lies, liars and liberals: on the death of a once respectable news organization part 1
The cover story of this week’s Newsweek is on gay marriage, entitled “Our Mutual Joy”, by Lisa Miller. The article is full of so many distortions, bad hermeneutics, and out and out lies that I had to write an assessment of the article. My analysis can also be a helpful lesson in Biblical interpretation and critical/logical thinking. I will be quoting the entire article with my notes in blue.
Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does.
This is wonderful. Where will you start? Will it be the creation account – Genesis 2:24, where we get, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Or will she begin with Jesus’ restatement of this in Matthew 19: 4-6, where Jesus is being tested over the issue of divorce by some Pharisees, “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 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’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Or will she choose Paul’s reaffirmation of this in Ephesians 3:31, where he discusses the sacrificial love a man is to have for wife and how it should be like Jesus’ love for his church.
Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists.
Wow! There is clearly no agenda here. Just because we find sinful behaviors that the Bible clearly condemns among sinful leaders, does not mean that these are held up as models of what marriage is supposed to look like. At the outset of creation, we find this mandate of what marriage is to look like in God’s commands to Adam and Eve. But because of the Fall of Genesis 3, sinful behavior enters in and from there we find the breaking of God’s desire for marriage. It is therefore absolutely no surprise that marriage vows are broken by many. As the Israelites are called out from and surrounded by polygamist, incestuous, homosexual nations, they are called to be different and to live out pure lives, but they fail and often fail miserably. Deut. 17:17 indicates that God’s calling and law for the king is to, “not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.” Yet, the kings often did so, and the results were that their hearts were led astray. The kings were to be the model for the people..the call was marital purity (one man, one woman), but they failed, and often so did the other people in the nation.
The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.
False! Jesus is the one and only Son of God, the God-man, fully God and fully man, come for the purpose of atoning for the sins of many. While it would not have been wrong or sinful for him to marry, this was not his purpose for coming to earth and being incarnate as a man. Rather, it was to humble himself, even to death on a cross, as a propitiation for sins. He was therefore single on purpose—for his mission.
Paul too, called some to be single for the purpose of the spread of the gospel. He saw that it allowed for greater freedom as a missionary in his time and culture. This does not mean that he didn’t have a very high regard for the institution of marriage, and called for extreme devotion of both husbands and wives in marriage, with divorce being allowed in only extreme circumstances.
The Bible has much to say that is very positive about marital love and romance – see especially Song of Solomon and 1Cor. 13. It also has much to say about the devotion of one man to one woman – holding up the model of Jesus’ love for his church.
These forms of ad hominem attacks show clear signs of disdain toward the Bible.
The battle over gay marriage has been waged for more than a decade, but within the last six months—since California legalized gay marriage and then, with a ballot initiative in November, amended its Constitution to prohibit it—the debate has grown into a full-scale war, with religious-rhetoric slinging to match. Not since 1860, when the country’s pulpits were full of preachers pronouncing on slavery, pro and con, has one of our basic social (and economic) institutions been so subject to biblical scrutiny. But whereas in the Civil War the traditionalists had their James Henley Thornwell—and the advocates for change, their Henry Ward Beecher—this time the sides are unevenly matched. All the religious rhetoric, it seems, has been on the side of the gay-marriage opponents, who use Scripture as the foundation for their objections.
The clear intent of this section of the article is to equate pro-gay marriage advocates with the anti-slavery movement, and marriage traditionalists, with pro-slavery leaders. This non-sequitorial argument is baseless and in fact reverses he Biblical positions of these movements. The anti-slavery movement saw a clear Biblical movement toward anti-slavery. Slavery (remember that the Israelites were enslaved for 400 years in Egypt and later enslaved by the Assyrians and Babylonians) was never viewed with in positive terms, but always called on slave-owners to treat slaves with human dignity and respect, the Biblical movement was toward liberation of slaves. For a more detailed discussion of this read Willard Swartley’s Slavery, Sabbath, War, and Women an excellent resource book on the hermeneutics and interpretive methods of the different positions on these issues. In fact, there is more interpretive methodology in common with the pro-slavery side and the pro-homosexual marriage movements.
The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: “The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition.”
This form of simplification demeans the opponent. It is also a straw-man argument. By indicating that the opposition are mere fundamentalist simpletons, we can dispense with any real defense.
To which there are two obvious responses: First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else’s —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes.
See above notes on how Jesus defines marriage. This is an outright deception and distortion of what the Bible truly says. The Bible describes very clearly the devotion and commitment of one man to one woman – more lies.
“Marriage” in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God’s will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.
These are simply more outrageous lies and misrepresentations of the Biblical witness. There are many Biblical reasons why homosexual marriage is an atrocity.
Rather than mention them all here, I will simply point you toward Robert Gagnon’s wonderful article on this issue.
What is more egregious about this paragraph is the indication that the Bible is a “living document” and what the author means by this statement. I would use this statement to mean that the Holy Spirit uses His breathed out Bible to effect change in the believer’s life, and to bring sinners to repentance. What the author clearly means is that the Bible can be changed, ignored, misrepresented at whim to suit whatever cultural, worldly, politically correct notion that an author wishes to promote.
In the Old Testament, the concept of family is fundamental, but examples of what social conservatives would call “the traditional family” are scarcely to be found. Marriage was critical to the passing along of tradition and history, as well as to maintaining the Jews’ precious and fragile monotheism. But as the Barnard University Bible scholar Alan Segal puts it, the arrangement was between “one man and as many women as he could pay for.” Social conservatives point to Adam and Eve as evidence for their one man, one woman argument—in particular, this verse from Genesis: “Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” But as Segal says, if you believe that the Bible was written by men and not handed down in its leather bindings by God, then that verse was written by people for whom polygamy was the way of the world. (The fact that homosexual couples cannot procreate has also been raised as a biblical objection, for didn’t God say, “Be fruitful and multiply”? But the Bible authors could never have imagined the brave new world of international adoption and assisted reproductive technology—and besides, heterosexuals who are infertile or past the age of reproducing get married all the time.)
Ah yes, those ancient, ignorant, unsophisticated, pre-moderns could never have foreseen the wonderful new morality that would evolve within humanity. This might be true if you completely reject any notion that God is involved in the writing, inspiring, moving, carrying along of Holy inerrant Word, which of course the author of this article entirely reject being a completely sold-out theological liberal.
Ozzie and Harriet are nowhere in the New Testament either. The biblical Jesus was—in spite of recent efforts of novelists to paint him otherwise—emphatically unmarried. He preached a radical kind of family, a caring community of believers, whose bond in God superseded all blood ties. Leave your families and follow me, Jesus says in the gospels. There will be no marriage in heaven, he says in Matthew. Jesus never mentions homosexuality, but he roundly condemns divorce (leaving a loophole in some cases for the husbands of unfaithful women).
What in the world is the author’s confusing point here? Maybe Jesus is a schizophrenic, calling believers to leave families, but roundly condemning divorce? The author’s clear intention is to mock the Biblical witness. Jesus clearly calls his followers to prioritize placing devotion to him (as God) above all other devotions. Of course there is no marriage in heaven, because marriage is very closely tied to physical bodies that are suited for one another (one man and one woman), and heaven is a spiritual realm. I want to thank the author for bringing out this point, because it is in actuality a strong Biblical point for the defense of traditional marriage.
The apostle Paul echoed the Christian Lord’s lack of interest in matters of the flesh. For him, celibacy was the Christian ideal, but family stability was the best alternative. Marry if you must, he told his audiences, but do not get divorced. “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): a wife must not separate from her husband.” It probably goes without saying that the phrase “gay marriage” does not appear in the Bible at all.
The apostle Paul had a very high view of marriage and roundly condemned all forms of sexual deviancy that were accepted within the wider Roman culture. This is counter-cultural and no accomodation was considered by Paul on this issue. See also this article by Robert Gagnon.
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