Dear GOP: Top 5 Biblical Marriage Moments far worse than Gay Marriage

David Edwards at Raw Story quotes Mitt Romney from Meet the Press as saying “But I think marriage should be defined in the way that it has been defined for several thousand years . . .” implying, by the Bible. (Mitt says it is all right with him if gay people just shack up with each other, but he feigns not to know that this would deprive them of all sorts of legal rights with their spouses, including simple hospital visits or spousal health care from the other person’s employment).

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.

Edwards puts his barb in the title, pointing out that biblical marriage included polygamy. Of course, since Romney is a Mormon, maybe he still surreptitiously believes in that. Since Edwards didn’t follow through with the thought in his title, I thought I’d review the top five worst moments in biblical marriage that are much worse than gay marriage:

1. 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). Mitt, I think a settled gay marriage is rather healthier than imprisoning 300 people in your house to have sex with at your whim.

2. Not only does the Bible authorize slavery and human trafficking, but it urges slaves to “submit themselves” to their masters. It should be remembered that masters had sexual rights over their property assuming the slave-woman was not betrothed to another, and so this advice is intended for concubines as well as other slaves. And, the Bible even suggests that slaves quietly accept sadism and cruelty from their masters: 1 Peter 2:18: “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” So a nice gay marriage between two legal equals with no acts of cruelty would be much better than this biblical nightmare.

3. Then there is Abraham, who made a sex slave of his wife’s slave, the Egyptian girl Hagar, and then abandoned her to cruel treatment.

Genesis 16:1-6:

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” 6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

So let’s get this straight. Abraham isn’t said to have married Hagar. Apparently he and Sarah had separate property, because Hagar remains her slave. So he slept with someone else’s slave and got her pregnant. And then when that caused trouble between his wife and her slave, he washed his hands of his property-lover and let his wife mistreat her. As we know from 1 Peter, Hagar was supposed graciously to put up with this, but she was made of fiercer stuff than that, and you really have to root for her in this rather sick family situation.

A nice gay marriage, now that is positively normal compared to this obviously unhealthy set of relationships.

4. 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. A simple gay household would be have much less drama, Mitt.

5. So I don’t think this happens very much, but guys, in biblical marriage you might have to cut your wife’s hand off if she defends you too vigorously. That’s right. Say you’re at a bar and this big bald badass with tats starts smashing your face in. And say your wife likes you and wants to stop the guy from giving you a concussion. Say she reaches down and gets him by the balls. So the Bible would reward her for loyalty and bravery and fast thinking, right?

Nope. Now you have to cut off her hand. I mean have to. You’re not allowed to have a moment of weakness and think about how pretty her fingers are. Off with it, to the wrist

Mittens, you think I’m making this up, right?

Deuteronomy 25:11-12: “11 If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12 you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.”

I’m not sure exactly what kind of weird marriage Deuteronomy is recommending, where certain actions taken by they wife to keep herself from being turned into a widow are punished by her husband by chopping off her hand.

But I am sure that gay marriages are more understanding and rational that that!

And here’s a sixth bonus passage: The Bible doesn’t even approve of marriage at all! 1 Corinthians 7:8 “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do.” So contrary to Mitt’s notion that the Bible authorizes only a single kind of marriage, of which it approves, actually it much prefers believers to die out in a single generation. Only the weak and unbiblical get married.

So this is the real problem. People like Romney shouldn’t be married in the first place, much less holding up some imaginary ideal of biblical marriage for everybody. And if all the biblical literalists would just obey 1 Corinthians, the whole problem would be over with in just a generation. Then the rest of us could get some peace and make rational policy on social issues.

And as for getting married biblically, you can do that in all kinds of imaginative ways– take two wives and someone else’s sex slave as Abraham did, or 300 sex slaves as Solomon did (not to mention the 700 wives), or your brother’s widow in addition to your own wife. And remember, if your sex slave runs away because you’re cruel to the person, the Bible (Philemon) says that other people have the duty to return the slave to you, i.e. basically imposes the duty of trafficking slaves back to sadistic sex maniacs who exploit them. But if the owner is nice and a good Christian, he might consider letting the sex slave go. But he doesn’t have to.

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Related video:

Romney on biblical marriage vs gay marriage

15 Responses

  1. Biblical law and Mormon law prohibits a woman from speaking in the place of worship, because that’s a man’s job don’t chknow.
    If a man wants to divorce his wife all he has to do is write her a simple letter stating….Don’t let the door hit you on your way out…and he is officially cleared, in God’s sight , to take another wife.

    Really, Mitt is right, , there is so much to be learned about traditional marriages, endorsed by heaven and the male leadership making up the laws here on planet earth., usually to the detriment of women.

  2. Dear Dr. Cole, I have been following your blog for some time and appreciate hearing your perspective on almost all things – except Christian/Jewish Scripture. Some all-too-obvious rejoinders to your five points: 1) Scripture condemns Solomon’s actions even more strongly than you do; 2) the Apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon initiated the overthrow of modern slavery, and the bible nowhere advocates submission to sexual mistreatment; 3) the book of Genesis puts Abraham’s actions here on par with Adam’s (Gen 16:2-3: ‘listened…take…gave’ – cf. Gen 3:17, 6-7)…again, it condemns them far more strongly than you do; 4) agreed! these laws sound very odd to our ears, because they deal with succession, not marriage; 5) this is baffling. are you advocating involuntary castration?! (notice: the law does not prohibit her from punching him, pulling his hair, banging his head with a pot, running him over with a camel, etc…)

    • Dr. Israel Shahak nutshelled it in the title of his book “Jewish History, Jewish Religion, The Weight of Three Thousand Years”.

      In terms of social philosophy or political ideology, Christian adoption of the Jewish Bible/Torah was a terrible mistake, if only because Christ’s major departure from Judaism was inclusive and largely humanist.

      Here is another example of the suffocating baggage the Christian tradition assumed:

      link to dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.mx

    • Sorry, Andrew. Solomon having 300 concubines is not condemned in the Bible. Multiple wives and sex slavery are not condemned in the Bible. Indeed, the Bible encourages or commands these things. Philemon did not initiate the end of slavery and Bible-believing Christians used the Bible for the next 1863 years to uphold slavery, exactly the same way their successors use the Bible in an attempt to limit women’s choice and keep gays second-class citizens. In fact, some of them would probably be glad to use the Bible to enslave us again if they thought they could get away with it. Virtually nothing you imply here is true; it is just apologetics.

      • Dr. Cole – thank you for this response. Agreed that the bible has been used to lend authority to horrific deeds. However, are you aware of the consensus among biblical scholars (Christian and otherwise) that the stories of which polygamy and concubinage are a part amount to an unambiguous ‘narrative denunciation’ of such actions? These ancient authors/editors knew that a well-told denunciatory story had far more rhetorical force and moral power than a baldly stated rule. As for your claim that the bible played no role in the reversal of ‘modern slavery’ (which was not in existence for 1863 years!), I merely point to William Wilberforce’s role in shifting western slavery politics and the motivating impact of the New Testament Scriptures on his own untiring campaign. For the record, I don’t do apologetics. But I do look forward to continue learning from you on other topics about which you offer informed comment.

        • The Bible unambiguously endorses both slavery and polygamy, as well as sex slavery. You may not be aware that you are doing modern apologetics, but I regret to report to you that your discourse is completely ahistorical and anachronistic.

          And, yes, Christians owned slaves over 1800 years after Philemon was penned, and moreover they universally and routinely justified owning slaves with reference to the Bible. Most slavery until the rise of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 1500s was household slavery, but it was still slavery. Christian abolitionists were a minority until the nineteenth century.

          My point is not that the Bible is bad; I said at the beginning of my post that ancient scripture can be a source of spirituality if it is taken spiritually rather than literally. My point is that it endorses specific conceptions of marriage and other social institutions that we now find abhorrent, and appealing to it for condemnation of gay marriage is frankly absurd.

      • In fact the sex slaves possibly got the better deal;

        Numbers 31:

        Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle.

        15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man

  3. Was it George Carlin who offered that he was all in favor of gay marriage — gays should have the same opportunity to be miserable as the rest of us?

  4. Mormon Doctrines and Covenants 132, or also called “The Principle”, was Smith’s revelation that plural marriage was God’s plan. Though the church denounced the practice in 1890, it has never removed this revelation from their rule book. In order to be a good Mormon, who believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, he must also believe that plural marriage is God’s plan. Otherwise, Smith is a fraud.

    • The revelation is not removed and it was only “denounced” during this life. Technically, they still believe in polygamy and it is to be practiced in the next life. How it works. has to do with the various levels of heaven they believe in.

  5. “Not only does the Bible authorize slavery…”

    The Qur’an condones slavery as well, but it also suggests that manumission is an act of goodness.

  6. Is a Gay relation worse than an Incestuous one?

    If you have a problem figuring out the purpose of that question, just think of Adam and Eve’s progeny… We’re all the descendants of that once only couple, not married by the way…, and are therefore all the product of incest. That might explain some mental deficiencies and the need to kill each other from time to time…

  7. Apparently god is many things to many people. Marriage broker, slave trader, dead merchant and real estate agent. the blind men and an elephant comes to mind.

  8. Mike McConnell

    i was interested by your quotation of the apostle peter from the new testament. many of us who try to address the problem of anachronicity in bible worship point to the old testament where it is easy to find examples of statements that were considered common sense in those days that appear totally outrageous to any normal person today, especially deuteronomy, in which god ordains crimes against humanity. however, we all seem to have a rather benevolent regard on the message of love, peace and understanding from the new testament which many feel can be still be applied to society today. we tend to forget that the new testament also accepted slavery and polygamy and the subjugation of women as normal behavior.

    i recently attended mass with a friend and i was mildly amused by the sermon that was based on the letter of saint paul to the colossians, 3rd chapter, verses 12 to 21, in which he says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” the priest then spent 20 minutes trying to explain that a wife’s submission was actually a kind of equality because the husband was also enjoined to be tolerant.

    that was funny enough from a 21st century perspective, but when i got home and actually looked up the chapter in the bible, i discovered that the priest had very deftly left out the following verse, number 22 which was addressed to the slaves and said, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” you could almost make this more quotable by saying something like, “servitude is near to holiness.” this is quite a bit more insidious and would have been harder to explain away in a country (france, where i live) which owes the existence to its republic and democracy to an uprising of oppressed people against their masters.

    i think these two chapters, from peter and paul, are perfect illustrations of how the church has been instrumental in the oppression of ordinary citizens by their political masters.

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