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Sunday, May 8, 2016

"God has one perfect guy for you!" Yeah, that's not biblical.

Solomon and a few of his wives. Image source.
Jacob loved Rachel. And finally, all their dreams came true and they were married.

But Rachel missed her own wedding night. Her father swapped her with her sister Leah- essentially tricking Jacob into marrying both Rachel and Leah. And from then on, the sisters competed for Jacob's love, competed by bearing children.

So I want to ask all the Christians who promoted purity culture and said that God was creating one special guy for me- what about Rachel? Where was her happily-ever-after with her perfect guy?

What about Leah? Forced into a marriage with a man who didn't love her. How? She had "kept herself pure", hadn't she- where is her "one perfect guy" that God supposedly promises? (To be clear- all the language I have here about "God promising one perfect guy" comes directly from purity rhetoric. These are NOT quotes from the bible.)

And then Rachel's servant girl, Bilhah. Rachel told Jacob to sleep with her too, so that Bilhah would have children because Rachel couldn't. Where was Bilhah's "one perfect guy, hand-crafted by God"?

Same deal with Zilpah, Leah's servant. Jacob ended up with 4 wives: Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah, none of which lived that perfect happily-ever-after with their special man- the perfect marriage that purity culture promises God has planned for all of us girls.

And remember Abigail? Her husband, Nabal, was a huge jerk, but Abigail went against Nabal and helped David. Later, Nabal died, and David asked Abigail to marry him. Aww how nice. And the sermons are preached about what a good godly person Abigail was. But, if that's true, then how did she end up with a jerk like Nabal? And why, in the "happy ending" to her story, did she end up married to a guy who had already married two other women- one of which he was still married to at the time? How can purity culture explain this story?

And speaking of the other women that David married- his first wife was Michal, daughter of Saul. We don't really have much evidence about whether she worked hard to be good and pure and follow the rules- but nope, she definitely didn't have that perfect marriage that's promised to all the good and pure girls. When things went bad between David and Saul, Saul "gave" Michal to another guy, Paltiel. Later, David had her taken from Paltiel by force- for very political reasons, as a symbol in the struggle between the house of David and the house of Saul.

How about Esther? We learned in Sunday School about how Esther was such a good role model in the bible. So brave, standing up for her people. Yeah, and she was forced to be part of the king's harem. Sure, she was the queen, but what did that really mean? She was just one of the many women that the king had sex with, and she didn't even have the right to go and talk to him unless he summoned her first. What kind of marriage was that? But, as far as we know, Esther was a good and pure girl. Seems that, if God promises a perfect husband to girls who follow the purity rules, God's not holding up his end of the deal.

Do you know what happened to Jepthah's daughter? Her father promised God that he would sacrifice whatever came out the door of his house- and it turned out to be his daughter. So he did. The bible says she was a virgin. Doesn't purity culture teach that good virgin girls will be rewarded with a wonderful godly marriage?

What about Tamar, David's daughter? She was raped by her brother, and David did nothing. Poor Tamar. Whatever happened to the happily-ever-after for girls who follow the purity rules?

And Dinah, Jacob's daughter? Also raped. As far as we know, she was a good pure girl, though. What gives, purity culture?

[Note: I'm trying to use the logic of purity culture here and show how the bible directly contradicts it, but wow... I'm really uncomfortable with the way this is framed- as if rape is a reasonable and expected consequence for girls who fail to keep all the purity rules. Wow, that's disgusting.]

And the other Tamar, Judah's daughter-in-law? She was in an arranged marriage to Judah's son Er- but Er was apparently wicked, so God killed him. Then she married Judah's second son, Onan- wow what bad luck, he was also wicked and God killed him. She then had the right to marry Judah's third son, but Judah seemed to conveniently forget about her- so Tamar pretended to be a prostitute, and had sex with Judah, and had babies. Before all this, she had been a good and pure girl, right? How did this happen? How did she end up in 2 marriages to awful guys?

And I could keep going, listing example after example of biblical women who, as far as we know, never did anything bad/impure and yet the bible tells us they didn't have wonderful, perfect, godly, one-man-one-woman, lifelong marriages. Bathsheba. David's concubines who were raped by Absalom. Samson's wife. Esau's wives. Hannah and Hannah's, umm, wife-in-law. Solomon's 700 wives and 300 concubines. Hagar. Captive women taken in war. Foreign women sent away in a mass divorce.

And you could argue that, oh, they weren't actually role models of purity, they must have done something impure and that's why this happened. Okay, then- where are the pure women in the bible, who did get the perfect marriage they deserved? I challenge you to name a single one- name one woman in the bible who was not raped, was only ever married to one man, and that man never cheated on her or did anything else incredibly shady to her. Are there any? Maybe Priscilla and Aquila? Adam and Eve? Noah and his anonymous wife? [Really, though, we don't have enough details to say if these women were in good and healthy marriages.] Any others? Are there ANY women in the bible who followed the purity rules and had good marriages? [And yes, I'm aware that it makes no sense to even ask this question- while it's true that many cultures have treated women as objects whose value is based on their virginity, the specific "purity rules" I learned are very much a modern American invention. But purity culture proponents claim "this is what the bible says" so I'm just going along with that.]

And even if you find some "impure" thing that each these women from the bible supposedly did, thereby losing their chance to have a perfect Christian marriage [which is super-victim-blamey anyway and I'm not okay with that], you're still admitting that the proportion of women who end up with that perfect marriage is incredibly low. Then why are you telling the girls in Sunday School that this is God's plan for all of them? If this is "God's plan", then please explain why so few women in the bible actually had things turn out that way.

Seems to me like, during the time when the bible was written, women were treated like property and had no choice in who they married. It was seen as a sign of success for a man to have many wives. OF COURSE in that kind of society, you're not going to see many examples of women who have good marriages by today's standards.

So the next time someone tells you that "the bible says" you have to be pure, not have sex, not date without God's permission, and then it will all be worth it because God will bring a wonderful man into your life, and married sex will be the BEST THING EVER and you will live happily ever after, go ahead and laugh at them, because that's complete bullshit. The bible says no such thing. Instead, the bible shows us a culture where it was unheard-of that a woman would have a choice about marriage, where nobody cared about consent, where women were treated like property and the man who had the most wives was the winner.

The bible does NOT say that pure girls get a good marriage as a reward. Nope. Not even close.

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