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Having children, you see, perpetuates human society. And it does, I suppose. Which doesn’t explain why Paul of Tarsus was so opposed to marriage. So opposed, in fact, that as Gary Wills writes, some have suspected him of misogyny.
It isn’t society Paul is concerned with in his epistles, or the economy and he certainly doesn’t obsess over anal sex the way Rick Santorum does; it’s the Lord. Read 1 Corinthians 7:32-34: “I want you to be free from anxieties,” he writes to his flock.
“The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord, but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband.”
Ouch. Maybe Rick Santorum and his fundamentalist buddies forgot to read 1 Corinthians.
As Wills observes, Paul could not “make his opposition to marriage a requirement, since Peter and the brothers of the Lord traveled about with their wives (I Cor 9:5).” But Paul makes clear where his preferences lay:
“I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord” (I Cor 7:35).
Paul doesn’t want married couples getting uppity, thinking they are living as angels. You sure wouldn’t know that from Santorum’s remarks! In heaven, after all, there are no fleshly concerns, and marriage belongs to the world that is passing away (1 Cor 7:17-3).
Paul’s feelings are so strong in this regard that he feels it necessary to stress to his flock that marriage is not a sin! (1 Cor 7:36) which is pretty far from saying, as Santorum seems to be, that not getting married is the sin. “He who refrains from marriage,” he concludes, “will do better” than one who marries (I Cor 7:38) and a woman is more blessed, if, after her husband dies, she remains a widow and does not remarry (1 Cor 7:40).
In fact, Paul’s best recommendation for marriage is, as Bart Ehrman puts it, that “it is better to marry than to burn” due to an inability to control one’s passions (1 Cor 7:8-9). For Paul, the simple truth is that marriage is a solution to sexual immorality (1 Cor 7:2), nothing more and nothing less.
No matter how you look at it or how hard you search, children don’t enter into the picture. Neither, for that matter, does benefiting society. And from Paul’s perspective, Santorum’s focus on family – on wife and children – is exactly the problem.
This is quite a different picture than that presented by Rick Santorum and his backers and followers.
Of course, there is a reason they might not wish to mention Paul’s sentiments. Paul, you see, thought marriage was rather pointless. The world was about to end, after all. Why bother getting married? Like Jesus, he thought it better people concern themselves with getting their souls in order. There should be no distractions.
In fact, as Wills notes, Paul neither in Corinthians or elsewhere connects “marriage with having children, the later Christian rationale. Since history is ending, the raising of children is no longer a concern in Paul’s eyes.” Michael Grant puts it thusly: “So important” was the current time before the end (when Paul was writing), “that earthly matters like getting married or being a slave or not being a slave were of altogether secondary significance. Something far more vital, indeed something overwhelmingly conclusive, was happening every day…”
Of course, Rick Santorum cannot mention these reasons. And for a very simple reason of his own: not only are the facts inconvenient (aren’t they always?) but the world did not end. Almost 2000 years have passed and still the world has not ended.
Interestingly enough, while we are still being assured our destruction is imminent due to our sinful Pagan ways, we are now also being told now that marriage is more relevant than ever. What happened? How can this be true? Quite likely, it would be explained to us, as is often the case, that Paul did not actually think the end of history was imminent, but this leaves the all-important question unanswered: if Paul said marriage is not important, why does Santorum place such a premium on it?
Well, it would be too much to ask Rick Santorum to explain this to us. He wouldn’t want to even if he had the wit to understand the theological implications, which he by all we’ve seen, he does not. Like every other fundamentalist demagogue, Santorum, who has repeatedly shown he does not care much either what Jesus said, wants the Scriptures to say what he wants them to say and he doesn’t want to be bothered by pesky details that prove he’s lying through his teeth.
Because while Santorum wants you to believe marriage is the most important thing on earth, Paul of Tarsus, whom Santorum’s own religious doctrines insist spoke directly for God, marriage means nothing: if you’re already married, don’t worry about it. If you’re not, don’t bother unless doing so saves your soul (it seems to have done little for Newt Gingrich, which goes to show what Paul knew). It is certainly not held up as the ticket to special rights Santorum wants to assign himself and his fellow “believers” but as a distraction from God and the life to come.
 Gary Wills, What Paul Meant (Viking, 2006), 99.
 Wills (2006), 100.
 Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Third Edition (Oxford, 2004), 325-326.
 Wills (2006), 103. Emphasis mine.
 Michael Grant, Saint Paul (Phoenix Press, 2000), 132. See also the discussion in Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography (Doubleday, 2004), 211-212.
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