Crazy-sounding conservative quote of the day...
Most people have no idea that the concept of having a say in marriage is remarkably new ... and not necessarily a good thing.
Arranged marriages were the norm for most of the history of marriage and still are the norm in some cultures today. They were even occurring in American culture as late as the 19th century. I'm sorry, but calling that "rape" is a function of ignorance, not value judgment.
Specifically, this person (whose identity shall remain private, unless he chooses to reveal it himself), was responding to the biblical text that has God commanding Israel to go in to a village, kill all the men, women and children, but spare the virgin girls so they could be taken home and “saved” to be Israeli wives, after shaving their heads, paring the fingernails and allowing them 30 days to mourn.
From Deuteronomy 21...
When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife.
Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.
If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.
And from Numbers 31...
Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.
I appreciate, at least, the brutal honesty of this conservative, because it helps point out one of the big problems of trying to treat these OT passages like this one as literal history, reflecting a perfect understanding of God's nature.
Indeed, if you try to read these passages as literal history, you have to admit to a god that sometimes may command that god's followers to kill innocent children and to kidnap virgin girls and take them as your wives (after allowing a whole month for mourning of the parents and baby brothers you have just slaughtered!).
It's how you end up with folk who try to hew to a patriarchal worldview, one which says it's probably not best for women (or men, presumably?) to have a choice in who they marry. I'd love to know what he actually advocates, since he seems to think allowing personal choice in choosing life partners is a bad thing – what does he propose, instead??
Taking these passages as a literal reflection of God's views can lead one to try to take these passages as a rulebook of dos and don'ts, rather than a reflection of the views of a particular people at a particular time. It leads to calling what most people would say is self-evidently wrong a possible good. It leads people to saying things like, “Well, I know it SOUNDS horrible for God to command killing baby boys and kidnapping and bedding down virgin girls, but if you think about it, it's not really as bad as it sounds...” and then trying to explain why it's not as bad as it sounds (that is, killing the mother, father and baby brothers of a virgin girl, then bedding her down 30 days later isn't really all that bad!!...)
For such people, such passages become what they like to call “hard passages,” and then find some way to force such self-evidently immoral behavior into some sort of reasonable explanation of morality.
The problem is, it can't be done. At least, not that I can see.
You can say, at best, that such laws are LESS immoral than how people used to treat their enemies, that it is at least a way of offering SOME protections to slaves and captive women. True enough. But saying a behavior is LESS immoral is not the same as saying it's moral and a perfect reflection of God's will.
You could also call such commands a reflection of God's “progressive revelation,” whereby God USED to allow certain behaviors (like the ones mentioned above, polygamy, concubines, etc) as a concession to a more primitive culture and make a reasonable case for that, seems to me.
But what you can't reasonably do is suggest that this reflects God's perfect will and that engaging in these behaviors (not allowing personal liberty, advocating a world where women don't get to make their own decisions, kidnapping and bedding down the orphaned virgin girls of your vanquished enemies, killing the infant children of your enemy) is or can be “moral.” Not when we can see that such behavior is self-evidently NOT moral.
We don't need a literal OT to tell us that much.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Exactly Why the OT Ought Not be Taken Literally
Crazy-sounding conservative quote of the day...