(Closed) What is Marriage? Is it Religious or Legal? (Plus a Bible/LGBT Marriage Pressie)

posted 5 years ago in Christian
Post # 3
Member
347 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2010

This preacher is playing fast and loose with scripture and history and English etymology.

While the word “faggot” did at one time refer to a bundle of sticks, it’s association with burning people at the stake had nothing to do with homosexuality. That bundle of sticks references also referred to the carrying of a load and was a derogatory word for women, particularly old women.  Thus the reference began to be associated with  effeminate men and thus with homosexuals.  In the 20th century, this speculation came about, but it is not based upon scholarship.  Its a matter of backwards reasoning: that is starting with the conclusion and working backwards to find evidence for that conclusion while ruling out any evidence that does not support the wanted conclusion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faggot_%28slang%29#Etymology

In regards to scripture, again, he is playing fast and loose.  Marriage is a covenant, but not all covenants are marriages.   Even looking at societies that did not condemn homosexual actvity, such unions (ceremony or not) were never considered marriages.  They were never called marriages and their ceremonies barely resembled wedding ceremonies. 

The bible views marriage as it has been historically consistantly understood.  And yes, it has been consistant.  Certainly how we’ve married and who we’ve married have changed, but the nuptial meaning of marriage has remained consistant until recent history.

It ultimate stems from the idea that men are called to take responsibility for offspring.  By taking a wife, their duty is to provide for her and claim (and thus provide) for the children begotten of that union.  Without marriage, women were used and abandoned.  Pregnancy weakened their immune system.  It caused fatique.  Giving birth could mean death, and, if you weren’t married to a wealthy man, your child’s survival was dependant on your ability to nurse.  Thus with limited mobility and time, passionate fornication often lead to prostitution.  When Christ condemns divorce, he speaks of it as a man divorcing a wife.  The man would write a bill of divorce and dismiss the wife.  It was not mutual.  Thus in this act, the man, though married, abandoned his wife.  Thus Christ says that a man who does this forces his wife to commit adultery. 

Much of the gospel talks about a Christian’s duty to care for the widows and virgins. The New Testement also displays women are more honorable than men.  Zachariah loses his voice because he doesn’t believe the Angel Gabriel.  The Angel remarkably appears to a woman (shock, awe, should be the early reader’s response) and this woman, Mary, is more faithful than the priest Zacahariah.  Though Christ choses male apostles, the women are more faithful than the apostles.  The men run away for fear of being condemned with Christ.  The women are there at his cruxifixion and they are the first witnesses to the resurrection.

Meanwhile the male image of God as Father is interesting as well.  He is not a disinterested male figure who creates and then abandons his creation.  He is a figure of an active, loving and faithful father.  God is not a maternal figure because a maternal figure is a more constant figure in our lives.  Rather, the father figure reveals the challenge in life we all have.   We have these moments where we ask “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  God’s constant answer is that He hasn’t.  However elusive His presense may seem, the message is that he is a loving father, not just a sperm donor.

Marriage thus is a symbol of this.  Its all about paternal involvement in our children’s lives.  The reason the definition of marriage is less clear to us,though, is that the consequences of sexual promiscuity do not seem as severe.   Having children is often viewed more like adopting a pet, than something that simply flows out of the natural course of the sexual act.  Traditions surrounding how we choose our spouses before have turned into ends in themselves.  The decision to marry, thus, is often done for exclusively private reasons without reference to public reasons.  As such, it seems as if every individual marriage has its own private purpose, that it is whatever we make it.  If that is the case, why restrict homosexuals from it?

In regard to what the Catholic Church did in regard to marriage, marriage whether natural or sacramental has always been formed through matrimonial consent.  The Church simply governs when we are allowed to give this consent and what form this consent is given.  As such, in violating the rules, any attempt of marriage, whether recognized by the State or not, is considered an invalid attempt by the Catholic Church.  But the validity has nothing to do with the priest’s blessing.  The priest is the Church’s witness of the validity of the consent exchanged.  Thus if the couple seeks an annullment, they are refuting the testemony of his witness. 

 

 

Post # 5
Member
207 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: December 2017 - Baltimore. MD.

@Rachel631:  in my country, there is nothing like a marriage license. we follow tradition. Religion started taking over few years ago. if you don’t have a traditional marriage (which is the coming together of the two families to bless this union), you are not married to us. That blessing is marriage to us

Post # 7
Member
207 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: December 2017 - Baltimore. MD.

@Rachel631: Well, the basic marriage tradition I believe in is that both parents and families come together, talk and agree to become a family through marriage and some little thing here and there. That’s all. Even the government recognizes this. It’s just recently that certain circumstances call for a court or civil wedding.

There are two major religions in Nigeria: Christianity and Islam. The traditional religion is dying out now. But traditions are still quite strong. So we usually have a traditional wedding where both families come together then either a Christian or Islamic wedding. Most people have 2 or 3 ceremonies to celebrate a wedding.

I’m a Christian so I’ll be having a Church wedding, a civil joining and a traditional wedding ceremony. I’ll have a church wedding because that’s my faith, a civil joining because of work and school and a traditional wedding for my family and traditions.

The culture aspect is the meeting of the family and the religious aspect is the joining by a priest or pastor in a religious place.

Post # 9
Member
347 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2010

@Rachel631:  “Marriage is a covenant, but not all covenants are marriages.” Perhaps you would like to explain the difference in the case of David and Jonathan… why this was a covenant and not a marriage? Also, what do you consider a biblical marriage to be? What does marriage mean to you?”

A covenant is a union between people that forms a kinship bond. Covenants involve an oath, an act of the covenant and a sign of the covenant.

Historically, marriage has always been a covenant formed that connects both biological parents (or rather especially the father) to the children begotten from their union. It is specifically related to sexuality because it is through sex that babies are created. In other words, it is the manner of which a man claims the offspring of a woman to be his legitimate children, heirs to his inheritance and of which he has willfully embraced obligations to care for both his wife and children.

This view of marriage crosses all cultural approaches to marriage even those practices we condemn as degrading and sinful.

There are two cultural shifts that have eroding our understanding of the essential purpose and meaning of marriage. First there was the cultural shift to mar. Then there was contraceptive, paternity tests, no fault divorce, child support, daycare and other cultural changes that seemed to have mostly removed our public need for the institution of marriage. Thus non-essential elements of marriage have been held as the defining characteristics. Thus we ask ourselves what makes us married? Our answer then comes in two, possibly three parts: we fell in love, we had a ceremony, we signed a legal contract that changed our legal status and benefits. It is then easy for us to try to find gay marriage in history by looking for love-centered kinship ceremonies. And typically because we associate marriage with sexual activity, it is easy for us to come to the conclusion that the covenant between David and Jonathan was marriage and thus sexual. Never mind that there is no historical evidence that the original readers would have interpreted it this way, nor that for centuries neither Christianity nor Judaism interpreted it this way. After all, it says they loved each other. They formed a covenant and it even mentioned a kiss, and we might as well look for anything like that and call it marriage as well.

Our problem is that we aren’t viewing history objectively, but rather through the lens of our own era and culture.

 

Post # 11
Member
347 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2010

@Rachel631:  “Historically, however, then same sex relationships have been quite normal…”

What’s your point?

“One thought also springs to mind when you mention covenants… handmaidens. I am thinking of Rachel and Leah in particular, but also Mary (“I am the handmaid of the Lord”).”

I think you’re putting a significance and status to the term “handmaid” that does not exist.  A handmaid is a simply a female servant.  Saying “I am the handimaid of the Lord” is no different than saying “I am the servant of the Lord.” 

“in the case of Rachel and Bilhah, the covenant was between the women,”

I don’t know why you believe there is a covenant between Rachel and Bilhah.

Post # 13
Member
347 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2010

@Rachel631:

Let’s take this from a different angel and look at a few bible verses.

“Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him,* saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” [Christ’s refers back to Genesis] He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.  They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you,* whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” ” Matt 19:3-9

“The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. […] So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  The man said:“This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.”  And that is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”  Gen 2: 18-24

To the man he said: Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, You shall not eat from it, ” Gen 3:17

The man gave his wife the name “Eve,”” Gen 3:20

I’ve seen some debate over whether sex alone (no ceremony needed) is what makes a man and woman husband and wife.  I’ve seen some Christians rationalize cohabitation and sex before marriage through this argument.  Its basically “We’ve had sex, therefore he’s my husband and therefore its not a sin.”  Where the argument goes wrong is that the sin of fornication exists.

But if not the ceremony, what distinguishes fornication from marriage?  Let’s remove civil and church laws aside.  Let’s pretend they don’t exist anymore.  What is the distinction?   The distinction seems only intent.  When a man fornicates with a woman, he is not intending to take her as his wife.  As such, marriage would seem to deal with sexual morality.  That is to say that sex IS the marital act.  Sex has a nuptial meaning and requires the commitment of marriage for it to be morally partaken in.  This meaning is found in that with sex comes the responsibilities of parenthood.  Marriage says that both parents are morally obligated to mutually take the task of raising their offspring together and helping each other in the tasks of family life.  To fornicate is to engage in sex without this intent or consent, and thus to provide a less stable union than justice would demand we give children.  It is to not take the other as your spouse, but to turn the sexual union into a one night stand or a long term but temporary or unstable arrangement.  The “I still want to see you, but we’ll see how it goes” attitude.

Now Matthew’s gospel specifies Christ’s teaching:  “except in the case of ‘pornea'” which is translated multiple ways:  adultery, sexual immorality, fornication, unless the marriage is unlawful.  Pornea refers to sexual immorality.  Its only been in recent history that we’ve developed a whole list of names for different forms of sexual sin.  They tended to just clump them together, thus translating it can be difficult because the ancient authors thought in more broad terms.  We look at it and are like “Wait, but what does that mean?”  But right now I’m going to talk about the choice in the translator using the term “unlawful, so let’s get into law – lawful man and wife that is.

Civil States and church’s have laws:  age requirements, requirements for the type of ceremony, rules about how closely related you can be, etc.  These laws do not define marriage so much as they tell us when we are legally permitted to exchange what the Catholic Church calls matrimonial consent.  Let’s consider engagement for a moment.  A man proposes to a woman “Will you marry me?”  The woman says “Yes, I will marry you.”  Consent to marry has been exchanged?  Why at that moment are they not husband and wife?  Primarily the law, though perhaps partially intent.  Most of us have in mind that we still have until the wedding to back out.  Not so for Mary and Joseph, however.  Their betrothal was considered a marriage — simply a non-consummated marriage.  Joseph would have presumed Mary’s pregnancy was the result of adultery.  Thus the penalty was stoning, but instead Joseph was intent on divorcing her.  If they were not married, divorce needn’t be an option.  This fact would also indicate that consent forms a marriage and sex consummates that consent.  Thus the marriage first is formed through the will and then acted upon.  It is not mandated that it is immediately acted upon.

Now, you might point out that I mentioned that a covenant involves the swearing of an oath.   We typically swear oaths publically for the sake of witnesses and for the sake of recognizing the seriousness over what we are doing.  As such, while theorectically covenants exited before ceremonies, the religious, government, and culture have good reason to mandate that we swear our oaths publically.  This makes us reflect more on what we’re doing. 

Back to the issue of marriage being about sexual morality.  While polygamy and divorce exist in the Old Testament, the Old Testament contradicts what historians claim about marriage.  Historians claim that marriage began as polygamy and gradually developed into monogamy.  The Old Testament seems to indicate that men originally took only one wife and eventually adopted polygmous practices.

What is interesting is God’s reponse to polygamy. 

Going by what Jesus said about divorce and remarriage and what occurs in the beginning of Genesis, let’s assume that the first person you marry is your spouse till your spouse dies and that any other sexual union after that is adultery.   Let’s then look at Jacob, Leah and Rachel.  First we can argue that Jacob’s marriage to Leah was invalid because Jacob lacked the consent and intent to marry Leah.  His intent was to marry Rachel and he believed he was marrying Rachel.  Shortly afterward, he is given Rachel to marry.  He has the intent to marry Rachel.  So let’s say his marriage to Rachel is valid.  Then since Rachel is his true wife, the two female servants given to him would be adulterous unions. 

If we understand this to be the case, than the significance and Divine treatment of Joseph (Rachel’s son) is better understood. 

Jacob’s keeping the other women as his wives is sort of an issue of justice.  That is to say that it could be argued that polygamy is morally better than divorce and remarriage.  After all, with divorce the woman and potentially the man’s offspring are being abandoned.  Consider Hagar and Ishmael’s dismissal.  If God had not shown mercy to them, they would have died.  Moreover, it could be argued that Sarah’s offering her servant to Abraham as a surrogate was an expresssion of shaken faith over God’s promise to give Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars.  Yet even after Ishmael is born, God insists that his promise will be fulfilled through Sarah — his true wife. 

Of course, this interpretation would insult the typical Protestant defense for divorce at least in the case of adultery.  Most people wouldn’t be too keen on looking at their 2nd marriages as somehow more morally bankrupt than polygamy.  That would go against our modern sensibilities.  But I would argue that polygamy was likely tolerated because of the injustice of abandoning pregnant woman and that Christian sexual morality centers upon the concept of monogamous marriage.   Thus God’s tolerance of polygamy is much like Christ’s plea to take care of widows and virgin’s.  Ideally though, our Christian affirmation of monogamous marriage is in the right direction, even if we keep trying to rationalize our way into justifying divorce and remarriage.

Gay marriage has no place in this understanding, because, frankly speaking, homosexual acts are not only condemned in Leviticus doesn’t just condemn homosexual acts but does not speak of them positively.  Its a huge stretch to argue that scripture does not condemn homosexual practices.  Granted, I’m Catholic, and Catholicism goes so far as to teach that the “ deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.”   This is our explanation for condemning masturbation, but we do teach that immaturity and force of habit.

 

Post # 14
Member
7735 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

@Rachel631:  I think it’s a huuuuuuge stretch calling David and Jonathan (or Daniel and Ashpenaz) a marriage. Even if they were lovers (which is debatable, to say the least) there is no indication of it being marriage.

I took a look at ancient same-sex marriage on Wikipedia, and evidence looks pretty flimsy to me. There is evidence of certain rituals, but little evidence of them being equivalent to marriage.

Ironically, I think calling David and Jonathan’s relationship a marriage actually makes the biblical case for same sex marriage weaker. Because for me one of the strongest arguments for discarding the Apostle Paul’s prounouncements on homosexuality, is that he had no concept of loving same sex couples. The only homosexuality he was aware of was abusive and/or promiscuous, which is why he condemns it.

Also, even if David and Jonathan married, that doesn’t make it right. There are all sorts of things Old Testament people did which are described in the Bible but not sanctioned, e.g. polygamy.

Post # 16
Member
7735 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 1999

@Rachel631:  I suspect we’ll have to agree to disagree on Paul; but it sounds like we reach similar conclusions by different paths.

I think the legal marriage debate is pretty well over, and most western countries will legalise it in the next few years. The religious debate will go on longer and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of things which are legal which I as a Christian still oppose (but same sex marriage will not be one of them).

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