January 4

Redefining Marriage

I sometimes get pretty tired of Christians telling me that we can’t just go and redefine marriage. This one time I was tired enough of hearing it that I put together this:

Christianity is all about changing the definition of marriage, I can’t see why they object to one more.

For example, the Catholic church won’t accept Deut 24:1-2 – – wherein divorce and remarriage is allowed (admittedly Jesus himself changed this one, as recorded in Mark 10, and he kind of tried to retcon it).

Another important redefinition occured when we removed the death penalty from a bride who can’t prove her virginity (Deut again, this time chapter 22).

Not only does Jesus ban previously-permitted divorce as above in Mark, in Luke 16:18 he rescinds the specific permission to re-marry from the Deut 24 verses.

Not so long after Jesus redefined marriage, Paul goes and does it again: he gives the unhappily-married some new outs in 2 Cor. That’s not surprising, because Paul is pretty anti-marriage in general (in 1 Cor 7 he essentially describes it as a necessary evil).

From Abijah (2 Chron 13) to Zedekiah (2 Kings & 2 Chron), we see polygamy right through the old testament. These days, we’ve mostly redefined marriage to make it a two-person affair (if you’ll excuse the term).

We also seem to have ditched the bit in Deut 21 wherein a soldier may force a virgin taken captive during a battle to marry him.

All of this is not to mention, of course, all the variety you get in marriage from non-Christian cultures. For example, in a number of indigenous Australian tribes, a woman married a man and his brothers, and shared them equally (this is a rare form of marriage called polyandry, in which a woman has multiple husbands). Buddhism is somewhat disapproving of polygamy, but allows it: it was legal in Thailand until 2010, when they redefined marriage to only include two people, although many other Buddhist countries still allow polygamy. The Celts practiced polygamy, and in fact continued to allow it long after they became a predominately Christian people. Yemeni Jews still practice polygamy, despite much of Judaism having changed marriage to only allow men a single wife. Confucianism also allows polygamy. I could go on.

Moving on to same-sex marriage, we saw it during the Roman empire – and in fact the Roman Emperor Elagabalus had a husband.

Notably, in 342 AD the Emperor Constantius II redefined marriage to *prevent* same-sex marriage – a mistake we’re still trying to undo – ordering transgressors be put to death.

So you see, the history of marriage is riddled with redefinitions. Depending on where and when you look, polygamy, same-sex marriage, and all sorts of other things that Christianity wouldn’t consider a part of ‘traditional’ marriage have been allowed.

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Posted January 4, 2015 by Lionell Pack in category "Equality", "Religion

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