“Traditional Marriage Is Between Men”: US Bishop.

Just a snippet from Box Turtle Bulletin, reporting on the NJ senate committee hearing.  I want to find out who is this sane but anonymous “Episcopal bishop” , who has correctly and clearly defined precisely what “traditional” marriage was all about – but it will have to wait until the morning – it’s close to midnight here.

“Episcopal Bishop endorses the bill: Marriage traditionally was not between a man and a woman. Rather it was a contract between two men, a father and a groom.”

The bishop is absolutely correct. In biblical times, for many centuries after and in some societies still, women were simply regarded as the property (or at best, as the wards) of men – first the families, then their husbands.  we still these in the most conventional church weddings in Western society, where the bride is “given away” by her father (or other man) to the groom.  This idea of bride as “property” explains the importance of consummation in completing the marriage contract:  the loss of a bride’s virginity had an immediate loss in her market value, making it impossible to return her for money back.    (The UK legislation for civil unions, which in most respects come pretty close to marriage in all practical respects, do not require consummation).  Adultery and lusting after another’s wife in the commandments are coupled with sins of theft and coveting his goods – adultery was seen as a crime against another man’s property rights over his wife.  Lastly, it is one factor (the other was the connection with temple prostitution) at  the heart of the biblical and early Christian precepts against same sex intercourse.  Throughout the Mediterranean world, sex between men was regarded as normal and natural – as long as the receptive partner was not an adult man of high status. To take the “passive” role was to behave like a woman, and it was that voluntary loss of status that aroused hostility of other “real men”. In a world which values women, the argument should be irrelevant.

Some other church people also spoke in support.  It’s important that we publicize this. The more people recognize that religious opinion is divided, the more difficult it becomes to apply the religious argument to legislative decisions:

A whole host of ministers are speaking in support of marriage equality. As one asked, “why can’t I conduct the marriages that my church supports?”

Lutheran minister: This is an issue of religious liberty.

Unitarians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Friends (Quakers), and Jews also speaking in support.

Meanwhile, the Catholic bishops, who have fiercely opposed same -sex marriage here  as fiercely as elsewhere, now claim that they support civil unions, which they previously opposed.

Even leading clerics have voiced their support. “Marriage is a union of one man and one woman and has its roots in natural law,” testified Patrick Branigan, representing the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey. Branigan said the Bishops, who once opposed the state’s civil union law, now support its enforcement fully. “Instead of trying to redefine marriage, the state of New Jersey should education the public and enforce existing laws,” he said.

This pretty well mirrors the response of the Portuguese bishops early this year.  Is it yet another reason to push for votes on full marriage, everywhere?  Win or lose, the pressure seems to lead to some movement by Catholic bishops towards grudging acceptance of some form of legal partnership recognition.

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3 Responses to ““Traditional Marriage Is Between Men”: US Bishop.”

  1. Jayden Cameron Says:

    Wonderful! Made me laugh out loud. The woman was mere chattel.

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      Good morning Jayden. I’m still struggling to identify this wise man. Has anybody out there spotted the source?

  2. William Lindsey Says:

    Thanks for highlighting this quote, Terry–which I hadn’t seen elsewhere. What a thought-provoking (and right on target) assessment of what marriage has always meant in patriarchal cultures.


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