But like everything else in life, the picture of marriage is much more complicated than we would sometimes like to admit. We claim that the Bible promotes marriage between one man and one wife, but in fact it allows for a number of different combinations. Look at the chart to the right and you will see that the Bible's definition of marriage is not the way it is sometimes claimed.
What brings me to this subject is a report out of Morocco where a sixteen year old girl has committed suicide after being forced to marry her rapist. According to reports, Moroccan penal code 475 allows for a kidnapper/rapist to escape prosecution if he marries his victim.
The victim’s father said in an interview with an online Moroccan newspaper that it was the court officials who suggested from the beginning the marriage option when they reported the rape.
“The prosecutor advised my daughter to marry, he said ‘go and make the marriage contract,’” said Lahcen Filali in an interview that appeared on goud.ma Tuesday night.
In many societies, the loss of a woman’s virginity outside of wedlock is a huge stain of honor on the family.
In many parts of the Middle East, there is a tradition whereby a rapist can escape prosecution if he marries his victim, thereby restoring her honor. There is a similar injunction in the Old Testament’s Book of Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is being quoted quite a bit in conjunction with this story. But in fairness to the Moroccan government and the Bible, I have yet to see any clear evidence that the law is based on this Bible passage or anything from the Koran. It seems to be more cultural. But this does not detract from the point that what we have here is a modern example of how a biblical passage works if put into force.
The fact is, very few of us follow the Bible in the way that we claim. Some things we observe, others we flat out ignore. In the fight over marriage in the USA, most proponents of "biblical marriage" never bring up these other forms of marriage that are clearly supported by the Bible. Even in the New Testament era Levirate marriage is still being practiced according to Luke 20:27-33, but I don't see anyone suggesting that it be a legal requirement today. The idea that the Bible only supports the kind of marriage commonly recognized in the USA does not stand up to scrutiny.
I don't want it to seem like I am criticizing marriage. I am not. I have been happily married for 22 years. But what I am criticizing is the way that we read the Bible to define marriage while ignoring the whole witness of the scripture. When we claim that the Bible has all of the answers and that the marriage question can be answered by only consulting the Bible, we are in danger of having some unintended consequences.
I think back to 2009 when a group of Evangelical ministers in America helped to promote an anti-gay law in Uganda that resulted in a law suggesting that homosexuals be executed. This law also could find basis in the Bible (Lev 20:13). But we can also find in the same scriptures a command to stone rebellious children (Deut 21:18-21) I suspect few Americans today really want to execute their rebellious teenager no matter how tempted they may be some days. And I have yet to see any bumper stickers that say "stop vandalism and crime: stone rebellious children." So why would we use the Bible to suggest that gay people be executed? Why would we suggest that we have "biblical marriage" when that means that people would need to choose one of eight options for marriage, most of which give little consideration to the rights of the women involved?
It is the political season in the USA and Bible verses are going to be thrown around by all of the candidates to attract supporters. But few will actually think about (1) whether that is what the Bible says and (2) what would be the unintended consequences of enforcing these "biblical principles." Not everything in the Bible should be adopted as a way of living life.
In the mean time, I hope that the law in Morocco is changed swiftly and that those who rape and abuse women are no longer able to escape justice. And I hope the family of this young girl is able to find comfort and peace somehow. Perhaps her death will cause a change in the laws in that part of the world. And perhaps this tragedy will make us think a little more about the way we apply the Bible.