12 December 2015

The Misuse of 1 Corinthians 7 by Anti-Gay Christian Apologists

1ColoClerkIn an obvious attempt to discourage same-sex couples from applying for marriage licenses, Dallas Shroeder, a county clerk in Colorado, prominently displayed a poster quoting 1 Corinthians 7:2b: "... each man should have his own wife and each woman should have her own husband."

At least he did until the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained and forced him to stop.

Although the poster has been taken down, Christian apologists often to use 1 Corinthians 7 to oppose same-sex marriage. And yet this chapter is not against same-sex marriage; it is against marriage itself.

Paul begins the chapter by saying in verse 1 that "it is good for man not to touch a woman." Marriage, in Paul's view, is only for weaklings, those who cannot resist the temptation to fornicate. This is evident in the next verse, which says:

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (v.2)
By quoting only the second half of verse 2, Christian apologists make it appear that Paul approved of "traditional marriage," when, in fact, he considered it to be, at best, a necessary evil.

Later in the same chapter, Paul repeatedly discouraged Christians from marrying, saying:

I would that all men were even as I myself. ... I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. (vv. 7-9)
Only those who "cannot contain" should marry. Because it's "better to marry than to burn."

Paul summarized his view on marriage this way: If you're not married, don't get married. If you are married, don't have sex. (There's no time for it since "the time is short," i.e., Jesus is coming.)

Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. ... the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none (vv. 27-29)
Thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Mr. Shroeder is no longer trying to influence couples seeking marriage licenses. But if he were to do so based on 1 Corinthians 7, his sign should say: "Don't marry unless you can't control yourself; if you do marry, don't have sex."

Or something like that.


Yark Hutprancer said...

Thank you for this great article!

jfd said...

The general scholarly consensus is that Paul was exhorting the early Christian community to celibacy because they believed the return of Christ was imminent. I think this historic context is also important when reading this passage.