often, i used to hear a little fundamentalist jingle that went something like this: god said it…i believe it…that settles it. although there may some truth to the tune, i never bought it. especially the that settles it part. too smug. too easy. too simplistic.
just because i say i believe the bible doesn’t mean that i don’t see difficulties and discrepancies and things that make me go “mmmm”. one of those things is the topic of marriage.
to listen to most christian types, you would think that there is this very tidy and romantic blueprint for marriage …the picture of a beautiful wedding ceremony with a flowing white dress and sappy wedding vows and daddies giving away their precious daughters and god’s anointed pronouncing the benediction upon the happy couple…was actually in the bible!
not to mention, the idea that the bible is often presented as a manual for happy and healthy marriages. no. the “how to’s” for happy marriages come from bible interpreters…the ones who take truth of the bible and package it for relationship consumption…inferring that what they are saying is actually what it “says” in the bible.
let’s be careful. when one looks at the old testament picture of marriage, it’s a little muddy.
the relationship of adam and eve as the first “married couple” is, at least, a little confusing. i mean, where was the preacher? where were the vows? where was the pre-marriage counseling? who gave eve away? i know i’m being a little stupid right now and i know that good biblical scholarship requires some careful inferring (sanctified reading between the lines) when obvious details are missing…but let’s just admit that their “marriage” is not as black and white as some would have us believe.
and what about the male-dominated culture of the nation of israel? women may have had some rights, but nothing like the advantages of being a man. men could cast off their wives for nearly any reason. reading through some of the OT stories and laws, you would think that marriage meant nothing at all.
and when wives could not service their husbands properly…by giving them children…they just found other women who could. or when their wives could not pleasure them sufficiently, they could just keep looking for the experience with other women.
and then there’s the whole polygamy thing. men could have multiple wives. many of them. maybe that’s where the idea that the wives’ parents had to pay for the ceremony. the guy’s parents would have gone broke after number five or six.
and i’ve always been taught that god didn’t condone polygamy, but he allowed it to happen. really? with 613 laws, you don’t think he could have made just one more? #614… “you get one wife. no swapping. no dumping. no experimenting. make it work.”
i’m just saying.
don’t get me wrong. i believe that the marriage relationship…one woman to one man until death separates…is woven through scripture. i believe it is implicit in the creation story. i believe it is embedded deeply in words and stories of the bible. i believe it is truest picture of god’s relationship with the church that we will ever have on the timeline of history.
but accepting it, understanding it, teaching it, and living it…in a broken world…is not as simple as people would have you believe.
…and its why the ugly head of divorce never goes away.