Pauline Hylton writes on CBN that she ate at Chick-Fil-A on Chick-Fil-A appreciation day “because I want to stand for something. Not against someone.”
Even though by supporting Chick-Fil-A she is standing against someone: she is standing against the rights of people to get married like she can, to the partner of their choice.
She tells us,
You see, I believe that the Bible is the Word of God. Not a Word from God, but the Word of God. And as far as my menopausal brain can tell, God’s Word says one man, one woman. Not two men and two women. And frankly, as a Christian, I’ve struggled with that.
Maybe her “menopausal brain” does tell her that, but I would very much appreciate it if she pointed out the relevant passage to me, because my Mark I Human Eyeballs can’t find it. God is very precise about a great many things in the Old Testament including men not shaving, but he is troublingly vague about marriage.
Nowhere does he come out and say in those clear, precise tones adopted by today’s religious bigots, “biblical marriage is between one man and one woman.”
Let’s do a quick run-down…we have man + woman where bride proves her virginity or is stoned to death (Genesis 2:24); we have man + woman + concubines (Judges 19:1-30); we have man + woman + woman (the most common form of biblical marriage – polygyny); we have rapist + victim (Deuteronomy 22:28-29); we have son-less widow + closest male relative (Gen. 38:6-10); we have male soldier + prisoner of war (Numbers 31:1-18, Dueteronomy 21:11-14; we even have male slave + female slave (Exodus 21:4) and man + woman + woman’s female slave (Gen. 16:1-6, Jacob Gen. 30:4-5) because of course, slavery is also permitted in the Bible – it is notcondemned and forbidden, as some southern bigot wishful-thinkers have reminded us.
So admittedly, we don’t have examples of male + male or female + female marriage in the Bible, but we also don’t have any place that says that Biblical marriage is man + woman. Obviously, there are a great many variations. In a strict sense, all these examples above are of biblical marriage and fundamentalist Christians should be fighting for all of them, not only your basic man + woman marriage.
Consider this request:
“Really? You’re going to tell me Abraham, Gideon, Nahor, Jacob, Eliphaz, Caleb, Manassah, Belshazzar and even Solomon could have concubines in their marriages and I can’t? But it’s only biblical baby. And throw in a female slave too.”
I mean, WTF? The thing is, that request is entirely, 100%, wholly biblically supported while this,
“Marriage is only between one man and one woman”
Can you dig it?
So my question to Ms. Hylton would be this: in what precise way are you standing for something?” Can you actually stand for a Bible passage that exists only in your imagination? Or is your imagination the inerrant word of God as well?
Hylton comforts herself with this thought, which elevates her, she thinks, to some sublime position above the fray:
“I’m standing for Someone, too. Not against a people group.”
Apparently by saying you’re “standing for God” you can say “I am not standing against gay people” but that’s just words. She is standing against gay people.
The more so since she is putting words in God’s mouth in the process.
I know for a fact that word games can get you far in fundamentalist life. Look at Pat Robertson telling us just last month on 700 Club that we should forget the Bible’s support of slavery: ”We have moved in our conception of the value of human beings until we realized slavery was terribly wrong.”
Well gosh, if we can just pick and choose which of God’s words to obey, why can’t we just admit that all religion-based bigotry, including homophobia, is wrong, and put this phase of the culture war behind us?
We hear a lot of non-biblical crap like “love the sinner, hate the sin” but of course that’s nothing God ever said either even though we’re told those are words right out of Jesus’ mouth. Not only is it not biblical, it is anti-biblical – heretical even. But they say it. I’ve heard it myself from a fundamentalist Assembly of God-going relative.
But even Jesus said to focus on your own sins, not the sins of others (See Matt. 7:5 and Luke 6:42) – and if you’re paying any attention at all you know that what Jesus said is not very important to America’s current crop of fundamentalists – mostly because Jesus said – and did – some very inconvenient things. Nowhere, for example, do you see evidence that Jesus hated any sin. He never said so. He just talked about love. Love even your enemies.
As Reverend Patrick S. Cheng wrote in the Huffington Post a couple of years ago, “Jesus never made repentance a precondition of loving sinners. Rather, he loved sinners unconditionally, even to the point of risking his own physical safety in defending them from the self-righteous. (See, e.g., John 8:11).”
You begin to wonder how many fundamentalists actually read the book they say is the word of God or if they just heard about it (I think the latter is most likely). Look at some of the crazy things people believe are in the Bible but are not, like,
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
We hear these all the time. They’re not in the Bible.
God helps those who help themselves is actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, and like loving the sinner but hating the sin, goes against biblical teachings. The whole self-reliance thing is very popular and chic among conservative Christian Republicans these days but the Old Testament teaches that when you harvest your crops you leave some “for the poor and the alien” (Leviticus 19:9-10). Can you imagine a Republican urging farmers to do this?
No, I can’t either. They won’t even help put out the flames when your house catches on fire. Can you imagine Jesus standing by and watching a house burn?
Sidnie White Crawford, a religious studies scholar at the University of Nebraska says, “We often infect the Bible with our own values and morals, not asking what the Bible’s values and morals really are.”
I don’t know what Ms. Crawford would say about the marriage equality debate but I think that is what is happening here, with the fight over Chick-Fil-A’s embrace of religion-based bigotry. These people hate the idea of same-sex marriage so they’re taking the opportunity to seize on the Bible as proof of not their hate, but their love. People who oppose Chick-Fil-A are the bigots; people defending anti-gay bigotry aren’t bigots because they’re not against anybody. They’re just obeying God.
Which is fine, I suppose, if God actually ever said any such thing. But he didn’t, just like he didn’t say a great many things they would insist he did. And many of the things they say God says they take out of context or misinterpret even if they do get the actual words right.
Why? Because they don’t actually read the Bible.
They are told what it says. Preachers tell them, friends tell them, they hear it here and there. They memorize sound-bites but they don’t memorize the actual Bible. You can’t memorize something you haven’t actually read and bits and pieces of verses don’t provide the needed context.
Jennifer Wright Knust wrote something very insightful in the Washington Post last year:
“Since the Bible never offers anything like a straightforward set of teachings about marriage, desire, or God’s perspective on the human body, the only way to pretend that it does is to refuse to read it.”
It seems to me fundamentalist Christians have taken that principle to heart and simply refused to read the Bible they insist we all obey. As Ms. Knust put it, “not a single biblical book endorses marriage between one man and one woman for the purposes of procreation.”
This leaves Ms. Hylton’s excuse, “I’m sorry, but this is what God wants” on very unstable ground, because she can’t prove that this is what God wants.
And that’s just the simple liberal-friendly fact. Ms. Hylton can convince herself that she is standing for God but she is not. She is standing for herself and using God as a crutch, and a rather weak crutch at that, in support of her own bigoted beliefs; that, or she is simply misguided and lazy and hasn’t actually bothered to read the Bible she is telling us we must all obey. I find it difficult to forgive either position.
Image from ABCNews
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.
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