Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Yes, But ...

A friend of a friend posted a story over on facebook about the Bible not being the source of defining marriage as one man, one woman.

The article provides a list of supposed examples of how it "defines" it as other things.  But this is going down the wrong road.  

First, let me say that I don't know that the Bible "defines" marriage at all (and a lot of this post is a digression into the tactic taken here.)   The Bible does talk about all kinds of things.   There's murder.  There's adultery (which suggests some recognition of marital obligations), there's betrayal -- there is all kinds of "sin" in the Bible.  But these aren't examples of standards to be lived up to.  They are generally lessons in what is wrong, or at the very most, examples of the way things simply are.  Or were, as the case may be.  Much of what is referenced by the guy turns out to be the relation of facts by the Biblical text, not instructions as to what should be, and much liberty was taken (in the items listed farther below) in the interpreted conclusions.

I never was, and especially now am not, a Biblical literalist.  Or even a practicing religious person at all in the way that "practice" would commonly be understood.

But I do find it amusing that non-Christians (especially those of the anti-Christian persuasion) will go digging into the Bible and turn these things up as if, because there is a story about an adulteress, then adultery is condoned by the Bible.  Cain murdered Abel, and it's in the Bible, so ... the Bible and therefore Christianity condones it?

One should at least gain an understanding of the big picture the Bible presents before commenting on what a particular passage shows, whether you're a believer or not.

The article the guy linked gives a bunch of examples from the Old Testament ...
  • Marriage consists of one man and one or more women.
  • Nothing prevents a man from taking on concubines in addition to the wife or wives he may already have.
  • The concept of a woman giving her consent to being married is foreign to the biblical mindset.
  • If a woman cannot be proven to be a virgin at the time of marriage, she shall be stoned
All things reflecting cultural realities at the time, many of which even according to the story Jesus came to change -- and the guy basically admits this when he goes on to say:

For those who claim these are all Old Testament laws and that the New Testament supersedes them, consider in the New Testament that:
  • Women are allowed to marry the man of their father's choosing ... because women are the property of their father until married and their husband afterwards.
  • Interfaith marriages are prohibited.
  • If a man dies childless, his brother must marry the widow
  • Divorce is forbidden, and finally ...
  • It's better, according to St. Paul, to not get married at all.
Well yes, as a matter of fact most Christians do believe that the old laws were superseded by the new, so it was kind of them to bring this up.  And you have to note that none of the stuff they found in the New Testament have anything to do with polygamy or same-sex couples.  So the subject has apparently been changed when we get to what Christians actually believe(d).

Especially when they outright ignore passages such as this:

1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[a] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
But again, these last few passages are on divorce, not on defining marriage as between one man and one woman.  It's a digression used to embarrass the literalists, not to show that the New Testament doesn't say One Man, One Woman.  It is clear here that the singular is consistently used when referring to man or wife, and that the two, (not the three, four, eight) become one.

8 appears to say that even before Moses, divorce was frowned upon by God. And it should be clear that the "better not to marry" claim is taken entirely out of context, as the "if" clause was completely ignored.  Plus it was the disciples saying it, not Christ.  It appears to me that they may have been saying, in effect, "Harsh, dude!"

All this being said, the argument I've made all along has nothing to do with the Bible or science, but culture and religion as it is practiced -- and the cultural forcing that is being attempted through the use of the Government by the same-sex "marriage" activists.

You have the right, in America, to do as you please and to call it what you please as long as no coercion is involved on others and it doesn't break their leg or pick their pocket.  And others have the right to react to it within those confines as they see fit.  When you use government to define cultural things, especially ancient and deeply ingrained cultural things -- you are overstepping the bounds of limited government.


philmon said...

I should note one commenter (on the blog linked) said the following:

Particularly the King James version in reply to the literalists
Psalm 133

1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard,
even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

3 as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

--brethren dwelling in unity, beards, skirts -- oh my!

Just a bit of a stretch to say this has anything to do with marriage or sex or necessarily even people living in the same house.

"Brethren" was often used to describe family, friends, community -- people with which you have something in common.

I suppose I can imagine where someone predisposed to male on male sex would go right to imagining dudes oiling each other down and writhing together in their collective living room, though.

Have fun with that.

Cylarz said...

"Women are allowed to marry the man of their father's choosing ... because women are the property of their father until married and their husband afterwards."

I don't see where the Bible says any such thing, especially in the New Testament. (Certain things do appear in the New Testament which simply reference the 1st century Judean culture which existed at the time.) Even if that were the culture people lived in at the time, it isn't the one we live in now.

"Interfaith marriages are prohibited."

Actually, yes. The Bible calls it being "unequally yoked," and I happen to think interfaith marriage leads to all kinds of trouble.

"If a man dies childless, his brother must marry the widow
Divorce is forbidden, and finally ..."

He's probably taking that from a passage where the Pharisees were QUOTING an Mosaic teaching in order to test Jesus. The teaching itself is from the Old Testament, not the New.

"It's better, according to St. Paul, to not get married at all."

Yeah, so? Paul was so singularly focused on his service to God that he felt a wife would be a distraction. The Bible makes it clear that single and married alike have a place in the kingdom.

What really bothers me is when you have people approaching the Scripture not because they want to learn or understand, but because they have some kind of agenda they're trying to advance.

Even worse is when that agenda is "Modern Christians are hypocrites and I'm going to set out to prove it."

philmon said...

Yup. And this is exactly what this post is about.

I have gone through the Quran, myself, but I always try to gain the context so as not to misrepresent what it says.

Most of this stuff is just dumb as to what it proports to argue for.

The headline on "Pam's House Blend" is "Op-ed by NC Minister Blows Away the One-Man, One-Woman Marriage Bible Beaters".

I say whether you are fer or again' the gay marriage thing, it does nothing of the sort.

nightflyblog said...

That phrase, "blown away," doesn't mean what they think it means. And of course it's a pastor trying this stuff, because the dissident, heterodox (if not outright heretical) folks are Keepin' It Real, while the much larger majority of believers are "brainwashed" and "don't think for themselves." It's like saying that because you can drive a nail with your forehead, hammers are obsolete! It's all a conspiracy from Big Hardware!

My family are majority Democrat. As a result I try to see things their way, really I do - if for no other reason than reduced incidence of migraine during holidays - but if their case is so unanswerable, why with all the fibbing?

Cylarz said...

The Scripture isn't friendly to the idea of gay sex. In fact, it stands opposed to such behavior in at least four places I can think of.

Remember what happened to the ancient city of Sodom, and what sort of thing was going on there that made God decide to smite the city? Where do you think we get the word "sodomy?" It's condemned in the New Testament in a couple of places, too.

All that said, it's imcomprehensible to me to suggest that God's Word would approve of a state recognition of a union for the express purpose of such acts.

If someone is trying to use the Bible to advance the notion of gay marriage, he's in for a world of hurt, as my 7th grade science teacher used to say.

nightflyblog said...

Remember what happened to the ancient city of Sodom, and what sort of thing was going on there that made God decide to smite the city?

Well, I've heard the theory that the sin of Sodom was "lack of hospitality." Really. And the person kept a straight face (no pun intended) while saying so.

Anonymous said...

I have issues with the story of Lot as a prime example for how to treat gays. My issue is that Lot was saved from the city, went into a cave with his daughters, they got him drunk, and he had sex with them.

Uhhhhhh...I'm thinkin' a second round of smoting needs to be meted out. But alas, kill the gays and save the incest. Bleeeaaaaaah.

I despise the story of Lot a lot.

Mark the wonder geek

philmon said...

Ok, let's go for it. This is a good illustrative example.

In Genesis 19, Lot does indeed sleep with his daughters. Actually, he is tricked into it BY his daughters as both times they got him drunk to get him to do it. It can easily be deduced that they believed that if Lot had been in his "right mind", he would never have agreed to do it, and Lot is clearly the protagonist in the story.

Nowhere in the story does it say that God approved. It is what it is. What happened happened.

The idea that anything that anybody did in any story in the Bible is direct instruction that that is proper behavior ... I don't know where that comes from. I was certainly never taught that by the nuns throughout my primary school Catholic schooling, and I don't imagine it's taught that way anywhere else. And if it is it's probably by tiny weird cults scattered here and there. It's nothing like mainstream Christian teaching.

So to say "hey, Lot had sex with his daughters in the Bible, therefore Christianity is totally cool with it" is ludicrous and probably stemmed from some Christian-bashing class somewhere in the past. It persists because young college kids titter about it -- without ever giving a thought to the context or the fact that the Bible, especially the Old Testament, was a history of the Jewish people, not just instruction on proper behavior.

Lot's daughters, with good but misguided intentions, got their father drunk and had sex with him "to preserve his seed". It happened. History. Written down, warts and all.

What is the whole story of Lot? (cont'd below)

philmon said...

He was the guy who was devoted to God, and the Devil bet God he could turn Lot against God. We are involved in a constant battle between good and evil, and we don't set the rules. We choose how we play, and our choice matters.

Here's where myth and history combine in the story, IMHO. And each and every one of us does this when we tell a story in our past. We commonly at least slightly mythologize it -- especially when we're using it to teach a lesson -- to illustrate what we're trying to illustrate. But we leave the basic facts in, especially when they're well known.

What is the point of the story of Lot? That he slept with his daughters? Hell no. It is a story to illustrate the trials and tribulations that God may put we imperfect amalgamations of spirit and flesh through to give us the opportunity to grow in the spirit.

To go off on a completely abstract theological tangent here and get away from the whole Judeo-Christian framework, or "transform", as I would look at it after all of the upper math and physics I waded through ... but the lesson in Lot boils down to this:

Life's a bitch and then you die. What do you do between the morning and nighfall of your life, and how do you make it matter?

We know a bit lot about how to make it matter to other people via love and compassion. But to that from which we come, we cannot now understand nor will we ever, except maybe in death itself. Maybe.

Religion ... good relgion, is basically a dimensional transform like a "fourier transform" from the world in which we mortals live and inhabit of a paradigm(1) we can wrap our minds around to help us relate as best we can with the senses and intellect we have to that something that we cannot understand, but is nonetheless important. It is often not immediately apparent why it is important, especially to the average man who cannot spend his whole life pondering the philosophy of what is best for mankind in the long run because he's gotta grow wheat of fix a computer. A huge chunk of mankind may never get around to thinking about why a lot of this is important, but that fact doesn't render it unimportant.

Religion gives us handy metaphors, which, when shared by most in a culture, provide a platform from which to discuss things which are at their core impossible to completely grasp. And that can be good enough.

As Mark knows, I have personally come to the conclusion that it is ultimately a good thing, with the full understanding that everything has its tradeoffs.

As to where in the Bible, specifically in the New Testament (which Christians believe superseded the old Mosaic law) it is ever said that God wants us to kill gays ... well I'm drawing a complete blank.

(1) I generally hate the use of that word mostly because it's used as a buzzword most of the time, but I can't think of a better one here.

Cylarz said...

Right on, Philmon. As an evangelical, Bible-thumping Christian, I can say you've pretty much nailed it, especially with this gem:

The idea that anything that anybody did in any story in the Bible is direct instruction that that is proper behavior ... I don't know where that comes from.

To answer your question, it comes from a premeditated agenda whose goal is to "expose" modern-day 21st century Christians as hypocrites.

As an aside, I remember a "best-of" posting on Craig's List (you ever go there? It's a hoot, I tell ya) which contained a long list of cherry-picked teachings from Mosaic law, mostly from books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Then he demanded to know why Christians aren't literally applying every last one of them today.

One of them was something-or-other about a neighbor of his, who was some kind of person the Mosaic law said to execute, and he wanted to know if he should do it himself or ask the cops to take care of it.

I really don't know what these people are trying to prove. I believe the Bible is the Word of God. Am I supposed to read screeds like the one quoted, smack my forehead, and say, "Wow! I never realized I'd been hoodwinked! Better walk away from my faith, and then go around calling believers ugly names like this guy does!" Are such people trying to appeal to fence-sitters who've been "checking out" the Christian faith? I really have no idea.

And to tell you the honest know what, never mind. You don't want to know who it is that I think really is motivating people like this.

I could say I'm sick and tired of it (and I am), but what's the point? It's like saying you're sick of wild bears using the woods as a bathroom. It's going to happen either way.

Cylarz said...

I meant to add that the Bible is full of stories and descriptions of people whose behavior serves as an object lesson of what NOT to do (as well as what TO do)...but I think you knew that already.

On the contrary, it describes some pretty wretched stuff that people were doing...and usually, they suffered the consequences. That's the real lesson.

Whenever someone suggests to me that the Bible is nothing but stories about pious, just, and upright people, I laugh heartily...then ask if they've ever actually read it.

philmon said...

Are such people trying to appeal to fence-sitters who've been "checking out" the Christian faith? I really have no idea.

That -- and trying to embarrass people out of believing or even at least professing what they believe out loud in public.

They take advantage of our natural propensity to question ourselves. We're all fence sitters at certain points, or at least we plod up to the fence and look over it from time to time. Everybody questions their faith (and if they say they don't, they're lying). What if I'm wrong? And this is actually a good thing. If you never ask yourself that question, there is no possibility for improvement or even fine-tuning. But like in other matters, anything worthwhile has its risks.

The campaign which Cylarz speaks of seeks to exploit this crack in peoples' faith with a giant iron splitting wedge and open it as wide as possible as quickly as possible whenever and wherever it is exposed.

I smell a big post on faith coming up here... which again is a little weird coming from the likes of me, but I think I "get it" now. I don't want this blog to turn into a religious blog or anything, but it is a subject that needs to be discussed. It has important implications in the political world, and ultimately the Christian-hating portion of the Left needs to be exposed for the hypocrites they are. Pot. Kettle. Goose. Gander. They really don't see it.

philmon said...

I should probably explain a little about that "fence" and my relation to it.

I have plodded up to that fence from the the side opposite cylarz and am now looking back in to religion and faith, albiet from a new perspective. And a lot of what you see in these posts are what I have worked out so far, combined with what I'm working out as I type.

A lot of what put me on the other side of that fence was precisely the ridicule we are talking about, and a lot of it was a giant chasm that was introduced to my religious beliefs while I was a teenager which we won't get into here.

Suffice it to say, I have been on that other side for a long, long time. Part of what has brought me back to the fence has a lot to do with me seeing this ridicule and knowing that at its core, it is ignorant and perhaps as bad as dishonest ridicule. And I don't like incorrect things to stand.

It's all fine and good to criticize religion, but when you do, at least have your facts straight and know a little bit about what you're talking about.

That, and Alan Watts, Robert Pirsig, and now Bob Godwin have provided intriguing windows from this other side back into the religious world, and specifically the Christian world. I say it's worth another look.

Anonymous said...

Sorry- hadn't read on the comments for a while.

To go several back, I posted about Lot getting drunk and having sex with his kids.

You replied that his daughters got him drunk to get him to do it.

I ask you: could your mom have ever, EVER gotten you drunk enough to screw her? Or, more importantly, do you think you could have got her drunk enough to screw you? I'm thinking the answer is no. It sure is for me.

Drinking doesn't make you do what you don't want to; it allows you to do what you do want to. It shuts down inhibition.

The story of Lot is specifically heinous because Lot was sought out as a righteous person (as per Abraham's deal with God). So this righteous guy, who has lived in the "sin" of Sodom and Gomorrah for 24 years, suddenly gets a free pass out of there. And commits drunken incest.

Not a good story, regardless of anything else in the Bible.

Mark the wonder geek

philmon said...

I believe I said both a Lot more and a Lot less than that.

A Lot less in this:

First, I didn't say Lot gets a "pass". But certainly it is one thing to go in, premeditated, and ravage your daughters. It's quite another thing to have your daughters conspire to cloud (or completely remove) your judgement to achieve their ends. And as far as "drinking doesn't make you do what you don't want to", I'd bring up a few things.

1) In the Judeo Christian view of man, man is by nature an imperfect, fallen creature that God nonetheless loves, and He is forgiving. 2) Drinking doesn't "make" you do anything. At different levels it strips away your higher conscious functions from higher refined levels of civilized behavior such as politeness at first (you cease to "bite your tongue") through more and more deeply ingrained conscious, super-animal behavior down to whatever is left being mostly animal -- depending on your physical tolerance before you pass out.

We would all like to believe we are in total control when we drink, but in fact, the more we drink the less we are in control to the point where many black out but continue to physically function.

I recall one college prank where a particular guy on our dorm floor was wiped-out drunk and was forced to have sex with a wedgie pizza. Now ... if you'd asked him before that if anyone could ever get him drunk enough to have several guys strip him and force a pizza on him, I'm betting he would've said "no way". But the next day there were the Polaroid snapshots to prove it. So I don't buy the "you couldn't be drunk enough" that a determined person couldn't get out of you what he or she wanted to get out of you, no matter who they were. At some point, you literally don't know what's going on.

The story was not long on the details. It doesn't say that the girls came in and said, "Hey dad, let's have sex. No? Here, have some wine. Now? Have some more. Now? ... until he gave in."

And a Lot more in this: that no serious Christian (outside of some psuedo-Christians like Jim Jones) believes that everything anyone did in the Bible is held up as good and righteous behavior. Often the opposite is true. Additionally, I said that the Old Testament is as much a history of the Jews as it is anything else, and it lays that history out. The incest thing happened. The story lays out how it happened. It indicated that it was not proper behavior by the fact that the girls had to get him drunk in order to accomplish their scheme. It is an attempt in the story to remove Lots culpability, for sure, whether it actually happened that way or was put in by the writers later.

And one thing is for sure. God gives passes. If he doesn't, we're all ... screwed, so to speak.

philmon said...

See Proverbs 24:16 For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

Grab a potato. It might have some bad spots, but the potato on the whole is still good. You don't throw out the whole potato unless it has systemically rotted.

Anonymous said...

I remember the sex-with-pizza incident. Never saw the pictures, thank God (pun intended). However, I do know the guy was passed out, and the pictures were posed. He didn't have sex with the pizza. However, some creepy b*stards on the floor sure made it look that way. I did my best to keep them off him that night, but after I guilted them out of his room, and then I left...they apparently came back. Sleazebags.

Perhaps you've got something on those daughts of Lot. He did try to throw them at a crowd or rapists who wanted to "know" the two new strangers. However, they didn't want his girls. So perhaps that family was a total pile of tripe, vicious manipulators who live in a city of sin.

PS- I didn't say you said Lot got a "pass". I said it. And still do. He was the righteous dude who got away from evil S&G...after 24 years of living there, after throwing his daughters at a crowd, then having drunken sex with them. That potato doesn't have bad spots. That potato IS a bad spot.

mark the wonder geek

philmon said...

Well, not saying this is how it went down, but it could have just been one hell of a realistic "wet dream". The story doesn't say. And there are stages of being drunk where you are not asleep, and either you don't know what's going on, or you've been rendered beyond caring.

Re: the potato WAS a bad spot --Fortunately for us (according to the Judeo-Christian tradition), God doesn't see it that way. He does not give up on the potato.

Again, nowhere in the story does it indicate that the behavior you cite is acceptable - indeed, it is suggested that it is not by trying to remove Lot's culpability in the incest incident - why try to remove culpability for an action you're supposed to be cool with?

Lot did some bad things.

And Lot was saved from his evil ways (probably because Abraham "prayed" for him ... see another friend's comments which I will post below in a separate comment). God has been known to respond to intercession.

I fail to see where the story does anything but show the depths from which one can be saved. It is not presented as instruction.

It is held up by the anti-Judeo Christians as some sort of inconsistency, when it is not. We are not supposed to emulate Lot's bad behavior. God is not cool with it.

But he will forgive it.

There is a difference. Some of us may not forgive it. But then again, we are fallen. We are not God.

philmon said...

From my good friend Whitehawk:

Regarding Lot, there is no excuse for what happened, he is responsible for what happened in his family. He did not morally protect his daughters. If you read the story you will discover that he actually offered to give the men of Sodom his daughters for them to rape in an effort to protect his heavenly visitors (Gen. 19:8). If you ask me this is where it all went wrong in Lot's family. I believe his daughters heard this betrayal of their purity. I can't imagine what would go through the heart of a young girl hearing the man who was supposed to protect your honor offer you as sexual prey to a mob of wicked men. It's only my opinion but I think this is where the daughter's of Lot got the idea that there are no boundaries when it comes to sexuality. The condition of Sodom morally surely fed this too. Like you said in your post, "If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."

Another thing to remember is that Abraham prayed for Sodom that God wouldn't destroy the city in Genesis 18. He asked God if he would not destroy it for as little as 10 righteous people. God said He would stay the punishment for as few as 10 righteous people. Guess there weren't enough. And for Abraham's sake, not Lot's, God pulled Lot out of the city. You can see the Grace of God working here. Lot would have been punished along with the Sodomites if it weren't for God rescuing him.

Anyway, just wanted a chance to say, Lot sinned and did a detestable thing with his daughters and the Bible speaks of it that way, but the moral problems in Lot's family started way before the incest. Why God didn't destroy Lot is not a question of degrees of wickedness, just a testimony of His willingness to save those who will respond to His call. Thank God He did not give me what I deserved.

Rom 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

If you are looking for evil in the Bible, yeah, you are going to find it. If you want to use that evil to "show" that Christians are hypocrites -- you must refuse to recognize the consistent undercurrent that men are imperfect, and that God knows this but loves us anyway.

philmon said...

It is interesting to note that in the Judeo Christian Bible, the incest story is left in while incest is forbidden by Judaism and Christianity.

The incest story does not appear in the Quran's story of Lot -- and yet Ayatoha Khomeni wrote this century up to what age it is ok for a man to get off using his kids' thighs.

philmon said...

I should also fess up that I had some of Lot's and Job's stories mixed up.

Doesn't change the point, though, which is that Christianity does not use Lot's sins (or anyone else's) as examples of good Christian behavior.

Anonymous said...


Job, another Bible story I detest.

If your point is that Lot isn't used as an example of Christian behavior, I can go with that. He was Old Testament - which means he wasn't a Christian at all. And you've made me realize he wasn't saved from destruction because he was righteous. He was saved by his relationship to Abraham. So God did in fact give him a "pass", as he wasn't righteous but he was connected. So what I take away from this story is you won't be smoted if you know the right people. Very mafia. Heck, Lot wasn't going to leave at all. The angels literally had to take him, his wife, and his daughters by hand and get them out of the city. Bleah. Again, I can't stand the story of Lot.

All of this makes me hard-pressed to find a reason for the story at all, other than to express the awesome power of God for smoting. And perhaps it's not what you know but who you know that gets you in with the almighty.

As for God loving us despite our imperfections, He wiped the planet clean of us, save for Noah and his family, because of those imperfections. You might say God gave up and an entire planet of potatoes. Kind of a "love reboot", as it were. After the flood, Noah had a little problem with booze too. He ended up cursing his grandson Canaan because Canaan's dad made the mistake of seeing Noah passed out and naked in Noah's tent.

Strangely, in all the assinine things I've done in my life under the influence of alcohol, I didn't blame anyone else but myself.

philmon said...

If a patch of badly diseased potatoes threatens too big a portion of your crop, it's best to root them out and burn them. Sometimes some good is thrown out with the bad to accomplish the task.

The BC God was, indeed, much more wrathful than the AD God, for sure.

And yes, my whole point was that pointing to Lot and saying "See, there's incest in the Bible you hypocrites" is glaringly ignorant.