Thursday, August 2, 2012

Is Marriage Christian?


The Christian Chicken Crusades or whatever we’re calling it has really brought everyone on Facebook together (in mentioning the same topic at least, certainly not in agreement).  It’s a sad state of affairs that the purchase of waffle fries is a “taking a stand” for your beliefs. Leave the delicious waffle fries alone; the only rights they care about are for potatoes.

The thing is, people have the right to support or boycott whatever they want. But if I have to hear about the “biblical family” one more time, I’m going to hit someone over the head with their Bible under they until he actually reads it. When people say “biblical family” they usually mean a husband head of house, a wife, and obedient children. But you have to look pretty hard to find an example resembling that in the Bible.

There are the various marriages in the Old Testament. Adam and Eve were a monogamous couple, but they weren’t married. Pre-religion, therefore, pre-marriage. Then we have plenty of Old Testament men with their multiple wives, those wives’ servants, and concubines. There’s a rule about marrying the girl you rape (Deut. 22:28). And a rule about marrying your brother’s widow (Deut. 25:5). And plenty of wives obtained as spoils of war. Any of those “biblical family”? 

But I propose something more radical: that the idea of “biblical family” falls apart even further once we reach the New Testament. Let’s start with the obvious: unless you’re reading the De Vinci Code version of the Bible, Jesus wasn’t married. And we are called to be like Christ. So if marriage was a commandment, it’s rather odd Jesus didn’t set that example Himself. He called His disciples to leave their families (including wives) and follow on their own (Luke 14:26). The building of the kingdom comes before the building of a family unit. I always imagined that there were some women who really hated Jesus for convincing their husbands to leave their families without any means of support. 

When Jesus talks about marriage, He points out that marriage is only for earth. In heaven, marriage doesn’t exist (Matthew 22:28-30). Marriage is sacred, but it was created because men and women couldn’t help being together, and so an institution was created to do that in the right way. Paul advises people not to marry, but marriage is the better option over sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:1,6-7). And Jesus demands celibacy from those who can handle it: “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some because they were made so by others; some because they have renounced marriage for the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it. (Matthew 19:12).”

Celibacy should be the first option, marriage the second if the temptation is too strong. But people don’t like hearing that. I think most people think marriage is the Christian ideal, and that singleness has no place. But this idea comes from the culture, not the theology. We desire sex and family-building and children. But procreation is a goal of Old Testament tribes, not Christianity. In Christianity, the larger community of faith is the family; bloodlines are secondary, only necessary once the Second Coming took longer than a generation.

I’m not trying to be down on marriage. It has its place, and it’s sacramental and beautiful. But can we stop pretending that marriage and family is a Christian directive? It doesn’t jive. The only sexual directive Christians have is chastity, either through celibacy or marriage. I just want room in society for celibacy to be just as valid an option as marriage. I want acknowledgement that people are perfectly capable of choosing not to have sex. From culture, the idea of “biblical family” does exist, but there is nothing biblical about it.

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