Boggart Blog A critical look at the evolution and development of western Christian marriage rite highlighting the way middle eastern male supremacist customs were superimposed on the more pragmatic and egalitarian pagan customs. Some shocking stuff here, did you know for example that in English law until 1870 a man was allowed to beat his wife "providing the stick was no thicker than his thumb. And they call it Holy Matrimony.


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Marriage Of Unequals

Ian ThorpeUpdated 2009-04-23 - 16:56:49

The Gay Marriage is getting people worked up again. The Church of England, which seldom seems to have any views about anything is in a homophobic lather about gay couples getting hitched. Over the Atlantic and far away in sunny California a Beauty Queen has got the gay community in a collective hissy fit because she said the idea of two people of the same gender getting formally married did not impress her.

When people of the same gender want to get married always causes a lot of bad feeling all around the English - speaking world world (except for Jamaica where there are no gay people apparently) In Britain we have seen born again Christians occupying churches and disrupting the proceedings, in Australia all marriages between same gender couples have been declared void and in the U.S.A. the problem is considered so great that it was an election issue in sme states. In most of the non - English speaking world either there are officially no gays, homosexuality is prohibited by law or if a guy wants to get jiggy with other guys he oon learns to keep quiet about it. In most of Europe homosexuality is tolerated but I know of nowhere that does not use English as a first language where gay rights are a political battleground. But why do people get so emotional over gay marriage; is it simply a case of self righteous eagerness to misquote the Bible without having read it properly or is there some deeper negative there? After all the whole basis of the Christian faith is tolerance and forgiveness.

The traditional view of marriage supported by most religionists is that it is a legal union of one man and one woman sanctified by God. That is fine with me so long as it suits both the individuals involved. It gets sticky however when certain groups start citing ancient scriptures in support of attempts to impose their moral prejudices on the rest of the community.

Traditional one man - one woman marriages have little to do with God at least not in the Abrahamic religions. Too often the interpretations placed upon the Greek and Aramaic scriptures that form most of the Biblical tradition are subjective in the extreme. The model for marriage in western European civilisation with all the rights and responsibilities that go with the legal status never had any currency in the Middle East. Marriage as English speakers know it seems to have originated in northern Europe in neolithic times. The pairing of a man and a woman established a family unit that could provide stability and security within the extended family group. Extended families formed into communities within which the old, disabled, orphaned children, widows and the sick were cared for by the group.

The writer Jean M. Auel in her excellent fiction series Earth's Children provides some well researched speculation on the nature of ancient communities from which our civilisation grew. There are no stone age communities surviving in Europe of course, but we can learn a lot from the cultures of Native Americans, the nomadic peoples of central Asia and primitive Indonesian and Amazonian tribes. Attitudes to fidelity vary from group to group but the principle of pairing is almost universal and aims to formalise responsibilities within a social structure. Without pressure from the group young men would run around spawning sprogs wherever they could and taking no responsibility whatsoever, much as a lot of young men in our inner city communities do today.

This pairing system worked so well that in the Celtic and Saxon eras it was extended to confer hereditary rights to property and status. This did not necessarily follow paternity, many cultures chose to confer on the female line the right of inheritance. Of course in pagan Europe women were honoured and respected as one would expect in a societies based on Goddess worship. The objectification of women as mere possessions to be used and traded is an exclusive promotion of the Abrahamic cultures and of the eastern world.

Abrahamic religions and many other eastern cults and sects are based on fear and loathing of female sexuality. Thus were bad news for women because marriage under the old eastern religion of Baal (actually a copy of Hinduism) women had the right to own property, do business and marry whom they chose. Suddenly though, it seems to have happened around 600BC women were vilified for their nature, denounced as being defiled and in a state of sin due to the natural functioning of their bodies. Not only that, they were not allowed any control over their own lives and were reduced to being the property of a man. Christian, Muslim or Jewish marriage was a bum deal for the girls until the influence of North European paganism crept in.

The problem with fundamentalists of any persuasion is they tend to insist on a literal reading of texts that were never meant to be read literally. This applies to fundamentalist atheists as well as religious fundamentalists. One atheist writer gets very worked p about the phrase "ascending to the light" used by some cults to describe the process of "getting religion." In fact both are wrong, the phrase originates in The Book Of Enoch, probably the most important book in The Old Testasment from the perspective of understanding The New Testament. So why does Enoch not appear in the O.T. Probably because it reveals more than the powers that be wish you to know.

This article is not about Enoch, that will have to wait for another day.

If we take a look at what the Bible actually says about marriage "the sacred union of one man and one woman in the eyes of God" It is not unfair to restrict this analysis to the Bible though, because the problems surrounding gay marriage only seem to exist in places where Christianity is the main religion the old Testament does not actually back that up but take a more typical Middle Eastern approach, approving of polygamy and polyamory. (Let's be honest here, The Koran does not bother with the eyewash, it sets out its position clearly, virtually saying "OK boys, you can have as many women as you can afford and you can do as you like with them.) Are you ready for the Biblical marriage model? If you are a Bible literalist it would perhaps be best if you sit down now, you might soon start to feel faint.

A marriage, according to the Bible, may be between one man and several women. Genesis 29, v 17 - 28: 2 Samuel 3, v 2 - 5 (that David was a really busy boy)

Nor does the Biblical view of marriage impede us boys having a bit on the side. 2 Samuel 5, v 13 (David again - didn't I see this guy on the Jerry Springer show once?): 1 Kings 11 v 3: 2 Chronicles 11 v 18 - 21:

So guys are at liberty to put ourselves about a bit, none of us will have any complaints there but what about the girls. Well ladies, even if you behave yourselves you are not in the clear (Deuteronomy 22, v 13 - 21) makes a number of points including: "A marriage will only be considered valid if the wife is a virgin, if she is not a virgin she will be executed." But surely all a girl has to do is follow that silver ring thing stuff and she will be an honoured and respected wife. You think so? The same verses in Deuteronommy state quite clearly "if a man takes a wife and goes into her and detests her and charges her with shameful conduct and says "I took this woman and found she was not a virginů.." it then falls to the girls parents to prove she was a virgin. The legal flaw here of course is that if the man does not penetrate the woman what is in fact calling into question whether sex took place can be taken as proof of the woman's crime, ("Your honour I did not screw her because when she took off her veil I didn't fancy her and my dad told me any girl that ugly could not be a virgin,") and just cause for her to be stoned to death simply because she has small boobs or bad breath or something.

It the Old Testament era divorce was not permitted (why spend money on divorce lawyers when its so easy to have an unfaithful wife stoned to death?) but actually it is only women who could not divorce their husbands. Not only can a man divorce his wife but (Deuteronomy again, 24 v 1) he can even refuse to show her any humanity if her life falls apart. It seems that when a man divorces a woman because "he detests her" then to take her back is an abomination before God. Now there is a passage in Mark that contradicts this by stating that once married, people can never be divorced but the problem there is that if the Bible is to be taken literally then it must ALL be taken literally, contradictions included. The Bible itself tells us that we humans cannot understand God, and so need some preacher to say "ah but you see what God really meantů.." We do not have a clue what God really meant and I suspect he had little idea himself as he has never had to deal with the pressures of modern society.

Fortunately we do not take the advice of the Bible quite so seriously now as they did in nineteenth century Britain (and I guess it was the same around the rest of the Christian world.) Until about 1870 a British woman could not divorce her husband on any grounds, nor was she permitted to own property independently or make any decision without hubby's consent. Men could not commit adultery against their wives, the offence was against the husband of a married lover; they were permitted to beat their wives to a pulp ("so long as the stick he uses is no thicker than his thumb, the law of the day stated"), play away from home, be tightfisted with money, pick their noses, read aloud bad poetry and fart in bed and the wife had no redress; it truly was a man's world yet all such unreasonable behaviour is condoned in the Bible.

Now people might think when I am quite honest about the fact that during my thirty year marriage I have strayed from some of the vows more than once I would be glad to have my behaviour exonerated or even to find my marriage is invalid (I always knew that, I had my fingers crossed at the altar) But I do love my wife and would be most reluctant to have her stoned to death for non - virginity. So on this question as on most others I do think the ancient pagan tribes had it right. Love each other, tolerate and forgive the failings of others and once two people make a personal commitment they should work out their own rules that both can live by. Get religion out of the picture and there will be more successful relationships. No rules, no expectations except those the individuals are prepared to commit to. And because the enlightened secular humanists of prehistory were so humane and civilised towards members of their own tribe we can follow their example and have a system of marriage contract in which both partners legally accept certain responsibilities. All human beings are capable of accepting responsibility but when did you ever know God to accept responsibility for anything?

In the face of these arguments it is clear that secular marriage contracts need not be specifically heterosexual, the Christian model of heterosexual marriage looks to be totally discredited. For that reason I cannot help but wonder why so many gays want to get married in a church or elsewhere according to the Judeo-Christian tradition. All a good relationship needs is a personal commitment, mutual trust and understanding and a will to adapt to the idiosyncrasies of another person. With those qualities, enough in common to permit meaningful conversation and the grace to still like each other after a bad row, people have the basis for a long lasting relationship. Anything else is just superstitious mumbo - jumbo and commercial exploitation. But if a couple want a religious ceremony and can find a church willing to co-operate then it is nothing to do with anybody else. The legal side of it should present no obstacle; people who have shared a home and held a joint bank account can surely organise the division of property between partner and family. So the problem all seems to rest on envy in the gay community of hetrosexuals, for purely historic reasons, having the right to something that same people in same sex relationships are denied. Many straight couples now simply live together in relationships not formalised "in the eyes of God" but recognised in common law.

Perhaps the gay community need a wake up call, we used to look to them for a lead in iconoclasm, non - conformity and rebelling against the status quo, why do so many now want to pick up much of the baggage that goes with being straight? After all, if gay rights campaigns only seek to make gays more like heterosexuals then what is the point?

RELATED POSTS:
Sleeping With ConservativesCould You Hug A Tory asks a feature in The Guardian some time ago. Several typical Guardian writers describe their feelings of fear and loathing when, purely in the interests of science of course, they hugged prominent members of the Conservative Party. Me? Sex is non political. The last thing I worry about when a woman I fancy smiles at me is her politics. Pussy or Podger, Its Make Your Mind Up Time
or A Vagina Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas
Sex changes, gender reassignment, whatever you want to call it, is fine by me. But someone who has a strappadiktomy but keeps their womb so they can make babies later should they feel like it, that's just taking transexual surgery to extremes. Or wanting to have your muffin and eat it as my Grandma might have said. Medical ethics aside we wonder if Pregnant Bloke is more in need of psychological help that help with conception.

Read Beauty And The Beastly Homo

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