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18.11.03

God Says You Don't Need Kids To Have A Family

The most popular argument against gay marriage at the moment is that marriage exists for the purpose of raising children, and a homosexual couple is incapable of producing children the usual way. The Massachusetts Supreme Court dealt with this objection from a legal standpoint. I'd like to take a stab at it from a Biblical standpoint.

To start off, let's clarify the basic framework of the question. Marriage is an institution that formalizes the union of two people into a single social unit, a family. The question is whether that family exists for the purpose of adding a third member. Our text is the Bible's description of the creation of the first family, commonly used to prove that God didn't intend for there to be gay marriage:

Genesis 2: 20-25, NIV

20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,

"This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called 'woman,'
for she was taken out of man."

24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.


The description of marriage is consistent with my statement about forming a new social unit -- the man and his wife become "one flesh," one thing, a family. Note the rationale given for the union: Adam needed a helper, and none of the animals would cut it. It had to be a helper of his own kind. The purpose of marriage, then, would seem to be the support that the spouses offer each other.

There's no mention of children here. The first child (as well as the first explicitly mentioned sex) doesn't show up until chapter 4. The bit I quoted ends with the observation that Adam and Eve were naked but felt no shame. This seems to imply that they were as yet asexual. They discovered their nakedness, and became ashamed of it, only after they ate the forbidden fruit. It seems reasonable to conclude that the reason they became ashamed was that part of the knowledge that the fruit gave them was knowledge of sex. Thus, not only was the first message originally childless, it was originally sexless.

There's clearly heterosexism in this passage that isn't easy to explain away. But what's not in it is the idea that marriage is about children.

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