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Three Iowa Religious Studies Profs Author Joint Editorial on Claims of “Biblical” Marriage

Posted by on Nov. 5, 2013 at 10:01 AM
  • 8 Replies

A trio of Iowa-based religious scholars penned an op-ed in a local paper this week, reminding readers that despite popular opinion, the Bible does not simply define marriage as between one man and one woman.

The joint editorial was written by Hector Avalos, Robert R. Cargill and Kenneth Atkinson and published in the Des Moines Register on Sunday.The men teach at Iowa State University, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa, respectively.

"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. They stated in their column that 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. Furthermore, Avalos, Cargill and Atkinson point out that various Bible passages mention not only traditional monogamy, but also self-induced castration and celibacy, as well as the practice of wedding rape victims to their rapists.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Iowa University Professor Robert R. Cargill said the column was the brainchild of his colleague Hector Avalos, who suggested local scholars put together an "educated response" to the often-touted claim that the Bible defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman. "[T]hat's not the only thing the Bible says," Cargill told HuffPost.

He explained that it is obvious to scholars (and some religious leaders) that the Bible endorses a wide range of relationships. But he noted, however, that professors are "terrified" of the potential backlash that might result from opening a dialogue about these relationships. Cargill also noted that the initial response to the Register column has included its fair share of vitriol.

Ultimately, said Cargill, a Biblical "argument against same-sex marriage is wholly unsustainable. We all know this, but very few scholars are talking about it, because they don't want to take the heat."

He suggested that academics who continue to be cowed by a strident opposition do a disservice to their communities.

"Most people aren't dumb, they want to make an informed decision" on religiously charged questions, Cargill said. "If scholars aren't talking to them, they have to rely on talk show hosts and pundits, and that's not the most reliable source of information."

Cargill also realizes that there are some people he may never be able to convince.

Many politicians have made a career out of using the Bible to justify opposition to hot-button topics like same-sex marriage or abortion. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), for example, told a crowd of evangelicals in April that Americans cannot "retreat from our values and fail to make the case on issues like marriage -- because it is one man, one woman -- because God said it is."

Cargill said Bachman and her like-minded colleagues use a strategy he calls "cherry picking" to appeal to their base.

"Politicians who use the Bible aren't necessarily interested in the truth or the complexity of the Bible," he said. "They are looking for one ancient sound bite to convince people what they already believe."

Anyone who argues that "the Bible speaks plainly on one issue, especially something as complicated as marriage ... haven't take the time to read all of it," he added.




The article originally appeared in the Des Moines Register  but it seems that the newspaper has taken the article down from its website.

by on Nov. 5, 2013 at 10:01 AM
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PrimmednPunked
by Silver Member on Nov. 5, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Three Iowa professors in a joint op-ed have argued the Bible doesn’t mandate one-man, one-woman marriages.

Writing in the Des Moines Register on Sunday, University of Iowa assistant professor of religious studies Robert Cargill, University of Northern Iowa associate professor of history Kenneth Atkinson, and Iowa State University professor of religious studies Hector Avalos said they wanted to clear a few things up when it comes to marriage and the Bible.

“As academic biblical scholars, we wish to clarify that the biblical texts do not support the frequent claim that marriage between one man and one woman is the only type of marriage deemed acceptable by the Bible’s authors,” they wrote.

To back up their claim they cite several parts of the Bible, including:

In 2 Samuel 12:8, the author says that it was God who gave David multiple wives: “I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom. … And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more”

In fact, there were a variety of unions and family configurations that were permissible in the cultures that produced the Bible, and these ranged from monogamy (Titus 1:6) to those where rape victims were forced to marry their rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and to those Levirate marriage commands obligating a man to marry his brother’s widow regardless of the living brother’s marital status (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Genesis 38; Ruth 2-4). Others insisted that celibacy was the preferred option (1 Corinthians 7:8; 28). …

This is not only our modern, academic opinion. This view of the multiple definitions of “biblical” marriage has been acknowledged by some of the most prominent names in Christianity.

For example, the famed Reformationist Martin Luther wrote a letter in 1524 in which he commented on polygamy as follows: “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not oppose the Holy Scriptures.”

They end their piece by referencing the social implications of it all:

Accordingly, we must guard against attempting to use ancient texts to regulate modern ethics and morals, especially those ancient texts whose endorsements of other social institutions, such as slavery, would be universally condemned today, even by the most adherent of Christians.

In other words, according to these professors, don’t cite the Bible when arguing against gay marriage. They don’t say it outright, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots.

susan115
by on Nov. 5, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Give it up, gays won and history is will repeat itself.  So, stop mincing words. 

PrimmednPunked
by Silver Member on Nov. 5, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Stop mincing words?  What do you mean?

Quoting susan115:

Give it up, gays won and history is will repeat itself.  So, stop mincing words. 


susan115
by on Nov. 5, 2013 at 10:22 AM
1 mom liked this


We have no idea what they meant back then, we do know what happened to the sodomites, don't we.

Quoting PrimmednPunked:

Stop mincing words?  What do you mean?

Quoting susan115:

Give it up, gays won and history is will repeat itself.  So, stop mincing words. 




PrimmednPunked
by Silver Member on Nov. 5, 2013 at 10:30 AM

If we have no idea what they meant back then why is it that people use the Bible to argue the definition of marriage so that homosexuals can't marry?


And no one knows what happened to Sodom or Gomorrah.  Archaeologists and scientists don't even know if it really existed.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/cultures/sodom_gomorrah_01.shtml

Quoting susan115:


We have no idea what they meant back then, we do know what happened to the sodomites, don't we.

Quoting PrimmednPunked:

Stop mincing words?  What do you mean?

Quoting susan115:

Give it up, gays won and history is will repeat itself.  So, stop mincing words. 





susan115
by on Nov. 5, 2013 at 10:35 AM


I, agree with you, we don't know what happened.  So, why not put the same content to the this topic.  I am okay with gays, but ONE can not pick and chose.  Thinking is very important. I know you know the difference, I have read what you write.

Quoting PrimmednPunked:

If we have no idea what they meant back then why is it that people use the Bible to argue the definition of marriage so that homosexuals can't marry?


And no one knows what happened to Sodom or Gomorrah.  Archaeologists and scientists don't even know if it really existed.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/cultures/sodom_gomorrah_01.shtml

Quoting susan115:


We have no idea what they meant back then, we do know what happened to the sodomites, don't we.

Quoting PrimmednPunked:

Stop mincing words?  What do you mean?

Quoting susan115:

Give it up, gays won and history is will repeat itself.  So, stop mincing words. 







PrimmednPunked
by Silver Member on Nov. 5, 2013 at 10:38 AM

I posted it because I found it interesting that 3 religions professors decided to tackle this topic.  

My biggest issue with the use of the Bible to argue a point is that many times people do cherry pick.  They cherry pick so it fits their view.  But when you look at all the pieces you see that the Bible was written for a certain culture, time and people/mindset.  So why apply it only in part today?

Quoting susan115:


I, agree with you, we don't know what happened.  So, why not put the same content to the this topic.  I am okay with gays, but ONE can not pick and chose.  Thinking is very important. I know you know the difference, I have read what you write.

Quoting PrimmednPunked:

If we have no idea what they meant back then why is it that people use the Bible to argue the definition of marriage so that homosexuals can't marry?


And no one knows what happened to Sodom or Gomorrah.  Archaeologists and scientists don't even know if it really existed.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/cultures/sodom_gomorrah_01.shtml

Quoting susan115:


We have no idea what they meant back then, we do know what happened to the sodomites, don't we.

Quoting PrimmednPunked:

Stop mincing words?  What do you mean?

Quoting susan115:

Give it up, gays won and history is will repeat itself.  So, stop mincing words. 








JanuaryBaby06
by on Nov. 5, 2013 at 3:07 PM

nice article. i enjoyed it very much!

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