Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy: “We support biblical families.”

Today’s Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day: Abram & Sarai & Hagar (Genesis 16:1-6)

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.”

And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived for ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife.

He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!”

But Abram said to Sarai, “Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her.

  • Fade Manley

    Reading this one directly after a post from Ta-Nehisi Coates about a slave who ran away after being horribly abused by his master, who was also his uncle, makes this whole passage even more horrible than it used to be. And it was always pretty horrible.

  • Jurgan

    God promised that Abram and Sarai would eventually have a child, but they didn’t believe him.  I’ve always wondered if the whole sacrifice of Isaac thing was punishment for that, or at least a chance for Abram to recommit to God.

  • LL

    Such a sweet story. Always one of my faves. Rape plus punishment for the victim. Must be where Akins and his ilk get the idea. Hey, it’s biblical, therefore, it’s cool. 

  • PandaRosa

    Hagai’s son was of course Ishmael, whose descendants became the Arabs, and we all know how well they’ve gotten along with Isaac’s descendants, the Jews, ever since.

  • Lori

    Aside from all the horrible slavery & rape in the story (to paraphrase another poster—give me a day or so to push it all over into the corner), my response to this story has always been that none of the 3 people involved thought things through.

    Sarai “gave” Hagar to Abram for the purpose of having the child that Sarai was tired of waiting for. How did she think that was going to turn out?

    Abram “went in to” his wife’s slave for the purpose of getting her pregnant, allowing him, but not his wife, to have the child they both desperately wanted. Did he think that was going to make for happiness all around? Once he pushed responsibility all off on a very angry Sarai and told her to do what she wanted, what exactly did he think was going to happen?

    I’m sure that Hagar was justifiably POed about the every aspect of this horrible situation, but did she really think that nothing would happen if she used her pregnancy against Sarai? Justified or not, pure self-preservation instinct probably should have argued against going that route. 

    The whole thing is like an especially bad episode of the Jerry Springer show.

    The fact that people in all seriousness claim that this story is the actual reason for continuing conflict in the Middle East is also mind-boggling to me, but that’s rather off the Biblical families topic.

  • AnonaMiss

    Especially bad… or especially good?

  • Ben English

    God seems to be a really terrible judge of character in the book of Genesis.

  • Lori

    That’s a fair point. From the POV of Springer, his producers and the show’s core audience I guess this would be closer to best. episode. ever.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    You do realize that Dan Cathy wouldn’t see anything wrong with this particular Biblical “family” either, right?

    If you want a Biblical family Dan Cathy would hate, you’re gonna have to go with Ruth and Naomi. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    The whole thing is like an especially bad episode of the Jerry Springer show.

    Jerry Springer usually doesn’t deal with slavery that I know of.

    Remember that Hagar had no say in anything that happened to her, ever. Her life was rape.

  • Ken Dellinger

    The Dan Cathy’s of the world like to pick and choose what they accept as God’s word.  I would be curious to see what his defense of this biblical family would be like.

  • Lori

    Jerry Springer usually doesn’t deal with slavery that I know of.

     

    He does deal (badly) with nonconsent though, which is the critical thing for this aspect of the story.

    Remember that Hagar had no say in anything that happened to her, ever. Her life was rape.  

    Yeah, I did mention that.

  • ReverendRef

    So, yeah . . . things have been busy around my corner of the world and haven’t had time to play around on the ‘net (in other words, the real job and football season are getting in the way).

    But I preached on biblical marriage this past Sunday.  I know where most of my congregation stands on the marriage debate, so I framed the sermon around the idea of getting people to actually think their position through.  What does biblical marriage actually look like?  Why do you believe the way you do about marriage?  Don’t tell me you support “traditional marriage” because we’ve always done it that way; what serious theological work have you done to arrive at your position.

    I kept it pretty non-committal (I may be reckless, but I’m not stupid), and simply challenged them to think their ideas through so there could be a deliberate, respectful and reverent debate, rather than simply lobbing partisan hand grenades at each other.

    I referenced the multiple examples of marriage in the bible, and this one today was part of that.  And, since we’re talking about Abraham and Sarah, it’s also important to point out that their marriage was incestuous, in that Sarah was Abraham’s half sister (Gen. 20:8-12).

    So, um, yeah . . . let’s hear it for biblical family values.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > it’s also important to point out that their marriage was incestuous, in that Sarah was Abraham’s half sister (Gen. 20:8-12).

    Huh. You know, for decades I have been familiar with this story and filed it under “Abraham and Sarah lying about their relationship status to avoid being targeted by the authorities.” (Which is itself, of course, not unrelated to the issue of marriage equality, and relationship equality before the law more generally.)

    Only now, going back to confirm my understanding, do I notice that your interpretation here is at least as plausible as mine, if not more so.

    As my husband would say: we learn something new every day… unless we’re very very careful.

  • Carstonio

    At one time I favored the “compromise” of civil unions for gay and lesbian couples just to placate the religious right, before realizing that this was “separate but equal.” But even then I strongly agreed that consenting adults have the right to choose the people with whom they’re going to spend their lives. I don’t understand why it even matters to some in your congregation who strangers choose to marry as long as the members themselves aren’t prevented from making that choice themselves. The legalization of same-sex marriage is not just about equality regardless of orientation but also about individual choice.  Too many disingenuous rants wrongly imply that straights are being asked to phase out opposite-sex marriage in favor of the same-sex version. If theological work is necessary to reconcile it with basic humanity toward people regardless of orientation, maybe the theology itself is the problem.

  • http://www.jworx.org/ Www Jworx
  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I don’t understand why it even matters to some in your congregation who strangers choose to marry as long as the members themselves aren’t prevented from making that choice themselves.

    FWIW, it frequently matters to me whom strangers choose to enter various kinds of relationships with, and sometimes matters to me what they call those relationships, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those things mattering to me, or to anyone else.

    My support of marriage equality isn’t because we aren’t entitled to opinions about other people’s behavior, nor even because we aren’t entitled to prevent other people from behaving in certain ways. It’s because the kinds of relationships under discussion deserve to be endorsed and celebrated.

    But yeah, the idea that this somehow “phases out” opposite-sex marriage is bewildering.

  • Otrame

    Yeah, especially since even if the old “10 percent of the population is gay” is true* that means 90 percent of people are not interested in  same sex marriages.  

    *Slightly OT, but I looked into it recently and came away with the idea that we don’t have any idea what percentage are gay or lesbian because the way that studies are conducted probably miss many if not most homosexual people and for some reason tend to  seriously downplay bisexuality. This is not a condemnation of the scientists.  These studies almost always deal with self-reported status.  It is extremely difficult to peel back all the layers of armor most men (and to a lesser extent women) have built onto the subject of who they are capable of being attracted to and the studies were careful to acknowledge this.  

    But as an example of why self reporting can be problematic:  I consider myself heterosexual, though if I was asked, I would admit I did have same-sex make-out sessions with other girls when I was a young teenager and am capable of occasionally being sexually attracted to other women (Jessica Alba dancing in the trailer for Sin City just did it for me.  I suspect she did it for almost anyone with gonads.  Strangely enough, that particular clip did not appear in the movie itself).  In spite of this, I have been attracted to men almost exclusively and do consider myself heterosexual–with an occasional twinge of bi.  I am not upset about the non-hetero parts of my life, but I image that most people, especially men, have a hard time being that honest with themselves (not being sexist–men have MUCH more pressure on them to never admit the tiniest flicker of interest in another man).

    I think when we really do get some good studies designed, we are going to find out that in the population in general, attraction is bell curve (like so many other things) and that most people are at least potentially bisexual and only a few are on the extreme ends of completely homo or hetero sexual.  It is societal pressures that make the curve look more like a ski slope (the 90 percent heterosexual I mentioned above)  than a bell in terms of what people report about themselves. Of course, when we do get some good studies, if I am proven wrong, then so be it.  

  • Raj1point618

    That picture is unscriptural. Any worshipper of Ceiling Cat could tell you that the sign should read, “EET MOAR CHIKIN”. Lolspeek! Why don’t they teach lolspeek at these schools?

  • ReverendRef

     If theological work is necessary to reconcile it with basic humanity
    toward people regardless of orientation, maybe the theology itself is
    the problem.

    I’m not exactly sure what you’re saying here.  If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that people who are anti-SSM hold an incorrect theological position, and that’s something with which I certainly agree.

    But that’s also my point — if you hold one theological position, you need to do some hard work to show why your position is not incorrect with regard to Scripture.  You need to look at why you think it’s okay to divorce when Jesus said otherwise; you need to look at Paul’s claim that there is no more Jew or Greek or slave or free or male or female; you need to look at why it’s okay to waive the procreation argument for elderly couples.

    Hard, honest theological work around marriage DOES NOT constitute saying, “It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”  Nor does it constitute what one woman said to me after service:  “All those examples you used of marriage — they all involved a man and a woman.”

    I think anytime we look to Scripture to support or oppose a position, that is theological work.  It’s hard because, when done honestly, there should always be more questions than answers.  And it’s hard because oftentimes we discover that God is not as prejudiced or bigoted as we are.

  • Ursula L

    I’m sure that Hagar was justifiably POed about the every aspect of this horrible situation, but did she really think that nothing would happen if she used her pregnancy against Sarai? Justified or not, pure self-preservation instinct probably should have argued against going that route. 

    Did Hagar “look with contempt” at Sarai, or use her pregnancy against Sarai?  What does that even mean?  Abram and Sarai have conspired to enslave and rape Hagar.  How could she look at them with anything but contempt, as morally bankrupt and thoroughly evil and corrupt people?  How should she look at them, with affection and respect?  

    Abram and Sarai have voices in this story.  Hagar doesn’t.  

    Abram and Sarai’s narration has good reason to be considered unreliable.  They’ve conspired to kidnap, enslave and rape Hagar, and then abandoned Hagar and her child to die in the wilderness.  And now they’re trying to explain and justify what they’ve done.  

  • http://vicwelle.wordpress.com victoria

    My guess is that someone like Cathy would argue along the lines of saying that pre-name change Abram and Sarai may have done some less than OK things, but then they got “saved” and became Abraham and Sarah, honorary Real True Christians, so hey, it’s all good.

  • Carstonio

    I have reservations about the idea that some relationships deserve endorsement and celebration and some don’t, assuming we’re talking about consensual ones between adults. I believe strongly in a moral right of each individual to pursue happiness in ways that don’t interfere in others’ pursuit of their own happiness. To me, the idea that a stranger’s choice of relationship partner should matter to others implies that others should have some say over that choice. Or that others are more knowledgable about what should make a stranger happy than the person who’s actually living that life.

  • Raj1point618

    Hagar committed the sin of being “uppity”.

  • Deborah Moore

    Hm.  There is a second version of the story, after they become Abraham and Sarah and Sarah has Isaac.  She kicks Hagar and Ishmael out into the desert a second time.  (Don’t worry, God leads them to an oasis and they survive).

  • Raj1point618

    Chick-fil-A’s next trick: Biblical Patriot of the Day, featuring Rahab of Jericho.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I have reservations about the idea that some relationships deserve endorsement and celebration and some don’t, assuming we’re talking about consensual ones between adults.

    OK, that’s fine.

    Can we agree, then, that there exist nonconsensual relationships that don’t deserve endorsement and celebration?

    Can we further agree that my rejection of such relationships (and my denial of individuals’ moral right to pursue such nonconsensual relationships, and my wanting some say in whether strangers pursue such nonconsensual relationships) does not in any way contradict or even exist in tension with my support for equal treatment of consensual relationships?

  • Carstonio

    Fred might say that if (the generic) you are reading scripture in a way that leads you to act like an asshole, you’re reading it wrong. My position might sound like that, but what I’m really saying is that any reading of scripture should be secondary to sound moral principles that transcend religions. It shouldn’t be necessarily to use scripture to defend not acting like an asshole, because acting that way would still be wrong even if any possible reading of scripture said otherwise.

  • http://vicwelle.wordpress.com victoria

    Just to clarify, I don’t agree with the explanation i gave for how someone might justify or explain Abram and Sarai’s actions pre and post name change (personally, my explanation would involve the documentary hypothesis and overlapping versions the J and E writers each had, but i’m guessing that Dan Cathy is the type who thinks that Moses penned the Pentateuch). 

  • Carstonio

    Of course nonconsensual relationships don’t deserve endorsement and celebration. I had read your post as suggesting that some consensual ones don’t deserve it either, that there was some criteria for judging the relationships other than consensuality.

  • Ursula L

    Hagar committed the sin of being “uppity”.

    Not even that.

    Abram and Sarai accuse Hagar of being “uppity” to justify their abuse.

    Which is what “uppity” is.  Not a sin, but an accusation made by the powerful towards the powerless, to excuse the powerful’s abuse of the powerless.  

    There is no such thing as actually being “uppity.”  

    An accusation that someone is “uppity”, or any of the various more recent dog-whistles that amount to the same thing is, by definition, a lie.  And a lie that is deliberately done to justify abuse.  

    (And Raj, I know this is what you mean. But it is an important enough point that I wanted to make it explicit.)

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Imagining Hagar as the comic strip viking in drag makes the bible story a LOT more palatable. But ends with Abraham taking an axe to the head. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Of course nonconsensual relationships don’t deserve endorsement and celebration. I had read your post as suggesting that some consensual ones don’t deserve it either, that there was some criteria for judging the relationships other than consensuality.

    I understand.

    I was more interested in focusing on agreement, so I hope you’ll forgive me for not looking immediately for points of disagreement and talking about those instead.

    That said, if I had to guess, I’d guess that all the other criteria I might point to as reasons for rejecting a relationship (e.g., abusiveness) , you would describe as aspects of consent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    At the rate things are going, I see nothing wrong phasing out opposite-sex marriage, unless of course you’re either a member of the 1%, or in the Hollywood limelight.

  • banancat

    Ok, I’m being nit-picky, but can we use a different term than “opposite sex marriage”?  I don’t like the way it frames men and women as, well, opposites.  I feel like it is conceding the point that men and women are just really so different because biology.  I prefer the term “hetero marriage”.  Yeah, it means pretty much the same thing in Greek, but it doesn’t have the same strong connotation in English, which is what we’re using.  I’m sure there was no ill intent, but this is a case where I think it’s worth being more thoughtful about the term used.

  • The_L1985

     Jerry Springer is only entertaining at its worst, so…both.

  • The_L1985

     And let’s not forget about Jacob.  Not only were his wives sisters to each other, they were also Jacob’s second cousins.

  • vsm

    It depends on how you read Biblical narratives. If you take them as records of things that actually happened, you can assume they lie about certain things such as Hagar’s behavior. However, especially in Genesis, I’d rather see them as stories instead, since we have no way of knowing if anything resembling them really happened. Approaching them like that, we have to assume the third person omniscient narrator is  not lying. Thus, I read Hagar as trying to use her pregnancy to gain a better position for herself, possibly even as Abram’s wife. I find that a very agreeable goal, even if it probably wasn’t very realistic.

    I think Hagar’s a very good character in general. She’s been dealt a terrible hand in life, so she tries to improve her lot, even if it clashes with God’s great plan. When she’s later driven out to the desert with her son by her rapist, she leaves her son to die alone, because she can’t bear to watch him die. That’s a very human response, even though the “proper” act would have been to stay with Ishmael during his last moments. God seems to sympathize as well, since he saves them and lets them prosper.

  • EllieMurasaki

    A reading from the book of Ecclesiastes:

    theer has is a sison for evryting, and a tiems for every perpos under teh ceiling. a tiemz 2 git kittehs, an a tiems 2 get ded. a tiemz to bury the cheezburger and a time to dig up the cheezburger you has planted. tiemz 4 killin the mouses and tiemz 4 being ok with them but not rly. theres a tiemz 4 lollin and a tiemz 4 not lollin so much. A teimz 4 weepins and a teimz 4 dancin. a tiemz to keep cheezburger and a tiemz to give them away, srsly. teimz 4 hugs, tiemz when hugz are NOT WANTED. a tiemz 4 lookin round and a timez 4 getin bored and stop lookin. a tiemz 2 brak and a teimz 4 fix and a teimz 4 STFU and a teimz 2 talkz. A teimz 4 LUV and a teimz 4 HAT. A teimz 4 lots a killin and a teimz 4 only killin when nobodys lookin. u get teh picture.
    The word of the Lord.

  • EllieMurasaki

    She’s an Israelite hero! What–other than the unfortunate fact of her day job–could one possibly find to criticize in the story of a woman of Jericho who let invaders into Jericho in exchange for the safety of her and hers?

  • EllieMurasaki

    …you do know that many bisexual folk and many trans folk want to get heterosexually married and the rest of us have straight friends and relatives. You do know that, right? Why would we want to be rid of straight marriage?

  • SisterCoyote

    Wait, what?

    How could you see nothing wrong with phasing out any kind of consensual marriage?

    My first thought, uncharitably, is that you’re trying to be a left-wing strawman, but maybe I just misunderstood you? What makes denying a man and a woman who love each other any better than denying a man and a man who love each other, or a woman and a woman?

  • Adam Menard

    I lean toward “mixed-sex marriage”, which also helps bring it away from the gender binary a bit. “Hetero marriage” would literally mean about the same thing, but not everyone in non-same-sex marriages identifies as heterosexual (or cisgendered).

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I sometimes use “male-female marriage”.
    But, to be honest, I more often use “opposite -sex marriage.”
    It also depends a little bit on what exactly I’m talking about… that is, is it the actual marriages in the world? Or is it the theoretical structure that the marriage equality opponents want to preserve an unequal status for?

  • Ursula L

    Fictional stories can still be told with unreliable narrators.  Even when written in what looks like 3rd person omniscient POV.

    But this story isn’t written in a 3rd person omniscient POV.  If anything, it’s in a tightly limited 3rd person POV from Abram’s point of view.  We get what Abram says, what Sarai says, and a little bit about what Abram’s thinking (that he’s listening to Sarai.)  We get nothing on what Sarai is thinking but not saying.  We get nothing of what Hagar either says nor thinks, only what Abram and Sarai say and think about her.  

    The voice and perspective of a story isn’t something to be assumed, it’s something to be observed in how the story is told.  Looking at a story, we can see who is talking, and whose thoughts are being explained.  

    We don’t have to assume a 3rd person omniscient POV.  Particularly when the POV  of a key character (Hagar) is quite specifically not included in the story.  Imagining that we’re seeing a 3rd person omniscient POV is very specifically wrong, because  the silencing of Hagar and the ignoring of her point of view is so complete.  

    Even in a 3rd person omniscient POV, a character can lie.  (Such as Sarai and Abram lying about Hagar.)   But if it was 3rd person omniscient POV, we’d get Hagar’s words and thoughts about what Sarai and Abram are saying, and Sarai’s thoughts.  

    We never see Hagar treating Sarai with contempt.  We only see Abram listening to Sarai tell him that Hagar is treating her with contempt. 

    Abram, in this story, is the person with power.  And the story is written with him blaming Sarai for choices he makes that are entirely in his control.  (Raped Hagar, but it isn’t his fault, Sarai told him to do it!)  And for the really bad stuff, he goes further and blames Hagar as deserving horrible treatment at the hand of Sarai. (Left Hagar and her child to die, but it still isn’t his fault, because Sarai said to do it, and Hagar deserved it anyway!  And Abram is so totally not at fault!)

  • vsm

    The passage here does not include Hagar’s POV, but the rest of chapter 16 and later chapter 21 do, so I think it’s more or less accurate to call this an omniscient third person narrator. It probably tells something about the writer that he didn’t include Hagar’s POV here, but that’s a question of content rather than form.

    We don’t see Hagar treating Sarai with contempt, but the narrator reports it as happening in Gen 16:4, and suggests it’s because she has become pregnant. I don’t think you can ignore it in your interpretation of the story, though you can read it in different ways.

  • Carstonio

     Yes, I was using consent as the criterion for accepting or rejecting a relationship.

  • Farah Mendlesohn

    Note it doesn’t say why Hagar was contemptuous. It’s often interpreted as her contempt for the barren woman, but it might equally be for her procuress.

  • Farah Mendlesohn

    I noted above that we are told that Hagar looks on Sarah with contempt, but that doesn’t have to be a contempt due to superiority. I’d be pretty contemptuous of a mistress who made me available for rape and then didn’t like the results.

  • vsm

    Her showing contempt is somehow related to her pregnancy, since she doesn’t do it until she discovers she’s expecting. It might be because she feels she’s in a position where she can safely show it, it might be because she dislikes barren women, or any other reason. She certainly has plenty of reason to be rude to Sarai and Abram. However, if we deal with the text as a story, we can’t deny pregnancy-related contempt was shown.


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