Trouble begins when we follow a strictly biblical marriage
I’m well acquainted with weddings. I’ve performed hundreds of them as a pastor and even been in a few as a father, best man and groom. So I read with interest last week’s report out of Little Rock, Ark., that the governor of that fair state, Mike Huckabee, and his wife, Janet, decided to be married again on Valentine’s Day. Although they have been lawfully married for the past 31 years, the governor and his wife chose to renew their vows using the guidelines of a “covenant marriage.” Covenant marriage is legalized in three states: Arizona, Louisiana and, of course, Arkansas. It requires the marrying couple to undergo extensive pre-marital counseling and seeks to alleviate any post-marriage concerns by making divorce an exceedingly difficult path to take. The covenant marriage movement is being driven primarily by conservative Christian pastors who are humbled by the reality that the sheep of their flocks are just as likely to be divorced as the heathen who have yet to be corralled into Christianity. This is why Governor Huckabee, who is a former Baptist minister, took matters into his own hands Monday night to thunderous applause from the 5,000 faithful gathered in the North Little Rock Arena.
I’ve never been a part of a wedding where the vows didn’t promise a commitment for life, so I’m a little nonplussed by this apparent need for a kind of uber-marriage vow. Additionally, I’m concerned that the folks who are following Governor Huckabee’s lead might soon want to make such a parochial precedent mandatory for the rest of us. Clearly, the strong backing of the Christian right for the anti-gay and deviously entitled “Marriage Protection Amendment” is vivid evidence that a narrow religious perspective may soon be proposed for weddings as well. The popularity of a covenant marriage based on biblical principles may be somewhat dimmed when its adherents discover the Bible shares some rather strange views on marriage that, if incorporated into this new movement, might alter our sacred institution in some decidedly unromantic ways.For instance, if the Bible serves as the primary source for the definition of marriage in America then we men are granted license to have more than one wife at a time. (2 Samuel 3:2-5.)In addition, we are free to take on any number of concubines our wallets (and wives) allow. (1 Kings 11:3)
What’s more, if your bride isn’t a virgin you can have her executed. (Deuteronomy 22: 13ff)If you’re thinking of falling in love with someone other than a believer, forget it. (Genesis 24:3)What constitutes a believer, by the way, might be limited to folks who think anyone who doesn’t believe God created the world in six 24-hour days is a heathen. No divorce, period. (Mark 10:9)For those of you with sisters-in-law, you might want to take a gander at Deuteronomy 25, which describes the process that follows the death of a brother. Your responsibility is to perpetuate your brother’s name. This may be a plus or a minus depending on your own perspective. In any case, if you choose not to perform your brother-in-law duties, your grieving sister-in-law will spit in your face and take one of your shoes. (I don’t get it either, but it’s the law.)
Adultery, by the way, is punishable by death but adultery in the Bible is defined differently than most of us think. The Bible says adultery applies only to a man having sex with a woman who is married or engaged. (Leviticus 20:10) This may explain why so many men and women are waiting so long to get married nowadays. Finally, the most prolific writer of Christian scripture, Paul, suggests that it would be better not to marry at all (1 Corinthians 7:27), but if you must, be forewarned that “those who marry will have worldly troubles.” (1 Corinthians 7:28)And the trouble begins when we try to follow a strictly biblical model for marriage.Rich Mayfiled writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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