Coming out of the elections on November 4th, amazingly, the issues of the day don’t seem to be revolving around Obama’s election as much as they are violently ricocheting within the debate of what constitutes marriage in our society today. The passing of Prop 8 in California, with similar props passing in a few other states, has ignited the debate to a level never before seen.
I’ve had several conversations with social conservatives over the course of the last few months and they’ve all gone something like this:
SC: I’m voting no on prop 102 or prop 8.
ZL: Yeah, why’s that?
SC: Because we need to protect traditional marriage.
ZL: Yeah? What’s your definition of marriage?
SC: It’s between one man and one woman.
ZL: Says who?
SC: God, that’s who.
ZL: When did God tell you that?
SC: When I read it in the Bible.
……and scene. (actually the conversation would go on, but for the purposes of this post, i’m making an edit)
After having several these kinds of conversations, I’ve come to the conclusion this is not an issue of whether or not “Biblical marriage” is at stake here. It is painfully obvious that as a society, Christians included, we’ve already discarded many attributes of the culture of marriage we find in the Biblical text. “Biblical marriage” has already been run through the meat grinder and even Christians can take much credit for the way marriage is now packaged.
When my wife and I were married, we were married in a church that required us to undergo pre-marital counseling. If we had refused, the church would not have agreed marry us. This was a very good thing, in my opinion, and it was completely within their right to do so. Holly and I found it very helpful and I’d always recommend engaged couples to do the same. But let’s imagine for a moment if I were to announce in one of the counseling sessions that not only was I marrying Holly, but that I had also arranged to marry another woman from the church who’s father I had made an arrangement with. Yeah, that sounds crazy right? But because I was not an elder of the church, I could have cited the many examples of marriage in the Bible to support that my request was totally appropriate. Obviously polygamy is frowned upon by our current set of laws, but if we are talking about what constitutes “Biblical” marriage, then I think it’s valid point. Not only was polygamy accepted, but it was also typical for young teens to marry as well.
Another example would be how many churches today don’t hesitate to marry people who have been divorced for reasons other than adultery. By doing so, they’ve taken it upon themselves to redefine what the Bible constitutes as a valid marriage. It’s ironic that there’s so much talk about redefining traditional marriage without being honest about how the Church has already set about to make their own tweaks on what is and isn’t allowed.
What’s interesting is that there seems to be a endless fervor when addressing same-sex marriage equality but not the same passion for legislating the illegality of other types of heterosexual marriage that could just as easily be deemed “unBiblical.”
In the end, we must be honest about how the cultural backdrop, or setting we find ourselves in has an enormous influence on what we kinds of behavior we see as acceptable. If Christians today want to be honest, we can all agree that the culture of marriage the Bible depicts throughout is not ideal. And if one wants to back up their argument against same-sex marriage on the grounds of biblical marriage, then they can’t just take the parts of the Bible they find agreeable and ditch the rest. A friend of mine recently made the point that when we use the word “Biblical” as an adjective, we should pause and truly wrestle with what that really means.