Op-ed: Moby-Dick, the Great Green Whale, and the Biblical Definition of Marriage

Many hide behind the Bible to rationalize their opposition to marriage equality, but could they make a valid academic argument against equality?

BY Dave Stalling

September 17 2012 11:10 AM ET

If I were to claim that Moby-Dick is God, many people might disagree and say I am wrong, but nobody could definitively prove otherwise.

But if I were to claim that the great white whale in Herman Melville’s classic book is depicted as being green and others disagree, they could easily prove me wrong by picking up the book and pointing out the passages in which Melville clearly describes the great white whale as being white.

If I were an influential, well-known person, the press might report on my statement like this:

“Although Dave Stalling continues to insist that the great white whale Moby-Dick is depicted as being green, several thorough readings of the book find no evidence to back his claims. To the contrary, there are numerous passages in which writer Herman Melville describes the great white whale as being white as well as great. According to Yale literary professor Elijah Ishmael, widely considered the world’s most expert scholar and authority on Melville’s work, the great white whale is indeed depicted as white. 'As ludicrous as it may be, Mr. Stalling is well within his rights to believe Moby-Dick is God,' Ishmael says. 'But to persist with his false notions that Melville depicted the great white sperm whale in his story as being green is absolutely absurd and easily refuted. Stalling should actually read the book he ignorantly professes to understand before perpetuating lies and ridiculous misinterpretations.'”

I’m sure I would be justifiably scoffed at, but at least such lies and misinterpretations would not harm others or inspire hundreds of thousands of Americans to flock to a fast-food restaurant to support the denial of equal rights to a large segment of American citizens.

Yet every day, I read reports of people such as Rick Santorum, Michele Bachman, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Robert Jeffress, Dan Cathy, Bryan Fischer, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, and hundreds of other influential people claiming that God intended marriage to between one man and one woman, that the Bible defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and that they support and defend the biblical definition of marriage. Hundreds of thousands of American share these beliefs — beliefs that often ignite ignorance, bigotry, hate, violence, and the desire to deny equal rights to many Americans.  

And when others disagree, the media reports it simply as a difference in opinion, a “cultural war,” a matter of a religious faith versus other beliefs where neither side can be definitively proved right or wrong.

But what about the facts?

Although many Americans continue to insist that the Bible depicts marriage as being between one man and one woman, several thorough readings of the book find no evidence to back these claims. To the contrary, there are numerous passages that define marriage in ways that include polygamy, incest, rape, slavery, and even calls for the stoning to death of women who fail to prove their virginity before marriage. As ludicrous as it may be, people are well within their rights to believe God opposes same-sex marriage. But to persist with false notions that the Bible depicts marriage as being between one man and one woman is absolutely absurd and easily refuted. People making such claims should actually read the book they ignorantly profess to understand before perpetuating lies and ridiculous misinterpretations.

Here are the undeniable, irrefutable, easily demonstrated facts of what the Bible says about marriage:

  • Marriage consists of one man and one or more than one woman (Gen 4:19, 4:23, 26:34, 28:9, 29:26-30, 30:26, 31:17, 32:22, 36:2, 36:10, 37:2, Ex. 21:10, Judges 8:30, 1 Sam 1:2, 25:43, 27:3, 30:5, 30:18, 2 Sam 2:2, 3:2-5, 1 Chron 3:1-3, 4:5, 8:8, 14:3, 2 Chron 11:21, 13:21, 24:3)
  • Nothing prevents a man from taking on concubines or sexual slaves in addition to the wife or wives he may already have (Gen 25:6, Judges 8:31, 2 Sam 5:13, 1 Kings 11:3, 1 Chron 3:9, 2 Chron 11:21, Dan 5:2-3)
  • A man might choose any woman he wants for his wife (Gen 6:2, Deut 21:11), provided only that she is not already another man’s wife (Lev 18:14-16, Deut. 22:30) or a relative (Lev 18:11, 20:17, Lev 20:14, Lev 18:18)
  • The concept of a woman giving her consent to being married is not in the Bible. If a woman cannot be proved to be a virgin at the time of marriage, she shall be stoned to death (Deut 22:13-21)
  • A rapist must marry his victim (Ex. 22:16, Deut. 22:28-29), unless she was already a fiancée, in which case he should be put to death if he raped her in the country, but both of them killed if he raped her in town (Deut. 22:23-27)
  • If a man dies childless, his brother must marry the widow (Gen 38:6-10, Deut 25:5-10, Mark 12:19, Luke 20:28)
  • Women must marry the man of their father’s choosing (Gen. 24:4, Josh.15:16-17, Judges 1:12-13, 12:9, 21:1, 1 Sam 17:25, 18:19, 1 Kings 2:21, 1 Chron 2:35, Jer 29:6, Dan 11:17)
  • Women are the property of their fathers until married and the property of their husbands thereafter (Ex. 20:17, 22:17, Deut. 22:24, Mat 22:25)
  • The value of a woman might be approximately seven years’ work (Gen 29:14-30)
  • Interfaith marriages are prohibited (Gen 24:3, 28:1, 28:6, Num 25:1-9, Ezra 9:12, Neh 10:30, 2 Cor 6:14)
  • Divorce is forbidden (Deut 22:19, Matt 5:32, 19:9, Mark 10:9-12, Luke 16:18, Rom 7:2, 1 Cor 7:10-11, 7:39)
  • It is better to not get married at all — although marriage is not a sin (Matt 19:10, I Cor 7:1, 7:27-28, 7:32-34, 7:38)

People who claim the biblical definition of marriage is between one man and one woman can easily and clearly be proved wrong. And yet such dangerous lies (which fuel ignorance, hate, bigotry, and violence against others) are commonly and continually passed on as faith, as simply a difference in opinion.

Why do they get away with it? Where’s the accountability? 

Tags: Religion

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