Note: This essay first appeared in the
November 2006 Baptist Studies Bulletin.
If you are a married couple, the Religious Right wants to monitor your
bedroom activities, according to Southern Baptist mouthpiece Richard
Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious
Liberty Commission, does not believe that you have the right to
privacy in your marriage. As quoted in
Baptist Press this month, Land recollected, “following a lecture I
gave at Harvard University in the spring of 2005, I was asked by a
coed: ‘Dr. Land, you seem like a nice guy. Why would you want to
interfere in the personal, private relationship of two people?’ I
responded by asking how she ever got the idea that marriage is a
‘personal, private relationship.’”
In an effort to explain why he wants to monitor the bedroom
activities of married couples, Land elaborated on the answer he had
given to the Harvard coed the previous year: “Marriage is a social and
civic institution with profound public and societal responsibilities,
obligations, and consequences. That is why every society in human
history has regulated severely who can get married to whom and under
what circumstances.” Land’s decision to call for bedroom monitoring,
not surprisingly, was an effort to drive Religious Right voters to the
polls for the Congressional elections earlier this month. “The people,
not the judiciary, have the right to determine what constitutes the
institution of marriage. I urge all voters to consider the facts, to
exercise their right to cast their ballot, and to vote their values on
November 7,” declared Land.
The “people” that should determine “who can get married to
whom and under what circumstances,” are, of course, those who share
the views of Richard Land.
As to the history of regulating marriage, to which
historical moral “value” model do Land and the Religious Right wish to
turn? Perhaps to the biblical model in which the heroes of the faith
had multiple wives and concubines and women had absolutely no rights
within marriage. Or perhaps there is a yearning to implement the
biblical law requiring a man to become the husband of a deceased
brother’s wife. Or maybe Land would prefer the historical and
biblical “value” that marriage should be arranged, with love and
consent having no place in the decision. On the other hand, perhaps
Land and the Religious Right favor the historical and biblical “value”
that girls as young as 12 are suitable for marriage.
Richard Land’s main concern, to be certain, is the prospect
of homosexual marriage. But I wonder which would be more destructive
to the social and civic fabric of our nation: homosexual marriage, or
biblical worldview marriage consisting of polygamy, mistresses, forced
nuptials, and 12 year-year-old brides?
And regardless of which of the two models Land prefers, who
is going to monitor Richard Land’s bedroom?