In these dire times, when traditional marriage is under attack by those who would try to change its meaning, we all need to do everything we can think of to save our cultural heritage. However, some people might be unaware of what constitutes traditional marriage, so let's go to Wikipedia for some background.
[Marriage] In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)
Rembrandt's depiction of Samson's marriage feast. The Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) describes a number of marriages, including those of Isaac,[Gen 24:49-67] Jacob,[Gen 29:27] and Samson.[Judg 14:7-12] Polygyny, or men having multiple wives at once, is one of the most common marital arrangements represented in the Hebrew Bible, yet scholars doubt that it was commom among average Israelites because of the wealth needed to practice it.
Betrothal (erusin), which is merely a binding promise to get married, is distinct from marriage itself (nissu'in), with the time between these events varying substantially. Since a wife was regarded as property in those days, the betrothal (erusin) was effected simply by purchasing her from her father (or guardian); the girl’s consent is not explicitly required by any biblical law. Like the adjacent Arabic culture (in the pre-Islamic period), the act of marriage appears mainly to have consisted of the groom fetching the bride, although among the Israelites (unlike the Arabs) the procession was a festive occasion, accompanied by music, dancing, and lights. To celebrate the marriage, week-long feasts were sometimes held.
In biblical times, a wife was regarded as chattel, belonging to her husband; the descriptions of the bible suggest that she would be expected to perform tasks such as spinning, sewing, weaving, manufacture of clothing, fetching of water, baking of bread, and animal husbandry. However, wives were usually looked after with care, and bigamous men were expected to ensure that they give their first wife food, clothing, and sexual activity.[Ex 21:10]
Since a wife was regarded as property, her husband was originally free to divorce her for any reason, at any time. A divorced couple were permitted to get back together, unless the wife had married someone else after her divorce.[Deut 24:2-4
Kathryn Jean Lopez, one of traditional marriage's most ardent defenders, knows all too well the threat hanging over marriage, and wants to do anything she can to help. In an interview with the director of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown, she asks about their prospective bus tour to support marriage. He says:
Gay-marriage advocates have a well-organized grassroots movement they’ve built over the years. Conservatives tend to rely on spontaneous mass uprising. I think HRC’s model is more effective — after all, it’s allowed a tiny fraction of Americans to have an outsize influence all disproportionate to their actual numbers. Social conservatives need to learn (as I think the pro-life movement has learned) that we need to organize politically to make a difference. We wanted to make sure that the majority of Americans who support marriage as the union of husband and wife are not drowned out by a loud minority, or by a biased media. Even the conservative media (with certain key exceptions — thank you, NRO!) does not cover this issue well. This bus tour is our first step in bypassing the media, becoming culture creators ourselves, and getting our message out to our supporters.
We have a helpful suggestion for Miss Lopez that might just turn the tide for supporters of marriage, for who among us cannot help but be influenced by the example set by others? Therefore we suggest that Miss Lopez auction herself off to the highest bidder on the steps of the Capital Building during the pro-marriage rally. By selling her body to any man with a few goats or sheep, she will do more to preserve the Biblical definition of marriage than any number of posts or protests.
Just as God led by example, becoming man and sacrificing himself for mankind, Kathryn Jean Lopez can lead by example, changing hearts and minds and helping women return to their former, happy state of utter dependence. Anyone can tell women to take their rightful place in society--behind a man, supporting him and caring for him and bearing his children and living through him. Lord knows Miss Lopez has been doing it for years. But marriage has been getting worse for millennia all the same. First women demanded ownership of their bodies, then the ownership of their children and monetary assets. Now they demand the ability to marry someone they love, instead of someone they are told that they are allowed to love! How can traditional marriage survive if women are not sold to the highest bidder like cattle? Sadly, it cannot.
There is one small flaw in traditional marriage, we regret to say. It is possible that under traditional marriage laws a man might buy another man for a spouse, or a woman for a woman. But that need not stop us from preserving traditional marriage--that is what traditional forms of punishment like stoning are for.
Funny thing is ... of all the religions, Hinduism is the only one that always had equality for women - witness the ancient practice of Swayamvara ... until the Islamic rulers and the British colonists showed up to ruin it.
"Gay-marriage advocates have a well-organized grassroots movement they’ve built over the years."
Interesting. I thought they had the HRC, which is lukewarm at best.
"Conservatives tend to rely on spontaneous mass uprising."
Which is, of course, why all those anti-gay marriage statements were released spontaneously yesterday by Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund, Capitol Resource Institute, American Family Association, Traditional Values Coalition, National Organization for Marriage, and the American Principles Project, to name just the few cited here. Not to mention Newt "every marriage is sacred; otherwise, I wouldn't cheat with my next wife" Gingrich and several others.
Oh Susan, you and your wacky ideas! Everyone knows KLo's FATHER has to auction her off, she can't do it herself!
Ha! Silly me.
To me the most interesting thing in the piece is the assertion that gay rights activists/people who want equal marriage are a "tiny minority." If that were true, what would be the harm in allowing them to choose to get married? Lets just imagine that instead of "gay people" you put in "population of tiny, tiny, tiny town in the middle of nowhere." If the people of that tiny town in the middle of nowhere, less than 1 percent of the country, decided to run amok and do something the rest of us disapproved of *with each other* would it really destroy the country? What's the mechanism? Contagion? But the right wing argument is that the whole idea of gay marriage is so absud it can't spread by contagion--its rejected by all right thinking people and right thinking people are a majority (that's how you know they are right) even if a silent majority.
Well, six impossible things before breakfast, I suppose.
Oh, and as for Anonymous up above, praising hinduism for Swayamvara is like praising Christianity for Chuck and Di's wedding. Choice is, and always has been, more or less absent from Hindu marriages--at least from the girl's point of view. And the consequences of divorce or widowhood are absolutely hideous to contemplate. This has nothing to do with Islam or with the British. The British, of course, famously tried to stop the upper class/brahmanic practise of Sutti in which the wife is forced to kill herself on her husband's pyre. But the abandonment of widows and the dowry deaths of brides goes on *to this day* in India.
Ouch. I meant that more tongue-in-cheek but whatever.
First off, sati was never a religion sanctioned practice. Any more than the Salem witch trials should serve as an indictment of christianity (rather than an indictment of a particular period in Christian history) - ymmv.
Secondly, one should not confuse murder (burning of brides for insufficient dowry) with a religious sanction - there is no sanction (or requirement) anywhere in Hinduism for that kind of cold blooded murder.
Thirdly, the british did squat to try and get Sati banned - the movement was spearheaded by Raja Rammohan Roy. The British tried their best to sow discord between Hindus and Muslims - who had lived in relative harmony for a thousand years - by playing up the caste divisions. Even the banning of Sati was trumpeted by the British as a way to denigrate the religion.
And unless one has traveled to India, is indian or has lived in India for quite a while, commenting on 'traditional' practices is quite risky.
India is a glorious land of contradictions. The place that sees female infanticide in some parts is also the place where entire buses are reserved for the exclusive use of women (public transportation). The country that became prominent for dowry deaths was also one of the earliest to elect a woman as a prime minister. Even to this day, the country is being effectively run by a widow of Italian birth. The current President is a so-called untouchable woman.
There is a lot to learn from India in how it actually treats women - versus some sensationalized fiction of how that country is a hellhole for any young woman.
Well, I suppose it comes down to how rich you are. As usual.
Well, I have travelled to India (though I don't think that means much) and I lived and worked in Nepal. And, fwiw, I'm an anthropologist and worked on women's issues in Nepal. So I'm as qualified as anyone to speak about Hindu approaches to women and women's liberties.
You are right that dowry murders are murders, and not sanctioned by "Hinduism" which, in any event, is a large and amorphous and historically changeable entity. But the category married woman and especially the categories barren married woman, and widow, can be extremely negative in Indian culture. There are thousands of castes, and cultures, and languages in India/Nepal and so nothing anyone says about one of them can be taken to be determinative of the others. And, in addition, the muslim,c hristian, buddhist and animist communities have over time come to be seen as/function as "castes/jats" as though they were hindu in origin. And many cultural issues and themes, such as purity and pollution, and the relationship between commensality, sexuality, death, and birth have come to be seen in similar ways among these (theoretically) different religious communities. Hinduism as a way of thinking about difference is a lot bigger and more extensive than just "people who worship hindu gods." Its an entire cultural empire of thought. Not to go all Louis Dumont about things.
But at any rate the notion of "equality" for women, when women are explicitly thought of (to the extent that this comes up) as lesser than men, ritually impure in ways that men aren't, and more or less permanently under the control of men (father, then husband, then sons) is an odd one.
"a tiny fraction of Americans... have an outsize influence all disproportionate to their actual numbers"...oh, you mean like the National Rifle Association?
"(K-Lo)selling her body to any man with a few goats or sheep..." Um, I think I'd rather have the sheep, catch my drift...
Puts me in mind of Dryden:
"In pious times, ere priestcraft did begin,
Before polygamy was made a sin;
When man on many multiplied his kind,
Ere one to one was cursedly confined;
When nature prompted, and no law denied
Promiscuous use of concubine and bride...."
"Okay, everyone who wants to marry Miss Lopez take one step forward."
Everyone takes a step backwards except for Jonah Goldberg, who is immersed in his Gameboy.
India is a glorious land of contradictions. The place that sees female infanticide in some parts is also the place where entire buses are reserved for the exclusive use of women (public transportation).
Yes, that's sure a ... glorious contradiction. "Hey, you might be killed as an infant for being a girl, but buck up! You'll get to ride in a women's only bus!
Also: not really a contradiction. My understanding is that the reason for the women-only buses and rail cars is that women are so badly harassed by men in public that this is one of the few places they can get peace. That and female infanticide come from contempt for women. You're pointing to a band-aid as some kind of advance for women's equality that somehow offsets female infanticide.
Also, Swayamvara didn't work out all that well for Sita, did it?
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