Sunday, January 18, 2009

If Christians can divorce for abuse, why can't they respect gays?

[Image by Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times]

According to Barbara Roberts in her book, Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion, Christians may divorce and remarry if adultery, desertion or domestic abuse is involved.

Ms. Roberts is challenging the accepted wisdom of the fundamentalist christianist community. For example, Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, holds to the notion the Bible does not provide an exemption from the prohibition of divorce for domestic abuse.

I haven't read Ms. Roberts' book and do not intend to for the simple reason I have no confidence that most biblical admonitions have validity in the 21st century, especially those relating to marriage and divorce.

But, if she indeed argues that the Bible allows divorce in cases of domestic abuse, she is most certainly "rewriting" scripture; or at least the New Testament in which Jesus makes clear that divorce is only allowed for "adultery," and he isn't even happy about that.

[Actually, in first century Palestine, divorce was the prerogative of the husband. A Jewish woman could not divorce her husband under any circumstances, although it appears there may have been cases where the wife initiated the divorce followed by her husband then giving her the divorce papers.]

Here are the plain teachings of Jesus:

Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 - Jesus says clearly one may divorce only in cases of adultery.

Luke 16:18: Jesus says "A man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery" and vice versa (the writer of Luke was not up on Jewish law). But notice, no way out there!

Mark 10:2-12: Jesus says the same thing. No divorce and remarriage except for adultery.

We must conclude, for christianists who stress literalism and inerrancy, domestic abuse is not a legitimate reason to divorce, according to the Bible.

Except that Ms. Roberts, a survivor of domestic abuse, has done an intense study of all the Biblical passages that deal with divorce and decided that "the Bible sets victims of abuse free from bondage and guilt."

She claims the Bible makes a distinction between "treacherous divorce," and "disciplinary divorce." And disciplinary divorce, which has to do with abuse, adultery and/or desertion, is allowed in the Bible.

Like I've said before, you can make the Bible say pretty much anything you want it to.

I find this all quite amusing. To be so chained to a faith position and a magical book that one has to go through all sorts of theological and biblical hoops in order to determine that a victim of domestic abuse is "allowed" to divorce, is just sad. To look to this ancient collection of "wisdom," written by persons unknown with no knowledge of science or psychology or how the world actually works, in order to get "permission" to do what any sane person knows is the right thing to do, is a waste of time and energy.

I happen to agree with Ms. Roberts' conclusions, so far as abuse and divorce go, but she doesn't go far enough. Marriage should never be treated lightly, but if a marriage is irretrievably broken, we should make it as easy as possible for the partners to divorce. We don't need to get "authority" from the Bible to do our humane duty.

But, let's look at what Ms. Roberts has done with Biblical "evidence," and apply it to homosexuality.

The great majority of scientists today are convinced that some human beings are born with a same-sex attraction. Homosexuality is not something that one chooses, anymore than is heterosexuality. Why would anyone choose to be part of a hated and persecuted minority?

If that's the case, then christianists should blame God for she created everything and everyone that exists.

Furthermore, we can do exactly the same thing with the homosexual issue that Ms. Roberts has done with regard to divorce - recast the biblical passages that deal with homosexuality so that our understanding is more in line with contemporary science and with a loving God.

The marriage of fundamentalist christianity with ancient taboos has led to torrents of abuse raining down upon our homosexual brothers and sisters.

Christians should do for homosexuals what Ms. Roberts has done for domestic abuse victims caught in horrific marital situations - give homosexual victims of christianist abuse a way out of their "bondage and guilt"! (I know, most homosexuals are not caught up in "bondage and guilt" anymore, but christianists could at least acknowledge their worth as human beings.) All the christianists need to do is interpret the Bible in the light of the knowledge and understandings of our time, which is exactly what Ms. Roberts has done in her book.

Come to think of, Lisa Miller already did that in a recent Newsweek article. Didn't work.


Bob Poris said...

One must also look at the Old Testament for the rules that Jesus and His followers obeyed as pious, believing Jews of the time. Dietary laws forbade pork, mixing milk and meat, shell fish, many cuts of meat; slavery was ok but a slave could not be separated from his wife or children and had to be educated by the Master and freed after seven years; killing was ok, but not murder; marriage and divorce were regulated; sex was described so that there were rules and certain restrictions defined; etc.

I am not a Biblical scholar but I often wonder why some rules are not followed yet selected rules are quoted as God’s rules. I thought the Old Testament’s rules were the rules of God. I failed to find where in the New Testament, any rules were amended or negated. Jesus was much more tolerant than many of our current crop of preachers, priests, ministers, etc.

I think Jesus led a much less comfortable life and sought no riches or power. He was a reformer and objected to the abuses of the priests, as many do today. He did not belong to any denomination either. I think He would have a difficult time becoming affiliated with most, if not all, of today’s denominations of all religions.

libhom said...

I'm so glad I just say no to religion. All of this interpretation of a book written long after a cult leader died gets more than a little bit silly.

Cory Aidenman said...

Divorce and then confess; I think that's not against Bible.

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