Sola scriptura minus the scripturaMOLLIE HEMINGWAY
I knew we had to take a look at Newsweek's cover story when I read the first line. It was just that bad.
It was written by senior editor Lisa Miller who oversees all of the magazine's religion coverage. Which is pretty shocking when you look at the unbelievable ignorance on display in her grossly unfair first paragraph:
Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel -- all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments -- especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple -- who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love -- turn to the Bible as a how-to script?
How many things are wrong with that opening line? (Beyond the junior high-worthy snarkiness of the "let's try" opening, I mean.) How about that "religious conservatives" don't argue that civil marriage should be defined "as the Bible does." I mean, it would be nice if Newsweek or other mainstream outlets took the time to learn what religious conservatives have to say about marriage before they attack it. Is that so much to ask?
When I started looking at the media coverage of this hot topic, I had to do just that. As a libertarian, I was unfamiliar with why people thought the state should define marriage, much less why it should be defined in such a way as to limit it to a certain number or sex of people. And what I found is that there is an unbelievable wealth of argument in favor of traditional marriage. And most of it is based (no, not in the fevered imaginations of what Hollywood and the media elite think religious conservatives believe) but in Natural Law. In this way of thinking, society defines marriage as a sexual union between a husband and wife, based around the ideas that babies are created via intercourse, that procreation is necessary for the survival of society and that babies need fathers as well as mothers. So the entire premise of this article is wrong, if you look at it that way.
But if you are going to pretend that opposition to same-sex marriage is based Sola Scriptura, could we at least get our Scripture right?
This is such hackery that it's offensive. Abraham and Sarah, while certainly noted for their eventual trust in God were basically poster children for marital disobedience when they didn't trust God to provide them with children. Even though he promised them they would have offspring. Sarah was a jealous and cruel slavemaster and Abraham was pliant and cowardly during their Hagar offensive. In fact, if you are reading the Old Testament as a self-improvement book based on anything other than the commandments from God, you are an idiot. God's chosen people, some of them with great and abiding faith, are sinful disasters -- the lot of them.
I hold sacred the New Testament model of marriage and find Miller's comments to be beneath contempt. I also wonder what, if anything, she has read from the New Testament.
When my husband read the opening graph of this train wreck of a hit piece, he wondered if these words of Jesus, found in the Gospel of Matthew, indicated indifference to family:
And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
Would that be the indifference that Miller is referring to? Because it really just doesn't sound indifferent to me. This quote from Jesus comes in a larger section on, well, earthly attachments. One part notes that only those who have the gift of celibacy are to be celibate. I have no doubt that my elementary school-age nieces know these things. Shouldn't Lisa Miller?
And while St. Paul does endorse single life enthusiastically, for those who are able (a key point left out of Miller's little opening paragraph), he writes extensively about marriage. In fact, he's normally picked on for his clear endorsement of traditional marriage, as in Ephesians 5:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
There is nothing lukewarm about this. In fact, there is nothing lukewarm about any of the writings of Paul.
Now, as a member of a contemporary marriage, albeit one that isn't so foolish as to think marriage is about gender equality or romantic love, I can honestly say that the Bible has been the only guide that has helped my husband and myself. We turn to it constantly to be reminded that the husband is to sacrifice for the wife and the wife is to respect the husband (these things don't come naturally to either my husband or myself).
And yet Miller discounts our faith by saying that "of course" a contemporary married couple wouldn't turn to Scripture as a guide for marriage. Just who does she think she is? And why does she have the cover story of Newsweek?
The rest of the piece is about as worthless and mendacious as the opening paragraph. She repeatedly pretends that marriage is not defined in Scripture -- although the two examples I gave above manage to define it unambiguously as a heterosexual union. Even her own mentions of the patriarchs prove the point that Biblical marriage is heterosexual in nature.
The piece then goes on to pretend that homosexuality isn't really mentioned much in Scripture (except when it's talking about, you guessed it, King David and Jonathan!) and, of course, discounts St. Paul's teachings on the matter as not really about homosexuality but modern-day sins having nothing to do with homosexuality. Not that the actual New Testament passages, such as this one, are included in the story:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
Some may find that passage ambiguous. Many will not. But what's amazing is that Miller actually also writes that Scripture never once refers to sexual relations between women. Um, if you don't know what the Bible says, you probably shouldn't preach about it, you know?
And yet preach with unhinged emotion is precisely what Miller does. She never once speaks with an actual opponent of same-sex marriage. She never once speaks with someone who knows anything about the Biblical model of marriage as understood for thousands of years. This piece is disgusting, unfair and unworthy of a high school graduate. It is the opposite of thought-provoking. It's a post-frontal lobotomy exegesis of Scripture. This is journalism? This is how people are supposed to cover the news, today?
She actually uses Miss Manners to defend liturgical changes in marital rites. I mean, really. This is a serious topic. We have had the majority populace of three dozen states now vote to define marriage as a heterosexual union. I know the news industry is suffering but perhaps one reporter could go actually research what these people think.
Instead we learn nothing about the principled opposition to same-sex marriage and instead get blasphemy and some of the most cliched reading of Scripture to appear in print. Thanks, Newsweek. Thanks a bunch.
Mollie Hemingway. "Sola scriptura minus the scriptura." Get Religion.org (December 9, 2008).
Reprinted by permission of GetReligion.org and Mollie Hemingway. The original posting of this article is here.
Mollie Hemingway is a Washington writer who writes for Get Religion. She is the author of Losing Our Religion.
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