Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Bible doesn't necessarily tell me so

Iowa's holy warrior, Bob Vander Plaats, organized a "Let Us Vote" forum for himself at the capitol yesterday, calling in such heavy-hitters as National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown and representatives from an outfit called for background music.

He drew a few hundred self-styled conservative Christians who gathered, ostensibly, to convince the Iowa Senate to vote on a House-passed amendment to the state constitution limiting marriage, singular and serial, to heterosexuals. That's not likely to happen so long as Democrat Mike Gronstal is Senate majority leader and setting the agenda, so the gesture was largely symbolic.

But it did give Vander Plaats a public forum and those have been rarer lately. As marriage equality proponent and gay lawmaker Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines) pointed out during a news conference that followed, it may be nearing the time when Vander Plaats will need to "get a real job instead of working on spreading a message of hate and discrimination." The jury on that, of course, is still out.

But it was vintage Vander Plaats, thumping the Bible and asking:

“Why stop at same-sex marriage? Why not have polygamy? Why not have a dad marry his son or marry his daughter? If we’re going to have marriage equality, let’s open this puppy up and let’s have marriage equality,” he said. “Otherwise, let’s stick to the way God designed it — one man and one woman, period.”

Why not, indeed --- although I am certainly not a proponent of either ploygamy or incest. The difficulty here is that God, as presented in the Old Testament, obviously is.

Remember the charming story of Lot and his two daughters (Genesis 19:30-38). Shortly after fleeing Soddom and Gomorrah, leaving behind among other things a pillar of salt, the daughters got the old man drunk, hopped into bed with him and some months later Moab and Benammi emerged. God, apparently, was fine with that.

Admittedly, instances of godly incest are rare, but polygamy --- along with slavery and all sorts other stuff --- was more broadly endorsed.

Remember Abram and his barren (or so it seemed) bride, Sarai? Realizing her spouse's desire to reproduce, Sarai married him off to Hagar, too, with Ishmael the logical result. Soon thereafter, God blessed the renamed Abraham and Sarah with Isaac. There are many more Old Testament examples of godly polygamy.

Perhaps we should be grateful that same-sex marriage is not Biblical.

None of this is meant to imply that God, as understood in the 21st century, endorses either incest or polygamy --- only that the Bible is a complex collection of documents that didn't emerge in its current general form until roughly the 4th century and by most accounts was never considered literally authoritative by the fathers (and mothers, some would argue, conveniently edited out as the patriarchy triumphed). And even then, the canon was not exactly settled.

Luther, for example, very much wanted, but failed, to dispense with the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation although he did succeed in consigning the Deuterocanonicals to the Apocrypha, an area of scripture where many protestants don't venture at all these days.

And then there are the endless debates about translations and the subtle and non-so-subtle variations enshrined in whichever version one prefers --- KJ, NJB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, etc., etc.

Biblical literalism, as it applies to marriage equality and a whole range of other issues, is a very slippery slope indeed and Bob Vander Plaats and others probably should be more cautious when engaging in it.

While I don't intend to become a cheerleader for the Rachel Held Evans blog, I was interested in yesterday's post: "15 Reasons I Left the Church." (Remember that she's writing about the small-c church here, not the big-C Church (generally considered by most to be the inclusive body of Christ). So far, nearly 500 comments have been added, which may be a blog record and certainly suggests interest in the topic.

It's interesting to notice how many of the 15 reasons (and lesser numbers of reasons put forth by other bloggers who are referred to) relate to Biblical literalism, legalism and the perceived obsession of Christians with sex.

P.S. --- If you read yesterday's RHE post, be sure to read today's as well: "15 Reasons I Returned to the Church." No the references to luturgy and the Book of Common Prayer. Haven't I told ya so?

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