Ken Ham, right-wing ultra Fundamentalist from Answers in Genesis, thinks that atheists are out to destroy the foundation of marriage.
There is a humanist billboard in Moscow, Idaho, to which Ken takes objection. He says
This humanist billboard is part of a campaign to recruit people to a program to become “humanist celebrants” who are licensed to officiate weddings, specifically same-sex weddings. Now what these humanists are really trying to do is to remove God from the institution of marriage. (http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2013/12/04/an-unholy-matrimony/)
Ham’s points are as follows: He thinks that
(1). Marriage was given to us by God.
(2). The first marriage was between Adam and Eve.
(3). This was about 6000 years ago.
(4). Marriage is only between a man and a woman.
(5). The origin of marriage is found in Genesis.
(6). The bible is God breathed, infallible and inerrant.
(7). That without the bible, there is no foundation for fidelity and commitment between couples.
(8). To allow same-sex “marriages” is to remove the foundation for marriage.
(9). To adopt same-sex “marriage” is to reject the authority of scripture.
(10). If the authority of the bible is rejected and its literal interpretation, there is no absolute authority to decide right or wrong.
(1) Marriage was not given to us by God
Homo sapiens have been on the earth for over 100,000 years and probably around 200-280 thousand years. This is well before any bible, and marriages have taken place long before 6000 years ago.
There have been many types of marriage in the history of humanity: monogamy as well as polygamy practiced by different communities. Most times polygamous marriages have involved plurality of wives within a patriarchal context. But sometimes, there have been polygamous marriages which involved plurality of husbands within a matriarchal context.
Marriages, both polygamous and monogamous have occurred in cultures outside those cultures where the Abrahamic religions dominated the said cultures.
Marriage is a human institution whether communities believed in one God or in many gods, and would be so even if most people were atheists. I think marriage would still take place even if most people in a community were either agnostics or atheists.
(2). Christian marriage is given in the biblical witness to Jesus Christ
It does not require an infallible or inerrant bible to maintain Christian marriage. If you, like Ham, maintain the inerrancy of the bible as foundational for marriage, then there is a problem. Much of the OT records the existence of polygamous marriages without saying that these were sinful, yet Fundamentalists would say that polygamy is sinful. It violates God’s law, yet these occurred during the time of the law as well as prior to the law.
It is Jesus who supports monogamous marriage, based on the J account of creation in Gen.2:4b-25. This account was probably put into writing in the 9th. century BCE. This occurred even when polygamy was still occurring and continued to occur.
Ham, and his supporters, have to say that it is the NT which gives us the Christian view of marriage based on God’s original intention in Genesis 2 and confirmed by Jesus. Ham holds that Adam and Eve were two literal, historical persons. So Ham would have to say that the NT has priority over the OT and here I would agree with him, but I do not think that Adam and Eve were historical persons.
In the P account of creation in Gen.1:2:4a the Hebrew word for Adam can mean a historical person or it can mean humankind. God is said to have made them Adam, both male and female.
These two accounts of creation are Israel’s origin stories and are not meant to be interpreted literally. They represent in the form of ‘myth’ Israel’s view of creation and, in Genesis 2, we have Israel’s view of marriage given by the J account. Yet in the book of Genesis both P and J know of polygamous marriage and there is never any condemnation of faithful, covenantal polygamous marriage.
Christian marriage is between one man and one woman as given by Jesus. The OT and the NT (outside of the Gospels) consider same-sex sexual relationships as sinful, though Jesus, himself, says nothing about this issue. His view would not necessarily exclude faithful, covenantal relationships between same-sex persons as outside the bounds of Christian marriage, though traditionally Christian communions have considered homosexual sexual relationships as sinful.
Of course, Ham, and his supporters,would argue that Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill (Mat:5:17) so Jesus would have taken the view that homosexual practice was sinful and an abomination to God. Does this mean we need to the apply OT to today to homosexuals but not in regard to polygamous marriage. This seems, to me, to be contradictory.
Jesus said the love fulfills the law. It is compassion that fills the law to the full.
But if love (compassion) is the fulfillment of the law, does this deny same-sex people their human rights to be treated equally and with dignity and respect?
If you believe that Christian marriage is a monogamous relationship only between a male and a female, does this mean that the state must only legislate for this form of marriage. If Christians believe that only monogamous, covenantal ,heterosexual relationships form a Christian marriage, why should they seek to prevent the State from introducing same-sex marriage for devoted same-sex couples?
After all, it is not the business of the church to impose its views on the broader society. Christianity is to be voluntarily chosen and so is its view of marriage. We have no right to impose our views on others. Jesus came in the form of a suffering servant to bring the good news of shalom which involved a voluntary change of mind and heart by those who chose to follow him.
(3). Is it true that without the bible there is no foundation for fidelity and commitment between couples?
I think Ham is mistaken here. Many societies, without the bible, have based marriage on fidelity and commitment between couples. Most people know that we need to treat one another with dignity and respect. Most people know that marriages are only likely to survive if couples love one another. This is true both in Christian and non-Christian societies.
And, just because a society is dominated by Christianity, it does not follow that marriage (as an institution) will necessarily fare any better than in non-Christian societies.
(4). Are atheists out to destroy the foundation of marriage?
If 95% of the population is heterosexual and about 3%-5% either homosexual or bi-sexual, why would atheists be out to destroy marriage? Most of them seem to get married and most of them enjoy it. Divorce rates are just as common among church people as among the rest of the population.
Sure, atheists do not believe in the existence of any god, including the ‘god of Ken Ham’. So atheists do not believe that the bible is the foundation of marriage. But this doesn’t mean that they are out to destroy the foundation of marriage as Ham asserts, but only a foundation based on the bible or any other Holy Writings purportedly given by God. But the biblical witness to Jesus is only the basis for Christian marriage, not all marriage. So the atheist may have a foundation for marriage but it is NOT Ham’s foundation.
To become a marriage celebrant and perform same-sex marriages (where the law allows this) does not prevent the celebrant from performing heterosexual marriages, and it certainly does not prevent any atheist celebrant from promoting marriage.