When Marriage is God

I know most people think I’m exaggerating when I say that marriage is Christendom’s idol. However, as pointed out in the review to Gary Chapman’s book “Desperate Marriages” I linked to the other day, it is painfully obvious that I am not.

Anyone who thinks that saving a marriage is more important than the fact that a man raped his own daughters (or anyone for that matter) worships marriage and hates God. Anyone who thinks that the marriage is more important than a woman’s physical and emotional safety worships marriage and hates God. Anyone who claims that the marriage is more important than the faithful spouse’s pain in the light of adultery worships marriage and hates God.

Yep, you can blame the PTSD if you want, but I’m calling Chapman, and the 100s of people who gave his book glowing reviews God haters.

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’

Throughout the Bible, God repeats this. Mercy, not sacrifice. Love, not law-keeping.

It’s the theme in both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees.

In his book The Blue Parakeet, Scott McNight points out a truth that is denied by every conservative I’ve ever known. Namely, we pick and choose which verses in the Bible we are going to believe and obey. And when we do, we keep them legalistically to the point of harm and cruelty.

Christians believe in a legalistic view of the verses on marriage and divorce. That is why they do not see anything wrong with Chapman telling a wife, incredibly unsympathetically btw, that she needs to remain married to her husband who raped her daughters.

It’s why, without any hint of compassion, James Dobson can advise a woman to remain married to a man who has beaten her so badly her teeth were shaken loose.

It’s why Paige Patterson can gloat about how he essentially laughed in the black and blue face of a beaten wife supposedly glorying in the “fact” that because her husband beat her black and blue, now he is guaranteed a spot in heaven.

That is why the majority of people at church to whom I speak about these things have nothing but excuses for those who say them.

The church loves marriage, and hates God.

You can’t have two Gods. Scripture is pretty clear about that. And if you have placed such an import on marriage that it trumps love and kindness and compassion, you are worshiping marriage, and you hate God.

For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Every time Christ uses a phrase along these lines, “righteous” is equal to Pharisees. It is not equal to honest, God-fearing believers. “Righteous” in this context is always hypocrites, always the Pharisees, always the ones who enslaved the people to their legalistic interpretation of Scripture.

He is not saying in this verse that the person who is the victim of rape needs to be pushed aside for the sake of saving the rapist (you think I’m exaggerating again, I can tell, but I grew up reading Guideposts, I saw the stories where women who were raped were compelled to visit their rapists so the man might be saved).

He is not saying that the woman who is beaten by her husband must endure because the salvation of her husband is essential to her being beaten.

He is saying that legalists have their own righteousness and that is enough for them.

It is a cold and terrifying saying echoed in his teaching about the separation of the sheep and the goats at the judgement.

These modern-day Pharisees have their own righteousness and have no room for Christ’s. This is obvious by their lack of compassion on the least of these.

If marriage is your God, if you think Chapman and Dobson and Piper and Patterson are right, then you have your own righteousness, you have no need for Christ.

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’


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