Last night on MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes,” Chris interviewed a woman who would rather quit her job as county clerk than issue marriage licenses to gays. Mississippi circuit clerk, Linda Barnette, said she is quitting her job of twenty-four years because she disagrees with the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same sex marriage. She is strongly against the “gay lifestyle” and believes in the Bible’s teaching that marriage is “only between one man and one woman.”
She, like many other evangelical Christians, is of course wrong on that point, but at least she is doing the honorable thing. The previous night Chris interviewed a county clerk from Kentucky who proudly declared he would rather go to jail than issue marriage licenses to gays. Chris, of course, asked him why he wouldn’t just quit. There was not coherent answer forthcoming, however.
Does the Bible really talk about marriage as the union of only one man and one woman? Not really.
A trio of Iowa-based religious scholars recently penned an op-ed in a local paper, reminding readers that despite popular opinion, the Bible does not simply define marriage as between one man and one woman.
“The debate about marriage equality often centers, however discretely, on an appeal to the Bible,” the authors wrote. “Unfortunately, such appeals often reflect a lack of biblical literacy on the part of those who use that complex collection of texts as an authority to enact modern social policy.”
The Bible’s definition of marriage can be confusing and contradictory, noted the scholars. A primary example of this is the religious book’s stance on polygamy, a practice that was embraced by prominent biblical figures Abraham and David.
The scholars concluded that those who argue the Bible speaks plainly on any issue, especially something as complicated as marriage … haven’t taken the time to read all of it.
As Juan Cole pointed out in his excellent essay, “as for getting married biblically, you can do that in all kinds of imaginative ways– take two wives and someone else’s sex slave as Abraham did, or 300 sex slaves as Solomon did (not to mention the 700 wives), or your brother’s widow in addition to your own wife.”
If one reads the Bible selectively, one can pretty much justify anything. Boy are politicians good at that!