Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Traditonal? Sure. Biblical?


There are no Chik-fil-A restaurants in my hometown. People tell me that they are good. Like, really good. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never eaten at one.

If Chik-fil-A wanted to build a restaurant here, I wouldn’t raise a finger to stop them. The rule of law prevails in the United States. Chik-fil-A has a right to do business here, provided they conform to the pertinent regulations. I might even welcome them because they would provide jobs and contribute to the local economy.

On the other hand, I don’t think I would choose to eat there. The reason, naturally, is that I disagree with their corporate stance on same-sex marriage. I don’t want to spend my fast-food dollar patronizing a business that contributes to organizations which actively seek to deny what I see as a basic civil right to a minority population.

I am not perfect in my moral judgment, but I buy shade-grown, organic, fair trade coffee and I try shop at Wal-Mart as little as possible. I think I could forego the untasted pleasure of waffle fries.

Then again, I’m not out to organize any boycotts. If you choose to eat at Chik-fil-A, or even to speak out against same-sex marriage, I will defend your right to do so. I will disagree with you, vigorously and vehemently, but I will not try to stop you.

These waters, after all, are somewhat murky. Even Wal-Mart sells shade-grown, organic, fair trade coffee.

In the midst of all the furious flapdoodle pursuant to Chik-fil-A’s COO Dan Cathy’s anti-marriage equality remarks, I happened to be reading through the book of Deuteronomy once more. I was forcefully reminded that, while “One Man/One Woman” is certainly a traditional definition of marriage and a longstanding value in our culture, it is not, as some people claim, the biblical definition of marriage. In fact, there is no single definition of marriage in the Bible.

If a man has two wives, one of them loved and the other disliked, and if both the loved and the disliked have borne him sons, the firstborn being the son of the one who is disliked, then on the day when he wills his possessions to his sons, he is not permitted to treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the disliked, who is the firstborn. He must acknowledge as firstborn the son of the one who is disliked, giving him a double portion of all that he has; since he is the first issue of his virility, the right of the firstborn is his.      (Deuteronomy 21:15-17)

I have quoted those verses from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Read them in whatever translation you like. Read them in the original Hebrew if you are able. But please note the following points:

1. These purport to be the direct words of God mediated through Moses.

2. This law assumes the possibility, even the legitimacy, of polygamy.

3. No judgment is rendered against multiple marriage, only against a father’s favoritism toward the children of one wife over those of another. 

Maybe the case for marriage as the union of one man and one woman can be made on other grounds, but simply calling it “biblical” is neither helpful nor accurate.

I don't know where the chart above originated. It has appeared, typos and all, on numerous websites. I lifted it from Dr. Robert Cargill's blog. Click it to enlarge.

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