FAMILY VALUES?

In a speech in 1992, the then vice president of the USA, Dan Qauyle, blamed the Los Angeles riots on the breakdown of family values in America. (Actually, the riots were triggered by police brutality.) He cited, as an example, the objectionable (to him) popularity of the sitcom "Murphy Brown" on television, in which the main character was a single mother. The evangelical fanatics immediately followed suit, and "biblical family values" became one of their favorite slogans. 
 

This was typical of these Bible-thumpers. Their agenda is mainly fundamentalist religion and opposition to the separation of church and state. What they mean by "family values" is mainly puritanical sexual mores, anti-feminism, anti-homosexuals, and antagonism to contraception, abortion, or any other kind of family planning. A good example is the American Family Association, previously known as the National Federation for Decency. This institution owns 180 radio stations, and operates by organizing boycotts against anything they decide is "indecency" or "obscenity." (Their crusade for "decency" also includes lobbying for the deregulation of the oil industry, and against the Employee Free Choice Act, intended to protect the right to belong to a union.) But the main purpose of the organization, in its own words, is "promoting the biblical ethic of decency." 

As usual, it transpires that the Bible-thumpers are not familiar with the whole Bible, but only with those parts that are congenial to their doctrine. In fact, the "family values" they advocate do not appear anywhere in the Bible. The following is an itemization of the kind of family life actually portrayed in the Bible. 

For a start, polygamy is treated in the Bible as the norm. The patriarchs, who had an intimate relationship with God Himself -- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses -- each had several wives and concubines. Also: 

               Judges 8:30 And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten; for 
               he had many wives.
AND 
               2 Samuel 5:13 And David took him more concubines and wives out of 
               Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and 
               daughters born to David.
AND 
               1 Kings 11:1 But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the   
               daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites,  
               Zidonians, and Hittites;... 3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and   
               three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
AND 
               2 Chronicles 11:21 And Rehoboam loved Maachah the daughter of Absalom   
               above all his wives and his concubines: (for he took eighteen wives, and   
               threescore concubines; and begat twenty and eight sons, and threescore  
               daughters.) 

On the other hand, there is not a single word in the Bible about abortion, neither for nor against. Nevertheless, there are several passages which show that the present-day fundamentalist dogma is contradicted by the Bible. For example: 

               Exodus 21:22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart
               from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as 
               the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges 
               determine. 23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, 24
               Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. 

To anyone who is willing to read what the text itself says, rather than to parrot sophisms and "interpretations" which reverse the actual meaning for the convenience of the fanatics, this text shows that a fetus was not considered by the author to be a "life." If the pregnant woman was injured, the man who caused the injury must atone with a similar injury to himself: eye for eye, etc. If the pregnant woman lost her life, he must atone for her loss of life by losing his own life. But if the woman was not injured, if the injury was merely to the fetus, he need only pay damages -- because the fetus is not a "life" in the same sense that the pregnant woman is a "life." 

For the author, breath is life. For example: 

               Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and 
               breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 

In Hebrew, the words for "breath" and "soul" have the same root, so that the expression "the breath of life" has a deep poetic meaning. Needless to add, a baby only takes its first breath when it is born. A fetus does not breathe, and thus it does not have the breath of life, and thus by this criterion an abortion is not a murder. 

For the author, blood is life. For example: 

               Deuteronomy 12:23 Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is 
               life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. 

Needless to add, a fetus does not have any blood of its own for the first several weeks, and thus by this criterion an early abortion is not a murder. 

Three times I have written "the author" purposely, because the same fundamentalists who battle so courageously against abortions, believe that the Bible is the word of God. If so, God also wrote the three passages quoted above. If so, these three examples demonstrate that God does not share the human fundamentalists' obsessive objection to abortions. 

In the Bible, women are often not spoken of as people, but more as genitals and reproductive organs conveniently provided with arms and legs so that they may serve men. After the victory of the Israelites over Midian, God instructs Moses:

               Numbers 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill 
               every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 18 But all the women  
               children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for 
               yourselves. 

Women were thought to be subject to men, by definition. 

               Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy 
               conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to 
               thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
AND 
               1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection... 13 But I 
               suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in 
               silence. 

In the Bible narrative, it was perfectly natural for a wife to avail herself of the genitals and reproductive organs of her servant girl in order to implement a grotesque superstition -- without giving a thought to the feelings of the servant girl herself. 

               Genesis 30:3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she 
               shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. 

Moses received a particularly vicious law about childless widows, again without giving a thought to the feelings of the widows themselves. 

               Deuteronomy 25:5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have   
               no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her 
               husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and  
               perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. 

Apparently, the taboo against incest did not exactly apply to Abraham. 

               Genesis 20:12 And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, 
               but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 

The relationship between parents and children shown in the Bible is particularly abhorrent and barbarous. It is hard to believe that any present-day evangelist would be willing to emulate the following Biblical examples. It is true that the fifth commandment enjoins us to "honor thy father and thy mother," but the Bible goes much further: 

               Exodus 21:15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put
               to death....
AND 
               Exodus 21:17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put
               to death.
AND 
               Deuteronomy 21:20 And they shall say unto the elders of the city, This our son
               is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a 
               drunkard. 21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he  
               die: so shalt thou put evil away form among you; and all Israel shall hear, and 
               fear. 

The Biblical narrative relates what parents may do to their offspring: 
 

               Exodus 21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant,...
AND 
               Genesis 22:10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay 
               his son.
AND 
               Judges 11:30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt 
               without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 31 Then it shall  
               be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when 
               I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and  
               I will offer it up for a burnt offering... 34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto 
               his house, and behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and 
               with dances:... 39 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she
               returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had 
               vowed:...
AND 
               Genesis 19:6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after 
               him, 7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have 
               two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out 
               unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do 
               nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.
AND 
               Judges 19:24 Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them 
               I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth 
               good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. 

The Biblical narrative also relates what offspring may do to their parents: 

               Ge
nesis 37:31 And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and 
               dipped the coat in the blood; 32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and 
               they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now 
               whether it be thy son's coat or no.
AND 
               Genesis 19:33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the 
               firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay 
               down, nor when she arose... 35 And they made their father drink wine that 
               night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not 
               when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36 Thus were both the daughters of 
               Lot with child by their father.

If Dan Quayle considered an innocuous sitcom like "Murphy Brown" to be ungodly obscenity, what could he have thought of the above excerpts (if he had read them)?