Friday, 8 November 2013

The Top Ten Worst Bible Readings To Have At A Wedding - Part III

Greetings good friends, and welcome back to our glacially slow plod through what should really be called the Bottom Ten Bible Readings To Have At A Wedding. If you missed Parts One and Two, then you may perhaps be wondering why we need a Top Ten Worst Bible Readings To Have At A Wedding list at all, and you will almost certainly be wondering why this post is punctuated with pictures from 80s weddings. If these questions are bothering you, I invite you to scour Parts One and Two for answers. And if you find any answers, perhaps you could tell me.

For some reason, looking at this makes me think of doing the washing up.

Anyway, we're up - or down - to number seven. And that means it's time to embrace the sticky subject of...

7) The Classic Seed Spilling Passage

It was only comparatively recently that I stumbled across the delightful word "onanism". For some reason they didn't teach us that one at school. Onanism, for anyone who was similarly poorly schooled, is another word for, um, the "M" word.* And if there is one thing you don't want mentioned at a wedding, it's the "M" word. (No, not "marriage". It would be fairly difficult to avoid mentioning marriage at a wedding. The other "M" word.)

The good news, therefore, is that this passage in Genesis - from which we get the word "onanism" - actually has nothing whatsoever to do with... you know.** In fact, just how Onan ever managed to give his name to this act is a bit of a mystery. This is precisely the sort of terminological inexactitude that results when people don't pay sufficient attention to the Bible. Look:

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother's wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother's wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. (Genesis 38:6-10)

Clearly no "M" wording going on there.***
What is actually going on?

Well, according to Pope Pius XI, in the famous papal encyclical of 1930, Casti Connubii, this passage is a proof-text against the evils of contraception. As he says:

No reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death.

Onan wastes his seed, God kills him, therefore contraception is a horrible crime. Iron-clad logic, no?

Subtle adjustments to the iron cladding.

Now, throughout the ages, many people have diligently obeyed the Pope, and their consciences, on this issue, at immense personal cost, and I would hate to trivialise their choices and sacrifices. It's a complex issue, and this Bible passage isn't the sole factor in the debate.


If, as I believe, the Bible is the word of God, what does that say about how carefully we should study it? Are we happy with this interpretation? In the spirit of encouraging discernment when it comes to paying attention to the words of God, consider this: is the seed spilling the crime, or merely the means to the crime?

Onan had been given a specific job to do: provide his dead brother's wife with children. He refused to do it - simultaneously disobeying his father, dishonouring his brother, and disregarding his duty. He did it for selfish reasons, and he did it in a grubby, underhand way - which coincidentally entitled him to free sex on demand, from a grieving, childless widow. In short, he's guilty of far more than sowing his wild oats on the stony ground. To say that God put him to death simply for the act of spilling his seed is to imply that God cares more about sperm than about family loyalty, honesty, and filial obedience. Not a very high view of God's character.

Put it another way... Imagine that I knew you were allergic to peanuts, and I served you peanut butter in a deliberate attempt to kill you, and a judge rightly locked me up for doing so. "Long-winded blogger sentenced to life for serving peanut butter." scream the headlines.

Who would take those headlines and then seriously suggest that no one, anywhere, should ever serve anyone peanut butter again?

I'm not trying to pick a fight with the Pope. But if you are going to let some dude in a big hat tell you what the Bible means, then you are putting yourself at his mercy. Go get a copy and read it for yourself and make up your own mind. That applies to anything I tell you too. And I don't have a big hat.

I would love to see the Pope wearing a hat like this. After all, Little Bo Beep was a shepherd, and the Pope is supposed to be a shepherd too...

Anyway, all that's a massive aside.
The real reason you wouldn't want this at your wedding is because, even if you hire an experienced Shakespearean actor to read it for you, it's impossible to get through the first couple of lines without sounding hesitant. Try it.

Incidentally, the miserably abused Tamar does eventually get her offspring - becoming, if I've counted correctly, the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother of... Jesus Christ.

Well, that's it for this post; I'm rapidly weakening in my resolve to keep things clean. So very many risque jokes are lining up in my head and I don't know how long I can hold them in. But at least I managed to get through the whole post without saying "masturbation".****

Or without mentioning this:

See you soon for 8, 9 and 10.

*It's a family blog, okay?
**Still a family blog.
****Oh bums.


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