If you believe marriage is one man and one woman.... You're wrong.

If you are one of the many people who believe marriage is between one man and one woman, you're wrong. In fact Jesus who lived a celibate life embodied a life of no marriage at all rather than embracing the institution of it. To be a true follower of Jesus, to live as he did, might actually be to divorce your wife, and merely do good in this world. I realize this might be hard to hear, and you might think you can come up with some sort of logic, or bias against my own, but have you ever taken the a moment just to consider you're wrong? I know I've been wrong.

See I was wrong when I first heard about Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" book and movie. The first time I heard about it, on Oprah no less, I wrote it off as Christianity nonsense, another "Chicken Soup for the Rich Christian Soul", a book that "horribly" encourages devotion to the male gender by being a female slave to your husband. I was wrong of course. Though I stand by my hypocrisy on some level as I imagine they pounded out the title to the book in a board room, to reach the widest audience and tightly edited the book to fit into our Christian bookseller clubs. I know now from reading "Committed" that Gilbert herself doesn't conform to all these right wing, flagship issues of that cult. In fact in her follow-up book "Committed" she seems to purposely set the record straight, now that I imagine, she doesn't have the financial need to bend to the centre of the right's (or publisher's) religious correctness. As of last night, Gilbert has become one my most cherished reads... it's thought provoking, and educational, and because of her wisdom and travel she's able to help guide those of us whom are still spiritual in nature but do not believe in the supernatural- to better understand life. In fact I think Gilbert would likely find herself more at home among (gasp) atheists than she ever would those conservative Christians I assumed her to be from.

Now that; that's said... I wanted to share something from "Committed" that I've never seen put together before, other than in her book. It's a rather good and intelligent argument that's often lost but clearly obvious, and one that those who affix a "1 man + 1 woman" bumper sticker to their SUV should think about.

Throughout most of human history, to be honest, marriage has usually been seen as a union between one man and several women.

Sometimes, though, marriage has been seen as a union between one woman and several men (as in southern India). Marriage has also, at times, been recognized as a union between two men (as in ancient Rome, where marriages between aristocratic males were once recognized by law); or as a union between to siblings (as in medieval Europe)... or as a union between two people of the same social class.

Marriage has also been seen at times as a deliberately temporary union. In modern revolutionary Iran, for instance, young couples can ask a mullah for a special marriage permit called a sigheh- a 24 hour pass that permits the couple to be "married," but just for one day.

In China, the definition of marriage once included a sacred union between a living woman and a dead man. Such a merger was called a ghost marriage.

Even when marriage has been defined as a union between a man and just one woman, its purposes were... for personal safety... To be alone was to be targeted for death... your entire giant extended family, operating as a single helpmeet entity in the constant combat of survival.

Those extended families grew into tribes, and those tribes became kingdoms, and those kingdoms emerged as dynasties, and those dynasties fought each other in savage wars... The early Hebrews emerged from exactly this system, which is why the Old Testament is such a family-centric , stranger abhorring, genealogical extravaganza- rife with tales of patriarch, matriarchs, brothers, sisters, and heirs and other miscellaneous kin. Of course those Old Testament families were not always healthy or functional (we see brothers murdering brothers, siblings selling each other into slavery, daughters seducing their own fathers, spouses sexually betraying each other)...

But the New testament- which is to say the arrival of Jesus Christ, invalidated all those old family loyalties to a degree that it was truly socially revolutionary. Instead of perpetuating the tribal notion of "the chosen people...", Jesus (who was an unmarried man, in marked contrast to the great patriarchal heroes of the Old Testament ) taught all chosen people, that we are all brothers and sisters united within one human family....

But this created a problem, of course. If you're going to deconstruct the entire social structure of the human family, what do your replace it with?... "Renounce marriage and imitate the angels", instructed John of Damascus around 730 A.D., explaining the new Christian ideal in no uncertain terms.... Among the heavenly hosts of angels, after all, there existed no husbands or wives...

So that was to be the new human paradigm, as modeled by Christ's own example: celibacy, fellowship and absolute purity.

Gilbert then goes on to explain that Christianity was an apocalyptic religion, one without the need for marriage or reproduction. That early christian visionaries weren't interested in making Christians but converting them. Allowing people to arrive at salvation by choice, through baptism rather than simply being by born into the doctrine. Something even most atheists could respect today.

Marriage = wife = sex = sin = impurity.
Therefore: don't marry.

...We would do well to remember that for approximately ten centuries, Christianity itself did not see marriage as being either holy or sanctified.... Christian fathers regarded the habit of marriage as a somewhat repugnant worldly affair...

So when modern-day religious conservatives wax nostalgic about how marriage is a sacred tradition that reaches back into history for thousands of uninterrupted years,..Christianity simply does not share that deep and christian historical reverence towards matrimony.

She then quotes Saint Jerome comparing virginity to marriage:
...you cannot "make a comparison between two things if one is good and the other evil."...

Or consider Saint Paul himself, who wrote in his famous letter to Corinthians, "it is not good for a man to touch a woman."

Marriage does not equal love, and as counter productive as that may be to the gay marriage movement, it does beg the question are unmarried gays embodying Jesus more than bumper sticker driving Christians? That said, if marriage is seen simply as a legal documentation of one's commitment and love not as the same thing, what possibly could be the problem with it?


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