Monday, January 21, 2013

Musings on the Wedding at Cana

On the third day after Jesus' baptism, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.'
This was our Gospel reading today.  As some of you may know, this is one of my favorite Gospel passages.  Among other things, there is the humorous exchange between Jesus and his mother.  Even though Jesus says in no uncertain terms that he doesn't want to get involved, his mother completely ignores his objection.  She doesn't argue with him, but simply turns to the servants and tells them, Do whatever he tells you’ as if Jesus' opinion on the matter was nothing anyone really need consider.

But the miracle is what fascinates me.  Wedding feasts of first century Jews consisted of 7 days of some pretty hard partying.  To run out of wine in the middle of the thing was a social disaster.  But -- and here's the curious part -- Jesus did more than he needed to do save the feast; his wine wasn't just OK, it was particularly good.   Jesus' action in aiding the bridegroom and providing the guests with some really quality wine evidences more than just a nod of approval of this celebration.  It was Jesus' way of dialing up the party a little.  It's like you run out of Bud at a small get-together of friends and the guy you send out for more beer comes back with a case of Russian River Pliny the Elder.   

Jesus' attitude toward parties is recorded elsewhere in Scripture: 
But to what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children sitting in the market place, who call out to the other children and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’  For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. 
 Matthew 11: 16-19.

But, unforunately, our sermon today did not explore the idea of Jesus as party-goer, or any other interesting idea for that matter.  Rather, it took the opportunity to bash same sex marriage.  And once again, among other things, we got the tiresome slippery slope argument:  once marriage is untied from its one-man-one-woman moorings, it might drift off anywhere.  Rick Santorum made this argument as well as anyone:  
If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. ... That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.
In  fact, our deacon (who delivered the sermon), gave some factually incorrect information about how the Netherlands and Brazil, having approved same-sex marriage, were now allowing polygamy.  And so, he argued, we are already on the slippery slope.

Under the slippery slope theory which claims that same-sex marriage casts the ship of marriage adrift and leads to other marriage variations, one would expect to see a lot of coincidence of same-sex marriage and polygamy in the same countries.  So, let's take a look, shall we, to see if our hypothesis pans out.  Our first map is of countires which permit polygamy: 

As you can see, polygamy is permitted in much of Africa, the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent, and not much elsewhere.  The UK and Australia recognize polygamous marriages performed outside the country.

And now let's look at where same-sex marriages are permitted, as the map below shows.  Except for the UK and Australia, which allow polygamous marriages performed abroad and same sex civil unions, and South Aftica, which has legalized same sex marriage and tolerates polygamy under customary law, there is no overlap between same-sex marriage and polygamy.  In fact, in much of the world which allows polygamy, homosexual conduct alone is punished severely, including by life imprisonment or death.  I would argue that the one way to protect your country from polygamy is by legalizing same sex marriage.

The other observation I make here is that the Muslim world seems to have opted for polygamy whereas the Christian world has gone for same sex marriage.   In fact, same sex marriage appears to be a phenomenon unique to predominently Christian countries, and now seems to be part of our heritage.  

Could it be that the foundation for this inclusive view of marriage is the wedding at Cana? Perhaps what Christians have taken from the story is that marriage is too important, as Jesus demonstrated by his intervention, to leave anyone out.  

1 comment:

James R said...

Apparently the president read your blog.