing* it. In fact, using Lot as an example again, whlie we have a story about incest, people seem to forget that we ALSO have scripture in Leviticus 18 regarding incest showing that the Bibile’s laws and what happened in REALITY were often at odds with God’s plan! In another instance of what was recorded versus what God APPROVES of, we have Jesus setting the record straight on divorce! We have record of civic laws regarding divorce in the Old Testament, but Jesus says in Matthew 19 “Because of your hardness of heart ***Moses*** allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And ***I*** say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” So here we have it again- something was *allowed* or *tolerated* in the Old Testament, recorded in the Old Testament, but we have Jesus saying that HE (God) was not pleased with this type of degradation of marriage. In short, all of those examples about Abraham, Lot, Rachel/Jacob/Leah, and the myriad of others that deviated from “the beginning” can be tossed out as true alternatives to “traditional” marriage- they were a deviation from it and NOT desirable in God’s eyes!

    No trace of Adam’s attraction to Eve, you say? I disagree. Genesis 2:23, Adam says, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” In other words, “you are a part of me and I’ll name you after myself”. And he says, “AT LAST”! This is the one he’s been waiting for. If that’s not breathless attraction and desire, I don’t know what is! (Heck, Etta James wrote a song called “At Last” that was pretty dang romantic.)

    Lastly, saying the Bible treats women as on par with furniture and donkeys is just dishonest maligning of the word. The commandment on coveting was simply listing instances in which people could desire something/someone that didn’t belong to them. You CAN be jealous/envious of someone’s spouse, and let’s be real- it’s not like there was much else to be jealous of since we didn’t have iPhones, corporate careers, etc. around back then.

    I’m sorry- I just can’t get down with most of the points of this article because they are VERY weak. You’d have had a better premise on God’s TOLERANCE of non-traditional relationships that He in His mercy did not punish people for or rectify immediately (i.e. polygamy, incest, etc.) and even Him going so far as to allow civic laws to regulate them (even if it was a were a sub-standard pairing), but even THOSE doesn’t include in any form a homosexual pairing (which I’m guessing was your angle since the phrase “traditional marriage” seems to only pop up in relation with the pro- or anti- gay marriage debate).

    • Zach R

      This is absolutely right.

    • SamHamilton

      You make some excellent rebuttal points here.

  • bluecenterlight

    I find it interesting that people find it necessary to ignore or sweep under the rug anything that doesn’t fit into the narrative in which they believe. I happens in any debate I suppose. Case in point, either the founding fathers were saintly, faultless men who hovered several feet above the ground, or they were horrible, evil, rapey men. Apparently it is not possible to believe they were simply men, good and bad, just like any man. When I hear the men I admire, John Wesley, Martin Luther, say horrible things it makes me cringe. The temptation is to sweep those things under the rug and ignore them, but to do that is a disservice to them. Was Martin Luther a man who shook the world for God? Or was he a misogynistic, antisemite? The truth is he was all those things. That is the beauty of following God. God does not pick the perfect to accomplish his purposes on the earth, He uses the broken. That means if He used Martin Luther, who’s only true gift was sincerity, then He can use me. It is not in the whitewashing of history, or the bible we find truth, it is in the embracing of all of it, good and bad. One of the things I love about scripture is that God does not hold back. He doesn’t sanitize how he presents people. He calls David a man after His own heart, and we all know where that ends. But God knew David’s path before he walked it and yet God was not ashamed of him, his failures did not define him. This manipulation reaches to the heart of all of us. We not only sanitize history, and the world around us, we sanitize ourselves. We never let anyone see the dark sides of ourselves. We hide those things away in a closet and pretend they do not exist. Sticking our fingers in our ears, humming louder and louder till they disappear, but they never do. Lets face it, we have always been God’s bastard children. All throughout God’s history with His people if they ever did anything right it was pretty fleeting, we always find a way to screw things up. And yet He loves us anyway. I guess grace would not be as amazing if it didn’t apply to the wretches.

    • Anita Webster

      I love this..thank you! In my meditation last week, I heard God very clearly tell me that “He wants to use us right where we are, in the midst of our sinfulness. That we should not wait until we more closely resemble Mother Theresa- we would miss the whole point! Just showing up and being willing to be His presence here on earth to one another, is what we are called to do. He said we are no different than the characters in the Bible.

      I was deeply touched, healed and encouraged! This was the best news I’d heard in a long time…

      • bluecenterlight

        Good stuff. The fear of failure and looking foolish is such a paralyzing thing for me. But it is impossible to do anything for God without sometimes missing the mark or looking dumb. I guess the question is, am I willing to look foolish for God’s sake?
        Not always , but I’m getting better. It’s like cliff diving, if you think about it too long you’ll talk yourself out of it. Just jump, worry about it later.

    • SamHamilton

      Well said!

  • Morf Morford

    I find these comments most fascinating. For example, a few commenters mentioned Ephesians 5. I assume they meant the verses related to mutual respect and submission (21-32).

    I love those verses – but they were not relevant to my line of thinking here; the older I get, the less interested I am in advice or suggestions, or even strongly held preferences (as these verses are) and the more interested I am in how people actually live out their faith.
    My sense is (which is core to my appreciation for the actual red letters of Jesus) that our faith should not be, in fact can never be, an abstraction – it is who we are and expressed by how we live.
    My focus in this piece was how Biblical (and other believers) actually live out their core morality – and how they justify blatant diversions from it.
    And, for those critics who saw this as a ‘defense’ of same sex marriage, did you even notice that same sex marriage was not even mentioned?
    But my favorite line was that my analysis was similar to how an atheist would think.
    Perhaps – but did we forget how eagerly many unbelievers absorb the words of Jesus? And how bitterly the religious people hated Jesus?
    I am not terribly interested in denominational adherence, but I am interested, in fact I literally bet my life on the ever-challenging, resonant words of Jesus.

    • Drew

      Why not have an honest discussion on Matthew 19, then, if you really are interested in the Red Letters? In a discussion on marriage, you ignored the passage where Jesus talks about marriage!

      Also, my point about having an atheistic point of view should not be construed as a positive. How I clearly meant it is that most atheists I have encountered hack apart the Bible when they discuss it because they clearly have zero understanding. The arguments that you make I have never seen Christians make, only folks that do not understand the Bible.

      • Morf Morford

        Drew – I think you and actually have much in common (in spite of what might seem like quite opposite positions expressed here). Matthew 19 (about verses 2-12) show a Jesus, I think, expressing the same frustration I’ve explored.

        Those religious bureaucrats thought they had the law (and God) all figured out – as long as the laws applied to others and not themselves.

        It was precisely the ‘hardness of heart’ that infuriated Jesus. I see that same smug ‘hardness’ in most Christian circles.

        BTW, I meant the term ‘ignorance’ not as derogatory, but to focus on a crucial dimension of marriage usually ‘ignored’ by the slogan-slingers who want us to swallow a sanitized view of “Christian” marriage.

        I thank you for the passion and depth of your comments.

        • Drew

          If that is what your piece is about – less about marriage and more about how people abuse the Bible to support whatever they want – well, then, it was pretty good. Perhaps I misunderstood.

          • Morf Morford

            Thanks Drew –

            Yes, my point was the obfuscation and self-justification believers of all eras have used to distance themselves from the clear-cut claims of both God and human decency. Marriage was only one example; I could have used any others like honorable work ethics, environmental stewardship or Biblical attitudes towards crime or debt.

            Unfortunately we, perhaps like every era, are obsessed with buzzwords, slogans and easy answers. Hard thinking (and prayer) about any of these issues is difficult and rarely appreciated – at least for a century or two. ;-)

          • Drew

            That’s one of my favorite quotes -

            “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

    • SamHamilton

      Thank you for responding to a few of the criticisms.

      I agree with you that our faith should never be an abstraction and that how we live says something about our faith. But how any particular Christians live doesn’t say anything about how God intended things to do be. Just because I go out and behave a certain way doesn’t change how God wants me to behave. So focusing in on how believers live out their “core morality” doesn’t tell us what God wants. We look to Jesus for that.

      I’ll grant you that referring to the “Biblical definition of marriage” isn’t the most helpful phrase, but I think you’re deliberately misconstruing what people mean when they use it. They don’t mean “all the examples of marriage set down in the Bible” but instead more of along the lines of “what God intends for marriage.”

      • John

        I think what Morf is getting at is that the history of marriage is, 1. not very uniformly tied to our modern conception of marriage, and 2. the Bible portrays marriage in many different forms.

        There’s a danger here that you argue that the Bible doesn’t mean what it portrays through action, but only what it says in a relatively small number of verses. That’s a hermeneutic approach you can take if you like, but it has in it the inference that we should not take Biblical actions, but only words, as God’s intention for our behaviour. Given that Jesus’ parables are almost entirely understood through action, I find this a potentially problematic approach.

        The truth is that we don’t know historically what the reality of Jewish and early Christian marriage was. It seems, based on what historic accounts we do have, that it was when Christianity became culturally Roman that monogamy came to be the dominant mode, as monogamy was, in the ancient world, a much more Roman than Jewish tradition. Jews would have considered polygamy historically allowed, while in Jewish terms, the Romans considered polygamy a “sheqet”, or abomination. But even Romans accepted the custom of having a wife, as well as lovers.

        As important and late a Christian as Martin Luther was equivocal on polygamy, based on his reading of scripture:

        “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter.”

        The earliest written record of a “Christian” wedding, officiated by a priest, is from the 9th century. Prior to that, you get into the murky business of early church sacraments.

        Augustine of Hippo was probably the first church leader who declared marriage in a modern Christian way, but it’s clear that marriage remained a civil affair for centuries.

        • Frank

          We only have to go back to the beginning:

          God created them male and female, be fruitful and multiply.

          • John

            One of the things Morf suggests is that in ancient times, more wives would lead to a greater chance of multiplication.

          • Frank

            Yes I understand but that’s not what anyone who talks about biblical marriage or traditional marriage means. They mean one man and one woman as God created it to be and affirmed by Jesus.

        • SamHamilton

          John,

          Thanks for the response. I think you’re making, in part, a much better argument than Morf has made. I’ll start with what I disagree with. I don’t believe my hermeneutic is problematic. Certainly Jesus’s actions (and words) should be used as a guide to show us how God intends for us to act. But he was not just a fallible man. He is God incarnate. My point to Morf is that the actions of real life (not ones in parables) human, fallen and fallible Biblical figures should not automatically be taken as examples of how God intends for us to act. Surely you don’t disagree with this. Just because people in the OT were polygamous doesn’t meant God intends for polygamy to be an acceptable marriage arrangement. Abraham was an adulterer. That doesn’t mean God’s intent is for spouses to be unfaithful.

          On the other hand, your second point is important. You’re making a much better argument than Morf did about how Christians in the early (and in Luther’s case, the more modern) church viewed God’s intention for marriage. Is what the Christian world today considers God’s intent for marriage merely a cultural construct or is it truly God’s design? That’s a decent question and worth exploring. But Morf didn’t do that. He just cherry picked Bible verses, took some of them out of context, misinterpreted others, got some pretty basic facts wrong (Jesus was ostracized by his family?) and ignored the verses that the people he’s arguing with use to support their case.

          • John

            I’m not sure your comment about Abraham holds up. God tells us adultery is wrong, and does not tell us polygamy is wrong. I don’t think anyone is confused over the Bible’s position on adultery.

          • SamHamilton

            Ok, then just use polygamy. Just because Abraham and others did it doesn’t mean God approves of it. You seem to be missing my point.

  • SamHamilton

    There are some really bad uses of Biblical passages here. There is nothing in the Bible that says Jesus was ostracized by his family. In fact, his brother and his mother (and perhaps other members of his family) are some of his most devoted followers. The 10 Commandments don’t equate women to furniture or donkeys. That’s just dumb to read it that way. And the fact that certain things took place in the Bible (wives given in battle, incest, arranged marriages) doesn’t meant that this is what God intended to take place anymore than the existence of cancer is evidence that God intends for us to get sick and die so we shouldn’t attempt to treat cancer.

    • Skegeeaces

      Exactly.

    • 22044

      I couldn’t make sense of much of it. To me, that raises a red flag.
      The problem isn’t that the passages in the Bible are particularly difficult or mysterious. At least not the ones that are considered prose, i.e. history or reports.
      The problem is when folks disagree with them, their disagreements are nonsensical.
      I appreciate Morf’s reply, but it doesn’t really help matters either.
      So it is necessary for commenters to respond and try to set matters straight, so people might find some clarity.

      • Frank

        Morts reply on the comment section is more nonsensical than his original post.

        • 22044

          To continue to be fair-minded, he’s made a couple of additional points to Drew that might be helpful. I have to give props for that.

          • Frank

            Sure. Its great that he came and clarified a bit what he was trying to say. Hopefully when he writes his next column he will have put more thought and work towards clarity.

            Does anyone serve as editor here? They need one.

          • 22044

            I agree – the site has an editor but it seems that he is missing.

        • Steve in Van

          I disagree, Frank. The additional comments included a concise statement of his point, which was completely missing in the article itself.

          • Frank

            Ok you have that right. :)

            Either way if you have to come and explain your post you obviously did not put the work needed into it in the first place. That’s why he needs a good editor.

    • John

      There’s the bit in Mark 3 where the people tell Jesus his mother and brothers are there, and he says that his followers are his family. It is possible to take from his comment that his family (or parts of it) is not part of his following. He certainly doesn’t seem to respond as the crowd expects him to.

      And then in Mark 6 (and Matthew 13), Jesus says that prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, where they are rejected by their kin and even in their home. Then there is the reinforcing statement in Mark 6:3 that his sisters, amongst others, are offended by his coming to preach.

      I think there is a commonality between these verses and “let the dead bury their own dead” in Matthew 8. Our traditional bonds of loyalty are not the bonds of Christ, and so it seems plausible that some members of Jesus’ earthly family would have struggled with his attitude toward what we would term familial loyalty.

      You can read these verses in a soft or hard way, but I think to say there’s nothing about Jesus having difficulty with his family is to have a fairly rosy hermeneutic.

      • SamHamilton

        Who is ostracizing whom here? It sounds more like Jesus is doing the ostracizing more than his family is ostracizing him… Either way, it’s pure conjecture, not obvious fact, which is how Morf made it sound. I didn’t say Jesus never had any difficulty with his family, I just said there’s no evidence Jesus was ostracized by his family.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    “In fact Mary and Joseph almost certainly had what virtually every one in that culture had; an arranged marriage – yet another aspect of ‘traditional marriage’ few among us would yearn for.”

    I yearned for it, and ended up doing the next best thing. Too bad this was before eHarmony made the next best thing cheap, but I highly recommend the concept of dating services. Now if “Catholic Match” would only take down its homosexual section…..

  • Steve in Van

    Word of advice: paragraphs! It’s not the reader’s job to put all your semi-random thoughts into coherent form or argument. As it is, I have no idea what your point might be.

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