The Bridget

Number 4 Published by Chris Tover May 12, 2005

The Bridget is an e-journal of opinion. Mine!
And I am not afraid of controversy.

About Bridget

This e-journal is dedicated to the memory of my mother. To her family and friends she left a legacy of moral, social, and political activism.

Featured Essay:

Living Biblical Principles

The tragic story of Terry Schaivo has touched people all over the world. One family's tragedy has become the focus of a national debate on moral issues. Both sides of this controversy refer to moral values as the basis of their positions.

Many Americans have been engaged in divisive and bitter controversy over 'life issues'. The abortion controversy has divided the nation into 'pro life' and 'pro choice' camps. This is NOT a struggle between those who have moral values and those who don't. Rather it is a struggle between two different visions of morality, between proponents of traditional moral values and modern moral values.

I am not going to comment here on the political nature of these controversies. Instead, I want to examine the religious background. I note that many religious conservatives base their opposition to abortion, for example, on 'biblical prin-ciples'. I have heard conservatives say that that this county was founded on Biblical principles. These people often go on to say that we need to return to Biblical principles in order to cure the ills of our society.

Before Terry Schaivo died, I was listened to a National Public Radio talk show program that was devoted to her case. A woman named Wendy called in to support the restoration of Terry Schaivo's feeding tube in order to prolong her life. Wendy was an effective and articulate spokeswoman for that viewpoint. The announcer said that her position was based on 'Biblical principles.'

I had no doubt that Wendy was sincere, that she spoke from her heart. But she left me wondering what 'Biblical principles' she was talking about. To me it seems that her participation in a radio talk show was a direct violation of Biblical principles. The Old Testament seems to indicate that it is improper for women to be involved in politics. Otherwise, bad things happen. Jezebel comes to mind.

But what are biblical principles for a religious conservative? I have not heard conservatives explain what their principles are. How do they live their biblical principles in today's America? What would happen if our country should adopt strict biblical principles?

The greatest controversies have focussed upon the alpha and omega of life. The beginning of life issues (contraception and abortion) as well as the end of life controversies (Terry Schaivo and Karen Ann Quinlan) have had a profound impact upon women. Thus it seems to be most appropriate to consider how women would fare under a regime based upon strict biblical principles.

This part of my essay is addressed to you, the American woman. The most significant change in your lives is that you are now the property of men. You are the property of your father until you marry. Your father may sell you into slavery. [Ex. 21:7] (Laws against slavery must be abolished.)

After you marry you belong to your husband. Your husband may have other wives or concubines. (Laws against bigamy must be repealed.) Your husband may divorce you, but you may not divorce your him.

Widowhood does not bring you freedom. A widow remains bound to her husband's family. [Gen. 38] Indeed, a widow's lot is grim because there is no provision in the Law of Moses for a widow to inherit her husband's estate.

You duty as a biblical wife is to keep house, raise your children, and make sure that milk is kept out of meat dishes. Cheeseburgers are forbidden under pain of death. [Ex. 34:26] You must work extra hard on Fridays so that no work needs to be done on Saturday, the Sabbath. On Saturdays, make sure that everyone stays at home and reads the scriptures. Your highest aspiration is to produce sons, whether you be a wife or a concubine.

As a biblical woman, you do not own property. If you have no brothers, you may inherit property from your father, but not from your husband. Any inherited property becomes the property of your present or future husband.

You may not conduct business in your own name. Every contract that you would make requires the approval of your father or husband. Any vow that you make can be countermanded by your father or your husband.

Therefore you may not own a house, nor a car, nor may you own a bank account. I do not know whether you are allowed to drive your husband's car or use your husband's credit card. I leave that decision to the proper theological authorities. I note that you may ride in an automobile or an airplane. There is nothing in the Law of Moses that forbids riding in automobiles or airplanes.

Do religious conservatives truly understand what is meant by 'biblical values'? If Wendy wants to live according to biblical principles, then she must give up rights and liberties that her foremothers struggled for a century ago.

I recommend that those espousing biblical principles examine all of the command-ments in the Law of Moses -- all six hundred and thirteen of them. And I ask you, how many of them do you truly want to live by?

Now I return to the controversy surrounding Terry Schaivo whether her feeding tube should have been restored. Is there a biblical passage that relates directly to Mrs. Schaivo?

I hope that religious conservatives give careful attention to the story of Jacob and Esau. This story indicates that the withholding of food and drink from a dying man is NOT contrary to biblical principles. Jacob is not punished for his ignoble act. Instead he is rewarded. First, he gains his brother's birthright. Second Jacob, and not Esau, receives God's covenant, because Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. This story seems to be directly relevant to the tragic Terry Schaivo story. Does Wendy want to apply the story of Jacob and Esau to the Terry Schaivo case?

Where does Wendy stand on the issues of genocide and ethnic cleansing? Does she, like many Americans, condemn these evil practices? Or does she rely on biblical principles? The Old Testament says that Moses ordered the genocide of the Amalekites and the Midianites, as well as the ethnic cleansing of Canaan. The ancient Israelites imagined that they had a holy duty to commit genocide and ethnic cleansing. They also justified massacres of their own people. Did they truly believe in the sanctity of human life?

We live in a modern, democratic state. Our lifestyle would be incomprehensible to people of the ancient world. No longer do we obtain our laws from priests. Instead, we the people fashion our own laws. No longer do we practice slavery. No longer do we leave widows and orphans in hopeless poverty. No longer do we destroy foreign cultures and religions. We condemn genocide and ethnic cleansing, even as we fail to stop these crimes against humanity. Over the centuries our values have changed -- for the better.

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This issue of The Bridget is copyright © 2005 by Chris Tover. All rights reserved. Readers may make nonsalable copies for personal use, for use in discussion groups, to circulate among friends, forward this e-journal to friends, provided that the entire issue is reproduced and no commercial use is made. Short quotations may be published in salable or commercial media and in school reports and papers provided the quotation is appropriately cited. However, the articles in this e-journal must not be republished in a salable or commercial medium without the written permission of the copyright holder. Any person who reproduces The Bridget is responsible for ensuring compliance with any copyrights of included quotations.

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posted by Chris Tover at Thursday, May 12, 2005 9:48 AM     Comments:

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