Christian weddings rarely feature [biblical] passages that directly relate to marriage. Only one passage, Genesis 2:24, seems especially relevant, while other passages require us to bend their content to our desire to hear a good word about marriage. Things are so bad that the worship books for many denominations turn to John 2:11, where Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding feast, to claim that Jesus blessed marriage. …
So we know Jesus blessed marriage because he attended a wedding? That's the best we can do? No wonder it's common for couples to struggle over the choice of Scripture for their wedding ceremonies. The Bible just doesn't have much to say on the topic.
Unfortunately, many Christians use the Bible to support their own prejudices and bigotry. They talk about "biblical family values" as if the Bible had a clear message on marriage and sexuality. Let's be clear: There's no such thing as "biblical family values" because the Bible does not speak to the topic clearly and consistently.
It's high time people came clean about how we use the Bible. When Christians try to resolve difficult ethical and theological matters, they typically appeal to the Gospels and Paul's letters as keys to the question. But what about marriage? Not only did Jesus choose not to marry, he encouraged his disciples to abandon household and domestic concerns in order to follow him (Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:28-30; Luke 9:57-62). He even refers to those "who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:10-13). Whatever that means, it's certainly not an endorsement of marriage. Paul likewise encourages male believers: "Do not seek a wife" (1 Corinthians 7:27, my translation) -- advice Paul took for himself. If neither Jesus nor Paul preferred marriage for their followers, why do some Christians maintain that the Bible enshrines 19th-century Victorian family values?
Let's not even go into some of the Bible's most chilling teachings regarding marriage, such as how a man's obligation to keep a new wife who displeases him on the wedding night (Deuteronomy 22:13-21), his obligation to marry a woman he has raped (Deuteronomy 22:28-30) or the unquestioned right of heroes like Abraham to exploit their slaves sexually. I wonder: Have the "biblical family values advocates" actually read their Bibles?
Friday, July 08, 2011
Christian family values
Greg Carey, a Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary (PA), has a useful Huffington Post article about this subject.