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More Media Bias: The 3 Iowa-Based Religious Scholars, and Marriage

This one (at the time of my writing) is a few months old, but it’s still be circulated around the webisphere, eg recently on the Marriage Conservation facebook page. It’s an article titled “Biblical Marriage Not Defined Simply As One Man, One Woman: Iowa Religious Scholars’ Op-Ed” on the Puffington Host website.

The title kinda has a valid point, although in isolation it’s an oversimplification. However, it’s not the title that I find most misleading.

Lets start with the title first though. The article is reflective of the title, and of course the title is valid to a point. It’s true for example that there are polygamous marriages depicted in the Old Testament, and sometimes the husband of many wives, EG King David, is depicted as a hero and is not condemned for his polygamy. But the Bible covers an evolution over epochs, from the creation of Adam & Eve, to life as a Jew before Jesus, through to the New Covenant under Jesus, through to the end of the world. And policies under Old Testament Judaism, in the earlier sections of the Bible, do not always apply under Jesus, as covered in the later sections of the Bible. EG Jesus overruled the Old Testament dietary laws. Likewise, the New Testament very much advances a model of monogamous marriage, in contrast to what is depicted in the Old Testament. So while it’s true that in the Bible, you can find marriage defined as not being between one man and one woman, ultimately, the Bible does promote the monogamous model as being the current model.

But anyway, moving on … The aspect of the article that is particularly shocking for those who are Biblically literate, is the question of whether same-sex marriage is compliant with the Bible.

Here are some of the sections of the article that I found most alarming –

“The debate about marriage equality often centers, however discretely, on an appeal to the Bible,” the authors wrote. “Unfortunately, such appeals often reflect a lack of biblical literacy on the part of those who use that complex collection of texts as an authority to enact modern social policy.” …

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Iowa University Professor Robert R. Cargill … explained that it is obvious to scholars (and some religious leaders) that the Bible endorses a wide range of relationships. But he noted, however, that professors are “terrified” of the potential backlash that might result from opening a dialogue about these relationships. …

Ultimately, said Cargill, a Biblical “argument against same-sex marriage is wholly unsustainable. We all know this, but very few scholars are talking about it, because they don’t want to take the heat.”

He suggested that academics who continue to be cowed by a strident opposition do a disservice to their communities.

“Most people aren’t dumb, they want to make an informed decision” on religiously charged questions, Cargill said. “If scholars aren’t talking to them, they have to rely on talk show hosts and pundits, and that’s not the most reliable source of information.”

… Cargill said Bachman and her like-minded colleagues use a strategy he calls “cherry picking” to appeal to their base.

“Politicians who use the Bible aren’t necessarily interested in the truth or the complexity of the Bible,” he said. “They are looking for one ancient sound bite to convince people what they already believe.”

So what picture do you gain from these statements? It seems to me that the article advances the idea that:

  • The Bible does not oppose same-sex marriage at all
  • That those who claim otherwise are not Biblically literate, are not interested in truth, and are just cherry picking the Bible to affirm their own opinions
  • That Bible scholars know that the Bible does not oppose same-sex marriage, but dont talk about it, because they are afraid of a backlash

The nature of articles on Huffington Post may mean that their readership tends to believe all the above even before this article was published. But for those who realise that there are very many people who are well educated about the Bible who take it at face value when it depicts homosexual relations as sinful, these claims are shocking. I began to wonder how a university teacher could paint such a crazy picture, without concern that it could be damaging to their professional reputation of supposedly being scholarly and balanced.

So I decided to find out more, to check whether there is substantiation for these claims. The Huffington article referred to an earlier article as their basis for this article, but unfortunately the link to it did not work. So I googled. And I found a blog written by the central interviewee of the article. On his blog, he refers to the earlier article and he makes statements such as;

“The article does NOT say that the Bible does NOT condemn homosexuality. It clearly does.”

Right. So did Dr Carhill change his mind since Huffington interviewed him? I doubt it. He is an assistant professor in religion, so he likely knows his subject and I doubt he would change his mind on the subject to that degree on a topic for which he has agreed to be interviewed. And he seems to portray himself as not having changed his mind. So Huffington Post, thanks for another one of your clear and balanced articles. Thanks a lot.

One Comment on “More Media Bias: The 3 Iowa-Based Religious Scholars, and Marriage”

  1. john7 says:

    Judaism rejects the New Testament as a whole, so monogamy wasn’t necessarily required by Jews; it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that polygamy was officially banned, yet certain Jewish communities continue to practice it.

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