God made marriage to be sure. But he made it as a sign, not a club. The story of marriage in the Bible is splotchy and confusing. After Abram had pawned off his wife Sarai a couple of times, Sarai returned the favor by shopping her husband’s harem to find him a fertile lover. Old blind Isaac was duped by his clear-eyed wife. Jacob had two wives and a mess of problems. David had plenty of wives, but he would kill for that bathing beauty, Bathsheba. Ezekiel was told not to shed a tear for his dead wife, and Hosea was commanded to marry a hooker. Peter dropped his nets—and his wife—and wandered down the road with Jesus. My point here is that, while marriage is depicted in scripture as a beautiful, sacramental gift of God, it’s more complicated than that. So before you sound off about the Bible endorsing a unilateral pro-marriage and pro-family agenda, I would recommend paying closer attention on your next fly-by.
“Family” is the euphemistic code du jour for “Evangelical Christian.” “Focus on the Evangelical Christian” and the “American Evangelical Christian Association” didn’t have the same zing to them as their familiar twins. The watchword for these organizations is the preservation of “traditional family values,” which are, in a nutshell, white American family values from a period of 1939 to 1964. The family values constituency longs for a return to the virginal time before the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, John Lennon, and Rock Hudson made the world a more complicated place.
When I read the Bible, I get the distinct sense that Jesus wasn’t interested in saving the nuclear family from a windy onslaught of liberal opinions. I rather get the impression that he was concerned with diving headfirst into the unvarnished messiness of the human condition and saving us—as individuals, as families, as communities, as people—from our own unhinged self-absorption and festering lovelessness.
- Ben Ponder, “Idolatry of the Family”