Lies of Biblical Proportion

Juan Cole reminds us that, um, “biblical marriage” was not between one man and one woman. Often is was between one man and multiple women.

But wackiest of all is the idea that the Bible sees marriage as between one man and one woman. I don’t personally get how you could, like, actually read the Bible and come to that conclusion (see below). Even if you wanted to argue that the New Testament abrogates all the laws in the Hebrew Bible, there isn’t anything in the NT that clearly forbids polygamy, either, and it was sometimes practiced in the early church, including by priests. Josephus makes it clear that polygamy was still practiced among the Jews of Jesus’ time. Any attempt to shoe-horn stray statements in the New Testament about a man and a woman being married into a commandment of monogamy is anachronistic. Likely it was the Roman Empire that established Christian monogamy as a norm over the centuries. The Church was not even allowed to marry people until well after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, since it was an imperial prerogative.

Ancient scripture can be a source of higher values and spiritual strength, but any time you in a literal-minded way impose specific legal behavior because of it, you’re committing anachronism. Since this is the case, fundamentalists are always highly selective, trying to impose parts of the scripture on us but conveniently ignoring the parts even they can’t stomach as modern persons.

1. In Exodus 21:10 it is clearly written of the husband: “If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.” This is the same rule as the Qur’an in Islam, that another wife can only be taken if the two are treated equally.

2. Let’s take Solomon, who maintained 300 concubines or sex slaves. 1 Kings 11:3: “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.” Led him astray! That’s all the Bible minded about this situation? Abducting 300 people and keeping them immured for sex? And the objection is only that they had a lot of diverse religions and interested Solomon in them? (By the way, this is proof that he wasn’t Jewish but just a legendary Canaanite polytheist). I think a settled gay marriage is rather healthier than imprisoning 300 people in your house to have sex with at your whim. …

… According Mark 12:19, guys, if your brother kicks the bucket, you have to marry your sister-in-law and knock her up. Since the Bible approved of multiple wives, you have to do this even if you’re already married. If you think in-laws are hard to get along with now, try being married to them.

Seriously, my understanding is that in western civilization, our ideas about what marriage is supposed to be evolved over many centuries long after the Bible was canonized. . For example, before the 12th century or so only members of the nobility were married “in the church.” Peasants just kind of worked things out for themselves.

So all this Bible thumping and whining about the sanctity of marriage is really about people’s cultural biases. Even some people who are familiar enough with the Old Testament to know that some of God’s People were polygamists can’t bring themselves to see the disconnect between their deeply held beliefs about a “righteous” marriage and what the Bible actually says. This is something I discuss in more detail in Rethinking Religion, btw.

Speaking of polygamy, it’s fascinating the way conservatives are certain the next pillar of civilization to fall will be monogamy. Same-sex marriage and polygamy have nothing to do with each other, in my mind. But I guess to a conservative everything considered a “perversion” is dumped into the same box.

Jonathan Rauch wrote,

Predictably, the Court’s decision led to another of countless rounds of forecasts that the marriage-rights movement will now expand to multiples. (Like this.) Again, we’ll see, but I’m willing to stand by what I’ve long said: the case for gay marriage is the case against polygamy, and the public will be smart enough to understand the difference.

Gay marriage is about extending the opportunity to marry to people who lack it; polygamy, in practice, is about exactly the opposite: withdrawing marriage opportunity from people who now have it. Gay marriage succeeded because no one could identify any plausible channels through which it might damage heterosexual marriage; with polygamy, the worries are many, the history clear, and the channels well understood.

And has many have pointed out, it seems to be the hyper-conservative religious who actually go in for “plural marriages.” It’s currently not on the liberal/progressive radar, that I know of.

Rauch also said,

I’ve always believed that cultural conservatives misunderstood the gay-marriage movement: far from being an attack on the culture of marriage, it represented a shift back toward family values by a group that had learned the hard way, through eviction by their own parents and suffering in the AIDS crisis, how important marriage and commitment and family really are.

Mike Huckabee, who has appointed himself a spokesperson for God, has been calling for civil disobedience to protest marriage equality. But he’s a bit hazy about what that means.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what exactly are you calling on people to do right now? You say resist and reject this judicial tyranny. Spell out exactly what that means?

HUCKABEE: George, judicial tyranny is when we believe that the courts have a right to bypass the process of law and we’ve really seen it this week in two cases, in both the Obamacare case, which Justice Scalia called it – said we not – should call it SCOTUScare because they have rescued it twice, ex cathedra to the law, and then in the same-sex marriage ruling in which –

STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you calling for civil disobedience?

HUCKABEE: I don’t think a lot of pastors and Christian schools are going to have a choice. They either are going to follow God, their conscience and what they truly believe is what the scripture teaches them, or they will follow civil law. They will go the path of Dr. Martin Luther King, who in his brilliant essay the letters from a Birmingham jail reminded us, based on what St. Augustine said, that an unjust law is no law at all. And I do think that we’re going to see a lot of pastors who will have to make this tough decision.

You’re going to see it on the part of Christian business owners. You’ll see it on the part of Christian university presidents, Christian school administrators. If they refuse to –

Stephanopoulos is another of those television bobbleheads who doesn’t know how to stick to a touch line of questions. Here he switched the conversation to county clerks and the like. He should have pushed Huckabee to be specific about the pastors. How will the civil law even affect them? They won’t be required to perform same-sex marriages, and I suspect Huckabee knows that.

And if Huckabee does know that, he is, in effect, bearing false witness. He is perpetrating a falsehood — that pastors will be required to perform gay marriages — in order to attract a following. That breaks at least one of the Ten Commandments. And he thinks himself godly, no doubt.

26 thoughts on “Lies of Biblical Proportion

  1. It is showbiz. Stephanopoulos does not want to destroy Huckabee right off the bat. There are ratings to be made off the believers. And Huckabee knows that he will not get massive resistance, but he can shill for it and enrich his campaign fund account. The dualism of the entire political process is quite thoroughly formalized.

  2. Bill…You’re 100% correct. Stephanopoulos could intellectually tear that bumpkin apart if he had a mind to. But why kill the golden goose when it’s producing exactly what you want.

    • //But why kill the golden goose when it’s producing exactly what you want.//

      An insipid interview everyone will forget in a day or two?

  3. Our “Christian” conservatives blew the gay issue (pun fully intended).

    These are monogamous gay couples who only want the same rights as married heterosexual couples get.

    Our conservatives should have been FOR this!
    But, instead, thanks to Manichean “Christians” like the Jesus-grifting douche-canoe Huckster, they find themselves on the wrong side of history again, when they could have earned the respect and support of many if not most gay people, by advocating for monogamous marriage, and the adoption of children.

    The Dominionist-Evangelical Christians who Goldwater feared, Nixon tickled, and Reagan hugged to his bosom, are now the people who make the GOP stand for “Grossly Old (Testament White/Straight) People.”

    Heck of a cross you nailed yourselves to, Reich-Wingers!
    You “blew” the gay issue – figuratively speaking, of course!

  4. Cruz was on Morning Edition today whining about “elite judges” not understanding evangelical’s sensibilities. What about the sensibilities of all the couples who have been denied property rights over the years just to cater to the unhistoric whims of said bigots?

  5. The Republican Party’s only saving grace is that they are a coalition of wackjob one-issue voters. If they ever went mainstream and got elected for their economic and foreign policy, the Bush years would seem like a catered picnic in the park.

  6. I heard Ted Cruz on Morning Edition too, and now I have twice as much gray hair on my head as yesterday.

    His economic opinions would return this country to 1933. His social opinions would return it to 1533. (“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”)

    The piece mentioned that Cruz once was a SCOTUS clerk. For whom, Scalia? I can’t see any other way Cruz’s mind became so damaged. When John McCain calls a guy nuts, that guy is hopeless.

  7. Joan,
    Ted, like Icky-Sticky Ricky, has no chance of being elected President.

    Instead, they’re running to be the most Draconian political Pope of all time.

    It’ll help them collect “wrong-nut” welfare in the future (I told you, @csm that I’d stea… liberate that line!).

  8. “You’re going to see it on the part of Christian business owners. You’ll see it on the part of Christian university presidents, Christian school administrators. If they refuse to -”

    So Is Huckabuck running for president of the United States of America or the Christian States of America? Why does he discount Islam’s opposition or Orthodox Judaism or any other religion that might oppose marriage equality? Huckabuck, Jindal, Santorum, Cruz they all use this “Christian only” persecution crap. So they are not serious about becoming president, they just want to win Iowa maybe South Carolina to boost their FAUX news worthiness, book sales, speaking fees, basically they are running to master the great republican Grift machine!

  9. In the early church there was also a debate over whether marriage was a good thing at all. The idea of clerical celibacy didn’t come out of nowhere.

    And then of course there’s the Secret Gospel of Mark:

    And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God.

  10. I assume everyone has at one time or another seen the video by Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian, describing biblical marriage. If not, you should.

  11. Shorter Secret Gospel of Mark: And Jesus proceeded to Smite that azz with His Heavenly Member!

  12. Speaking of King Solomon…He was the wisest man who ever ever lived. And if you don’t believe me just ask Louie Gohmert. He’ll tell you exactly the same thing.

  13. I need to go off-topic. Sorry. But, the Donald is really irritating me. As an American Indian, I would like to tell Donald Trump in response to his comments about Mexicans and how America is getting the worst of them–the same could have been said about the white man in the 1500’s-1800s. This especially includes any of relatives of his who came from wherever. However, that does not include any one at this blog as it has shown over and over it has the best of the non-American Indians.

  14. Bonnie ….You have to see Trump for what he is..He’s a just joke and should be seen for entertainment value only. It would take an accomplished comedy writer to top the dialog that Trump can come up with naturally, and sourced from his own stupidity. Archie Bunker?
    In his demeaning rant against Mexicans he ended with it with..”Some of them are good”.

  15. NBC cut Chump loose yesterday, so he’ll have to stay in the Presidential race if he wants attention.
    That sound you heard was the RNC bemoaning this…

  16. I hope they beefed up the suspension in the GOP clown car because they just took on a new passenger.

  17. THE patriarch of all Abrahamic religions, Abraham himself had a wife and a younger go to gal in case the wifey couldn’t be fruitful & multiply.

  18. The “religious” right says homosexuality is a sin and therefore we should pass laws that limit the rights of gays. Which really is nothing more than an expression of their bigotry. Adultery is a sin too and, dare I say far more prevalent than homosexuality. So why aren’t these pious purists advocating for laws limiting the rights of adulterers?

  19. @csm,
    Because in the words of the great “Pogo,” when it comes to adultery, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

    But it’s all ok because God and Jesus forgave them, when they repented.

  20. csm has asked a really good question that needs to be asked and asked until someone (a Republican) gives a sufficient answer. However, I do believe that is not a job our so-called news people can do.

  21. Swami,

    There’s not a dime’s worth of difference in their GOP Presidential candidates. They’re FOR the same things, and AGAINST the same things.

    But stupid, ignorant, bigoted, evil, and crazy, aren’t enough for the base anymore.

    Like junkies, they want more!

    Someone will bite the head off of a chicken on stage, and take the lead.

    Then, someone will bite the head off of a rat on stage, and take the lead.

    The first one to bite the head off of a minority child during a debate, will then take the lead for good!

  22. gulag.. Sounds like you are describing Coulter syndrome. The more outrageous and offensive the speech the more acceptance it receives from the Repug base. There’s just so much hate pie to divvy up so they have to rely on creative strategies to insure they get a greater portion of the pie.

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