Wrapping up the ‘Biblical Family of the Day’ series

Wrapping up the ‘Biblical Family of the Day’ series February 14, 2013

This will be the final week of the “Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day” series here.

I’ve got at least another couple of months’ worth of biblical polygamists, adulterers, abusers, abandoners and other examples of dysfunctional families and disturbing rules for families from the Bible, but I think we’ve milked that particular joke long enough. (And also milked the meta-joke about milking that joke long enough.)

The point of letting that gag keep running for so long was to emphasize that this is a very, very long list. We’re not talking about a handful of rare, exceptional examples, but of something pervasive — a vast collection of stories, characters, laws, rules, commands, etc., in which the Bible exhibits a set of “family values” that is often very different from what current proponents of that slogan claim to mean. When social conservatives like the head of Chick-fil-A toss around “biblical” as an adjective, speaking of “biblical families” or “biblical values” as though this conveyed a clear, authoritative meaning, it’s always appropriate to ask which biblical families? Or to ask which biblical values?

So I want to go back and take a closer look at some of those biblical families and biblical values we’ve been listing in this series.

The vague, vacant use of “biblical” as an adjective meaning “socially conservative” parallels another recurring theme in several recent discussions in the blogosphere: the idea that nothing in the Bible can be regarded as immoral.

The recent freakout by white evangelical gatekeepers responding to Eric Siebert’s series on “When the Good Book is Bad” exposed what must either be a massive ignorance or a massive denial about what’s readily obvious to anyone who’s actually read the Bible. Much of the Good Book is R-rated. And it’s not just that the villains are wicked — it’s that the behavior of the Good Guys, behavior condoned and praised in their stories, is sometimes appalling.

I want to engage these oddities and these texts of terror — from Abijah and his 14 wives to the atrocities at Ai.

Such passages are sometimes called “hard texts” or “hard sayings,” but that’s a misnomer. Slavery and genocide are not hard questions — they’re among the easiest questions we’ll ever face. “If slavery is not wrong,” Abraham Lincoln wrote, “nothing is wrong.” If we cannot say that slavery and genocide are immoral, then morality itself is hollow and useless.

Such a hollow, useless form of morality cannot magically be made meaningful by adding the adjective “biblical” in front of it. The gatekeepers indignantly claim that every word in the Bible is, by definition, completely moral. That doesn’t reveal a reverent devotion for the Bible, but rather an ignorant disdain for it.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • lawrence090469

    Your fundamentalist opponent will no doubt counter by reasserting the morality of the atrocities described in the Bible using Devine Command Theory. Or, as Sam Harris puts it, “There is a way of not taking these objections seriously…”

  • AnonymousSam

    Buuuuuut Freeeeeed! If you don’t believe in a literal, praiseworthy Jacob, then you don’t believe in Original Sin and you’re not really a Christian! </troll>

  • P J Evans

    Maybe they grew up with one of the expurgated versions – we had one in our house,with the ‘standard American’ pronunciations marked (“Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible”, for those who might be interested. Or want to avoid it. It isn’t actually completely cleaned up, but it’s safe for children.)

  • AnonaMiss

    Aww, I was hoping we were going to get a nice big discussion of the whooole Absalom story. It’s my favorite.

  • Carstonio

    Perhaps one way of making Fred’s point is that selective reading of the Bible is not in itself a bad thing, despite the claims of some rival factions of Christianity and some anti-theists. Provided, of course, that one has a morally sound basis for one’s selections, such as Fred’s. There may be no such thing as an truly unselective reading of the book.

  • Good night, sweet series.

  • Jessica_R

    Again, why I love Pan’s Labyrinth so much, a powerful figure tells you do something terrible  something that goes against every moral fiber of your being, you say No. Period.

  • Conversely, “If someone asks if you’re a god, you say YES!” (per “Ghostbusters”)

  • Carstonio
  • “I know the good book’s good because the good book says it’s good; I know the good book knows it’s good because a really good book would….”

  • flat

    Well my parents have been married for thirty years this year.
    And I am really grateful that there was never a real fight or cheating or something else that could be a subject of this series.

  •  Y’know, every time someone mentions Sam Harris, for no clear reason, my brain inserts “Sam Elliot” instead. This time, it’s hillarious.

  • AndrewSshi

    Random thought on the “hard sayings” thing. Generally, the people who use the term “hard sayings” don’t actually find them hard at all. This is especially true of Internet Calvinists who refer to the “hard teaching” that God hates 9/10 of humanity and has predestined them to hell–these people are clearly kind of excited by such a doctrine; they certainly don’t find it “hard.”

  • And then there’s Aral Vorkosigan’s mandatory lecture to graduating officers on what to do when given an illegal order.

  • Beleester

    “Hard” as in “hard to explain why they put them in there.”

    The Torah is, in general, a very terse book. So when they devote a few paragraphs to something grimdark and unpleasant, what’s the point? That’s the hard question.

  • Amaryllis

    The final Chick-fil-A Poem of the Day, which may also serve as commentary on the “historical Adam” thread:


    Island where all becomes clear.

    Solid ground beneath your feet.

    The only roads are those that offer access.

    Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

    The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here

    with branches disentangled since time immemorial.

    The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,

    sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

    The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:

    the Valley of Obviously.

    If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.

    Echoes stir unsummoned

    and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.

    On the right a cave where Meaning lies.

    On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.

    Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.

    Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.

    Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.

    For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,

    and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches

    turn without exception to the sea.

    As if all you can do here is leave

    and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

    Into unfathomable life.

    – Wislawa Szymborska

  • Carstonio

     Imagine Harris with a prominent mustache and a Western accent.

  • Trixie_Belden

    OK, I guess I agree that the joke had to end sometime.  But I have to say, I will miss this series.

  • banancat

    The completionist in me wants to go through the Bible and list all the families just to see how long this could theoretically go on.

  • … The guy with the cigar? :P

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I think a new series would be instructive: Economic/social justice verse of the day.

  • (Closest vaguely-equality-related thread I could see…)

    Most pathetically dumb coming-out-as-an-ally ever, but guys! I just posted a blog post with a cross and a rainbow in the icon! Where my mother can see it! *freaks*

    Um. Yeah. Any praying folks wishing to pray for me, it’d be appreciated. :)

  • MaryKaye

    I know someone who will:  “Lord, make me brave like a lion!  ROOOWR!”

    Okay, sorry, I couldn’t resist.  You’ll be in my thoughts, and thank you.  Courage in the little things matters.

  • Craig Thompson

    Glad you ended it. It. Was kind of repetitive and dumb and pointless after awhile. a victim of thebeating a dead horse syndrome – it was clever at the start of course but needed to be put to rest. You w ere starting to sound like a liberal. ;)

  • Posterboy

    One could relentlessly mock Dan Tracy or one could reach out to dialogue: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/shane-l-windmeyer/dan-cathy-chick-fil-a_b_2564379.html


    Keep mind of those gates Fred!

    “During our meetings I came to see that the Chick-fil-A brand was being used by both sides of the political debate around gay marriage. The repercussion of this was a deep division and polarization that was fueling feelings of hate on all sides. As a result, we agreed to keep the ongoing nature of our meetings private for the time being. The fire needed no more fuel.”