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There was a time when what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7 was not shocking. Now there are two exceptions only: The statement that the husband’s body belongs to his wife and the wife’s body belongs to her husband, and the teaching that opens the door to conjugal separation because the significant thing was not the conjugal duty, but a mutual consent to conjugality. All the other teachings sound strange to modern and post-modern listeners.
Things such as the father’s decision about either allowing his daughter to get married or keeping her as a virgin, at his discretion, are a shock to our view. Also, the advice that we’d better get married than to burn with passion only sounds as a bodily relief to us. Besides that, Paul also states that celibacy is better than any other status, which also sounds very weird to us.
However we should not forget at least two things when thinking about Paul’s statements: The first is that both in Judaism and among the Greeks, marriage was naturally arranged by the parents. In Judaism, this used to happen through bonds and promises made between the parents and an older groom, or even his family, always taking into account ethnic ties and religious beliefs. In the Greek culture, besides these possibilities, the “agreement” based on the dowry and the privileges used to prevail. It was the father’s responsibility to try to marry his daughter in a socially “ascendant” way.

The second thing to remember is that the Jews at that time did not deal with the romantic love as we read in Solomon’s Song of Songs. The romantic love was not “fashionable”. To the Greeks, for example, “passion” meant a mad state of mind to be avoided at any cost by a wise and discreet man—that was “fashionable”.

Therefore, people used to see marriage—the union of two people—in a way that had nothing to do with the way we see it today.

And the pain that a bride might suffer because of lack of love for her groom was much less severe than that of a “modern” woman who has all the freedom to get married to an unknown man who, all of a sudden, gets into her life and she knows nothing about him, his family, etc.

Our free outlook on romance also brought about this limbic (or border-line) state that we call dating, in which two young people are allowed to test and try each other and see if they like what they “serve” each other. But these “feasts” are mostly occasions for enjoyment and display. So, when they start living together, very often their real selves come out without masks and infested with the “beasts” that we carry within us like poorly-done electrical connections made out of pieces of “spirits” that got into ours, smelling like psychological rags as the result of our many, many frustrated tries.
Even though the world has changed, and today nobody feels and thinks like Paul, and a marriage prearranged by parents sounds like a heresy against one’s soul, however, when such a culture is present, with marriages promoted by families with friendship ties, where the “bride and groom” are raised together, in most cases they like each other, and such marriages rarely end.
I have some Indian friends who got married in such circumstances, and they have lived happily for decades. They look at us and find everything we do very weird. They get astonished at our nerve to marry a stranger, an unknown person, taking the risk of marrying someone crazy.

At this point I also want to state that the soul changes with times, and times change with our soul.
That’s why it is so difficult for a viewpoint that sees itself as “exclusive” to understand the values and perceptions that bloom from those that are different.
Today Arabs and Indians—and almost all native tribes—are the only ones to keep the custom of uniting a man and a woman in such ways.

It is true that especially in the Arabic world, there is a lot of arbitrariness and abuse involving the issue. There is also a lot of oppression, fruit of some fanatic concepts of Islamism.

To me, this is also a good example regarding the abyss between Bush’s world and Bin’s world. In this case the comparison is poor, but proves my point that the human look at the same thing can be totally different to different people. This includes the Arabic way of seeing the “Western wonder” of democracy. To them, democracy means no longer having the power to choose who you are going to marry your daughter to.

Translated by Sara Machado – Massachusetts, USA
Revised by F. R. Castelo Branco | May 2007
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