The Bible, Homosexuality, and Christianity: Marriage in the Scripture

This is the sixth post in a series. I highly encourage that you read those previous posts before reading this one. The preface is here. The guidelines are here. A discussion of relevant Hebrew Bible texts is here. A study of Romans 1:26-27 is here. A Study of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 can be found here.

Having studied the relevant passages that have traditionally been the directly relevant ones in regards to homosexual practice, we now must do more difficult work. It has been relatively straightforward to show that the Scriptures do not unequivocally condemn homosexuality or homosexual practice. It is something else to suggest that Christians should embrace homosexuality, homosexual practice, or homosexuals themselves, because, as many argue, that this may have consequences for, or even undermine, the Biblical ideal of marriage and sexuality. So, making no attempt to be exhaustive, we now turn to a study of marriage in the scripture.

It used to amuse me, but now I find it a bit sad when I hear people use the phrase “biblical marriage.” Really, to call for “biblical” anything is courting a war of words that the people who usually use phrases like that are doomed to lose. The reason is, that like most ideals or practices, there simply isn’t one “biblical” form of marriage. The Bible is full of much teaching, and many examples of marriage that look much different than the ones we are used to. While this doesn’t mean that there isn’t one form of marriage we should endorse, it certainly means two things: 1) that we shouldn’t simply run around, shouting things like “biblical marriage,” that may sound good in a sound bite, but when scrutinized, make us look foolish… and 2) that unless we bother to take the time and study the scriptures that we claim to follow, we remain just as ignorant as others about the scriptures.

Various Types of Marriage in the Scriptures:

Heterosexual, Monogamous Marriage:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: In Genesis 2:22-24, the scripture reads: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

New Testament Instruction: In Mark 10:8, Jesus calls back to mind the teaching from Genesis and adds to it, “‘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 they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

Biblical Example(s): Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebekah, Gomer and Hosea, Priscilla and Aquilla

Commentary: The Genesis passage is not meant to explain how we should act in marriage, but rather to explain how we got to where we are and describe how marriage started. If Adam and Eve were the only example of correct marriage, “biblical” men should only take mates that have been cloned from their ribs.

Jesus is talking about divorce, and the importance of staying together once married. He cites the first marriage, because of what it says about unity. If Jesus had meant “one flesh” to be taken as prescriptive rather than descriptive, he might have told the caught in adultery that she should go back to one of the men who she had slept with, and be his wife, rather than telling her, “so and sin no more.”

While the Scripture never says anything negative about one man and one woman being married, the verses that define marriage as only between one man and one women simply don’t exist. Which we will see below.

Interracial Marriage:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: Deuteronomy 7:3 states, “Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods.”

New Testament Instruction: Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Biblical Example(s): Moses and Zipporah, Ruth and Boaz, Esther and Ahasuerus

Commentary: While many have condemned the Bible for this verse, saying that the Bible forbids interracial marriage, in reality, this verse is not about race at all. This verse (as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 6) critiques marrying those who will take your faith away from God. This reality of life, that our spouses deeply influence our actions, causes Moses to instruct those who are joining with God on a mission to save the world, that if they want to remain faithful, they should marry those who have the same goal. While Israel did become somewhat xenophobic, the Marriages of Moses and Zipporah, Ruth and Boaz, and Esther and Ahasuerus prove that God is not opposed to interracial marriage on the basis of race, and can use these marriages quite successfully to further God’s goal of love.

Rape and Marriage:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: Deuteronomy 22:28-29′ “If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives.”

New Testament Instruction: Not mentioned.

Biblical Example(s): Dinah and Shechem. Kinda.

Commentary: Deuteronomy states that a man that rapes a woman who is not engaged must marry her. Understandably, this scandalizes us. However, as with any engagement with the past, it is unfair, even in this case, to judge those in the past by our standards. Then, if a woman was raped, she was unfit for marriage. She was likely unable to make any living for herself other than prostitution. She would likely die childless and in poverty. So, Moses commands that if a man rapes a woman, rather than collecting a dowry, he would instead have to pay $. He would be forced to marry her and never divorce, ensuring that she would be taken care of for her whole life. And the fact that towns were much smaller than they are today would shame this man into treating her well, lest he bring further shame on himself. Now, no sane person would call this a good solution, but it is at least understandable why Moses would command that the man have to pay and never stop paying, and how this would serve as a deterrent to rape, rather than simply condemning raped women to loneliness childlessness, or prostitution. The only Biblical example of this is Dinah and Shechem. Shechem rapes Dinah, tries to marry her, but her brothers kill his whole village instead. So it is clear that the Scripture calls foul on the whole rape-as-a-plan-for-marriage deal.

Concubines:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: None.

New Testament Instruction: None.

Biblical Example(s): Abraham and Hagar, Jacob and Bilhah and Zilpah, The Levite and his Concubine, David and his Concubines, and Solomon and his Concubines.

Commentary: There is no explicit instruction about concubines given in the scripture. It is simply taken for granted in the culture in which the Scripture was given. And there is some confusion as to what concubine refers to as well. The word that is translated as concubine, is likely better translated as “second wife,” with the distinction between first and second wives being that first wives (and their children) have rights of name and inheritance, while second wives do not. The scripture does make it clear that you take more wives, you should not neglect any of them. Like Abraham did… like the Levite did… And you should also not let them affect your faith because you have to many… like Solomon did…

Levirate Marriage:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: Deuteronomy 25:5-6, “When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband’s brother to her, and the firstborn whom she bears shall succeed to the name of the deceased brother, so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.”

New Testament Instruction: no instruction

Biblical Example(s): Judah and Tamar

Commentary: The idea is this: your culture tells you that getting married and having children is essentially the biggest blessing you can get, and if you were a women, essentially your only worth. This idea was not started by the Bible, but it was considered true in the cultures where the Bible sprang into. As such, if a women was barren, she considered her life not worth living and cursed (Sarah, Naomi, Hannah, etc..). So in order to preserve a male’s name and assure that his widow did not fade into obscurity and poverty, the levirate marriage was instituted. A man’s brother takes care of his sister-in-law, sleeps with her until she has a child, and then raises the child as if it was the child of his brother. This strikes us as bizarre and wrong, but that is because we are imperialistic and judgmental towards the “other” who lived in the past and clearly care more about our nice, neat morality than God did about the poor widows of old.

Polygamy:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: Exodus 21:10, “If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.”

New Testament Instruction: 1 Timothy 3:2,12 and Titus 1:6 , Elders (and Deacons) “must be above reproach, married only once…”

Biblical Example(s): Lamech (and his two wives), Abraham (and Sarah and Hagar), Jacob (and Rachel, Leah, Zilphah, and Bilhah), David (and his 18+ wives/concubines), and Solomon (and his 1000+ wives and concubines)

Commentary: No Hebrew Bible mandates for or against, other than the ones listed with concubines. Take care of them, don’t neglect them if you have more than one, and don’t have too many or ones that cause you to fall from God. Solomon might have had trouble keeping the last few of those rules. However, the New Testament make a move regarding wives. Paul teaches that men who want to be leaders should only have one wife, indicating that those in church leadership at least, perhaps due to the extra commitment, should not be married to more than one person.

Celibacy:

Hebrew Bible Instruction: No direct mention.

New Testament Instruction: Matthew 19:12, “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” and 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”

Biblical Example(s): Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul

Commentary: Celibacy in the Hebrew Bible is rare. It is reserved for people who consider themselves stricken (Jephthah’s daughter or for those who are already considered outcasts (Jeremiah). However, Jesus makes an interesting move in his teachings about celibacy. In this context, Jesus speaks of eunuchs, who are those who don’t (or can’t) have sex because they usually have been relieved of the necessary tools. Jesus claims that some are born that way (which may have been astounding to Jews whose Rabbis sometimes taught celibacy as a sin), Jesus claims that some are made eunuchs by others (as in some royal cases for personal servants), and some who have chosen it for themselves for the kingdom of God. In other words, Jesus suggests that there are those who act like eunuchs (no sex) in order to serve God. Paul supports this when he suggests that he wish everyone was celibate (Paul says this, not God), but that if you are too hormonal, go ahead and get married because it is better than sex outside of marriage.

Conclusion: The scriptures do not clearly teach one particular way of being married. The scriptures validate marriage, and while I didn’t get into this, the scripture validates sex within the context of marriage over sex outside of marriage. Scripture seems to react to cultural forms of marriage by introducing boundaries and guidelines for the already-existing forms of marriage of the day. The exception being that the scripture validates celibacy and raises it up to equality with marriage, and the scripture seems to indicate that those who want to be leaders in the church should not be married to more than one person. However, that is a far cry from suggesting that there is only one form of “Biblical marriage.”

King David was considered a man after God’s own heart, even though he had numerous wives and never thought it was bad, and never repented from it.

Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, had 4 wives. He never repented from it, nor did he see anything wrong with it, nor do we see God correcting him for it, and yet God used those 12 children to create a nation that was “God’s” to assist in righting the world.

David and Solomon, both commended in the New Testament and regarded as Israel’s greatest kings, both had concubines, and were not rejected by God, even though they were warned not to have too many.

And Jesus was celibate and suggests that how we are born affects our sexuality.

There are things that the Bible (and its culture) took for granted that we simply find abhorrent. And things that we have outlawed that the Bible did not. If we look to the Bible for an airtight case about what is and isn’t marriage, we won’t find it. What we will find, is that the Scripture is more concerned about how we treat each other, and injecting the law of love into whatever cultural forms of marriage that the society takes. In the New Testament, however, we do see Jesus claiming that God is the one who joins people in marriage, and that we should be careful about separating them as a result. This leads me to believe that Jesus suggests that marriage is a spiritual union as well, not just a sexual and emotional one. As such, God’s people must act according to their faith in these matters, regardless of what the society around us is doing. If the church believes that marriage is between a man and a woman only, then they should not allow the government to tell them what marriage is or who they can or can’t marry.

Alternatively, if the church believes that the clear teaching of scripture about what marriage is isn’t really that clear and seems to be in flux, then perhaps it desires to offer marriage to those of the same gender. And as such, it should not allow a government to tell them that they cannot marry two people of the same sex. The church is not bound to its culture or its government, but it can get out in front of it and lead the way to a more loving, just society. Whatever way God leads you, don’t let your country get in the way.

Jump to part 7, A few notes about gender in the Bible, here.

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Optimistic Chad

Chad really really hopes things are going to turn out ok. He loves his wife - with the passion of 1000 exploding suns, and is a diligent, but surely mediocre father to his brilliant and subversive children. He likes Chinese food.

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The Bible, Homosexuality, and Christianity: Some Guidelines

This is the second post in a series. The preface is here.

I am attempting to be as systematic as possible about this discussion, and so I want to cover all bases I can. So after this post, I will get directly into the heart of the dissussion. First, I thought a few ground rules might be appropriate for myself. They are as follows:

1) With prayer: I have prayed about this. I am not entering into such a divisive discussion lightly, but with a desire for God to speak, and for us to be attentive, rather than dismissive.

2) It is tempting to frame this discussion in terms of “the homosexual issue.” However, I don’t feel comfortable with this framework, as it tends to see real, living, feeling people as an “issue” rather than as real, living, feeling people. As a result, I will make every attempt to not reduce the discussion to “the homosexual issue,” but to constantly keep in mind the myriad of folks for whom this is not an “issue” but a reality. Please be gracious if I fail in this.

3) Many people have an unconscious aversion to thinking and talking about homosexual acts. This, in many cases, is normal. However, I imagine the same holds true for those who aren’t simply “straight.” It is just as likely that heterosexuality can awaken an aversion in them. This so-called “ick factor” might be a reality and may not be something that can be so easily tossed aside. However, it does not, and should not, factor into a discussion about God, the scriptures, and our faith. How we personally feel or any revulsion we may have, is simply that: a personal feeling. Not God’s feeling. So lets leave them out of it.

4) I am trying to be faithful to how I understand our faith, and yet there are others who disagree and/or are gay who are trying to do the same. No matter where the discussion goes, I will not pretend that my answer is THE answer. I trust that even if the data or the Spirit pulls us in different ways, it is not because one of us is unfaithful, but that our journeys are at different places. We should endeavor to respect those who disagree, not dehumanize them.

5) The following are convenient labels, and I have borrowed them from other sources to categorize the various responses that Christians have come to. It is my hope that after the data is discussed, that I will feel comfortable choosing to dwell within one of them and then begin to concentrate on different things. The 4 categories of Christian thought are as follows:

A)     Rejection of God’s design: Being gay simply goes against God’s design and should be rejected in all ways and circumstances. Homosexuals should not be members of church/can’t lead/aren’t Christians.

B)     Welcoming but not Affirming: This is an affirmation of Christian love that requires openness, receptivity, and kindness to all human persons…regardless of any other factor, including the particularity of any kind of human sin. Homosexuality is considered sinful, but indeed, all those whom the Christian community welcomes into its worship and fellowship are sinners.

3)     Welcoming and Accommodating: The Christian community should accept the integrity of homosexual Christians and same-sex unions, demonstrating hospitality and compassion to their brothers and sisters who are homosexual. While in many cases, the heterosexual relationship of marriage will remain normative, and though a homosexual union is not necessarily an intention of God, it is nonetheless understandable, and acceptable as an alternative to those who are alternatively attracted.

 4)     Welcoming & Celebrating: Like celibacy, homosexuality is a variation in creation that does not diminish the authenticity of a person’s humanness.  Like the heterosexual orientation of life, the homosexual way of being human is the gift of God to be celebrated: It is not the disorder of human fallenness.  Homosexuality…the homosexual orientation precisely in its variation…belongs to God’s declaration of the goodness of creation.

In the next post, I would like to deal with HOW we use the Bible in a discussion about sexuality.

 

Jump to part 3, A discussion of relevant Hebrew Bible texts, here.

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Optimistic Chad

Chad really really hopes things are going to turn out ok. He loves his wife - with the passion of 1000 exploding suns, and is a diligent, but surely mediocre father to his brilliant and subversive children. He likes Chinese food.

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Holiday Harassment: Christmas pt. 2: Christian Origins

This is the first is a 3 part series. Part 1: Pagan origins of Christmas, Part 2: Christian origins of Christmas, and Part 3: Santa Claus and his Ilk.

In part 1, I discussed the pagan origins of Christmas. However, that is not the whole story. Christmas, in its current form, did not simply spring up or evolve from just one source, Christian, pagan or otherwise. Therefore, in the interest of fairness, here are the Christian origins of Christmas.

December 25

In the last post, I mentioned how Dies Natalis Solis Invicti was the reason that Christmas is celebrated on December 25. Well, that isn’t the whole story. While it is true that the celebration of the Sun (or Sun God) was celebrated on this day, and that some early Church Fathers commented on how appropriate it would be to celebrate Jesus’ birth on the day of the unconquered Sun, it is also true that the idea of Jesus’ birth being on December 25, predated those decisions. Hippolytus of Rome, a 3rd century theologian, makes it clear that he believes Jesus’ birth to have happened on December 25, not because of the Sun celebration, but because he believes that Jesus’ conception took place during the traditional date of the creation of the world on March 25 (which also happened to line up with the vernal equinox and often with the Jewish Passover), although he also put forth April 2nd as a date of conception in some writings. Regardless, Hippolytus felt that this proved a date of Jesus’ birth at December 25th. Still, it could have been an attempt of a Christian apologist to retroactively prove Jesus’ birth after other’s had connected the date already to Saturnalia or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. Except… that Saturnalia was not celebrated on December 25. It was celebrated on December 17, and was lengthened over time to December 23, but never the 25. Sorry Mythicists. Further, while Dies Natalis Solis Invicti WAS indeed celebrated on December 25,  there is no mention of this celebration being held on December 25 prior to AD 354, since before this, the celebration was held every 4 years, and not on the 25th of December, and often not in December at all. This is relevant because Hippolytus died in 235, over 100 years before Dies Natalis Solis Invicti was practiced on December 25. In fact, around 200 AD, Clement of Alexandria gives us an even better clue (through his consternation), complaining in frustration that some Egyption theologians are celebrating Jesus’ birth  on December 25 (Stromata 1:21). So it seems that the December 25 date for Christmas IS actually a Christian tradition, not a lender from a pagan source.

Note: this does not actually make it true that Jesus’ was born on December 25. He almost surely wasn’t. But it does mean that Christians have honored Jesus’ birth on that day by our own (often flawed) resources, and not as a direct result of other holidays.

Christmas Trees

I did make a mention last time about Romans bringing in trees during this time, and even decorating them with 12 candles. However, no Christians are ever mentioned as taking on this tradition during the time of the Roman Empire. While this practice does seem similar to our Christmas tree tradition, the practice of bringing trees into homes to celebrate Saturnalia (or other mid-winter holidays) was long dead (by a millennium) by the time Christians began to celebrate it during Christmas time. While it is also true that many different cultures brought greenery and trees into the home during winter (from Egypt to Norway), it appears that the 16th century German Christians were the first to bring Evergreen trees into their homes and decorate them for Christmas. There is little chance that 16th century Germans relied on long forgotten Roman practice to initiate theirs. As the story goes, Martin Luther, the 16th Century German reformer, was the first to use candles and light up a Christmas tree.

And while the tree has not always been accepted as a good thing in all Christian circles, it can certainly be said however, that it too, is of Christian origin.

The Name “Christmas”

Of course, it doesn’t really take a genius to realize that the actual word “Christmas” is of Christian origin. Cristes Maesse in old English, it appeared around 1038. Christes – Christ, Maesse meaning dismissal, or colloquially, the way to refer to a church service, as in “we are dismissed to be about the mission of God.” It came to refer to the service on Dec. 25. Not much pagan there.

Nativity Scenes

The first nativity scene is said to be the work of St. Francis of Assisi. He was attempting to reverse the tide of materialism encroaching in on Christmastime around 1223 CE. Imagine if he had been around today…. mercy.  He made it up in a cave near Greccio and had live animals and people. Soon, it spread all around Italy, and was soon common practice in most churches. Statues soon replaced live people and eventually, homes adopted smaller versions. Clearly Christian in origin. St. Francis is hard to beat for sheer Christianity.

Christmas lights

Early in the  20th century, electric lights became available for use on Christmas trees (don’t believe me? Watch Downton Abby). Soon after in the mid-2oth Century, folks began using Christmas tree light on the outside of their homes. Hmmm…. since this took place mostly in America, i don’t think we can call this one Christian origin…. but it is derivative of a Christian practice.

Stockings

Well, i don’t want to spoil next week’s addition to the conversation on Santa Claus, so it will have to suffice to say that this practice of hanging stockings on Christmas Eve is particular to his legend, and not anywhere beforehand. But I won’t give anymore away, next week’s will be awesome.

So to summarize:

December 25 date: Of Christian origin

Trees in the house: Of Christian Origin (and yet attested to in many other cultures in parallel, not dependence)

The word “Christmas:” of Christian origin

Nativity Scenes: of Christian origin

Christmas Lights: of Christian origin

Stockings: of Christian origin

 

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Optimistic Chad

Chad really really hopes things are going to turn out ok. He loves his wife - with the passion of 1000 exploding suns, and is a diligent, but surely mediocre father to his brilliant and subversive children. He likes Chinese food.

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Holiday Harassment: Christmas pt. 1: Pagan Origins

Let it not be said that I hate Christmas. I don’t. I rather like it. However, like abortion, gay rights, and taxes, it has become something in-between a political football and a litmus test for the “correct” sort of belief (or lack thereof). In the interest of truth being the antidote to ignorance, let’s take a ride on the bus of no bull$h!t for a bit, and talk about Christmas. This is the first is a 3 part series. Part 1: Pagan origins of Christmas, Part 2: Christian origins of Christmas, and Part 3: Santa Claus and his ilk.

Pagan origins of Christmas:

First off, I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet. I absolutely hate it when I see/hear/experience the “keep Christ in Christmas/put Christ back in Christmas” crowd. Often, people who say this have a profound lack of insight into the historical roots of the holiday, and an even more profound lack of understanding about the nature of Christianity itself. On the second point, Christians who advocate that they should have some special rights to safeguard their desired way of living to the detriment of the way others want it should look at Jesus, who obviously felt so diametrically opposed to this that he was willing to die than to advocate for his “rights.” The Apostle Paul also mentioned how Christians are obligated to lay down their rights when they become Christians in order to win others by love (notice how hard it is to love someone when yelling at them or belittling them or trying to force your beliefs on them).

But i digress. To the first point, weren’t Christians were the ones who put “Christ” into Christmas in the first place? Might it be more appropriate for non-Christians to shout, “take the Christ back out of Christmas?”

While many cultures the world over have celebrated the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight), it was the practices of the Roman Empire that are most relevant to the discussion of Christmas.

Saturnalia

Saturnalia was the festival of the god Saturn (Chronos in Greek). He was regarded as an agricultural god and was thanked for abundance. However, it was also recognized that Saturn was king of the gods before Jupiter (Zeus) was, and, since Saturn/Chronos was also the god of time, the celebration of Saturnalia was a celebration of chaos, in that the current reign of Jupiter was suspended in favor of recognizing Saturn once more. As such, the celebrations tended to be chaotic to match.

This celebration lasted from December 17th to December 23rd (NOT December 25, as many misled or angry folk are prone to mistakenly say). During this time, gifts would be exchanged, merriment would be ongoing for extended periods, folks would wander from home to home, singing carols, and many would bake treats in the form of humans (Gingerbread folk, anyone?) to eat.

Now this might cook your noodle… Saturnalia was adopted in 217 BCE, when the Romans suffered a great loss to Carthage, who had a counterpart god to Saturn/Chronos named Ba’al Hammon. Ba’al Hammon, in various forms is mentioned in the Bible as Moloch (regarding the practice of child sacrifice) and the Levantine deity Dagon. Pagan indeed. The celebration was adopted to appease the god after the defeat, and thus included a practice of allowing Carthaginian slaves to participate in the celebrations.

While there is no strict correlation between Christmas and Saturnalia, a number of practices migrated to Christmas celebrations due to cultural remnants of a waning of pagan religion and the proximity of the dates involved.

There are some scattered references to Romans bringing in trees during this time, and even decorating them with 12 candles. However, this practice was not picked up by early Christians, and the idea of this lay dormant for almost a millennium …

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

This was the celebration of the cult of the Sun. The cult itself was introduced by Emperor Aurelian in 274, and the celebration followed and was placed on the date of the Winter Solstice, December 25. This was because the festival commemorated the birthday and the re-birth of the Sun, and of course the Solstice is when the sun is at its least influential. When the Sun shines so little, yet always comes back to full power, it was said to be unconquerable. It should be noted, however, that there is no mention of this celebration being held on December 25 prior to AD 354, since before this, the celebration was held every 4 years, and not on the 25th of December, and often not in December at all.

The takeaway here is that early church fathers such as Chrysostom commented about how, based on the Hebrew scripture Malachi 4:2, that Jesus was the “Sun of righteousness,” and stands alone as the “unconquerable” one, therefore it is natural that the birth of Christ be celebrated on this day.

Roman New Year

Briefly, it should be noted that the proximity of date to the new year, also encouraged a crossover of the Roman new year traditions of bringing greenery into homes, celebrating with lights, and doing various charity work.

Non-Roman Traditions

From northern Europe, traditions of yule-logs and lighting them in a fire, while singing merry songs have made a major influence on traditional Christmas celebrations, and still do, most potently in those northern European nations.

 

Conclusion: These are the things Christians did not invent, and it would be foolish for Christians (or non-Christians alike) to pretend that Christmas and all of its practices are of Christian origin.

Celebrating a late December/solstice celebration: NOT of Christian origin.

Carolling/singing merry songs door to door: NOT of Christian origin.

Making treats in the form of people (precursor to Gingerbread men): NOT of Christian origin.

Exchanging of gifts: NOT of Christian origin.

Bringing trees into the house and decorating them: NOT of Christian origin, however, no direct link to pagan practice, either.

Charity work during winter Season: NOT of Christian origin.

Yule logs, open fires, communal singing: NOT of Christian origin.

A Date of December 25 as the celebration of the birth of our Lord: NOT of Christian origin…. MAYBE…. stick around to the next in the series….

Optimistic Chad

Chad really really hopes things are going to turn out ok. He loves his wife - with the passion of 1000 exploding suns, and is a diligent, but surely mediocre father to his brilliant and subversive children. He likes Chinese food.

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No, the Bible Should Not be taught in Public Schools

There is an interesting, ahem, “conversation”  going on at Unsettled Christianity.

Last year I reported on my Old Kentucky Home and its bi-partisan push for an established state Church. As a faithful Christian, I do really that the Christian canon is a sacred text.  There will try to be some post-modern philosophizers who will want to try to blur the line between the sacred and the secular, but I see that in Scripture, there is a clear difference between the sacred and the profane.

Above all, humanity has the freedom of conscience, the freedom to recognize or not recognize a relationship with God.  This very right is grounded in the notion of the imago Dei for Christians, so when I hear politicians misquoting bible passages to push their agenda, I get suspicious.

In addition, I find the arguments that the Bible can be taught as some “neutral” history text or piece of literature to be nothing but baloney.  Especially when it comes to the SBL’s Bible Literacy Project, which sounds more like a plan to keep the biblical text in the hands of a few elites, mainly scholars and public school teachers. No, the Bible should not be taught as an elective anymore than the Psalms are “poetry”; far from it, the Psalms are not history or poetry, but a pro-YHWH, pro-Monarchy theology meant for worship.  Any analysis that falls short of this in the name of making a “neutral” curriculum is just kidding themselves.

A while back I quoted Sugi on the need of Christians to STOP using the Bible as exclusively a “literary” text since that is a false myth. Suffice to say, I must quote him once more.

“Is a literary approach really an important hermeneutical device or has it become a counterpart of the heritage industry,  an escapist activity which replaces an historical and praxilogical engagement with nostalgia? It may serve as a stimulus not for critical engagement but for luring readers into dreaming for a long lost imaginary idyllic past.”

This “long lost idyllic past” is the drug that keeps the advocates for teaching the Bible in public schools going.

Public official, politicians, and the like do not need to be using scripture to justify their political goals, taking God’s name in vain. Rather, the government, and the powers that be, need to be told that they are NOT God, and it is the mission of the church to remind them of that. Indeed, that is was the vocation of the prophets of Israel, to remind the monarchs of the law, as a reminder that YHWH is the final lawgiver and ruler of all.

If you want children to learn about the Bible, show them to a church with a children’s ministry, full with Sunday Schools and everything.

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h00die_R (Rod)

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